The context marketing revolution: 4 steps to mastering modern marketing
- Modern marketing revolves around solving customers’ individual pain points.
- In the age of infinite media, brands need to cut through the noise by providing seamless, highly personalized customer experiences.
- Say goodbye to generic campaigns aimed at attracting widespread attention. Instead, focus on providing individual customer journeys.
- Build a contextual platform (a series of interconnected tools) to help you do this at scale.
Marketing has come a long way from sticking up a few billboards and hoping for the best. Nowadays, in order to cut through all the noise that consumers face on a daily basis, marketers need to rethink the age-old strategies that they’ve been relying on for so long.
Matthew Sweezey’s The Context Marketing Revolution: How to Motivate Buyers in the Age of Infinite Media provides marketers with a precise blueprint for how to do this. It blends theoretical expertise with timely examples, dissecting high-performing organizations and highlighting how they provide their prospects with the right solutions at the exact moment they need them.
“Motivating customers today has nothing to do with getting their attention and everything to do with understanding their context – that is, their current position in time and space and whatever their task may be in that moment. Today, helping people achieve their immediate goals is the only way to break through the noise and motivate consumers to act”.
Simply put, consumers don’t need more things trying to grab their attention; they need more solutions to their problems.
The Context Marketing Revolution is jam-packed with sharp, forward-thinking insights into how organizations can transform the way they market to consumers. However, for this article, we’re going to focus on 4 key steps that it outlines.
Get these right – whatever your industry, size, or goals – and you’ll put yourself on the path to success.
1) Cut through the noise
Noise isn’t what it once was.
50 years ago, consumers came across a fairly limited amount of marketing noise (commercial efforts to grab their attention). On a daily basis, they might hear a couple of radio jingles, come across a few adverts on television or in the newspaper, and perhaps a billboard or two on their way to work.
As noise was fairly limited, advertising was fairly expensive – so consumers knew that if you could afford a large newspaper spread, you were probably fairly reputable.
Nowadays, in the age of infinite media, this is no longer the case. As of 2018, 7.3 billion people had a mobile device – and each of these people has the capacity to “create, distribute, and access as much content as they desired”.
Okay – but what does this mean for companies?
According to Sweezey, “In the limited media era, marketing used attention-seeking methods to distract individuals away from the task at hand in order to sell messages; in the era of infinite media, context seeks to match a brand with the task at hand by creating an experience that fulfills each consumers’ desire in the moment…”
So step 1 in mastering modern marketing is clear: Don’t simply fall into the trap of creating more noise for the sake of it – this tactic no longer works.
Instead, context marketing (the marketing of tomorrow) involves meeting “people where they are (rather than trying to attract their attention) by fulfilling their expectations in a particular moment”.
In order to make sure you’re as valuable as possible, you need to create a series of experiences that encompass all of a client’s needs. Take a very simplistic example: Buying a can of paint.
You might think that they only have one need: To paint something. However, that’s not necessarily true – there might be several needs that your organization can help them with.
The customer might want help working out which color would suit their room, so a guide on color schemes or even a virtual portal (where they upload a picture of their room and can see how it looks in different colors) might help. They might also need advice on which type or size of brush to use, and best practices when painting a room (like masking doors and windows).
Of course, painting a room is hardly a difficult task, but even with this example, we’ve managed to uncover several different needs that an average customer might have. Organizations that can help individuals meet their varying needs, at the precise moment when they arise, will win in the age of contextual marketing.
2) How do you do this? Create experiences
Experiences transform how consumers interact with your brand. Rather than simply being a source of products, your brand can instead become trusted partners that are relied upon to help individuals successfully navigate life’s many challenges.
That being said, not all experiences are created equal… So what makes a great consumer experience?
According to Sweezey, there are five main characteristics that you need to keep in mind:
- Available: That you get through to the right person at the right time (rather than trying to attract the attention of as many people as possible)
- Permissioned: That you have the consumer’s express permission to contact them. Once you have this, you can then use any data you’ve acquired to make their experience as personal as possible.
- Personal: That this experience fulfills their specific individual need and is delivered in a personal way.
- Authentic: That your brand’s voice is authentic, trustworthy, and empathetic (as opposed to generic, impersonal, and sales-y).
