How to Approach Customers Without Intruding Upon Them: 5 Dos and Don’ts
Digital marketing is a balancing act. While technology has offered businesses key insights by tapping into the power of predictive analytics, real-time communication channels, and a ton of customer data sources, these digital experiences can override one of the most important components to building strong customer relationships: humanity. The ability to gauge a person’s intent, their history, and their needs is fundamental to meeting customer expectations. When these two forces are in balance, the customer feels communicated to, understood, and supported by their interactions with your organization. When they are out of balance, the customer feels marketed to, manipulated, and uncomfortable. Because, let’s face it – when done wrong, digital marketing can make customers feel intruded upon. To help you strike the right balance, I’ve provided five do’s and don’ts on how to approach your customers without scaring them off.
DO KNOW YOUR CUSTOMER’S CONTEXT
Context is more than just data. While data can tell you that a customer bought this item at that store on this date, it can’t tell you what that person needs today. Context is a combination of real time data points synthesized by analytics to tell a story about the customer’s in-the-moment needs, behaviors and sometimes even moods or propensities. Without a clear understanding of a customer’s context, marketing efforts will misfire.
Say a customer has been researching smartphones. This probably doesn’t mean she wants a smartphone banner ad following her around all month. In fact, this might be creepy and off putting. But if you know the customer is browsing smartphones in the moment and that she’s cleared her shopping cart and moved from one competitor website to the next, you’ll have a much better idea of how to offer something of real value to her.
DON’T GO ON CONTEXT ALONE
While knowing the context is key to delivering an informed customer interaction, knowing the customer’s history based on a body of data accumulated over time is essential for delivering a relevant customer interaction. Take the smartphone example above. If her purchase history shows that she previously bought a high-end digital camera, you’ll be able to gauge her purchase behavior as well as her interest level in quality photos. She may be motivated by photo quality when considering a new phone. A comprehensive history could also help you ascertain if she’s active on social media in overseas countries or uses her mobile device to frequently stream media and, by extension, if she needs a comprehensive or an international data plan. Not only will you know which plan to offer, but with the help of predictive analytics you can also assume she’ll need a smartphone case, a charger, and so on. Now you have all the information you need for an informed and relevant marketing experience.
DO APPROACH THE CUSTOMER THROUGH THE RIGHT CHANNELS
While the question of which product or service to offer is important, the questions of how and when to approach the customer are equally vital. Usually, the best approach will be a combination of channels extending across marketing, sales, and customer service. Perhaps, in the case of our smartphone shopper, the marketing team chose to send an email inviting the customer to review her recent purchase, which led to a chat with a sales representative. Any new information discovered along the way can be used to recalibrate the interaction. For example, if the shopper says she experienced issues during the purchase transaction, this would be a time for customer service to step in. When approached in the right way and, just as importantly, at the right time, the interaction is seamless because it is rooted in insight. If, however, the shopper receives a text message offering 50% off phone cases in the middle of her shopping experience, she might feel her privacy has been compromised and probably block the number.
DO IMPLEMENT THE RIGHT TECHNOLOGY
You’re probably wondering, how you can possibly deliver this highly personalized marketing campaign in real time? The truth is, you can’t pull it off without the help of sophisticated and trustworthy technology. Delivering a targeted campaign powered by predictive analytics in real time is just way too much to ask of even the most talented marketing team. While your team is essential to delivering that vital human element to any customer interaction, they’ll need to rely on a customer relationship management platform to carry out the complex predictive analytical functions that help businesses get to know their customers. The best platforms will include a process-based mechanism that not only runs analytics, but adapts to new information and business conditions, connecting customers to the right people, products, and services no matter the circumstances. Ironically, the best thing that a good customer relationship management (CRM) platform can offer you is a more human relationship with your customer. With both contextual and historical information on hand, marketers can build upon a consistent message. Using current consumer data to emphasize or change the customer’s experience turns a one-time offer into a personalized, evolving customer journey.
DON’T FORGET YOUR CUSTOMERS ARE PEOPLE
While technology is key to delivering a seamless digital experience, using an unsuitable technology can get in its own way. Customers want to be treated like human beings, even if the interaction is happening through the medium of a mobile device or computer screen. Not only will they expect a company to know their history, they’ll also expect them to intuit their current needs. Surprisingly, even cold data can help marketers, sales reps, and customer services agents apprehend the desires of their customers. For example, after clearing her shopping cart three times, one can assume that our cell phone shopper is getting frustrated and in need of some guidance. With these data points, marketers can customize copy and CTAs that make the customer feel like the center of an entire marketing campaign. That said, while your customer relationship system will be a crucial contributor to your marketing efforts, empowering employees to provide more personal and relevant digital experiences, it will take the empathy and critical thinking of a company’s sales reps, marketers, and customer service agents to know where to draw the line so that the customer feels assisted, but not intruded upon.