This time of year is always hectic. But the holiday season is also an opportunity to slow down, unplug from work and get in some quality face time with the people who matter most to us.
In other words, 'tis the season for relationship building.
This year, I spent Thanksgiving breaking bread with my family, playing football with my son, helping my daughter make her wish list for Santa and curling up by the fireplace with my wonderful wife. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, I'll attend holiday parties, where I'll reconnect with friends, family members and colleagues I haven't seen much throughout the year. I'll find out what's happening in their lives, share some of my stories from 2015 and have meaningful conversations.
This is exactly the kind of relationship building marketers should be doing all year long. Granted, most B2C marketers don't get the chance to share meals and in-person chats with individual customers. But with the right digital marketing approach, you can get to know them, keep up with what's new in their lives and engage them in one-to-one conversations.
Road Map to Building Online Relationships
Today's consumers are far more likely to trust — and buy from — brands that put in the effort to get to know them. In fact, Silverpop's research shows that 71 percent of global consumers are more likely to make a purchase if the initial email outreach is tailored especially to them, based on their likes, preferences and behavior. And 58 percent say they don't even open emails that aren't relevant to their needs.
What are the rules for building relationships online? They're pretty much the same as they are in person — only the communication strategies differ.
Here are seven tips that work online or off:
1) Find Out Who They Are and What They Want
A robust preference center gives you important insights into individuals' interests, demographics and buying patterns. You don't have to capture all this information up front. Use your welcome series and other email campaigns to ask key questions and drive users back to their online profiles. (Read "21 Tips for Building a Strong Modern-Day Preference Center.")
2) Read Between the Lines by Tracking Behavior
People change, and so do their preferences. As valuable as preference centers can be, that information may become outdated over time. Thankfully, customers tell you plenty with their behavior, but only if you have the right tools in place to listen. By tracking online behavior — what content customers read and which items they view, buy and put in their carts for later — you learn what they want from your company right now. (Read “7 Tips for Getting Started with Behavioral Marketing.")
3) Hold Up Your End of the Conversation
When customers "talk" to you, respond immediately. Transactional emails based on users' behavior are opened twice as often (or more) than general broadcast emails. Think about ways you might add value to these messages beyond “thanks for your purchase” to drive even more engagement. (Read "Transactional Emails: 10 Tips for Driving More Value and Engagement.")
4) Start Discussions They'll Want to Have
Transactional emails are effective because they're super-relevant. But how do you build relevant campaigns for users who haven't made a purchase recently? Creating buyer personas and customer-journey maps can help you determine which content will be most compelling for each customer. (Read "Customer Journey Maps and Buyer Personas: The Modern Toolkit for Marketing.")
5) Don't Make the Conversation All About You
If all your emails are marketing promotions, you're missing key opportunities to provide valuable information your customers want to read. Sure, everyone loves a great deal or product recommendation, but consider how you could leverage your brand's expertise to create content that really isn't about you at all. (Read "5 Ideas for Adding 'White-Space' to Your Emails.")
6) Make It Easy for Them to "Hear" You, Wherever They Are
Mobile optimization is no longer optional for brand marketers. Today's shoppers are busier than ever, and they're completing more of their buying journey online. By providing a seamless mobile experience, you reach customers via the most powerful marketing channel there is: the one they carry with them everywhere they go. (Read “10 Tips for Getting Started with Mobile App Push Notifications.”)
7) Respect Their Boundaries
Consumers today are inundated with marketing messages. Sending relevant content is one way to avoid "unsubscribes," but it's just as important to ensure you don't overwhelm customers and fill up their inboxes. Use analytics and testing to determine which communication frequency works best for different personas, or use your preference center to let individuals dictate how often they want to hear from you and which messages they want to receive. (Read “2015 Email Marketing Metrics Benchmark Study.”)
Digital marketing technology has come a long way in recent years, providing exciting new ways to engage and inform customers. But technology doesn't change the fact that relationship building is about listening, having great conversations and giving as much as you take. This is just as true online as it is in person.
To get the scoop on the biggest digital marketing trends for 2016, please check out our white paper, “10 Key Marketing Trends for 2016 and Ideas for Delivering Exceptional Customer Experiences.”