Digital Communications: It’s Not Just E-Mail Anymore

Communication is any process by which information is exchanged. When you say “communication” to digital marketers, most automatically think e-mail. Well, that’s not the case anymore. With e-mail overload and limited time, consumers are often more receptive to other forms of communication that can reduce e-mail use. Therefore, marketers must think more broadly about their digital communication strategy.

Five Forms of Digital Dialogue

As digital communications evolve, so have the forms of engaging with your target market:

  • E-mail. As the most mature digital communications channel, e-mail can be accessed via a variety of devices. It’s most effective for providing a broad range of content, including promotional, behaviorally triggered, and newsletters. It can also be used as a digital identifier and driver for many forms of social media. While most e-mail communications move one way — from companies to individuals — it also should enable consumers to respond.

  • Mobile. Mobile offers a variety of information formats, including SMS (define), e-mail, picture messages, video messages, social networking, and, of course, voice. Further, it provides purchase choices via mobile search, maps, and widgets as well as delivery alternatives, such as scanner-friendly tickets, mobile content, and entertainment (including games). Mobile also facilitates immediate responses from consumers. It’s particularly useful for reaching teens.
  • RSS. RSS provides an alternative for content distribution, especially for time-sensitive information in a user-controlled environment. It can extend relationships and build lead generation through use of private feeds to distribute tailored, trackable information.
  • Chat. Is mainly focused on providing one-to-one cost-effective pre- and post-purchase customer support. It’s also an alternative channel for consumers to communicate with each other and share information.
  • Social media. Social media enables dialogue because consumer and marketer can post messages to each other. While social media gives users and brands an environment in which to connect and interact, marketers should exercise care and participate in a transparent manner. To preserve credibility, their communications shouldn’t be promotional in any obvious way.

Six-Point Digital Dialogue Framework

Here’s an outline to ensure that your communications with prospects and customers are consistent, build a relationship over time, and provide support and drive sales. Plan your digital messaging so it’s integrated and consistent with the rest of your marketing. Here are six major points to consider:

  • Target market. Define your audience as granularly as possible in terms of demographic descriptions, psychographic insights, and past behaviors to help craft relevant messaging.

  • Objective. Most campaigns focus on acquiring new customers and leads, building brand awareness, increasing revenues, improving profitability, or all four. It’s good to take into consideration each stage of the purchase process (research, engagement, purchase, post-purchase, and advocacy) when planning your messaging.
  • Communications vehicle. Which of the five digital formats listed above will you use? In making your selection, think about what’s best from your users’ perspective. Often, it’s important to give your customers a choice.
  • Message. When crafting what you want to say, consider the format’s space constraints, how you can incorporate your branding into the communication, and whether different messages are needed for multiple formats. Think about how prospects will receive and respond to your message. Plan for customer responses across multiple devices. Ensure that your database can integrate new input from the responses.
  • Supporting marketing. Integrate your messaging with the rest of your marketing program:
    • Related advertising. This includes a variety of on- and offline campaigns. At a minimum, ensure that your search marketing contains the keywords in your message and links to the appropriate page of your Web site.

    • Landing pages. Create tailored landing pages relevant to the products and content highlighted in your messages.
    • Related content. Provide links to deeper information on related products and topics on your Web site and blogs.
    • Product. Don’t forget that the actual product and packaging should be integrated with your communications strategy. They should provide information regarding how to find and communicate with your firm.
  • Success metrics. While indicators can vary based on communications channel, at a macro level it’s important to track the following categories:
    • Messages. By communications format, monitor the total number of messages sent, the number of messages that were misaddressed or bounced, the number of messages that were read, and the number of messages where customers took actions. Track the response rate and the conversion rate.

    • Revenues. Measure the sales driven by each campaign by communications channel. Then calculate the sales per message separately for each channel.
    • Expenses. Determine the fully loaded cost per campaign and calculate the cost per person contacted by communications format.
    • Attrition rate. Assess how many new registrants unsubscribe after receiving your first communication by source.
    • Churn. Monitor the percentage of users who leave your list over a standardized period.

A well-thought-out customer communications strategy allows you to cost-effectively deliver very targeted marketing messages. Communicating to customers and prospects via their channel of choice helps you create messages that are timely, personal, relevant, and effective. This should overcome any additional cost and complexity that the execution of such a strategy will involve.

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