As Marketers, Let’s Be as Smart as Our Smartphones

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by Philip Shirley

For the thirty-five years I’ve been in marketing and communications, the focus has remained largely on one challenge—how do we learn enough about the habits of prime audiences to intrude in their day with a product benefit message they’ll be receptive to hear.

The science of advertising and marketing is well-known. But the discipline to do the heavy lifting with analytics and the ongoing tactical tweaks it calls for must be consistent for those who want to outperform the market. Deliver a believable benefit and we succeed. Weed out those who benefit less from our product and we’re more efficient with budgets. Figure out the right timing to talk to our audiences so the product need is on their minds and we do a little better at triggering a sale. Make sure we’re branded the product well so it’s a desirable brand to be seen using and we gain even a little more market share and loyalty. My point is that the cumulative effect of incremental improvements in our communications is what separates great performances from those willing to just be good.

With the near universal penetration of smart phones among consumers of means, we have an opportunity to again take a step forward in our goal of continuous improvement in marketing. But the first word of caution I offer is to make sure we really understand how people use their smartphones. For example, I recently sat in a marketing planning meeting where someone casually threw out the comment that email just doesn’t work well anymore and people have moved past email. It was suggested that those dollars be moved to social media outreach. Really? I don’t think it’s that simple.

New research from Experian Marketing Services’ Simmons Connect shows that reading email is the fourth most common activity on a smartphone, at 83% usage. Contrast that with only 67% of smartphone usage to engage in social media or read a blog. While that is also a high number we cannot ignore, it’s clear we should not abandon email as a critically important channel. As with any channel, don’t forget that relevancy of content is critical. We have to ask what’s important to the customer, not just discuss what we want to sell. Another recent survey found that the most valued content from emails was special offers, followed by promotions, vouchers and real-time delivery tracking.

I’ve also heard from supposedly smart marketers that Web sites aren’t that important relative to social media. Again, let’s base our decisions on fact, not what our fourteen-year-old daughter tells us about Snapchat, WeChat or Instagram. (By the way, I do think listening to fourteen-year-olds can be a valuable indicator for tech acceptance, so don’t read that wrong.) The same study I referenced found that visiting a website was listed by 90% of the smartphone users surveyed and trailed only talking and texting as the smartphone activities most commonly reported.

To be clear, I’m not bashing social media or the value of following trends started by teens. If you are not using social media and engaging your customers that way, you are missing an incredibly powerful tool to build your brand loyalty, find new customers, prompt sales, and improve your product by understanding customer needs better. Social media must be a tool in the toolbox and the smartphone is a powerful channel to assist your social marketing.

Let’s just be sure that we make smart decisions based a good understanding of how our customers use technology and the kinds of information they want from those various channels.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]