What happens when the 'market' becomes a 'customer'?

Doug Chapman

Doug is the managing director of Razorfish Australia, a digital experience marketing agency and arm of one of the world's leading digital consultancy businesses. Doug has more than 21 years of industry insight, with extensive client service experience and a passion for digital. In 1999 he founded one of Australia’s leading brand activation companies, The Marketing Store, and in 2007, he co-founded the Social Media Club Sydney, building it into the world’s largest Social Media Club with more than 300 chapters. Doug’s passion for digital led Doug to join Razorfish in 2009 as executive director of client services. He became managing director in 2012.

One of the insightful things that has been said to me recently came from an independent consultant working at a major FMCG client. He said: “The problem here is that we have some people who are world-class at marketing to the masses, but they haven’t got a clue about how to speak to a customer.”

There were two profound points in this simple sentence.

The first was the obvious point that mass marketing is not even remotely connected to one-on-one marketing. Essentially, everything you have learned as a mass marketer you can forget when you enter the world of customer engagement.

The project in question was the building of an ecommerce capability within the business. What was becoming a major breakpoint was the apparent failure of its current marketing strategy.

In the past, it was well proven that with a great idea and enough money and time, you could stimulate enough interest and enough trials to launch a new product - even if it wasn’t necessarily a great product.

The problem today is the customer not only wants to return a bad product, they want to tell the company about it and they want an answer NOW. And, if they don’t like the answer, they are very happy to tell their friends.

Yes, that has always been the case on a local level, the problem today is that a discontented customer has an international voice and comments are there for anyone who wants to search for them. And they do. The customer wants the personal touch in an impersonal world. This is a bridge too far for many traditional marketers.

The second point made by the FMCG consultant was a little less obvious. It was using the word ‘speak’ when referring to communicating with a customer.

Personalisation is one thing, but getting it right is another thing altogether. As we all know, communication is complex. Over and above the words we say or write, there is context, there is the medium we use and ultimately, the state of mind of the person receiving the message.

Emoticons were originally created to add a ‘human’ element to emails. Adding a wink or a smile when speaking to someone can and does alter the entire context of the words. How does one manage that when you stop communicating through a billboard and start replying to tweets and posts and comments on a blog?

There are companies learning to do this well by cleverly using tone of voice and medium to develop strong personality traits that reflect the brand’s values. Beyond the occasional need for ‘high touch’ communications around social media, a great deal of care and skill needs to be taken around the automated personalisation process as well.

As the demand for this grows, new skills will emerge that focus around workflow planning as well as creative planning to ensure that when we have correctly identified a customer returning to our website or ecommerce site, we get the context right and we aren’t serving them redundant and unhelpful messaging. This requires skills that reach across data, logic, personas, experience, creative and planning and I’m not sure if we are training anyone for this challenge just yet.

Tags: digital marketing

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