Saturday, July 30, 2005

Contextual Marketing.
What and Why and How.

When you champion a cause at work, you get a lot of challenging questions, especially if your vision impacts how your enterprise does business. So I get a lot of challenges about contextual marketing. How is it different? It sounds too complicated. Can you really do that?

Contextual communications leverage off human behaviors, attitudes and desires more than straight-forward demographics. They dig deeper into the relationship than mass marketing can ever hope to achieve. The important mind-shift you need to undergo is that how you communicate is at least as important (and from my perspective more important) as all the back office processes when it comes to revenue generation objectives. Back office is important, but unless it improves communications it can only save you money … it cannot make you money.

The concept is simple. If you give customers messages and offers that are relevant to their hot buttons, you improve the odds of them listening to you, liking you and making the decision you want them to make. The trick is in the “how.”

When you have your target market database tuned to various persona types, you can send mailings and emails that are segmented by type. You can provide content options on your website. You can prepare your contact center agents for the right encounters by providing on-screen scripts.

Every communication will have the right tone of voice so that, for example, you can talk to high-deposit customers who are risk takers differently than high-deposit customers who have a conservative profile. You can talk to customers based on their own decision path and timetable. You can bring different solutions to each, with a greater likelihood that they will feel you understand their needs and can best solve their problems. Talk at the experience instead of about your products. Isn’t that they way you would prefer your vendors to talk to you?

1. Structure your communications models in a way that treats customer relevance as a high priority.
2. Alter your company’s transactional messages so that they are contextual and build the relationship not simply talk at the customer.
3. Design each communication as part of a dialogue soliciting information.
4. Understand that every message contains implicit as well as explicit information and make sure that it supports the objectives of the communication strategy.
5. Ask the customer to do something. This is much more likely to elicit an interaction than not. Even if their response to the requested action is negative, it at least brings out the barrier and provides an entry point for identifying it and eliminating it in future.

And how can you get the maximum benefit out of your contextualization? By acting in a way that affirms your concern and interest in the customer; by responding with the product or service change, delivery preference or other specific that the customer has indicated that they prefer. It comes from walking the walk not just talking the talk.

Of course, the effectiveness of any of this depends on complete, accurate data. Failing that, your communication is open to being received with indifference, annoyance, or as an “invisible” object, “obviously not intended for me …”


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