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Author: Ujjainee Ghosh

150730_comms_mrkt“You’re not just selling coffee,” Edelman said. “You’re selling a relationship.”

We all know how technology has changed digital marketing campaigns in the past few years. Social media has pulled down the corporate firewall preventing marketers from meeting consumers during the mass media days. Today, we have a platform that allows both marketers and consumers to directly communicate with each other.

Since social networks are freely accessible, and purchase decisions are increasingly influenced by word-of-mouth recommendations and peer reviews, the choice of “who sees the content” no longer rests with advertisers or marketers. Also, with the overwhelming penetration of smart devices across all age groups, today’s marketers have to work with a daunting array of communication platforms.

Perfecting the art of communication with diverse consumers in this highly volatile and interactive environment is a challenge.

Telling a story

Since businesses and marketers are now able to receive real-time feedback on their marketing strategy in the form of likes, diggs, shares and comments, media consumers are no longer limited in their capacity as readers or viewers. They, rightfully, qualify as ‘collaborators’ as well. The sheer need to effectively communicate with these collaborators gives birth to the need  for ‘communications marketing.

Enter  substantive storytelling. Relationships, and sales, will flow as a by-product of strategic content marketing that resonates with consumers’ aspirations, dreams and pains. We saw Coca-Cola’s ‘Share a Coke’ campaign making waves, where people got to gift their friend a Coke with their name printed on the can. This inspired delightful stories of people who used the brand to express their feelings.

Conversations remain the core element of social media. Communicating meaningful and relevant information to a continuously distracted audience has become the cornerstone of any marketing strategy. For marketers to make the most out of social media, they have to incorporate the creative side of their discipline with the technical side.

This means using powerful and targeted narratives hinging on data, analytics and digital engineering, yet keeping conversations human.

Putting people before products

Clearly, the 4 Ps of traditional marketing – Product, Promotion, Price and Place – need to be preceded by another P: People. The traditional approach to marketing is slowing down sales and reducing conversions because marketers are misinterpreting the immense changes in consumer behaviour across various social channels.

With more and more channels to communicate through, marketers today are blasting prospects with messages and expecting some of those messages will be heard. They are ignoring the prospect’s perspective. A study by McKinsey on  a  ‘consumer’s decision journey’ shows the irrelevance of this traditional approach to today’s consumers, who have easy access to online information at any time.

In Edelman’s words, “social media has changed our expectations around what we see and don’t see on the Internet, and that’s forcing the hands of some brands.

So how do we fix digital marketing?

When people have recommendations from trusted parties, why would they entertain advertisements from strangers?

This is where traditional marketing is falling flat. Instead of trying to create a connection with potential customers, companies are putting their money on product-pushing. This fails to create any impact on consumers’ minds. Learning to see products on prospects’ terms is essential.

Every business must start thinking like a publisher. Produce content that directly communicates with your audience: a one-to-one approach that resonates with their dreams, aspirations and pains.

In this volatile market where decision-makers are not limited to your targets alone, leads can be generated from unexpected places, like a blog, a social forum, or even a product review video.

  • Have a Strong Data Foundation

The key to a successful marketing campaign is data – a strong foundation of data tells a marketer where and when opportunities exist. Marketers can capitalise on this by rolling out the right offers at the right times.

Anything from customer contact information, to comments on social networking sites, to purchase details can count as data. Brands today will not be able to hold the attention of omni-channel consumers without technology that collects, links and manages structured and unstructured data from myriad sources.

  • Make Communications Human

With instant customer feedback through social networks, understanding customer behaviour has become even easier. Based on this insight, businesses can create content that meet customers’ needs.

Customers are human beings as well, so the content they access needs a human tone. Many modern buyers research products and solutions on community-based forums, full of real people with real experiences. Hence, addressing problems faced by different communities can take a brand much closer to its target audience.

Although there’s no one-size-fit-all formula to approach digital marketing challenges faced today, these guidelines are worth following to start adapting to the overwhelming changes in consumer behaviour, and building relationships with potential customers.

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