For today’s marketers, online channels present a vast array of new opportunity – as well as the potential for costly distraction. New and emerging platforms — such as social and mobile channels — continue to evolve the online landscape of consumer engagement. As a result, success metrics and economics can change quarterly depending upon customer adoption curves. Marketers can, and should, choose from a broad menu of customer connection points. But there are endless permutations of online brand building, customer sourcing and repeat driving levers. Which should companies pursue?
There’s also a caveat: Investing early in new applications and platforms can be risky – drawing both time and funds. For example, you may take the plunge and allocate significant resources toward building up a social coupon campaign. While this may have worked for brand X, you might find that your high-cost new customers are more interested in finding the next deal than repeating a purchase.
It can be challenging to find what sticks. Here are my top four tips on building a successful, sustainable campaign online.
1. Build your base.
Core acquisition and retention programs are an online marketer’s bread and butter. Before diving right into the latest, hottest marketing trend and investing in emerging channels, it’s critical to build a strong customer base. To do this, it’s important to focus on margin-positive vehicles – or pay-for-performance ones. Filtering revenue through channels such as targeted e-mail, paid search, affiliate networks and CPA partnerships are proven ways to develop a core customer base. From here, you can use additional, more experimental, vehicles to help drive repeats and referrals.
2. Watch the trends before diving in.
The highest impact campaigns use the foundation built by performance programs to leverage emerging arenas and amplify reach. However, it can be difficult to identify which channels will help you do this. My advice — tap into broad social trends. Major trends, like smartphone use, carry direct impact over the way consumers shop and engage. Think social media for customer retention and branding vs. customer partnerships for quantifiable CPA expansion.
For example, mobile trends have opened up new opportunities for reaching consumers. Online marketers can use the mobile platform to message outside of the conventional workday. Customers can choose to engage at their leisure – whether it’s during their commute time, in the evenings or on the weekends. In addition, we can deliver timely, relevant offers with mobile device-delivered promotions (looking for that perfect Father’s Day gift – today!? We can help!).
Although the core offering stays the same, how that message is delivered changes with available channels.
3. Make sure you’re listening and aggregate feedback.
When developing strategies to amplify reach, remember: Your customers will tell you what to do, you just have to make sure you’re listening. When it’s easy, they tell you directly. But too often they let you know indirectly through defection. Mining all of the ways your customers talk to you can deliver valuable actionable acquisition and retention programs.
At Wine.com, we solicit feedback/reviews and use surveys to listen and engage with customers. Additionally, our full-time community manager – a seasoned expert on social channels and accredited wine connoisseur – is on point to surface and address customer feedback across all online channels. Along with the tracked feedback, these learnings are shared throughout the team. Ultimately, we synthesize the feedback into actionable product changes and marketing campaigns.
Listen to what your costumers demand and trust them –they are the experts. Use the insight to deliver both an excellent product and an excellent experience. Aim to delight customers so much they can’t help but return and bring friends.
Some of our most successful initiatives have resulted directly from this kind of customer feedback. For example, one vocalized concern was around the high cost of shipping wine. In response, we developed the Steward-Ship program – offering a year of free shipping for $49 – to take that point of friction out of the online wine-buying process.
Many of our most unique offerings have come directly from customer suggestions: enabling people to schedule exactly what day they want their wine to arrive to ensure somebody over 21 will be present; helping customers find the wine that is right for them and cut through the daunting search process with our “Wine U how to” guides; and virtual “Tasting Rooms.” Our entire content development program stems directly from our customers asking for help.
Like anything, building a strong online marketing campaign takes a process. You have to start with a strong foundation anchored in core online marketing vehicles, then employ tools in the social and mobile arenas to amplify your core message and reach new people in new places at new times. But most of all continue to engage and delight your customers by listening to what they want and providing unique and compelling content and experiences to satisfy their needs. The rest will follow.