Good salespeople have always known to appeal to the emotions or needs of a potential customer, so it makes sense that brands are also getting personal with their marketing approach in order to connect with and engage audiences. But make no mistake about it – there are still boundaries to be aware of, and crossing the wrong line can adversely change the direction of the conversation by coming off as creepy and intrusive.
Internet marketing experts agree that digital advertising, email marketing, and social media have completely transformed the way in which businesses and brands are able to engage with customers and prospective clients. Marketers can reach their audience in new ways, armed with more knowledge than ever before, which can also leave more room for mistakes. These tips can help marketers personalize their approach the right way.
Don’t: Use a One-Size-Fits-All Approach
Social media profiles across various platforms now showcase personal details, including likes and interests, giving brands the opportunity to pepper their marketing with details that establish a more casual relationship between consumer and business. Referencing a prospective customer’s publicly shared interests – and how they relate to the product or service being sold – can be a great way to hit home with someone.
These publicly shared details, coupled with widely available information on online habits, can help brands build robust customer personas to define their audiences, think “soccer moms” or “NASCAR dads.” Other digital media tools, such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM), allow for tracking and analyzing customer interactions and building a clear picture of the customer journey. Delivering the right message at the right stage of the journey helps build a better relationship between brand and consumer.
Do: Create a Conversation
Genon Murray has seen a transformation in the dialogue between brand and consumer in her 20+ year career, working with brands including Universal Studios, Nickelodeon Studios, and her own business, GRM Creative Services. She is also Course Director for the Storytelling and Content Strategy, Development, and Marketing courses in Full Sail’s Internet Marketing program, where she emphasizes to students that the communicative nature of social media has created more of a two-way street, opening the door for brands to listen to and learn from the consumer.
“Anytime you listen to a customer, it’s nothing but personal. So if you can provide an opportunity for them to tell you what they love about your product or service and tell others, you’ve won on a number of levels,” says Murray. “Ford Motor Company is one of the examples I use for one of my classes. They have a really well-rounded social media campaign that heavily involves and is really mostly customer-developed content. It’s highly effective because what is a more authentic endorsement of the success of a product than one that comes from a fellow customer?” In some cases, the customer can be the best advocate for a brand, and in others, the conversation provides the opportunity to learn what’s most important to the customer, both good and bad.
Don’t: Be Overly Intrusive
What happens when that approach begins to feel more invasive? Rob Croll is an internet marketing consultant and the owner of Marlannah Digital Marketing, a firm that helps small-to-medium sized businesses capitalize on the power of the Internet; he points out that crossing that line into intrusion can be a very easy misstep for businesses to make.
“If I click on a Facebook advertisement, I’m not surprised to later see relevant ads on Facebook after the fact,” says Croll, who also serves as Program Director for Full Sail University’s Internet Marketing Master’s program. “But if I search for something on Google and then start to see Facebook ads that are relevant to my search, it starts to feel more invasive. But I do think that the line there is changing, because it’s becoming so difficult to control who sees what you’re doing on the Internet.”
Do: Know Your Audience
For some customers, that invasiveness is hardly even an issue. Maria Ferguson, former Internet Marketing Manager for Tribune Interactive, and currently a Department Chair of Full Sail’s Internet Marketing Master’s program, and has found that some of her students actually welcome what others might consider an “intrusion.”
“Some students actually love when an ad pops up reminding them to buy the pair of boots that they searched for last week,” she says. “I think age has a lot to do with it. Younger students are more comfortable operating in that sort of space and have less apprehension.” It’s key for marketers to know their audience, to know where that boundary line is drawn.
While it can be a fine line to reach consumers on a personal level without overstepping boundaries, with the right knowledge and strategy, today’s marketers have the tools to connect more meaningfully and personally with their audience than ever before.
Full Sail University’s Internet Marketing Master’s program equips students with the techniques that brands and businesses need in order to engage with consumers in the constantly-evolving digital world. To learn more, click here.