Advertising has undergone some pretty radical transformations over the past few years. Technology has enabled brands to send customers messages much more intimately and personally than the previous one-sided standard. Unsurprisingly, customers have reacted positively to this, but in a much more well-rounded way than many organizations realize. Customers understand that digital advertising is much more personal than it has ever been and because of this, they expect the road to go both ways. In short, customers want to be able to interact with their favorite brands, but on their own terms.
When we think of modern digital advertising as a “two-way street,” we often assume it means that advertisers use customer data, and customers are shown ads for products and services that they actually want. Customers get useful deals and product information, while brands get increased sales. This is very true, and effective intent marketing can increase ad performance while boosting customer loyalty. However, that neglects the bigger picture. Fundamentally, today’s customers actually want to be heard.
Subtle difference? Yes. But an incredibly valuable one? Absolutely.
Many believe that this kind of customer feedback only applies to customer service, but marketers are realizing that it applies just as much to advertising because direct interaction builds brand trust. Using intent data to establish a customer’s likes and purchasing behavior is a great way to begin to build that trust.
Additionally, it’s important to support these efforts with constant levels of communication – stemming from both directions. This is critical in today’s age of the empowered customer because it demonstrates that ads extend beyond pitches. Ads are part of the ongoing conversation that involves both the customer and the brand. Furthering this trust establishes customer loyalty, and we all know retained customers hold a lot of value for all brands.
Listening goes beyond simply tracking what your customers buy or indicate they want to buy. Currently, customers have so many different platforms to communicate with brands that they can provide an entirely new kind of intent data. This data is born due to noting who the customer is, as opposed to only focusing on what they do.
Many people follow certain brands on social media because they want to demonstrate that the brand’s message reflects their ideal lifestyle. Therefore, this provides brands and marketers with an opportunity to open the lines of engagement with someone who might not necessarily be interested in the products, but rather your overall image and culture. With this information, brands can observe how customers respond to social media posts, and gauge how best to interact with them according to their interests and behaviors.
A great example of this is the brands that are constantly on lists of “Best Brands To Follow On Social.” Brands like Taco Bell and Ben & Jerry’s have massive followings on social media because they listen and respond to their customers in a way that makes them likable.
— Ben & Jerry’s (@benandjerrys) June 26, 2015
Often, a customer will tweet a joke or exaggerated complaint, and the brand will respond with a humorous reply in a reasonable amount of time.
— Taco Bell (@tacobell) July 21, 2015
This not only resonates with the specific customer, but also generates a positive impression to other users who see it, leading to lots of shares, engagements, and overall virality.
Of course, not all brands have a target customer base that responds well to humor. A high-end fashion brand, for example, would find more success by asking customers what they enjoy the most about one of their products, and then acknowledging how they applied that feedback. A financial institution could notice that many of its followers on Twitter are tweeting questions expressing concern about cyber security, and respond by sharing helpful information on what it is doing to keep customers’ identities safe, along with links to helpful articles explaining online security to those that aren’t as technology-savvy.
It goes without saying that customers are valuable: they’re literally everything to brands. However, many customers don’t know how important they are to the brands that they pay attention to. Today’s technology has provided consumers with the ability to interact with brands directly, making them feel more connected. By fostering this interaction through effective intent marketing and social communications, brands can build a level of trust with consumers that will inspire their enthusiastic loyalty. It’s just a matter of realizing that their opinions and interests are more complex and nuanced than the credit card wake they leave behind.
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