Nearly 2.4 billion users have social networking accounts, with anticipated growth to 3.9 billion by the end of 2015, according to the study "Email Statistics Report 2011-2015." More than 107 trillion emails were sent in 2010, according to The New York Times. And results from a recent audience survey conducted by Gartner at its 2011 European Customer Relationship Management Summit found that, on average, about 20% of all CRM processes will be executed on a mobile device by 2015. “For the customer, social marketing and marketing applications that help customers through the decision-making steps of the buying process will be fully accomplished through a mobile device,” said Gartner analyst Adam Sarner.
For marketers, the important takeaway is this: If you’re not communicating with your customers via social and mobile channels, as well as email, then you are missing a huge opportunity.
In the past five years, customer engagement has morphed from communicating in silos, with different methods for email, online advertising, and direct mail and other tactics, into an ongoing conversation across multiple channels with a unified brand and voice. Considering the staying power of email, the rise of social networks, and the impact of mobility on all forms of communications, it has never been more important for marketers to have a single, holistic view of their customers and to communicate with them across all channels. Like a movie theater captivates its audience with surround sound, campaigns that use “surround-sound marketing” to communicate across all channels with one voice are far more effective at reaching and engaging the consumer.
Marketers used to strive for campaigns that would “rise above the noise.” Today it’s all about developing a message to ensure it isn’t noise. Instant blocks, such as spam filters, intelligent inboxes, unlikes, etc., give your audience an easier and faster way to opt out. To successfully engage customers in a dialogue, you need to integrate social, mobile, and email into a campaign across channels with a consistent look, feel, and voice. Furthermore, your Web site and call to action also have to align. Although the technologies we use to deliver marketing messages have changed, the basic marketing business principles remain in place: creating consistency across channels for an immersive brand experience is and will continue to be a winning strategy. In order to do well in the new digital marketing landscape, marketers should consider the following:
>> Think mobile: Today, customers are talking about you and your brand wherever they are. Rapid adoption of mobile devices–from smartphones to tablet computers–and advances in technology are creating new opportunities to speed purchasing's decision-making process. Roughly 70 million people send email from their phones every month, according to comScore, and more than half send email from their phones every day. In addition, 40 million people in the United States access social networks through their iPhones, and that number is expected to double by 2015, according to eMarketer. This makes it imperative to connect with customers where they are: on their mobile devices, at their computers, on email, or on social networks.
>> Make it relevant: With this kind of volume, you can pretty much assume that if you send an email and don’t get a response in a few days, there’s a chance your campaign hasn’t made the cut. It’s a common practice for people to use their mobile devices for email triage, essentially segregating their email into “read” or “don’t read” categories–and making split-second decisions about what is interesting and important.
The challenge we face as marketers is making sure our messages don’t get lost in the triage. To avoid the delete button, it is critical that your message is relevant to the audience who receives it. Email marketing best practices, such as having a welcome program, setting up a preference center, examining behavioral data via Web analytics, and using segmentation, can help you segment your audience and understand what they care most about. Employing these practices increases the likelihood of successful customer engagement. For example, JOY the Store, a U.K.-based Lyris client, was recently able to achieve significant revenue growth, nearly five times its baseline, with strategic and relevant email marketing campaigns.
It’s also important to start thinking about deploying social segmentation technologies, which will enable you to tie a campaign across email, mobile, and social channels based on social preferences and analytic indicators. For example, a company could have a Facebook page, but different segments within it that parse off by geography. Being able to capture that data and feed it back into your CRM system becomes more critical when you are looking to communicate with a specific customer.
>> Listen. Learn. Integrate: To integrate across channels, first you need to know where your customers are and what they are saying about you and your brand. Listen to their conversations. The easiest way to do this is with analytics. For instance, we use a suite of tools that includes everything from CRM to search, social, and Web analytics to monitor the conversations around our brand and industry. With many tools, you can measure both the social voice and effectiveness of email campaigns. Within a short amount of time you can find out what your customers are saying about you, as well as how they “feel” about you through sentiment analysis.
>> Find the sticking point: In addition to learning what your customers think about you, these tools can help measure the stickiness of your campaign. Finding out what draws your customers in, makes them stay, and brings them back is the Holy Grail of successful surround-sound execution. In our organization, we measure and monitor every element of every digital asset and campaign. Since we focus heavily on our social sentiment and voice, we started by measuring a baseline of where we were and then set key performance indicators for where we wanted to be. Through this, we’ve seen a direct correlation between Web site data that directs from social sites and increased traffic and stickiness, demonstrating that visitors from social sites are spending increasingly more time on our Web site. When we look at all of this data together, we gain a better understanding of what is effective and what is not, and adjust accordingly. By setting a baseline of where you are today and carefully measuring where you are going, while listening to and analyzing what is happening socially, you will be on your way to not only succeeding at surround-sound marketing, but also being able to prove your success with measureable results.
>> Location, location, location: New tools to connect with customers are constantly emerging. Take location-based marketing as an example. With an estimated 41.5 million combined subscribers on the top four location-based platforms, location-based programs can be extremely successful in creating social stickiness. Developing progressive incentives to encourage customers to take immediate action works. When you are designing surround-sound campaigns, remember to consider all of the channels available to you and integrate both traditional methods and the latest and greatest emerging channels.
Communicating with customers via social and mobile channels, along with email, will enable digital marketers to achieve levels of engagement that convert prospects to customers and customers to advocates. Social media is powerful, and its influence in sales conversion is increasing with each marketing campaign and new customer. Mobile is here to stay, and every email marketer is, by default, also a mobile marketer. With the right knowledge and tools, every marketer in every industry has the ability to achieve surround-sound and capture the attention of today’s consumer.