- Purposeful: That there’s a wider purpose behind the experience. For example, GoPro might make cameras – but its marketing focuses on what people do with the cameras, on all the adventures that it helps people record, rewatch, and remember.
Right. This might seem simple on paper, but what does a great customer experience (which incorporates all these elements) actually look like – and what sort of results can it lead to?
Let’s look at IKEA. Despite enjoying widespread success for a number of years, it had a problem. The products are great and they’re highly affordable, but consumers have always had to wrangle with the flat-pack nature of their furniture. They buy something, haul it home themselves, and then face the main challenge: Putting it all together.
Recognizing that this was their customers’ primary issue, IKEA did two things. First, they introduced delivery back in 2015 , meaning that consumers could avoid visiting their warehouses altogether. But this still didn’t solve the issue of customers then having to assemble whatever they purchased themselves.
In order to tackle this hurdle, IKEA purchased a startup called TaskRabbit, where you can pay for handymen/women to complete all manner of tasks for you. As a result, IKEA turned what was once an arduous experience – wandering around the warehouse, lugging home heavy furniture, and spending hours assembling it – into a seamless end-to-end experience.
Consumers could buy their products online, have them delivered in the next few days, and get somebody to come round and assemble it on their behalf. And just like that, IKEA removed its customers’ main pain point, and revolutionized the way people thought about the brand.
But consumer experiences don’t just start once someone has purchased from you.
For example, Sweezey points out that Tesla has reinvented the entire auto industry business model. Traditional companies like Mercedes Benz have always operated under a build – market – sell model; this is fairly self-explanatory, and is the common operating model for businesses of all industries.
Tesla, however, flipped this on its head. Their model goes something like this: Market – sell – build – market.
According to Sweezey, “Marketing at Tesla begins in the ideation stage of the customer journey, with the company’s well-known focus on a shared purpose: Getting the world off fossil fuels. This focus on sustainable living through radical innovation – rather than focusing on electric cars only – is at the heart of Tesla’s brand strategy.”
This brand strategy is supported by their enigmatic CEO, Elon Musk, and powerful PR stunts (like sending a car into space). Having built up an avid following, they’re able to sell cars before they’ve even been made; 200,000 customers paid deposits for the Model 3 in the 24 hours after Tesla started taking orders, which was well before the first Model 3 had even been built.
The Tesla experience is littered with a number of key touchpoints along the consumer journey:
- If you’ve pre-ordered a Tesla, you’ll get personal email correspondence from an engineer once they start building your car and ongoing personal updates about how this process is going.
- If you purchase a Tesla after it’s been produced, you don’t have to go through the arduous process of dealing with a sales rep. Instead, you use their website to book a test drive, receive a text message confirming your slot minutes later, and then you’re sent a link to MyTesla.com where you can choose your car’s features: tweaking them according to your own personal preferences.
- Once you’re a customer, you’re eligible for 24/7 tech support, you’re told by the company when your car is due for updates/maintenance, and you’re then encouraged to join their referral program where you receive $1,000 for every successful referral. In turn, this has created a dedicated network of brand advocates, with Tesla getting happy customers to willingly market their products on their behalf.
Tesla’s consumer experience goes all the way from the initial brand ideation stage right up to ongoing customer support. Their message is clear: “Come join us on our journey to save the world – if you do, you’ll be treated as part of the family”.
I know what you’re thinking. As great as this end-to-end consumer experience might be, is it even marketing?
Well, in the classical sense, no.
Marketing used to revolve around companies telling consumers what they thought they wanted to hear. Nowadays, it’s about providing customers with the experience that they’re looking for – and companies that successfully do this will reap the many benefits on offer.
Sweezey cites a 7-year-long study conducted by Watermark Consulting. This study looked at 200 auto insurance companies that put a strong emphasis on customer experience versus other competitors who were relative “laggards” in this area.
The results were staggering: The study found that those who routinely prioritized the end customer experience were three times more profitable than the rest.
Think about it. The biggest disruptors of the modern age don’t necessarily have the best product, or even a product that novel, but they champion the overall user experience.
Uber isn’t that different from a taxi, only you can set the exact pickup location from your phone and you don’t need your wallet. Food delivery has been around for years, but by offering all restaurants in one hub and remembering your personal details for a seamless checkout process, Deliveroo and JustEat have been making big money for a number of years now.
