Integrated marketing communications as a concept is simple and powerful, and yet under-utilised by today’s digital marketers. Maintaining the thread of conversation with each consumer is the task at hand, which is executed by ensuring that messages and offers in marketing and on the website are all linked together carefully.
Low Conversion Rate – A Marketing Faux Pas
Let’s dream a little. Pretend I am a 25 year old man (as I said, let’s dream), wanting to get married to the love of my life, but money is a constraint. I type “marriage loans” into Google.
Reassuringly, India’s largest online lender, Bajaj Finserv, declares in its search ad: “Plan your dream wedding | Loan assist from Bajaj Finserv”.
So far so good. But not for long.
I click on the link, and suddenly, it’s as if the nice person at Bajaj I was talking to has disappeared. The page I land on mentions personal loans, and interest rates, and filling out a form and other details but there is no mention of how they will help me with my wedding!
You may say, what’s the difference? You were looking for a personal loan, weren’t you?
Well, there are both emotional and practical reasons to continue the thread of conversation, and as we have seen on projects with our clients, these result in large differences in conversion to sale.
At a practical level, I have many more questions. Do they routinely give out marriage loans? What size of marriage loans are generally disbursed? Will the income details of my future spouse help me get better terms?
Dreaming a little more, can they connect me with wedding related vendors who have been empanelled by Bajaj Finserv as trustworthy and providing good value.
At an emotional level, how about starting with “Congratulations!!”? Further, seeing photos and testimonials of happy couples who got marriage loans from Bajaj, and even images of marriage scenes, will reassure me that this company understands my wedding-related needs better than its competitors. Perhaps if I go with marriage-loan-specialist Bajaj Finserv, I won’t be left battling out loan terms with an unempathetic, even unhappily married, loan officer.
Why does this happen? Why are we not talking to customers?
We see examples of jarringly abbreviated conversations too often online:
- A customer indicates he is looking for a product, the company replies with a generic “BUY”
- A customer says he has a problem, and the company screams “30% off”
- A customer asks for a comparison of two solutions, the company offers a coupon code
This is not just about Bajaj Finserv, a highly innovative and successful business. This is a general trend amongst digital marketers, who get seduced by the deceptively straight line from online marketing to sales. In theory, the user just has to click, click, and buy. Simple, right? Wrong!
Applying the Marketing Fix!
In practice, the old rules of a two-way conversation still apply. Take the example of a good salesperson. He will size up the customer as they step into the store (these days we call it ‘profiling’). The customer’s clothes, watch, jewellery and shopping bags prepare the salesperson for the conversation.
The first words out of the salesperson’s mouth are not “buy this”, or even “we have a great deal on this product”. He says “What can I help you with?” – in English or a regional language – based on the profile he has mentally constructed.
This initiates a conversation during which the salesman understands the customer’s needs, builds trust, maybe even suggests some solutions that don’t involve buying a product (“have you considered repairing it?”).
Finally, he suggests a suitable product, with available incentives to buy.
Somehow we forget all this when marketing online. We get lost in the details of building and uploading creative, setting bidding and targeting parameters, and analysing data, and we forget to picture our customers, who are real people with distinct needs, not an aggregation of numbers.
We are anxious to quickly lead customers down our ‘funnel’ to the grand prize of a purchase, while they want to talk to us and get their questions answered, before making a decision.
In the digital realm, customer leads in themselves are conversation starters. How so? A digital lead is different from, say, a phone lead generated via a TV ad, as it comes pre-loaded with information – about who was targeted, which website they came from, the device they are on, which creative they clicked on, amongst many other data points.
Personalise the conversation
By the simple act of entering a keyword or clicking on an ad, the customer has initiated a conversation that we must continue:
- Onto custom landing pages on our website
- When we retarget them around the internet with custom messages
- In any offline conversation with a salesperson (sales folks should pick up cues from the lead management or CRM system, where customer attributes should be automatically stored when a digital lead comes in)
Of course, broken conversations across marketing and sales are not new. If anything, the break was greater in traditional media, when the time taken from viewing a TV ad to walking into a store was considerably longer than the analogous experience online.
But today, when the end-to-end experience gets compressed to seconds and plays out completely through a mobile screen, the online customer has higher expectations of a coherent thread of conversation. Instead, the consumer sees the results of the company’s internal divisions in marketing, user experience, technology and sales play out on his mobile screen.
So, this is back to a lesson our parents taught us when we were little. When someone says hello, and asks us a question, look them in the eye and give a polite reply. Ignoring them or changing the subject is rude, and bad for business.
Made sense so far? Leave us a comment or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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