The idea that marketers should listen to their markets is fundamental to the sales process. How can you convince prospects to buy your product unless you know what they’re looking for? Unfortunately, prospective customers don’t always understand that we want to hear about their needs, which means they are often reluctant to share information.
However, by carefully listening and observing, we can sometimes overcome this reluctance and help customers buy the right product — even when they’re not eager to let us help them.
Marketers are always communicating to an audience, but listening to customers and observing their behavior are important, too. Communications consultants teach how valuable it is to obtain feedback to make sure that the intended message is actually received and understood.
One popular name for the technique of monitoring responses from customers is closed-loop marketing. The concept is simple: Communicate a message to an audience, then watch for behavior based on that message.
Getting and Using Data
Closed-loop marketing has several benefits, including these:
- Ensuring that prospective customers understand the marketing message by monitoring their responses
- Learning about the people receiving the message
By continuously analyzing customer responses and refining the communications process and message, you can adjust the marketing campaign to deliver highly targeted and appropriate content and advertising.
Marketers at a company’s every level can use data from closed-loop-marketing activities to improve decisions. Some managers are making strategic decisions about how to segment markets, identify market opportunities, plan campaigns, and evaluate results.
Other managers need the data for more tactical decisions, such as media planning, merchandising, content development, and promotion. In addition, analysts and researchers use this data to measure and evaluate the effectiveness of the companys marketing communications effort.
However, because implementing closed-loop marketing online can be challenging, marketers may feel they are going in circles. Fortunately, there are techniques that can turn frustration into fulfillment.
Making It Work
Closed-loop marketing can take various forms, depending on the type of Internet marketing and technology used:
- Traffic monitoring on static Web sites. Monitoring visitor behavior on sites that have little interactivity is limited. To track page usage, you use traditional server log reports or an application service provider (ASP) such as NetIQ’s WebTrends. Although this is technically closed-loop marketing because it does provide a way to monitor activity, it doesn’t provide the one-to-one profiling of individuals.
- Email newsletter with click-through tracking. Companies with static Web sites can add closed-loop marketing by using a newsletter service that automatically generates click-through tracking links. Several of these services can provide standard click-through tracking to count the number of times a link is clicked. A few services, such as Sling Shot Media, take this a step further by providing profile-based click-through tracking: When readers click a link, their profiles are updated with information about what they clicked on and when, which allows click-throughs to be correlated with profile data.
- Integrated dynamic content. Web sites with static content can integrate portions of dynamic content into their sites by using an outside service. For example, ResponseLogic specializes in combining business rules with profiles from multiple sources to select the most appropriate content for each visitor.
- Dynamic Web sites. Sites that use content management systems to create dynamic content “on the fly” can collect a wide variety of visitor data, such as pages viewed, links clicked on, responses given, and products purchased. This data can be combined with profile data and business rules to help understand each visitor and tailor content, in real time, to his or her needs and interests.
- Multichannel marketing. Online marketing is frequently being integrated with traditional advertising and direct-marketing activities as part of a customer relationship marketing approach. Companies such as Engage provide a variety of tools to help manage closed-loop marketing across multiple communications channels.
These are just a few ways to use closed-loop marketing techniques to improve customer communications. The key is to select the technique and technology most appropriate for your company right now. By making incremental improvements instead of waiting for conditions to improve, you can help today’s first-time customers become loyal ones in the future.