Makin’ It Sticky

Why has customer relationship management (CRM) become such a hot issue in online advertising? Largely because customer-acquisition costs can be so high that the expense almost demands multiple purchases of an advertiser’s products by consumers. And in some cases, it can take multiple contacts with the brand before a consumer even decides to buy. So there’s a lot riding on the advertising creative.

One way to sell more products is to incorporate CRM techniques into advertising creative whenever possible. Here’s where excellent online advertising creative can help. The “stickiness” of an online marketer’s advertising assets can provide greater value to the marketer’s acquisition efforts. Stickiness can also provide a forum for an ongoing dialogue between the brand and the consumer, building brand loyalty and relevance into the consumer’s lifestyle.

Most of you are familiar with the tactics that portals like Yahoo use to make their hub “sticky”: news, free email, personalized home pages, etc. But creating a portal is not cheap, easy, or worth it for most online advertisers. Therefore, it’s generally a better tactic to support the brand position in a less ambitious yet more focused manner.

Here are a few examples that illustrate how online advertisers can create “stickiness” to enhance the relationship with their customers.

Become an expert. Since consumers use the web as a research tool, give them content that educates them about various topics related to your product. Timely and relevant information will position your “sticky” resource as the expert source of information, bringing consumers back for more, again and again.

Example: Check out ForMyWorld. Environmental Defense created an online application called “Scorecard,” where users can enter their ZIP code and get pollution facts about the area they live in. “Scorecard” has been so successful that Environmental Defense has partnered with other environmental groups to provide gardening, recycling, and wildlife information as well.

Let them play. You are all familiar with the tradeoff between entertainment and advertising. The key is to create a game that communicates the brand essence during play; therefore, your advertising message should be contained within the game.

Example: Check out FruitWorks. Its brand position is about self-expression. Site users can create their own dance track and comic strip by mixing and matching numerous combinations to express themselves playing with the “sticky” applications.

Provide relevant utility. There are several web utilities and applications already in existence that can be leveraged to bring consumers back. Utilitarian applications that relate to product attributes or the brand positioning can be used to make the consumer’s life easier or more enjoyable. These applications can then be leveraged as a vehicle for an ongoing dialogue between the brand and the consumer.

The most obvious example of this sort of utility is Instant Messenger. Of course, there should be some reason why a consumer would want to use your version, which also should support the brand positioning in some way. There are so many simple little apps that fit perfectly into a brand’s overall strategy. By finding the right one and giving consumers access to it, you can create a one-to-one channel to communicate to consumers.

Show, don’t tell. Demonstrate that you understand consumers are people and not just sales figures, and they’ll be much more likely to respond to an ongoing dialogue.

Take the the Environmental Defense “Scorecard,” for example. It would probably be more powerful to allow users to enter their ZIP code in the banner rather than just telling them about it. If you can demonstrate your “sticky” application in online media rather than just telling people about it, you’ll be better off.

“Sticky” tools can instigate and nurture a rapport with your customers. As with any relationship, the first step is communicating mutual understanding and common interests. By doing so, you will build brand loyalty and reduce the cost of having to reacquire customers.

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Overhead view of a row of four business people interviewing a young male applicant.