Mastering the Art and Science of Meaningful Marketing: How to Turn up Relevance So Customers Don’t Tune Out

by Michelle Speranza October 2020
Customers are bombarded by marketing messages everywhere they turn. Why should they pay attention to yours? Michelle Speranza explores how to dial up the relevance and personalization of your marketing efforts and increase customer engagement.

Michelle Speranza,
SVP, Chief Marketing Officer,
LEAF Commercial Capital

“Can I ignore this?”

Your customers — and all customers — ask some version of this question each time they see a marketing message. But don’t blame them. In a time when every inbox, mailbox and social media feed is stuffed full of marketing, customers have no choice but to triage. There are only so many hours in the day.

It’s kind of like opening your mail over the trash bin but on a broader scale. No matter what the medium, if it isn’t the right message addressed to the right person at the right time, into the real or virtual bin it will go.

Relevance has always been important for any business that wants to get the most for its marketing dollars when the first message could easily be the last one to which a customer pays any attention. But with the COVID-19 pandemic quickly changing the business landscape and an ever-increasing flood of marketing spreading across all channels, staying relevant is more important than ever.

But how? There are a variety of techniques and technologies for increasing marketing relevance, ranging from expanded data gathering and enhanced targeting to highly automated, AI-powered solutions that dynamically assess a customer’s needs at any given point and automatically take the next best action.

In this article we’ll delve deeper into why marketing relevance is so important, why taking a more-is-better approach to getting heard above the noise doesn’t help, and what you can do to establish genuine and lasting connections with customers looking for businesses that really get them.

Why Marketing Relevance Matters

In a time when most of us have a connected screen nearby at almost every waking moment, the barriers to getting in front of potential customers have never been lower. So it’s no surprise that we all receive a staggering number of marketing messages every day. But unless those messages are clearly and immediately relevant, they’re just extra static in a world that’s already very noisy.

Clearly, doing more of what already doesn’t work isn’t the answer. And without a solid strategy and process for putting relevant messaging in front of your audience, getting lost in all that noise can happen fast, leading to several potentially devastating but readily avoidable disconnects.

Before long, customers can begin feeling like you don’t get them and disconnect, leading to lost opportunities and once-dependable business drifting away to competitors.

Employees can begin to disconnect too. To them, it seems like the business has lost the thread somewhere along the way, leading to disillusionment, frustration and turnover.

And then there’s the budget/results disconnect. Unless a business begins focusing on relevance, the need to get over the noise means the business will spend more and more marketing dollars to drive less and less revenue.

Worse yet, once these dominos start falling, they can build negative momentum that gets harder to recover from by the day. But the good news is that no matter what your current marketing situation, there are steps you can take to interrupt the pattern, increase your relevance and connect with customers, and it all starts with data.

How Your Business Can Improve Marketing Relevance

The foundation of marketing relevance is accurate, timely intelligence on customer demographics, behavior and propensity to act. While many companies collect at least a basic level of customer data, rising above the noise today requires businesses to dive deeper.

One way to do that is to have employees collect more information during and after customer interactions. You also should consider automatic data collection from inbound touchpoints like thought leadership articles and other content with which your audiences engage. This is a great way to get timely insight on the opportunities and concerns that are top of mind in your market.

Once you’ve got the data, one of the most powerful ways to leverage it is with a marketing automation software, which allows you to increase the personalization of your marketing without having to deal with the rapidly soaring complexity and decreasing returns of segmenting audiences into increasingly tiny fragments. In a nutshell, marketing automation helps you connect better and spend less time doing it — but it comes at a cost.

While automation can add significantly to your marketing budget, both in terms of the solution itself and people who know how to get the most from it, the returns can be substantial. Properly leveraged, marketing automation will not only help drive more and bigger sales, build your brand, and maximize your ROI on marketing spend, it’s also a part of the technology stack needed to advance to the next level, which we’ll go over in a minute.

But first, let’s talk about scalable personalization, another capability powered by marketing automation. With scalable personalization, the more you know about a particular member of your audience, the more personalized a given marketing asset — email, landing page, etc. — becomes. Language, timeframes, offers, graphics and more can automatically adjust based on who’s looking at them. And the system remembers the interaction so that subsequent touches on the same or different channels support one another. No matter where your audience members engage with you, they’ll receive messaging tailored to their needs, history, readiness to act and other factors.

Now for state of the art. If you really want to engage your audience in the most personalized and effective way, you’ll need to shift from a campaign-based marketing mindset to an always-on approach. The basic idea is this: Instead of pushing messages to your audience based on your best guess regarding timing, content and other campaign variables, you connect with individual customers based on their needs at the time.

This would quickly become unmanageable for even the largest marketing departments but not for the latest generation of AI-powered engagement solutions. When you add advanced AI to marketing automation, it becomes possible to figuratively walk beside an individual customer as they move through the day, all while watching for real-time signals that determine the next best action to take at any given moment, whether that’s nurturing, selling or even doing nothing at all.

When you have something to say, and the context and timing are right, the system automatically says it. When you don’t, the system stays silent yet always remains ready to jump when it’s time to nurture, educate, persuade and engage.

So, what do you need to take your marketing to this level? First, it’s critical to have an advanced technology stack that includes marketing automation, as discussed earlier. You’ll also need a sizable pool of content for the AI to work with, as well as ample data inputs to enable effective predictive messaging. And as smart as AI can be, you’ll still need a high level of in-house marketing expertise. It can be a heavy investment, but the payoff can be huge.

In Today’s Marketplace, Relevance Wins

Customers these days are bombarded with marketing from all sides, and if they can ignore your message, they will. They have to just so they can focus on what matters.

Remember this mantra: right message, right time, right customer. With a strategic approach to increasing marketing relevance, your messages can be the ones that matter. From small steps to giant leaps, a more effective and profitable way to reach and engage customers is within reach for any business. •

Michelle Speranza is SVP, chief marketing officer at LEAF Commercial Capital and a member of Monitor’s Editorial Board

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