Is J.Crew shouting at me? If you’re on the apparel retailer’s email list like I am, you might recognize what I’m talking about. Every day we’re inundated with all sorts of ads and marketing communications with a call-to-action (aka CTA) that screams “Act NOW!” or “SHOP THE SALE to get this limited time offer!” Or “ENDS TODAY: Hurry up and order to receive this special deal!” J.Crew and countless other major brands use these one-dimensional CTA phrases all the time in their communications. They’re directed at consumers with the intent for the audience to take action immediately, many of them embedded within one of the timeless marketing techniques that employ scarcity, transactional coupon/incentive upon purchase or any number of other familiar old tactics. With so many competitors using this short-sided marketing technique and expected CTAs, how can your brand and message rise above all the noise and stand out? As a digital strategist who is part of an agency which values building quality relationships and thoughtful digital strategy over a making quick buck and peddling the byproduct of buyer’s remorse, I can tell you a combination of relationship marketing and marketing automation strategy can go a long way to enhancing your brand image and your bottom line.

While those hacky “buy or die” marketing CTA approaches mentioned in the opening aren’t going away anytime soon, they don’t usually produce results associated with long term returns or phrases that value-oriented marketers strive to achieve like high quality, best-in-breed, and lifetime value. One of the core functions of what marketers have done for centuries to establish a higher level of value is create a marketing funnel (or in some cases, a lead generation path to conversion) to determine what an ideal path looks like to guide a desired audience toward a purchase (and/or initiate a buying cycle for repeat purchases). At the most basic level, a marketing funnel highlights how a brand’s advertising intends to reach and activate a consumer to become a customer as quickly as possible and buy your product or service immediately. In reality, only a small percentage of people are ready to buy immediately when they first encounter your brand or begin their search in the marketplace for a solution to meet their needs. So, the question is twofold:

(A) how do you efficiently handle the minority group of consumers who are ready to buy now?

(B) how do you effectively deal with the much larger group of consumers that are not ready to buy right away, but could become your ideal customers in the future?

Oh, and how do you communicate with both groups in a meaningful way that treats them like human beings? That’s where a hybrid relationship marketing and marketing automation strategy meet.

Relationship Marketing and Marketing Automation

Before we get into the nuts and bolts of discussing a method for building this type of digital marketing strategy consider the following offline comparison. Let’s say a salesperson on the sidewalk passing out flyers for a service – it could be for landscaping, roofing, a marketing seminar, or anything. They might get 20-30% of the people who walk by to take one of the flyers because it’s a low obligation. It’s easy to skim and read the flyer quickly, throw it away, or hang onto it and make a decision about buying the service later. But if a salesperson on the street walks up and asks you directly “Hey, I’ve got this service I want you to buy,” and you don’t know who they are, what are the chances you’re actually going to take them up on their offer in the moment? The answer is likely somewhere between slim and none because the only thing that salesperson has established is they have something to sell you. Unfortunately, that’s what a lot of brands try to do when marketing to potential customers online – they go right in for the kill – without bringing that person along through a series of mindset shifts and considering their audience might not be ready to purchase at that moment, but might purchase in the future. While this is basic example, the point is, even if a person is a perfect match for what you are selling they may not be ready to learn about your awesome services or products. This is because there is a very good chance the audience receiving that advertising message doesn’t even realize the nature of the problem you might be proposing to solve. In order to impact the greatest share of your ideal market, you have to reach and connect with your audience in the consumer’s mindset where they’re at right now. Some people are ready to learn more about your awesomeness, some are starting to wonder how to solve a problem they have, and some are just starting to get a sense that something is wrong.

Integrated Marketing Strategy

When marketers create a one size fits all campaign, they turn away a majority of the business. At Three Deep, instead of developing one size fit all campaigns, we take a holistic approach to an integrated marketing strategy for our clients, connecting the brand through deep understanding of their customer’s journey and consumer mindset. The success of our approach hinges on deploying the right strategy for the type of consumers you value most, leveraging messaging and communications tailored to your specific brand online, designed to build a lasting relationship between your brand and your audience. How do we do that, you might ask? We develop marketing strategies that consider your brand’s respective consumer/customer personas, mapped specifically to your brand’s goals and objectives, leveraging content, messaging and relationship building tactics that appear relevant to your audience.

