I’m sure you agree that customers are the heartbeat of any business. Why then are they so often neglected when it comes to many a digital marketing strategy?
Companies sometimes lose sight of the fact that knowing more about your customers is the way to make online communications and marketing more customer-centric and so potentially improve satisfaction, leads and sales.
Any digital marketing review needs to include an audit of customers and stakeholders to define clearly how they interact with your business online.
It may also include an overview of your online reputation (e.g. what they think of you, comments, reviews etc.), as well as common keywords they use to find you, and the channels they are favouring.
Ultimately, with this stage of the audit, we are concerned with establishing if your current digital marketing strategy matches your online customers and stakeholders wants and needs, and where they go online to meet those.
This allows you to clearly identify and fix any ‘gaps’ or inaccuracies that exist between the image of your brand/business as seen through the eyes of your customers and stakeholders and the image you intended them to have.
It is also crucial in supporting and training all staff (not just the marketing and sales team) about who they are essentially working for to ensure a cohesive customer service approach across the business.
Increasingly, information is being consumed across a wider variety of devices and channels than ever before, e.g. mobiles, tablets, tablets and smart TVs. A digital marketing plan needs to take an omni-channel approach including the most relevant channels for your customers and ensure they work in unison with each other.
So, getting to really know your customers is the only way to bring all these elements together. But where do you start?
Begin with Customer Profiling
I often come across small- to mid-sized companies who don’t have a digital marketing plan and whose senior executives or owners are struggling to know how to take the first step in the process. They admit it all feels a bit overwhelming, especially for smaller businesses who don’t have an internal marketing department or the funds to bring in an expert to do it all for them. The truth is, it really doesn’t have to be that complicated. Most of the information you need is at your fingertips or you intuitively know.
I believe that the starting point for any company looking to develop a digital marketing plan is to develop two or three customer personas. Whether you are a B2C or B2B, this is a powerful marketing tool that really brings your customers to life and doesn’t require a huge amount of effort.
Trying to relate to a general target audience is difficult. This is about taking your target audience and turning them into a couple of different semi-fictional characters based on your real customers. Depending on your business, you may also want to do this for your key stakeholders, e.g. suppliers, franchisees, licensees.
You need to give them a name and describe them in as much detail as you can, e.g. character, values, problems and goals. Information for your persona can come from a variety of valuable sources, such as on-site data capture e.g. online forms; sales database; customer surveys; Google Analytics; and social media profiling, e.g. your Facebook or Twitter page insights or LinkedIn company page.
You could include the following details:
- a photo to help give a face to a name
- demographics, e.g. age, marital status, location, income, education
- business background/professional role, e.g. job title, company size
- values and goals
- challenges/pain points
- preferred online channels, e.g. LinkedIn, Facebook
- buying decisions, e.g. regular purchases, objections to purchasing
- solutions you are providing for
There is no shortage of examples and templates available online to help you get started but if it is not something that you feel can be completed in-house, you can easily bring in the expertise of a marketing, communications agency to create these for you.
Once they are done, make sure they are clearly available and seen by all staff. Sticking these on your wall is a quick but entirely effective way of ensuring your key marketing messages are targeting these key customers. For your marketing team, it allows them to create content that is more personal and useful and brings the focus back to the fact that there is an actual person looking around your website, reading your email or following you on Facebook.
From a commercial point of view, personas can create more usable, persuasive multichannel customer experiences that support decision making to increase purchase intent, satisfaction and advocacy.
Mapping the Customer Journey
In addition to customer profiling, another important area to cover off in a digital marketing audit is mapping your customers’ journey through your digital marketing channels as they make their way towards retention and conversion.
You can think of this as a bit like a spider’s web with the outer edges of the web being the touchpoints for the various social media channels, emails, blogs, e-newsletters or other digital marketing activity. The idea is to drive or funnel your customers to the centre of the web—your website—to a definite call to action and conversion, e.g. sale, subscription, contact form etc.
This customer-centric marketing approach allows you to gain a detailed overview of their experience, putting yourself in your customers’ shoes and understanding the different touchpoints.
It also allows you to have an omni-channel view rather than viewing the individual marketing channels in isolation so that you ensure every aspect of your digital marketing is working for you in an integrated way. This is especially true for companies that split the responsibilities for digital marketing across different departments or individuals, i.e. someone in charge of the website content, somebody else for eDMs (electronic Direct Mail) and another for advertising and social media.
Most importantly, mapping the customer journey helps you to identify certain stages when your customers tend to fall off the intended pathway, so that you can plug those ‘holes’ for increased retention. For example, you may be posting regularly on a particular channel but failing to include a link/incentive that will drive traffic to your website. Another common mistake is wasting time on too many different platforms rather than picking the two with the most quality engagement and focussing your time and energy on delivering great content customised to that format.
Share and Share Alike
Both customer personas and customer journey mapping are very effective ways to share information across all company departments so that everyone is on the same page. You don’t have to go into huge detail but developing a summary of key points can be useful to everyone from front desk to distribution.
By gaining a complete and accurate picture of your customers through a digital marketing audit, you will be in the best possible position to more efficiently deliver what they really want.