Having been around the marketing world for more than a decade, SCG Global Marketing has seen the world changed significantly. We are in the midst of a monumental shift of power into the hands of the consumer fueled by the virtual megaphone supplied to them through social media outlets. If a customer has a bad experience with a purchase of a product or server, or is angry in some way, the idea was that they told an average of 10 people about it. With the use of social media today, they could easily be telling 10,000 (or more!). Of course that means that on the other side of the coin, happy customers can be telling many more than former average of 3 people about their good experience. Your marketing campaigns should be designed to enable and activate your customers to do just that…..tell everyone about how great you are. To do this, we look to one of every marketer’s favorite marketing conceptual frameworks, the funnel.
Integrating Engagement into the Marketing Funnel
With the expansion of the marketer’s toolbox to include social media, business owners should no longer look at marketing as pushing out one way communications. Marketing is no longer defined solely by impressions but rather by interactions. Successful marketing in today’s world includes the customer’s voice throughout the entire process, whether it’s intentional or not. Customers will talk online and comment on a brand’s marketing campaigns, products, services, and even how a company treats employees. Today, it’s not enough to think about how companies communicate outwards; it’s just as important to think about how customers can communicate back, with each other, and arguably most importantly, with new prospects.
If you step back and take a good look at marketing today, it’s easy to see that the marketing funnel has become much more complex in today’s environment and that the information that influence the consumer are noticeably more complicated, We can still use the visual framework found in the traditional marketing funnel to show this complexity. The funnel needs to include engagement throughout the process rather than looking at as a static messages push out in a marketing campaign.
The traditional marketing approach sets up to create awareness by using carefully constructed messages in a variety of marketing tools such as advertisements and direct mail. Today, your customers can create and spread their own messages about a brand through user-generated content and social networks. The goal of traditional marketing would be to influence customers in the "consideration" phase through strategic promotions and sales tactics. Today, customer-generated ratings and reviews are more often than not, enough to convince a customer to make the purchase. Building loyalty is no longer just about loyalty points programs for repeat purchase or sending regular emails to customers. Building loyalty now means entering into a dialogue with them and letting customers participate in more meaningful ways than static customer feedback surveys or a constant barrage of emails announcing special promotions.
The old marketing funnel generally followed some version of this pattern:
Awareness > Research/Consideration > Purchase / Conversion
With the widespread adoption of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) in the 1990’s, marketers began focusing more on loyalty or customer retention and brought the funnel one level deeper. The customer’s voice was considered important, but only in the context of customer service and a closed feedback loop. The old thinking was that sending customers regular emails would keep the brand top of mind and that special offers would keep customers from switching to competitors.
As mentioned before, today’s marketers will need to build a more authentic, deeper relationship with customers by truly engaging them to earn their loyalty and this is how companies can begin to cultivate advocates.
It’s time to extend the marketing funnel one level deeper to account for advocacy. There are two reasons that cultivating and enabling advocacy is critical in today’s world:
- People trust other people more than they trust companies. A recommendation from a friend or family member is still the single most important criteria in making a purchase decision and recommendations from strangers online also hold more weight than marketing messages.
- With the growing voice of the customer online and the "power" (virtual megaphone) handed to them through social media outlets, it’s important to help make sure the voice of happy customers is louder than that of the few unhappy customers.
Cultivating and enabling advocates will generate authentic word-of-mouth, bringing the best new customer prospects into the marketing funnel. The ROI on that? Priceless. (Rosetta does in fact have a framework to measure ROI on advocacy programs.)