Intent marketing - learn from the big brands - Business Works
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Intent marketing - learn from the big brands

by Hina Sharma, Head of External Communications (Europe), Pitney Bowes Marketing techniques continually evolve. The methods used to reach today's audience look very different from those of ten years ago, challenging businesses to keep up-to-speed with changing preferences if campaigns are to hit targets and generate return on investment (ROI), says Hina Sharma, Head of External Communications (Europe) at Pitney Bowes.

For larger organisations - most of which will have dedicated marketing personnel - keeping abreast of emerging trends is a far easier process than for resource-light smaller businesses. Nevertheless, the marketing opportunities for the small business community have arguably never been more varied or more accessible.

One technique currently exciting marketing analysts is intent marketing. Rather than marketing in order to create awareness of a product or service, intent marketing is focused on reaching those consumers who have implicitly or explicitly already conveyed intent to purchase. Social media plays a key role here, enabling businesses to monitor consumer opinion and to act accordingly.

Messages of 'intent' are continually posted on Twitter and Facebook. Examples might include:
» "Just love the look of these new phones"
» "Anybody know any great party venues?"

At first glance, these postings may appear to represent nothing more than individual desires. But forward-thinking marketers are recognising exactly this type of message as a trigger for approach.

Listen and respond

Monitoring the social media conversation is something that larger businesses are taking increasingly seriously. Indeed, dedicated tools exist to enable businesses to drill through the millions of daily messages to identify those of potential commercial interest. Bigger brands are using sophisticated profiling tools to better target customers. In this way, they are able to track customers in a segment that they have identified as likely to buy their products or services and act accordingly when a trigger of 'intent' is made. But there is nothing preventing smaller businesses taking a leaf out of the big-brand marketing book. Regular, simple searching on Twitter or Facebook, using directly relevant key-words, can unearth a considerable pool of potential customers.

smaller businesses may even have an advantage

In fact, smaller businesses may even have an advantage over their big-budget, multi-country competitors. On finding messages and individuals of interest, smaller operators have the flexibility to quickly react and follow-up any initial conversations. The manner in which responses are made is obviously important. Many consumers will be put-off by a business immediately responding with a hard-sell message. Taking a tone that offers assistance or advice can work, as can incentivising through discounts and special offers.

The follow-up digital and physical combine

Even more important is the follow-up to the initial response. The customer courtship requires more than one contact on social media in order for a meaningful and lasting relationship to form. Multi-channel marketing techniques can prove incredibly powerful, opening additional avenues of interaction and giving businesses further opportunities to talk to customers and prospects.

technology is starting to trickle down

Big brands are able to use location data to more accurately target customers according to a wide range of contextual data. They can plan locations around data (ie. the best locations to set-up a store or service hub), send messages to customers as they walk by a store or, from a social media standpoint, target a competitor's customers in a certain area who post that they're dissatisfied with their current service. The good news for smaller businesses is that this technology is starting to trickle down to them via tools within social platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

Combining digital messaging with physical in the form of postal mail - creates a lasting impression. For example, a business might develop an initial conversation on Twitter in response to a consumer posting a question. On seeing the question, the business replies with a helpful response and invites the consumer to sign-up to receive a brochure or catalogue. The consumer's contact details are captured and the relevant product or service details relating back to the consumer's original question - are dispatched. However, far from representing the end of the marketing story, these interactions should be regarded as the beginning of the cycle.

Used correctly, mail can play a convincing role in 'on-boarding' new customers. So, once the initial product or service details have been dispatched, the business can schedule a second communication, perhaps offering discounts or rewards for referrals. The very latest mailing technology enables businesses to add messages to the envelope at the same time as adding the correct postage amount. This level of personalisation is perfectly suited to intent marketing. Thus, the message on the outside of the envelope can reference the original query or interaction and the recipient immediately recognises who the communication is from and understands that the contents will be relevant.

Marketing evolution

Today's constantly-connected consumer presents businesses of every size with ongoing marketing challenges. Cutting through the 24/7 clutter of information with messages that are timely and relevant is the goal and intent marketing is of interest to forward-thinking marketers simply because the technique relies upon the consumer making the first move.

Smaller businesses need not feel overawed. Prospects can be discovered by using simple search and respond techniques across social media - techniques that don't cost a thing. The real trick with intent marketing is to use the first show of 'intent' as the springboard for further communications across a number of channels. Postal mail presents the prospect with something tangible hard evidence that the business has taken their social media interaction seriously.

New channels and new marketing techniques that utilise those channels are emerging all the time. The big brands may be first to the party. But there is nothing to stop nimble smaller companies from taking a slice of the cake.

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