These days, most of the calls I receive on my landline – yes, I still have a landline – are those automated calls from 0845 numbers. You know the ones: voice activated, so that when you (or your machine) pick up, they start playing a pre-recorded marketing message. The cost to that business of blasting the entire population of the UK with such messages is negligible, so that even a very poor response rate will still make the activity worthwhile for them. As consumers, we find these calls incredibly irritating and invasive. As marketers, though, we’re likely to be guilty of using that same approach.
Many of us are still sticking with that old school method of blasting out mass marketing messages at people who may or may not care about what we’re telling them. We might be using modern tools to do it, but that doesn’t mean that it’s more effective. This is most obvious with banner advertising that interrupts your online activities, but the one-way broadcasting approach is also still being used on other channels including social media, email marketing, and paid search…
We all know that we have to ‘do social’ these days. Unfortunately, it doesn’t follow that we’re doing it effectively. We broadcast the same message across Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter. We post too often on Facebook, leading to the algorithm punishing us for low engagement rates or, worse, our fans getting annoyed and ‘unliking’ us. We push out salesy tweets that spam our followers’ feeds and, again, lead them to unfollow us. And we fail to realise the true value of social media, which lies in actually listening to our fans, to the online community, and tapping into what they care about rather than simply shouting about our product.
Some companies can get away with regular email blasts. Supermarkets are an obvious example, given the frequency of our food shopping needs – I shop at least once a week at Ocado, so their special offers are quite relevant and not too annoying. Another example is Amazon, not because we necessarily need to shop there regularly but because they are so damn good at serving you content that is relevant to you based on your previous purchases. Most brands, however, are not in this fortunate position.
Not long ago, I received an email from a stationery brand congratulating me on the very special birth of my child. A major targeting #fail, which of course they had to apologise for. (It turned out that this email had gone out to their entire distribution list. Oops.) Perhaps an extreme example of wrong targeting, but even without such mistakes many brands will send out generic email blasts to their customers. At best, they will be ignored; at worst, the user will unsubscribe and the company will lose its direct means of communicating with that customer.
The temptation of paid search is that we can throw money at high-volume search terms and get huge spikes in traffic in a short period of time. To what end? How many of those new visitors are actually going to be interested in your product? How many will ever buy? Just take a look at the amount of time these people are spending on your site, the number of pages they are viewing, the bounce rate (the percentage of users leaving after only seeing that one landing page), and you may think twice about the value of such unqualified traffic.
So what do all these digital marketing tactics have in common? Failure to identify your objectives and your target audience, failure to understand what they are interested in and how you can meet that need or desire, failure to listen and engage. Would you rather have 100,000 Facebook fans that you have bought or 1,000 fans that you have earned organically and each of whom is a strong advocate of your brand? Would you rather have one million visitors to your website, almost all of whom leave within seconds of landing there, or 10,000 visitors who come back again and again to engage with your content and buy your products?
The answer, then, lies in a more targeted approach to online marketing. This means understanding the demographics and lifestyle choices of your target market, segmenting them in a meaningful way, identifying specific messages that will resonate with each segment and distributing those messages on the right platform at the right time. Yes, it requires a bit more effort and analysis at the start; but it will help you to focus your activities in a much more effective and efficient way. So that, when you get a response to your message, that response will take you one step closer to achieving your business goals – without annoying the whole population of the UK to do so.