It’s easier than it’s ever been for consumers to “move on”.
The choice of supplier is driven by so many complex and interrelated influences, not least the speed and ease of the switch.
So the barriers to engaging customers and understanding what they want must be minimal.
Yet too often customer databases contain little more than names and email addresses captured on-line or in-store, often over long time periods.
And customer information is too often a simplistic record of past transactions when what’s really needed is a sense of future intentions.
Which of these contacts are worth anything?
Which of these individuals are active in the market?
Which of them exert influence?
How can you know more about them?
Who wants to buy something now, next week, never?
In short, who are your friends, and how do you really stay close to them?
Or to put this another way, who should be your friends, and how close should you get to them?
Organizations often spend an inordinate amount of time sifting through and validating the data, or sending continuous blasts of “one size fits all” messages in the hope that something will connect with a potential customer.
These activities are time-consuming and wasteful, and the return on the data collected from the exercise is minimal and can even diminish.
How much better to talk to individuals who have already expressed a desire for something that you can provide, and do this in real-time.
Link your database to social insights and activity, and there are two ways to grow value.
The first is profile enrichment. This means taking the data you have right now, which may well be very little information (name, surname, email address and location) and adding to this basic start-point the information and insight needed to create a rich profile.
That information comes from the social web.
Who is each person? Are they married and do they have children?
Can you discover (from their conversations or their social channel disclosures) the suburbs they live in?
You start to discover more about customers through their digital footprints (which are what we’re capturing and analysing here), and using this analysis to discover more about their engagement with particular brands, and their levels of interest in what companies have to offer.
And audience segmentation by individual (for example, those interested in good food distinguished from those interested in fitness or weight loss) is part of this profile enrichment.
By knowing more about your customers you can start to tailor your marketing and messaging to something that is relevant to them.
The second is to create real-time actionable insights based on what they are explicitly or implicitly sharing about their needs, wants and life events.
These work because they are, by definition, meaningful and timely to the consumer.
With links between the social web and your customers in place, you can be served with actionable sales leads and insight triggers that allow you to respond at a time that matters to your customer, and on topics or points relevant to them.
“About to book our next overseas holiday – Bali here we come,” is of interest to travel agents and insurance companies.
“I just said yes – we are finally engaged,” is a potential trigger for limousine firms, airlines, insurance companies, banks, retailers, and so on.
The maximum return on investment and effort then comes from mapping these insights into planned marketing and sales programs. Knee-jerk responses will not cut it, and risk a backlash not only in person but on-line as well.
But why would you want to? Now you know that this intelligence is available to you, you can create either a rapid response program, or a more measured product offering that you can deploy.
And you can create two streams here, one for customers (opportunities to increase sales or extend existing relationships) and one for prospects (new sales opportunities).
You now have the choice to respond with a relevant offer or response as quickly as you choose to.
For a commercial organization this means make sales, improve service, protect customer share and your customer base, market more effectively.
For political organizations it means attracting voters, harnessing grass-roots support, counteracting your political opponents.
For non-profit organizations it means identifying and engaging with financial supporters or attracting new members.
Suddenly, your entire marketing and sales programs are more focused, more responsive, more accountable, more profitable, more appreciated by your customers, and more effective. You have effectively taken a list and made it rich with data and with real-time relevance.
You have garnered insight and can establish and grow meaningful customer relationships.
Now you can:
In short, you can keep your friends close, and your customers closer.
This paper was first published in April 2013.