The modern advertiser’s blind spot: How to avoid missing the mark for consumers
Innovation is the only constant in our industry, thus making creativity a survival instinct for many marketers. Throughout our careers, we’ve flexed our imaginations to give brands lives of their own on an unprecedented level. However, even as lifestyle remains an integral aspect of my company’s digital strategies, Sprout Social’s "Social Index" report (registration required) forced me to ask: Have we gone too far?
Brands have always been anchored by the bottom line. However, while working in a silo of likes, comments and followers, I believe we’ve lost sight of engagement’s real purpose. Where we should be equipping customers to make informed purchases, we’re sidetracked by viral content creation and fleeting trends over practicality.
According to Sprout, 89% of consumers will buy from a brand they follow, and 75% will increase their spending. While marketers can offer additional nuance and value for customers, our relationship boils down to providing the information they need to buy. Guided by Sprout’s suggestion to “think, speak, and act like your customers,” I recommend that marketers recalibrate strategies and get clear on goals with the following approaches:
Change the channel.
Begin by evaluating what platforms you’re using and why. When it comes to top-priority social channels, the report shows a misunderstanding between marketers and consumers. While Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn are heavy investments for the majority of brands, much greater potential can be found on YouTube, Facebook Messenger and Pinterest — channels that are disproportionately untapped.
Look to these channels, and consider how your content might fit. For a product-based brand, a styled photoshoot provinces ample visual content for Pinterest. Are you providing online education on Instagram? Consider doubling up streaming on both IG and YouTube.
Ask yourself, “Where and how are my customers spending their time?” Then ask, “How do my platform priorities reflect this?” By considering motive, mindset and the strengths of each platform, marketers can find their niche on social and meet consumers where they are in unique ways on each site.
Deliver on customer service.
Next, return to the birthplace of consumer experience: customer service. For many, we no longer rely on call centers to field requests. Instead, this aspect of the purchase cycle is fully integrated into our online presence, with comments and direct messages serving as the focal point of customer feedback and questions. Despite the obvious convenience created by streamlining our capabilities, effectively using this strategy takes practice.
According to Sprout, 49% of consumers will unfollow brands for poor-quality customer service. NICE inContact — a provider of cloud-based customer service platforms — further emphasized this point in its "Customer Experience Transformation Benchmark Study," where 8 in 10 consumers agreed they would switch from one brand to a competitor due to poor customer service.
Whether with artificial intelligence to respond to FAQs or social posts framed as forums, be diligent as you respond to inquiries. My team schedules time each day to check for customer service requests and deliver within 24 hours. Be direct as you offer expert insights and enable customers with the pinpointed information they need to make a purchase. For questions and complaints, always be proactive in solving the problem and showing your appreciation for their continued loyalty.
Guide along the e-commerce path.
Finally, don’t let your product or service be eclipsed by branding. While creating a lifestyle around your brand increases entertainment value and relatability, the tie-back must be obvious. Most consumers (57%) follow brands to learn about products and services, according to Sprout's study, and 45% will unfollow brands that publish irrelevant content.
In fact, customers are equally as focused on learning about promos and discounts (40%) as they are being entertained (40%), Sprout found. Similarly, according to Adobe’s "2018 Consumer Content Survey," content that is accurate (38%) and informative (28%) is actually of a higher priority than content that is entertaining (10%).
So, while prioritizing creativity, memorability and entertainment value, keep the purchase cycle top of mind. Always drive to your website — 91% of consumers visit when they follow a brand on social media — and tag or link to products to create a clear pathway to purchase.
In the race for engagement, marketers must remember that our products are the main attraction. To impact the bottom line, customers don’t need memes or free downloads. They need information on the products and services they are looking to buy.