In today’s cyber world, online messaging is often the only communication companies have with customers before an actual sale or business transaction. Without the benefit of a phone conversation or in-person meeting, companies have to convey everything they want to convey in their written messaging.
But what exactly does that entail? Messaging today incorporates a little traditional marketing material such as magazine ads and press but a lot more online material, notably website copy and social media postings and conversations.
Traditional Advertising (For Now)
This stuff still exists; it’s just not nearly as effective as it used to be, for a variety of reasons. It’s like anything else—with new technologies and processes comes change. In this case, the internet and social media have transformed how people interact with each other and how companies interact with customers.
How effective can television ads be if people aren’t watching commercials because they’re either watching online or on cable with TiVo or DVR, fast-forwarding through the commercials? How effective can radio ads be if people aren’t listening to traditional radio and, instead, are on Spotify, which has far fewer ads? How effective can magazine ads be if people are giving up print in favor of online media?
If you ask Paul Adams, Global Brand Experience Manager at Facebook, in-your-face marketing and advertising is dying and will soon be replaced by “many lightweight interactions over time.” In other words: relationships.
Going forward, companies will need to develop relationships with their customers in the same way that people develop friendships: gradually over time through a number of small steps. Instead of throwing their brand everywhere, they’ll simply mention it in passing as they engage in a dialogue with customers—via social media or through the content they publish online.
Your website is the most important piece of the marketing communications puzzle. It’s your Yellow Pages listing, your marketing collateral, your portfolio and your sales communications all wrapped up into one.
Thirty years ago, if you didn’t have a Yellow Pages listing, your business didn’t exist. Because that’s how people found businesses—they opened the Yellow Pages, looked under the applicable category and picked some names out of the book. If you paid for a special listing that stuck out from all the others, you were more likely to get a call.
Today, the Yellow Pages are obsolete—what we have now is online search engines; or, more accurately, Google search (Google owns the market; about 90% of all online search happens on Google). When customers need to find a company, they search online and visit websites.
Remember all those brochures you used to mail out to customers (snail mail) and carry around with you to conferences? That’s what makes up a lot of your website copy. Along with white papers, case studies and a steady stream of articles that should showcase your expertise in your field.
Your website copy conveys the nuts and bolts of what you do, how you do it and how you feel about not only what you do but about whom you serve. It also conveys what makes you different from your competitors.
Websites need to contain information that is more relevant to our very particular wants, desires and needs. This personalization—fostered by a social fabric that’s woven throughout the user experience online—needs to seamlessly greet visitors with information about what their friends and associates are watching, reading, recommending, commenting on and more. Further, it should move to replace random display ads, pop-up messages or banner advertisements. Those direct—heavyweight—ads will fall by the wayside, like so many other obsolete processes and technologies.
Social Media Conversations
Social media is, without a doubt, the most confounding aspect of today’s marketing for businesses. And it’s easy to understand why, considering the example set by the general public in their private lives.
All evidence aside, social media is not a platform for narcissism. It’s simply a communication tool which companies can use to establish a dialogue with their customers.
Think of it in terms of a friendship. What would happen if, immediately after meeting someone for the first time, they started texting and calling you every day? And what if every time they texted or called you it was to tell you something about themselves, unsolicited? And they never even bothered to ask you about yourself. Would you want to be friends with that person?
If companies think of social media in the same terms as email and the telephone, they’ll be less likely to fall into the narcissism trap. Just because people post inane things all day long on Facebook doesn’t mean companies should do the same.
Companies today need three essential elements to their messaging: a little traditional marketing, a website with great content and social media postings that nurture conversations rather than shout self-love.
Quite simply, messaging today is more about creating relationships than anything else. It’s not in-your-face, aggressive sales messages. It’s human, natural, intended to foster a genuine give-and-take. And it can take place over time, over a variety of channels.