If you can combine customer appreciation, authenticity, and effort with your existing online media, you may end up with a campaign that serves two vital goals instead of one.
There may be plenty of "Things Real People Don't Say About Advertising," but that doesn't mean they don't pay attention when a brand does something right. This subject was top of mind for me recently when I tried out a new hair salon. The experience was good, but it was what happened after I walked out the door that really stuck. Within days of my appointment, I got a follow-up phone call, a mailed thank-you postcard, and a mobile invitation to receive text message reminders from the salon.
The place did a number of things right: it extended the customer experience beyond the salon, it did so while the activity was still fresh in my mind, and it employed multiple consumer touch points. In other words, it demonstrated a practiced and masterful approach to customer relationship management (CRM). As is the mark with any good CRM experience, the brand came off as genuine and accommodating…in other words, real.
Online, achieving this same level of customer service often boils down to using a single tool: social media. Social media does everything the aforementioned touch points can do and more by initiating – and maintaining – a dialogue with existing customers. It provides an opportunity to connect with consumers on a deeper, more authentic level, and like that phone call, postcard, and text message, it's guaranteed to reach valuable new and current clients.
Social sites are also a bigger part of digital marketing in general, however, and their usage has had some curious consequences. Increasingly, digital campaigns of all sorts – whether they're intended to launch a new product or boost category sales – are expected to simultaneously incorporate elements of customer service.
In a way it's understandable. Few platforms are as well-suited to CRM as Facebook or Twitter. But does that mean brands must necessarily address CRM whenever a campaign includes a Facebook page or tweets? This question was put to Procter & Gamble's Old Spice brand when it used social media to create 2010's biggest viral phenomenon. Although it didn't claim to be creating a CRM campaign, some criticized the brand for failing to focus on its most important customers. Instead of providing value for segmented customers, the campaign was said to offer only "temporary entertainment value" for everyone.
Was Old Spice agency Wieden+Kennedy remiss in calling on celebrity participation instead of drawing in more actual customers? Its some 110 million total brand Web views and increase in overall sales would suggest not. Then again, how much more effort would have been involved in integrating a CRM element that served to reward existing Old Spice users?
These are issues that all agencies must now address as they build modern digital campaigns. It doesn't take much to practice good customer service, particularly when compared to developing a mass media viral campaign. It makes sense, then, that marketers should be marrying the intentions displayed by that salon with campaigns that already include methods of authentic communication. When an exciting new online ad campaign includes videos, distribute them to existing customers through e-mail first to reward loyal clients with a sneak-peek. If a campaign warrants a new tab on your brand's Facebook page, invite existing fans to comment for a chance to win a free product or related gift. When streaming tweets into your display ads, don't just use Twitter to alert customers to new products being carried by your stores…put out a call to shoppers welcoming additional suggestions and point them to the ads to boost word of mouth.
Social media is changing the way we approach CRM, but the tenets of good customer service remain. If you can combine customer appreciation, authenticity, and effort with your existing online media, you may end up with a campaign that serves two vital goals instead of one.
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Tessa Wegert is a business reporter and former media strategist specializing in digital. In addition to writing for ClickZ since 2002, she has contributed to such publications as USA Today, Marketing Magazine, Mashable, and The Globe and Mail. Tessa manages marketing and communications for Enlighten, one of the first full-service digital marketing strategy agencies servicing such brands as Bioré, Food Network, illy, and Hunter Douglas. She has been working in online media since 1999.
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