Modern marketers understand they will have to up their efforts to connect with—and stay connected with—modern customers. They understand that we're past the stage when content was thought to be king. We're even past the point where we imagined context to be the number one concern. In retrospect, these two were never more important than what has always been at "the top of the heap"—experience.
Don't get me wrong. Content and context are incredibly important. But with so much content out there, is your target audience really going to miss yours if it isn't speaking directly to their issues? Conversely, is context worth anything if you don't do anything with it? It's like being sick and going to the doctor for relief. If all the doctor does is ask you questions, says she knows what's wrong with you, and then says good-bye, is that going to do you any good? She has the context and content, but hasn't done a thing to help you feel better. Which is why these two are not kings, just incredibly important in assisting the real king.
The personalization/privacy conundrum
Finding the proper context to create the best possible experiences consistently over an extended time calls for the ability to collect and analyze lots of data about customers. This, of course, is a big concern to your customers, as they don't want their privacy trampled by vendors who misuse their information and don't provide the personalized experiences they expect when companies do gather data on them.
According to a study of 1,200 U.S. consumers released by SAS in October, seven out of 10 respondents had privacy concerns. Despite this, about six in 10 stated they expect and want companies they do business with to be highly relevant and personalized in their communication with them, and to be able to understand them.
Wilson Raj, director of competitive intelligence for SAS, says that when i's broken down, the survey shows consumers want to be treated as individuals. They want personalized offers and messages. They want to be communicated to in the channels that they prefer or choose. The other big piece was they wanted a consistent customer experience.
Raj says consumers surveyed had high expectations of companies that are using their personal information, in particular banks, mobile operators, and retail. When asked if they were getting the level of personalization and relevance they expected, the response was resoundingly positive. "Basically, almost six in ten said they saw improvements in the relevancy and personalization of messages that were coming in. In addition to that, thirty-eight percent noticed a reduction in irrelevant communication. So we see that the brand performance is matching the consumer expectations."
Meeting the expectations of the modern consumer
Modern marketers know that attracting and retaining customers is all about creating appealing experiences across the customer life cycle. This includes gaining a better understanding of who should go on that customer journey, what his or her journey should be like, and how to create enough great experiences along the way to ultimately make that person a customer for a long time. It's key to make customers feel like they are adding value to your team—not just by way of their wallet, but also by their collaborating with you to create even better products and services—and then helping to spread the word about them.
SMB marketers in particular understand that it's a new ballgame, and they can't do things the way they did in the past. They realize they need a better strategy, made up of better processes, implemented with better applications, to create better experiences for customers and prospects—and to entice them to go on this journey with them. Leveraging context and content to focus on creating consistently good experiences should get them closer to being ideal, modern marketers today. More importantly, it gets them closer to the modern customer.
Brent Leary is cofounder of CRM Essentials, an Atlanta-based CRM advisory firm focused on small and midsized businesses. He is also the author of Barack 2.0: Social Media Lessons for Small Businesses.