Of late, I’ve had a personal breakthrough in the way that I look at delivering personalized experiences to customers within our ever-expanding digital world. Sometimes it can appear to be such a distant vision or complex idea to capture audience interests and then extend ongoing messaging through preferred channels of communication for each individual. We have the technology to listen, learn, and engage. But how can we do this in the most streamlined fashion without overwhelming our marketing resources?
Over the last couple of months, I have started implementing a logic for refining audience interests through our engagement platform and assigning follow-up communication according to the latest digital interactions that have greatly simplified the process for delivering a personalized audience experience.
While many unique variations could be added to the theme, here is the basic formula:
- Start by establishing “listening” campaigns that articulate the preferences of audiences
- Coordinate and assign ongoing communication to match these preferences
- Expand the reach and reinforce the messaging of this ongoing communication through secondary channels and digital locations
There are undoubtedly many other approaches worth considering for articulating your digital marketing strategy. However, this formula is an excellent starting point if you are trying to move your marketing from single-channel communication to a more multi-channel approach. This article takes a look at each of these steps and provides some practical examples of how to put them to good use.
“Put your feelers out there.” I don’t know where I last heard the term, though I believe it was a friend encouraging me to learn a new hobby. “You’ve got to put your feelers out there.” I think this is more of a reference to something like a hamster with whiskers or an insect with antenna. However, the analogy is accurate to marketing—as marketers we have to get an understanding of who we are targeting and their interests before we begin attempting to truly capture their engagement or calling audiences to action.
Digitally speaking, some people call this “casting a wide net.” What we are trying to do is uncover through digital interactions when and how people are connecting with our brand. To accomplish this, you need to be listening for engagement from the point where an anonymous visitor enters your website, all the way through to the point where they identify themselves, then on into their patterns of content consumption.
I may have already made many of us feel like this is a massive task, though in reality this often boils down to the following:
- What brought someone to my site or content?
- What actions are they taking on my site or with my content?
- How frequently are they engaging with specific messaging?
- Is the focus of their engagement shifting?
Let’s start with the source of audiences or visitors. With the right digital engagement platform, tracking where people are coming from is actually a whole lot more straightforward than it might appear. There are three main ways people get to your content: ads, referring pages, and direct messaging. While other means exist, the method for capturing these three sources can be applied to other channels as well.
- UTM (Querystring) Parameters: The information located after the “?” within your browser URL is a treasure-trove of knowledge that can be used to identify what sent an audience to your site. Within your display ads and remarketing, make sure that UTM parameters are being used to determine which messaging has captured the initial attention of your visitors.
- Referring Pages: Similar to UTM parameters, this information is automatically being registered by your browser and made available to 3rd Party engagement platforms. Essentially, the browser is able to deliver insights into what is driving audiences to your site.
- Direct Messaging: Emails, text messages, mobile ads, and more all can supply sourcing information. While you may be sending out multiple messages, make sure to understand which of these messages are driving specific audiences to initially engage or continue engaging.
- Clicks, Click-Throughs, and Links: much of modern digital tracking amounts to what part of your content or website an audience is clicking on.
Once sourcing information is collected, it is equally important to follow along with the actions and behaviors of audiences on your website. While Google Analytics is an excellent resource for a starting study of the overall effectiveness of page content, what is more important is to begin translating website behavior into audience preferences and interests. This is accomplished by looking for frequency and quantity of interactions.
Here is a simple, yet valuable example. Would you rather have a salesperson follow up with someone that visits your pricing page one time in the past two weeks or someone that has visited your pricing page four times in the past three days? The answer is obvious, though it illustrates a critical point, as marketers we need to combine WHAT audiences are doing with HOW often they are engaging. By doing so, we can create implicit segments of interest that are more in tune with the topics that will deliver personalized and engaging communication.
Listening for preferences must be fluid. With the right engagement platform, it is possible to setup workflows that consume information from all of the important touchpoints and dynamically shift segment inclusion to match the digital DNA of audience interest. This article does not go into the mechanics of setting up these workflows, though the right platform delivers simplicity and scalability, so you do not have to manually recreate the supporting tracking programs and elements over-and-over again.
With the right kind of fluid tracking in place to identify and assign interest segments, a modern approach to digital engagement will shift the assignment of content to match the most relevant topic or focus within the buyer journey. Rather than thinking of communication in a linear flow, modern digital communication is better thought of as a landscape of relevant “buckets” or “streams” of messaging. As individuals exhibit behaviors that match a specific bucket of messaging, appropriate platforms deliver functionality that can automatically adapt what type of communication an individual receives, or even dynamically adjusts the content of messaging to match their preferences.
Practically speaking, if someone has begun engaging with your brand in a generic fashion, then a bucket of content devoted to uncovering interest is the best starting place for ongoing engagement. As repeat visits to the same parts of your website, or consistent link clicks to specific topics, occur with appropriate frequency or quantity, it is appropriate to shift communication to a more targeted set of messaging. Finally, it is important to mirror the appropriate buying stage within the relationship and have buckets of communication devoted to stages of the sales process.
Other “buckets” can undoubtedly be uncovered to match your specific objectives and audience needs, though the concept is still applicable. Identify interest over time, then adapt the ongoing set of communication to match the digitally tracked interest of your audiences. Move messaging from generic to more specific over time—mirror and match interest and you are more likely to continuously captivate and engage.
Be Where Your Audience Is
The final element for keeping modern digital marketing strategies simple is to expand your messaging reach. Once interest is identified (or re-identified) make sure to setup self-updating programs or cross-channel audience lists that place interest-based messaging in front of your audience on a regular basis.
Here’s a solid example of how this works. When a visitor first comes to your website, offer initial messaging, then once their interest is identified, communicate across channels with messaging related to their interest. This can be accomplished by matching and reinforcing messaging across channels, such as remarketing, direct mail, text messaging, and more. The goal is to keep relevant topics top-of-mind throughout your target audience’s digital and offline experiences with your brand.
- Use of low-cost methods for uncovering interest to start, such as email, website personalization, and mobile messages, to capture the core interest of a buyer.
- Afterward, include audiences in more targeted campaigns such as ad remarketing on social media or direct mail to drive specific points of interest and be everywhere identified interest is at.
Summing Things Up
Delivering personalized and engaging interactions is a key to making brands stand out in our digitally connected world. To accomplish this, there are some basic steps that can help marketers begin delivering more relevant and interest-based communication.
While there are many approaches to consider, here is one formula that is a simple place to start:
- Cast a wide net to capture and track initial attention
- Uncover specific interest and focus communication
- Be top-of-mind everywhere your audience is
The best way to learn this methodology is to start with a target audience segment or set of behaviors that match a key sales initiative. From there, refine your methodology and build out a set of repeatable campaigns/programs. Then begin expanding the approach to other audiences and initiatives.
As stated before, numerous methodologies and frameworks can be used to drive digital results, this is just one. Would enjoy hearing more about your frameworks in the comments below.