If you want customers to keep coming back day after day, month after month, and year after year, then you need to give them an experience that’s truly worth remembering.
3) Ditch campaigns – instead, focus on customer journeys
Okay, step 3 – how can you actually go about creating a fantastic experience for each and every customer out there?
According to Sweezey, the first step here is ditching classic marketing campaigns, and instead choosing to focus on individual customer journeys. Campaigns – where you try and draw a net around as many consumers as possible before leading them down the funnel – have usually adopted a one-size-fits-all (and highly impersonal) approach. On the other hand, customer journeys are created and optimized with the individual consumers’ perspectives in mind.
As marketers, it’s our job to guide the consumer through their own personal journey (or experience) with our brand.
“As we’ll see, in some ways the new customer journey functions like a free-running river. It’s an ongoing system of organized brand experiences that constantly flows, with numerous individual currents that converge and diverge in a multitude of ways”.
The first step to creating killer customer journeys is to conduct a series of interviews with current customers, as well as people who fit your target customer profile. You want to work out what they’re doing, thinking, and feeling at each stage of the customer journey – so that you can then figure out how to fit this need, and what triggers will appropriately guide them through their customer journey.
For example, you might find out that buyers need answers to their questions in the initial awareness stage, so it’s a good idea to have a wide-ranging and diverse array of blog content that answers top questions relating to your field of expertise.
Then, during the consideration stage, you’ll want to make sure that your brand beats out other competitors with its stellar reviews or by offering prospects the chance to try your product out for free.
When it comes to purchasing, consider retargeting prospects with ads. Lastly, building advocate programs is a great way to ensure that your customers bring in more customers themselves, and that this self-repeating cycle continues on.
“First, focus on the main aspects of identifying key points along your customers’ journey, making sure you are in them and leveraging them. Second, work with your audience either by being an active part of your community or by finding ways to co-create your products with them, or better yet, both. Finally, focus on creating a great customer experience at every step and turning customers into advocates, keeping the cycle turning.”
4) Build a contextual platform
In order to cut through the noise, to create great customer experiences, and to master your customer journeys (rather than simply using generic campaigns) at scale, you need to have a solid supporting infrastructure in place: A contextual platform.
This set of connected tools should have three defining qualities:
- All experiences are connected to outcomes
- Data is connected and flows freely between applications
- The automation layer enables greater context along the customer journey
As Sweezey puts it, “The fact is that data interconnectivity isn’t optional in the infinite media era… With a connected system that allows data sharing, and customer outreach to work in concert, your brand can deliver a seamless experience to every prospect and customer, which has a direct effect on your revenue”. (174)
Get this right, and the payoffs are large: Craveable Brands, an Australian food group which owns 570 fast-food restaurants, leveraged customer data gained from their in-store point-of-sale systems to onboard customers to their online delivery system via SMS.
Whilst this might seem like a small thing to do, this action alone brought in an additional $9 million in online sales.
Modern consumers are beginning to expect a certain degree of personalization – for example, imagine opening up Netflix, Spotify, or Amazon and seeing generic options that aren’t tailored to your individual preferences. For this reason, you need a platform that can connect all the data you have on individual prospects, before then using this data to send out appropriate triggers that guide consumers along their own individual journey.
Technology shouldn’t just be a nice-to-have; it’s there to make life easier for both you and your customers. Building an effective contextual platform will transform your consumer experience, which will, in turn, have a massive effect on your revenue.
To the victor go the spoils
The Context Marketing Revolution reveals a certain irony about modern marketing.
Technology has given us the ability to reach more people than ever before at the single click of a button…
And yet, despite this, marketers increasingly need to narrow down their focus: Providing personalized experiences to individuals themselves, rather than generalized campaigns aimed at grabbing the masses’ attention.
Successful modern marketing requires getting personal. What does this individual customer truly want? How can you create (and guide them along) a personalized experience that will satisfy their needs and make them want to come back time after time? How can you make this as seamless as possible, using technology to automate each process and connect different sources of data together?
Of course, it’s unlikely that you’ll get this right the first time around: You might need to rethink your customer journey, the tools which support you along the way, or even the products you currently offer.
However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try – in fact, far from it. By adopting an agile mindset that prioritizes ongoing testing, and by being willing to fail, you can begin to master modern marketing too.
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