To illustrate the method of getting the right kind of messaging to the consumer at the right time let’s consider another example.

Envision a race track at a health & fitness club with 3 different lanes – the inside lane is for walkers, the middle lane is for joggers and the outside lane is for runners – and the finish line is the decision to subscribe or purchase your product or service. Each of these lanes also happens to be a different phase of consumer mindset. The walkers are consumers that have recently accepted they have a problem that needs to be solved and they’re just starting to become aware of it – these people are the slowest to arrive at the finish line (aka a decision to purchase). The joggers are aware of the problem and are likely starting to evaluate their options in the marketplace. The runners are informed, educated decision makers and they know the landscape and have likely narrowed their focus on what are their options – this is the group who is ready to make their decision about a purchase or ready to buy.

Now, it should go without saying that each of these lanes of individuals are going to respond positively to different types of messaging depending on what lane they are in. In the walking lane you can give process information, provide some education, short videos, social media or blog posts, etc. to breed familiarity of your brand and start down the path of likeability. Over time, the line between the walking and jogging fades and gradually they will gain more traction with your brand, transitioning clearly into the jogging lane. The longer a customer stays with your digital communications and presence online, the more trust and likeability they will have with your brand (this can roughly be measured by volume-based metrics on your website, such as time on page, or number of pages consumed, etc.). As that trust and likeability continues to grow in the jogging lane and they begin to feel more confident and familiar with your brand the consumer will eventually get to a phase where they become an engaged and informed buyer; now they’re in the running lane. This transition between jogging and running is more evident with higher engagement in your digital communications and areas on your website where your customers can speak to you (this area can be measured in terms of engagement and conversion rate, for emails this would be click through, with social media there might be more comments and shares, on your website it could be landing page conversion). Once they’ve crossed your engagement level threshold, they’re in the fast lane and now you can tap into their imagination and speak to them in an emotional way or an outcome-centric way where you’re able to paint a picture of what life will be like when they buy your product or service.

Walking. Jogging. And Finally Running

Walking Towards Marketing StrategyAn effective digital strategy should incorporate these consumer mind shifts with the type of content and messaging that resonates with each phase. This strategic method of a building a fully developed customer journey not only demonstrates relevancy to your audience, but bringing a consumer through the full journey has a wonderful byproduct as well. By establishing this type of messaging structure which appeals to these consumer mindsets it brings people along in a logical progression – starting with walking, moving to jogging and finally to running – that by the time the consumer or lead get to the finish line (aka the time to decide about buying) they’re not as likely to consider alternatives to your brand, they are cheaper conversions, plus the chances of you closing them as a customer increases significantly, and the feelings of buyer’s remorse are significantly reduced.

Finally, it should also be noted, this is NOT a static strategy, but instead it can evolve over time by taking consistent measurements of how consumers respond to specific triggers. As a performance agency this allows us to help inform future optimization making the entire program more efficient over time.

One of the other truly great aspects of this approach is the consumer dictates their own pace to determine when to progress from lane to lane. This gives the audience a sense you’re not just selling or talking (or even shouting) at them, but it opens up the opportunity to create a dialog with your customers. It offers the opportunity to work with you instead of just simply selling them something. Have you ever noticed that if you’re just selling something price is often one of the biggest barriers for a consumer, but if you change the mindset and offer your lead the opportunity to work with you, price is no longer the number one thing they’re thinking about? Through that progression of mind shifts you’re essentially teaching your lead how to be a good customer and at the same time they are prequalifying themselves to be your ideal consumer. And we all know what happens when you get your ideal customer – you get paid more, work less, you’re happier, the business runs at a higher profit margin and you’re able to do your best work – everybody wins! It might sound too good to be true, but there’s only one way to find out…


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