• January 1, 2015
  • By Brent Leary, cofounder and partner, CRM Essentials

Don't Drop the Ball on Your Digital Engagement Strategy

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At Salesforce.com's Marketing Cloud conference this fall, founder Marc Benioff dropped a few mind-jarring numbers about the future of mobile, social, and data:

  • Businesses generate 1.5 billion terabytes of data a year.
  • There were 140 billion app downloads as of September 2014.
  • By 2017, there will be more than 5 billion smartphones.
  • Also by 2017, there will be more than 2.3 billion users on social networks.
  • By 2020, there will be more than 75 billion connected products.
  • Now think about what those numbers will look like with more people on more social networks accessing them from more devices of all kinds. It's safe to say that we're about to enter a new stage of data creation and consumption, where smart devices of all kinds are going to drive engagement opportunities with customers and prospects.

These stats point to how swiftly and completely people are integrating the latest and greatest devices into everything they do. But as Lynn Vojvodich, executive vice president and CMO of Salesforce, said during the conference, most companies have been very slow in fully integrating devices into their marketing activities.

It's easy to see this disconnect. Many companies are driving what might be called a traditional digital marketing approach into mobile devices, mostly by making their newsletters look nice on mobile devices or going all out to make mobile-first Web sites. But that doesn't address a fact Facebook's vice president of business development, Blake Chandlee, threw out at the same conference—that 86 percent of the time people spend on their mobile devices is within apps. Companies looking to grab the attention of today's consumer must understand the full engagement opportunity mobile apps provide. This is the dilemma the Salesforce Marketing Cloud is addressing with its Journey Builder for Apps (JBA) service. While the original Journey Builder product helped marketers visualize the stages it takes for a prospect to morph into a customer, JBA enables them to include the interaction with their custom mobile apps in the journey. If you are providing a custom mobile app as part of your engagement strategy for customers to download, you can build a map of how the interaction will go—from discovering the app to downloading it to using it. JBA even enables real-time, personalized notifications, based on who customers are, where they are, what time it is, and what they are trying to do.

Even mobile-first companies are going after richer engagement opportunities. Nina Yiamsamatha, a member of Foursquare's marketing team, recently told me that not everyone wanted to "check in" to places, but they did want more specific recommendations based on their individual needs and preferences.

While the "one review fits all" model works well for sites such as Yelp, Foursquare was looking to personalize the recommendations users of its new apps receive to make them more meaningful. If two people each searched online for a burger, they'd get the same results from Yelp. But if Foursquare knows the first one likes burgers with fried eggs and the other likes a specific type of veggie burger, that same search would provide results that would be different for each person.

Understanding how to improve the path from prospect to customer brand advocate is the main challenge in business today. Inserting better engagement opportunities into customer journeys through better mobility/apps integration will be critically important to organizational success.

During its Marketing Cloud conference, Salesforce demonstrated how Fitbit uses Journey Builder for Apps to push notifications to users of its mobile app to congratulate them on milestones such as reaching 10,000 steps, let them know their battery needs to be recharged, and remind them that their gym is close by and it's been a little while since they've been there. Such messages are all ways to engage customers along their journey with you.

All businesses must take a holistic approach to digital marketing. I'm not talking about viewing mobile devices and apps as a disconnected marketing channel to distribute mobile versions of traditional messaging, but rather as a central part of the engagement opportunity you have with customers and prospects alike.

Brent Leary is cofounder of CRM Essentials, an Atlanta-based advisory firm focused on small and midsized businesses. He is also the author of Barack 2.0: Social Media Lessons for Small Businesses.

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