This article also appeared on CMO.com
Not too long ago, a cross-country trip meant pulling out a paper map and a pen. Today, that process has been up-leveled to on-demand, GPS-guided navigation systems that seem to know where a driver is going before he even put his foot on the gas.
Marketing is experiencing a similar transition.
Over the past 10 years, marketing has come to mean pushing incredible amounts of content to customers and prospects–butwithout much understanding of the context in which that information is delivered. Marketers expect prospects will simply follow a brand’s generic content map and, at the end, convert. In reality, consumers today expect on-demand, personalized information that comes from marketers who understanding their preferences.
That’s why marketers need to ditch their map books and revamp their approach to content. Brands that intend to succeed need to guide customers with navigation systems that change course if an individual doesn’t take the right turn–getting them back on track to conversion.
Here’s where to begin.
1. Get to know the driver: The key to effective communication with a customer is to fully understand who that individual is. This can be done by continuously building a profile of each person who touches a brand, including consumer value score, age, location, and gender. Once this profile is created, the communication process becomes simpler. In essence, the brand now knows who it is talking to and can form interactions with the right context.
If you enter 500 Main St., for example, your new car’s navigation system takes you to the 500 Main St. in your town, not that address in another state or country, because it has the context of your previous travels. The same holds true when a customer engages a brand. The previous engagement gives context to where the current conversation should go to stay relevant, and keeps the customer engaged in a positive way.
2. The connected driver: While the car has increasingly become a home for the latest technologies, individuals are still reliant on their smartphones and mobile devices that take them through their everyday lives. It is expected that the best navigation systems will be able to easily sync with a driver’s mobile phone, whether it is to find an address from an email or locate the latest restaurant the driver was researching.
The same goes for marketers. With consumers now interacting with a brand from varying locations, both in-store and via mobile and online channels, it can be challenging to recognize each individual during her path to purchase. As consumers increasingly adopt tablets, mobile phones, and other technologies, marketers need to figure out how to optimize their interactions across channels–ensuring that their experiences on a Web site, for example, reflects their earlier in-store activity.
By being aware of every customer touch point, regardless of where and how it happens, marketers can set themselves up for success across channels. Cutting-edge technology can help to track and blend customers’ online and offline engagements with a brand, and technologies help marketers to facilitate an omnichannel experience that drives conversion.
3. Map out the unknown: Everyone has a moment where they do not know how low on gas their car really is. A smart navigation system recognizes that while a driver might not search for directions to a gas station, the gauge indicates it’s probably a good idea to suggest they stop at one. Marketers, too, need to be able to make predictions based on unknown prospects–someone who visits their Web sites or mobile apps without any profile built. Technologies are continuing to evolve to help predict what any given customer will do, before they even make a move. This can be incredibly helpful for brands trying to guide the unknown user to the place they ultimately want to go (before they run out of gas).
Context is critical to maintaining a dialogue throughout a customer journey and is ultimately the key to increasing brand loyalty and repeat purchases. By implementing a navigation system-style marketing engine that aligns content with context, marketers provide customers with guidance in a way that makes sense to them.