- Using internal and external data pulled through online conversations and technology such as artificial intelligence can help fuel the “question and research” phase of a company’s scientific approach to marketing strategies.
- Increasing content personalization, adjusting ad spend, and implementing chat bots can all be effective ways companies can test different hypothesis.
- Once you’ve gone through your data and tested different strategies to see which best align with your business goals and objectives, then you’ll be able to continue to build out and expand on these tactics to innovate in ways that best suit your business.
- Even with all the uncertainty of 2020 this is also an ideal time to establish or revamp digital marketing strategies, not only positioning your business to rebound more successfully, but to prepare for an even-faster-evolving world.
This far into an unprecedented global pandemic, we’ve all made significant personal and professional changes. The dramatic effect of the pandemic on businesses and marketing strategies across industries can’t be understated. But as ever-changing customer preferences and buying habits evolve and morph at an even more rapid pace, how can your business keep up?
Planning for the future can feel like an exercise in futility given the uncertainty we’re in, but it’s also a golden opportunity to showcase the flexibility you’ve built into your marketing strategy. Here are ways you and your company can apply a scientific approach to help build or expand an agile, tech-enabled, marketing strategy.
1) Ask a question and research
The amount of data you have at your fingertips should have no limit. From predictive analytics, to online conversations, there are incredible amounts of insights ripe for analysis. Here are a few examples:
AI and predictive analytics
Artificial intelligence (AI)-based crisis modeling and predictive analytics use real-time data modeling to create a more accurate picture of what to expect in the future.
Using what is now close to nine months’ worth of internal data points like business metrics including web traffic, social media traffic, conversion rates, customer service metrics, and comparing them to sales, as well as publicly available data on COVID-19 (e.g., rate of infection and hospitalization by geography), you can create a robust snapshot of how your sales have been affected by the changes in buying behavior during the pandemic.
Then, taking these data points and extrapolating them over the coming fiscal year or two, AI and machine learning can provide you with:
- More accurate, data-driven sales forecast projections based on crisis scenarios in different geographies;
- Projected customer churn and retention analytics;
- Tailored marketing and advertising effectiveness assessments;
- Specific product sales trends analysis; and
- Real-time insights and analytics on social media, customer experience, and customer sentiment.
You can then use those outputs to adjust your marketing strategy as you go. Data builds on data, and your models only get better over time.
Looking at online conversations — who’s talking about what in real time, and where they’re located — can help you focus digital marketing efforts and engage with former, current, and prospective customers.
Using social listening tools, look at your social media and digital channels to see what customers in different geographic areas or verticals are talking or asking about, and tweak your strategy to better support them — whether that’s more frequent informational updates, crisis-specific promotions, or even fun social media posts highlighting how your employees are social distancing.
You can also start to identify and build a data-driven influencer strategy leveraging the same social listening insights: who are the authorities in your space and to your audience? Has that changed during the pandemic? Are your audience’s needs changing, and how is their sentiment changing?
You might see seasonality trends tied to COVID-19 cases in a geographic area, where sentiment changes from summer to winter and can then use that sentiment to soften or ramp up messaging or leverage different types of influencers.
Last, take a look at your competitors’ social channels to understand what they’re doing during the pandemic, and how they’re taking care of or serving their customers. If you see a number of customers asking for something a competitor can’t offer, it might be an opportunity for you to fill a void by retooling or changing the positioning around your products and services.
2) Form a hypothesis and test it
Once you’ve looked into the questions you’re asking, it’s time to experiment with potential solutions, like ways to increase personalization, adjust ad spend, and implement chat bots.
You know you’ve got to get the right content to the right customer at the right time. Before the pandemic, personalization was about shopping habits and previous purchases—which are still useful. But intra-pandemic, shopping habits vary widely, and previous purchases may not be indicative of future ones (remember the great toilet paper rush of March 2020?).
Now, you need really tightly edited data that helps you understand: who is your customer, how many times have you contacted them, and in what channels? Whether you’re a retailer or B2B seller, having a complete view of your integrated touchpoints enables you to categorize leads into hot or cold and create contextual messaging that is more likely to convert.
In B2B sales, “Account-Based Marketing” is a buzz word, but any marketer can apply the main principles:
- Tap into your anonymous first-party web engagement data and third-party intent data from an ABM service like DemandBase to refine target customers. You’ll see lower cost of leads and more engagement.
- This in turn allows you to create more personalizedemails, social outreach, and phone calls, and retarget abandons.
- Use past data in combination with buyer intent data to level up your retention effort, focusing on existing customers to upsell and cross-sell new products to them that make sense—not just for what they’ve bought, but for what they’ve have searched for online.
Many businesses have pulled their ads from online and print newspapers and magazines, radio, and television because they’re unlikely right now to see a lot of return (especially if the ads seem tone-deaf for the times).
Instead, digital advertising can be an easier, more effective and sometimes less costly way to optimize your ad spend and keep your business top of mind with customers, especially if you’ve shifted to new services or have messaging to convey regarding your pandemic response.
Tactics like Google Ads and Facebook boosted posts allow targeting to specific geographic areas, among other demographics, and provide ways to analyze how many customers clicked on your ad, the demographics of those customers, and whether they took actions based on specific promotions.
Added into with your existing analytics, including customer behavior and intent data, these additional data points can provide a more complete picture of your buyer.
While chat bots are not right for every business or customer challenge, they can be a great stopgap to deploy in periods of extremely high volume—like when everyone is shopping online. Customers have become accustomed to using tools like Facebook Messenger and Twitter to interact with brands, and they often expect a response within minutes.
If you can’t ramp to meet those volumes, you can quickly set up if-this-then-that chatbots to handle simple but common inquiries. For example, customers may be asking “What has your response to the pandemic been?” or “How will my service be affected by COVID-19?”
A chatbot can immediately analyze the question, detect certain keywords and phrasing, and send them a link or fact sheet with company messaging around the pandemic — improving a customer’s experience by getting them predetermined answers more quickly than their having to wait for a human.
If you’ve already implemented chatbots and like the results, you’re likely looking into other areas of automation. Bots can handle order tracking, real-time status updates, order processing, invoicing, and many other backend processes.
Advanced marketing automation tools can bring together your data, personalization, and automation strategies for a seamless customer experience. Automation opportunities are continuing to grow for the savvy marketer willing to invest time and experimentation in them.
3) Draw conclusions and keep collecting data—and adjusting your strategy
Once you’ve gone through your data and tested different strategies to see which best align with your business goals and objectives, then you’ll be able to continue to build out and expand on these tactics to innovate in ways that best suit your business.
This is where your agility comes into play: by constantly analyzing what the data is telling you, you can tweak and refine your strategy.
There is no doubt that the coming weeks and months will be challenging for marketers. Uncertainties abound, from how well we can contain the spread of the coronavirus, to what federal and state economies will look like over the next year or two, to where consumers will spend their dollars with many people out of work.
Yet this is also an ideal time to establish or revamp your digital marketing strategies, not only positioning your business to rebound more successfully, but to prepare for an even-faster-evolving world. If you’re not sure how to start implementing digital tools and technologies, look for trusted partners and consultants who can help guide you.
Lyssa Myska Allen is Vice President, Global Head of Marketing, Digital for Hinduja Global Solutions (HGS).
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