Direct Marketing And Your Brand “Talk, Listen and Fulfill”
You’ve poured millions into establishing and building your brand – corporate identity, corporate culture, product, logos, colours, office environment and months of advertising. All in the hope that the brand you portray and have tried so hard to build will attract the perfect customer match. Now what?
“Build it and they will come,” echoes in the back of your mind, but how will you keep them? You’ve shaken the hand and introduced yourself, beating your chest like a mountain gorilla hoping that you’ll make an everlasting impression with your new customer. The very belief that by simply building your brand you’ll keep your customer committed to you fades with time, so in a desperate attempt to woo them back you reactively introduce a CRM programme (Customer Relationship Management). With your knee-jerk response now in full swing you come to the harsh realisation that CRM has in fact nothing to do with building a “relationship” and purely retains your customer until something better comes along – you realise that CRM actually stands for customer retention management and the word relationship has been beaten around like a ping pong ball on a table.
As markets become smaller, the use of media must become more focused and niche-marketed to show a return on investment. This is where direct marketing can play an integral role in making your buck work harder. So how then does direct marketing benefit the relationship with the brand? The answer is simple – “Talk, Listen and Fulfill”.
Talking the brand talk
Brand owners have become so insistent on communicating the brand and its inherent values that they lose sight of the fact that their consumers have their own set of personal values. This is where conflict between the brand and its objectives comes into play. To understand where and how direct marketing fits in, one needs to understand the various stages of a customer’s relationship with a brand.
The intensity and nature of this will change over time and is influenced by the customer’s personal situation, experience with the brand and needs. The following diagram illustrates the optimal lifecycle of the customer-brand relationship:
• Identity suggests that consumers have a simple understanding of the brand, its name and perhaps what it represents.
• Awareness signifies that the brand is in the competitive set.
• Relationship suggests that the brand is the consumer’s first choice, but not necessarily their only choice.
• Community occurs when the brand has become an integral part of the consumer’s life and sense of self.
• Advocacy is when customers have become the brand champion – they are your brand’s best sales force.
This customer-centric view of the brand relationship suggests that we as marketers take another look at communications tactics. If the degree of commitment and involvement which customers have with the brand, change over time, then the kind and quality of information customers desire will also change. We need to take a fresh look at communications tactics and how we allocate budget.
Traditional brand advertising using mass media is still effective at delivering and establishing the brand promise to a large number of customers. It is most effective at building identity and awareness.
Sales and promotion and direct marketing with their offer orientation and increasing selectivity, efficiently generate trial and adoption. These tactics move customers along from awareness through relationship to community.
Database marketing with its high degree of selectivity and refined messaging capability can be used to strengthen the relationship with new customers and will effectively shift some customers into community, with the ultimate goal of creating advocates.
Why Direct Marketing?
Direct Marketing, long perceived as the poor cousin of advertising, opens up a means for two-way dialogue that benefits both you and the customer. Consider two people, each one portraying a brand, and the process of meeting as an example. Since visual identity is key to first impressions, each person dresses in a manner so as to attract a partner – dress like a hobo and you’ll attract a bag lady, dress like a king and you’ll attract a queen. The same goes for the way a brand is marketed in order to attract a desired customer.
Now that you have successfully attracted someone that shows interest in you, you begin a dialogue – names first and then a sharing of information. Not too personal yet, though, after all you have only just met! Yet the initial information you have gathered and stored is critical to further communication and relationship building in the future – think telephone number or address for further contact! You are now direct marketing yourself.
With further contact it is critical that the initial perception you created is carried through or the appeal that you have spent so much time on generating will be lost. Dress and speak in the same manner but utilise the gathered information to entrench yourself with this person. The interest they have shown in you and your brand is being reciprocated by you showing an interest in what he or she wants.
It still astounds me when I see how much data is transferred between parties without any thought for the consequence of further dialogue. Utilising and accurately optimising data that is beneficial to the brand is not given the priority it deserves. Tapping into a consumer is all about creating an emotional buy-in. ‘Touch the heart and then reach into the pocket’ describes in a nutshell that a consumer is not going to part with a single Rand unless there is repertoire between them and your brand. However, a brand is an intangible, it is a promise. Tangibles need to be added.
Take a car manufacturer as an example. If the manufacturer wishes to continue dialogue with the customer who associates him or herself with their specific brand of motor vehicle, then he must ask questions that are pertinent to the product (talk) so that in turn he can offer or act upon these requests (listen), adding tangibles to the brand promise (fulfill). If safety turns me on talk air bags and ABS brakes, if performance tickles my fancy talk acceleration, horsepower and handling. Segment the data you gather accordingly and effectively – direct marketing has potency when it comes to adding tangibles to the brand promise BUT accurate data is the key to all of the possibilities!
Managing Director and founder of Action Ambro’s