The economic uncertainty brewing can have skittish marketing executives trying new and novel things as a way to break through. But the best solution to economic uncertainty is simplicity, by leaning into tried-and-true strategies that work in any environment.
Inflation and a potential recession are worrisome events, but they doesn’t change the overall calculus that separates great marketers from those who struggle: meet your customers where they are and provide value. If this is something you have failed to do in the past, there’s no better time to get your house in order. And if you feel like you’re doing an adequate job connecting with your customers, there are always opportunities for improvement.
Here are four tried-and-true guidelines that can help companies thrive in turbulent times.
By Corey Ganzman, VP of Global Marketing, Factoreal
1) Actively listen-to and delight your customers
Like companies, customers have had a rough go of it the past couple of years. And even though inflation has driven costs up dramatically and some economists are worried about a recession, that doesn’t mean people will stop buying goods and services. They may, however, be more judicious in what they buy and who they buy it from.
The best way to “listen” for the purposes of “delighting” is to lean into the data your company collects. Don’t just look at sales data, identify which items were abandoned in carts. Why were they abandoned, and do they nonetheless represent products of interest? Ensure your marketing automation is set up to make an offer to fulfill that sale. What channels are your customers using? Are you active there, and are you providing the right communication strategy to appeal to them?
Too often companies misuse their data because of poorly constructed marketing automation or incorrect assumptions. For example, a beach towel company emailing a customer each week, even into the winter, encouraging them to buy more towels, even though their purchase was likely an impulse one, likely bought on a mobile device last summer.
By the time they may be in the market again, they have either unsubscribed or want to buy a towel from anyone else. Sometimes delighting a customer occurs when you focus on finding the right time to communicate to them.
- Actively listening to your customers
- Don’t send an offer just to send an offer — be strategic
- Double down on the channels that are prompting engagement
2) Navigate the nuances of disparate data
If you’re actively listening to customers, that means you’re collecting valuable data from them that can help you create deeper insights about their preferences. Each channel at a company’s disposal provides different ways for customers to communicate. It’s critical to tailor the appropriate message to the right channel and understand the potential responses from your customers. For example,
Email is uni-directional and provides a more expansive timeline for communication. If you do not capture the person at the right moment, they will delete and move on.
SMS enables more of a response than email but is still mostly considered a one-way communication. These are more timely so communications should be around of-the-moment asks (your order/table is ready, flash sales, store closures).
Social media encourages two-way communication, as customers and other stakeholders can publicly reply to your posts and directly talk to or about your brand. It requires dedicated resources to respond to those responses (and amplify positive ones), otherwise great promotional opportunities are missed, and critical comments can spiral out of control.
Website: often the biggest repository of your brand messaging, it provides an opportunity to customize depending on your user (especially if they’re logged in) and request feedback (via forms).
- Tailor messages to appropriate medium
- Respond to feedback where it happens
- Personalize when possible
3) Build and take advantage of zero- and first-party data
Marketers can no longer depend on the targeting strength of third-party data thanks to the long-suffering death of the cookie (which is mortally wounded, though not completely dead as we move into 2023. That means companies must build and take advantage of zero- and first-party data.
What companies are realizing is that more consumers are willing to “give data” to brands than they previously thought – as long as they get something in return.
If you’ve been on the Internet long enough, you’ll remember BuzzFeed’s Quizzes, where users were asked a series of questions, with the payoff being they were told which Hogwarts house they belonged in or which Spice Girl they were. They were so successful because they were fun and easy to take, and they delivered a payoff.
Take Chipotle, for instance. Its Care-to-Share badge initiative is a great mechanism for collecting zero-party data. Chipotle asks its customers some simple survey questions, which helps Chipotle offer customized offers in the future, and, in return, customers get a badge.
Sephora’s loyalty program asks its users to fill out a questionnaire so it can send them personalized offers and discounts. It helps customers think specifically about what Sephora products they want, and primes them to buy when said products are on sale.
- Offer win-win opportunities that trade customer wants for data
- Lean heavily into first-party data, especially with the death of cookies
- Use what you’ve learned about your customers to offer customized deals
4) Implement processes for channel unification
Pursue your marketing strategy with intentionality. And always remember that your customers are people. They are not mere targets or end destinations for messages. You need to court them and provide value to their lives. Most importantly, you must do your best to create a holistic picture of your customers – where they spend their time online and how they want to be engaged. For example, if your customers do not open emails, you need to either change your strategy or decide there’s a better channel to reach them. Or perhaps you don’t have up-to-date data, and you’re not reaching them. Only by having a concrete strategy with current data and customer preferences will you succeed.
- Draw a complete picture of your customers
- Study your data to know what’s working and what’s not
- Treat your customers like people; it’s who they are!
Make no mistake, the upcoming months will test companies and their marketing departments. Layoffs and decreased budgets while goals remain the same mean that marketing teams will have to do more with less.
But successful companies are those that meet challenging times with the correct strategy. Those who actively listen-to and delight their customers, identify ways to collect zero and first-party data, and have a sound channel unification strategy are the ones who will thrive in an uncertain new year and beyond.
About the Author
Corey Ganzman is the VP of Global Marketing at Factoreal, the leading customer engagement platform helping marketers create robust experiences at every touchpoint. In his role, Corey oversees the company’s marketing team while building the engine to position Factoreal as a leader in the Customer Engagement Platform category.
Over the past 20 years, Corey has worked with companies in both the B2C and B2B industries. He has worked on four continents and ten verticals for companies from 20 to 20,000 people. Throughout it all, his path has remained steadfast — focusing on the customer, aligning it to the business objectives, and making it happen.
Corey’s been part of the MarTech scene since its early days — as an early adopter, beta tester, team lead, or advisor — for some of the best and most respected marketing tech brands in the industry. As a team leader, he drives towards focus, identifying opportunities others don’t seek and removing friction. He does this while leading from the front and always with a solutions-based attitude.
Photo by Xavi Cabrera on Unsplash