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Right touching: The biggest challenge for digital marketing in 2011?

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7th Jul 2011
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In this series of Smart Insights Best Practice Advice, Dave Chaffey of SmartInsights.com shares tips on best practice to get better results from digital marketing. This week, Dave looks at right touching - a challenging but important discipline for digital marketers.

To gain the best results from digital marketing requires the analysis and understanding of the multiple touchpoints that a brand has with its prospects and customers on its own sites, partner sites and digital media.
If you are looking at your media investments, you of course want to identify the ones that you get the best returns from. For this reason there is a lot of interest in attribution modelling. But when it comes to existing customers, it is also vitally important to balance the correct frequency and relevance of messages. With email marketing, for instance, it is far better to send personalised emails in the context of what the customer is doing rather than a general stream where everyone gets the same newsletter or update.
This is right touching, which I define as:
  • A multichannel communications strategy;
  • Customised for individual prospects and customers forming segments;
  • Across a defined customer lifecycle;
  • Which delivers the right message;
  • Featuring the right value proposition (product, service or experience);
  • With the right tone;
  • At the right time;
  • With the right frequency and interval;
  • Using the right media / communications channels;
  • To achieve the right balance of value between both parties.
A difficult challenge! However, while it is true that effective communication is about delivering the right message to the right audience at the right time, the reality in multi-channel marketing is more complex. In fact, I believe that right touching is our biggest challenge as online marketers. This is because:
  • Consumers have limited attention and limited appetite for interaction with brands;
  • Marketers have limited budget and resources so they need to try to make every consumer interaction count and engage their audience through effective targeting;
  • To market effectively, marketers need to deliver and analyse multiple interactions across digital and traditional media channels, i.e. allocate conversion to the media which have influence a lead or sale whether these are display ads, paid or natural search, social media, affiliate marketing, email marketing, direct mail, TV or print ads.
  • Website owners need to test and refine the design, messaging and value propositions that will engage visitors on their fleeting visits so landing page experiments and site optimization using techniques such as AB and multivariate testing become crucial to getting better results.
Often right touching is not handled very well because there is no-one senior enough realising it is an issue. I think of the Dell newsletter, where every week it is pumped out with the same offers and they don’t really have anything to engage the audience. They could be talking about new tech developments or how to get the best from your PC – but they don’t do that. No-one at a top level has said ‘we need to look at what this communication is doing for our brand’. To do these things right, you need to put in place the right people and the right tools. But often these things aren’t in place and people are just trying to get the next newsletter out without having that more strategic thought.
There is a need for actually doing communications in a structured way. But what you actually find in email marketing, and with social media as well, is that brands tend to just pop up what is of interest and it’s not really strategic in terms of what is trying to be achieved. Brands should be asking themselves if they are delivering relevance and getting the timing right. But traditionally they have a Facebook presence, a Twitter presence and email marketing, but they are not being used in a controlled way, like a publisher would. The way things are going is that brands are becoming more like publishers, with that kind of editorial calendar.
As such, right touching ultimately requires practical skills in communications strategy, web analytics and optimising the different media above. It requires a cross-disciplinary approach for success and I try to concentrate in the major developments in these core digital media which professional marketers such as ecommerce managers, digital marketing directors and execs, need to know rather than the noise of  minor developments which may be important to specialists but don’t really affect the big picture.
Right touching checklist
While right touching is not a new technique, undoubtedly there are a lot of brands who should have looked at it and adopted it some time ago. In particular, if your brand is a retailer it makes sense for you to be doing right touching. So to what extent are you incorporating right touching into your e-marketing? Use this checklist from customer acquisition to retention:
  1. Search marketing: when a prospect uses Google to search on a company brand name plus a specific category or product, a paid search ad should explain the value of the proposition and direct them to the right product page.
  2. Behavioural targeting or online advertising: when a prospect interacts with content on a media site or searches on a specific term, a sequence of follow-up ads known as behavioural retargeting should be displayed as they visit other sites within a network and the destination site of the merchant paying for the advertising.
  3. Multi-touches across different digital media channels for acquisition. Using tracking through web analytics to understand the sequence and combination of different digital media channels (search, affiliate, ads, aggregator sites) which generate the most cost-effective response.
  4. Email welcome strategy: when a prospect subscribes to an email newsletter or enquires about a service, a welcome communications strategy should be in place which uses a sequence of email and possibly personalised web recommendations, direct mail and phone communications to educate the customer about the brand or product and generate the initial sale.
  5. Reducing online attrition: when a shopper abandons their shopping basket, a combination of communications should seek to win them back. Alternatively, after a quotation, for example for a car policy, follow-up emails should remind customers about the benefits of taking out the policy.
  6. Delivering relevant recommendations. When an existing customer returns to a site, a personalised container should be available on every page to deliver relevant personalised. Panels within email can do the same.
  7. Following up on customer product or promotion interest. When a customer clicks on a link in an email or interacts repeatedly with content on a site is there an automated workflow triggering and email, direct mail or phone reminder about the process.
  8. Getting the frequency right. Effective right touching requires that messages stay relevant and don’t become intrusive because the volume is too high. So you should put limits on the maximum number of emails that are sent in a period (e.g. one a month or one a week) and the interval between them (e.g. an interval of at least 3 days). You also have to judge the best frequency for your social interactions.
  9. Getting the channel right. Right channelling means using the best channel(s) for the customer, which fits their preferences and the right channel for the company, which gives them the best combination of cost and response. It means that for some customers you may be able to upweight email communications because they interact and respond to them, so reducing costs of direct mail. But other customers on an email list may not be respond to or dislike email and so direct mail is upweighted to them.
  10. Getting the offer right. Offers will vary in effectiveness according to the audience targeted and this will be indicated by their profiles and customer journeys indicated by the media and content they have consumed. So right-touching requires that testing is built-in to deliver the right messages and right sequences of communications for different audiences.
Other recommended articles to help with right touching:
Dr Dave Chaffey is CEO at Smart Insights (Marketing Intelligence) Limited, a digital marketing portal and consultancy who provide advice and software to help businesses succeed online. He is author of five bestselling books on Ecommerce including Internet Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice and has been recognised as one of 50 marketing gurus worldwide who have shaped the future of marketing.

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By JayMcMaster31
30th Sep 2011 20:59

I noticed that you mentioned relevancy in online marketing. I feel like this is the single most important aspect as well as the most challenging one as well for marketing online. It can be difficult to find ways to reach your target market especially while on a budget. An idea to hit certain target market with relevancy would be to begin an internet marketing blog and keeping it updated consistently. This can be a great tool and could rule out some of the challenges that we will face this coming year. If your company doesn't have a marketing department that is familiar enough with internet marketing, don't cross off your list hiring an outside company to market for you either.

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