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Avoid shooting the messenger

January, 2013

Social media and digital marketing are not yet delivering the perfect solution for building relationships with customers. But is it too easy to start blaming the messenger rather than the message? Delphine Houlton, Account Director at Maxim, takes a closer look at research into our responses to ‘new’ and more traditional marketing channels.

According to recent research by fast.MAP, brands concentrating on social media to get their messages across may well do better focusing on more traditional means of communication.

The impact of digital marketing

An increasing percentage of consumers are actively avoiding contact by digital routes with 79% of us closing website pop-ups unread. Three in five people ignore ‘friending’ requests on social media and 63% of consumers delete emails they receive from companies they have not heard of.

When it comes to companies they have previously dealt with, however, consumers generally prefer email communication (57%) with direct mail coming in at 40%. Only 4% are happy to receive calls on their mobiles or messages via social media such as Twitter.

I don’t find these results particularly surprising. And I am not sure they should have too much influence on how we allocate our marketing budgets. We just have to accept that in marketing we are still a long way from delivering the right message, via the right medium at precisely the right time to the right customer.

For example, I am intrigued that 21% of people are not closing website pop-ups unread. I find them a rude intrusion and distracting. They are even more irritating when I accidentally click on one and get whizzed away to another, at that precise moment, irrelevant website.

However, I would be very interested to know what those people reading and acting on the pop-ups do next.

I, too, do not like being approached by complete strangers with irrelevant questions, information or randomly trying to be my ‘friend’ at any time – be it in the street, on my email feed or via Facebook.

So, unless I am extremely bored, I am most likely to fall in the 63% of email recipients hitting the delete button. Yet, once again, I am most interested in what happens with those consumers in the 37% who do open the unsolicited email.

Targeting markets

The Holy Grail of marketing has always been communicating with potential customers directly, engaging with their personal interests and at the right pace. Digital and social media appears to offer the opportunity to achieve that elusive goal – but the results of this survey suggest that, by and large, it’s almost as remote as ever.

We still do not have sufficient knowledge of our markets, the channels or the marketing army required. Major players such as Amazon and online supermarket services have invested hugely in marketing tools to recommend goods and groceries to me – too often provoking laughter rather than an additional purchase.

And direct marketing letters are often equally inappropriate. A close friend invested a vast sum in a ‘proper’ three-piece suite to last for years from a leading Kent retailer. She was therefore totally bemused to receive regular suggestions from the company that she might like to purchase another one.

And while only 4% are happy to take brand calls on their mobile or via social media, they could turn out to be the most engaged, high-spending consumers who are key influencers in their own social networks.

Successful marketing mix

There will continue to be high ‘wastage’ in most marketing but with digital the cost of that waste is undoubtedly coming down.

Whatever the media, marketing initiatives that genuinely wish to enrich their customers’ lives and engage with consumers in their brand development are, like Top Shop, most likely to succeed online, offline and in-store.

So concentrate on delivering the right messages and building relationships where you can, and don’t be too eager to shoot the messenger – even if it is a website pop-up ad.

posted in: advice, digital, marketing, social media,

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