Blogs, Twitter, YouTube, Wikipedia, Orkut and Facebook …the list goes on and on for the elements of social phenomenon on the Internet. These networks have provided individuals a means to connect and speak their brains out. They are permanently shifting the dynamics of how a buying decision is made and how a word is spread in the world today.
Consider this case as an example of the effect of social networks: a few gadget enthusiasts love a new cellphone, and all their friends know about it through blogs and twitter. Their friends tell their own network of friends and soon a domino effect gives that cellphone the cool gadget status and breakthrough in sales, something that would have been possible a few years back (maybe) through a multi-million dollar marketing campaign. Now consider the flip side. The same group of individuals didn’t like a gadget, and they start spreading the word. People start to agree with them and soon there’s a big negative campaign against that gadget leading to irreversible damages. Well people connect, they express themselves and the word spread, sometimes leading to the tipping point.
The rise of use of social technologies is affecting every company and product out there. It is not possible for you, as a business, to escape the phenomenon. It is no longer a question whether you are getting affected by the social media or not. Your social world is forming. The question is whether you are a part of it or not?
So you got it all, who’s your target audience, what’s your message going to be and where and when you want to reach them. The last pillar, which in a way brings it all together and at the same time is dependent on all these, is selecting the right medium that fits you the best to have the most impact.
When trying to figure out how to do targeted marketing, advertising plays a significant role. Let’s talk about advertising on traditional media like television, radio and newspaper. Targeted advertising on these mediums can be done by linking your target audience with the target audience of the medium at a given place and time and delivering your message blend in with the medium. Irrespective of targeted advertising, there’s a growing concern about the diminishing impact of advertising on traditional media with the advent of new technologies…be it TiVo on television, satellite radio and Internet music services (like Pandora) on radio and blogosphere on newspapers. Moving on to other mediums for advertising, you can do targeted message delivery on the world wide web, most effective ones being next to search results and other contextual content. Mobile devices are also evolving as a great source of targeted advertising by utilizing the location information for the audience along with other pivots like time of day and interests of the individual. Targeted advertising is gaining traction on new mediums like Internet and mobile due to the ability of marketers to nail down the appropriate individual and delivering their message to them instead of a broader segment as in case of traditional media.
But when you know who your target customer is, what impacts their buying decision and where and when to locate them, you can reach them much deeper than just by targeted advertising. You can leverage this information and latest technologies to communicate and collaborate with your customers. With the growing influence of social media on the people around the world, marketers can participate in the the social communities to interact with their customers. To add the much needed targeted component to this exercise, they can create communities to gravitate people of similar interests.
Marketers need to take a broader perspective when creating these communities. For example, if you are selling nicotine tablets to help people quit smoking, your community should be a network of people trying to stop smoking. The community should motivate people to quit, act like a support network for people and help them stop smoking. This in turn will provide you an avenue to take customer inputs on how to improve your product and will act as the best place for subtly marketing your product. These social communities when used appropriately are in fact the best way to do targeted marketing. Here you have (or can gravitate) the right audience, you can stir the communication to get the right message across and you can interact with the audience right when they are willing to and with their permission…that’s taking care of all the pillars of targeted marketing, or you can say it’s targeted marketing at its very best!
Talking about targeted marketing, you cannot ignore the importance of right time and right place to market your product.
Simply putting, it might not be that fruitful to market your personal tax management software in the month of May, or outdoors water sports resort when the temperature is sub-zero. Similarly, it might be more effective if you advertise a digital camera next to search results when someone is shopping for digital camera, rather than in a news feed where chances are the user will consider it as an obstruction.
Seasonal dimension plays a significant role in spotting the right time to market your product. When trying to figure out the right time for marketing, the important thing to understand is that it is very hard to make the customers go out of their way and consider your product, but you can make your product play a role in their thought process if they are already thinking along the same lines. This is equally true when you are trying to figure out the right place. The marketing message should blend in with something that holds importance for the customers. This will make them notice it and think about it.
Internet advertising is gaining traction because of its growing effectiveness in nailing down the right place and the right time. Search engines do a phenomenal job placing ads right next to the results for the product search when a person is showing genuine interest in a product. Then there is behavioral relevance in online advertising. Think of it as someone something smart enough travelling with you while you are shopping in a mall and taking notes on what you are planning to buy. Now when you are sitting idle, that something intelligently shows you advertisements of products you were shopping for sometime back. That is pretty much what technology enables online in order to do effective marketing using behavioral characteristics of an individual.
In a world where the likes of TiVo and satellite radio are gaining prominence, the importance of nailing down the right place and the right time to gain attention of your target audience is more than ever before. Tactics like subtle branding and community engagements can be more effective as compared to traditional ways of marketing. This brings us to the last pillar: “how”.
Now that we have identified the right set of audience for our product, we move on to figure out the right message that will have the most impact. When we speak about the right message, it is not just the message that we broadcast while advertising for the product. It is the message that is part of every communication the company has with its customers, directly or indirectly. These communications can vary from a press release where the company defines its plans to go greener or a community participation where the company address the broader cause addressed by its products.
When trying to figure out the right message, we need to understand the things that influence the buying decision of the target audience set. One information that can help in doing so is the psychographic profile the customer. Psychographic profile is based on IAO variables (Interests, Attitudes and Opinions). It provides basic information about the target segment for our product. Using this kind of information, company can make sure it effectively communicates with its customers.
Another thing we should consider while we talk to the customers is the cultural code that links the product to the customer. Customers differ from each other. One such differentiation is cultural which is influenced by the society a person grows in. American culture is very much different from European and Asian. So when we plan the message to communicate to the customer, it should be adapted accordingly. Clotaire Rapaille explains the culture code for everything from shopping to love for America in his book The Culture Code. He briefly compares these cultural codes with the ones for France and Japan to show how different these cultures, and hence the codes, are from each other. Using these culture codes and going local with the marketing efforts can have a bigger impact on the target customers.
There’s no golden recipe to have an effective communication with the customer. The general pattern that derives one successful campaign after another is to focus on the customer, talk their language and feel their problems, or in other words focus on the customer more than the product.