The reality of today’s consumer landscape is that your customers are not just “digital first” anymore, but “digital everywhere,” according to marketing expert Krishen Iyer.
Iyer is the founder of Managed Benefits Services, a full-service marketing agency, and consultancy that provides services, support, and marketing for insurance companies and agencies.
Krishen Iyer, who recently sold Managed Benefits Services and has launched a new firm, MAIS Consulting, has been helping companies grow their reach and impact for decades. Using technology and personalization tools, Iyer has consistently provided his clients with solutions that drive more business.
Krishen Iyer on Why Digital Always Is the Needed Marketing Approach
Given the persistence of the COVID-19 pandemic, marketers need to focus on digital always, especially given the continuance of lockdowns and social distancing, working from home and the variable comfort level people have for in-person engagements such as events that could draw an audience.
The hybrid work models mean consumers are also spending less time in cars, meaning other modes of marketing – from billboards to radio ads – are likely to be less effective than in pre-COVID life.
If consumers are expecting to hear from and engage with the brands they affiliate with mostly via digital, then marketers need to meet them there, according to Iyer. And that engagement needs to be seamless, consistent, and unified, a cohesive part of a broader brand marketing strategy.
Here are a few tips that Krishen Iyer offers to marketers to ensure that a digital-always strategy is successful.
Don’t Take Shortcuts, Says Krishen Iyer
You don’t want to reduce your marketing to a single channel just to make things easier on your planning. You still will need some other channels as part of your marketing strategy, and taking shortcuts to avoid stitching together those components is not the way to go.
“Too many marketers, especially in the first steps of digital transformation, try to take the easy way out,” Krishen Iyer said. “That may work in the short term but in the end, you’re likely to realize you need a multi-channel approach and will need to rework your strategy. It’s best to tackle it head-on at the beginning of your planning.”
There are many good plug-and-play options out there, such as chatbots. But one technology alone is not a sound digital-first strategy.
Such solutions may drive customers into a certain sales funnel, but they often sacrifice experience for efficiency.
Instead, Krishen Iyer encourages marketers to continue to keep the customer first when developing a strategy, especially when transitioning from brick-and-mortar approaches to digital.
Make the Connection
Digital strategies may seem like lots of bells and whistles – shiny new toys that are a way to tap into customers hungry to use technology.
Krishen Iyer thinks that’s the wrong way to approach a digital-first marketing strategy. Marketing has, for ages, been about making a connection with a customer. It will continue to be a guiding principle, he believes and should be at the center of a digital-first approach.
Digital marketing can actually help make those connections more effectively. Customers today want to have real connections with brands they are loyal to. They also expect an always-on, always-available relationship for when they have questions, problems, or needs.
Digital marketing is a great way to personalize those experiences with customers, helping brands to be a vital part of their customers’ experiences. And by being available and able to solve problems or answer questions, brands have an extraordinary opportunity to strengthen connections and drive customer loyalty.
How do you customize those experiences? By capturing, cleaning up, and using all the data available – about purchases, about customer service issues, about demographics, and about needs. For better engagement, that data is invaluable. It allows you to nurture the customer and trigger new or additional purchases. It reduces the friction that can prevent purchases and it establishes the personal relationship that will be most effective.
“All the data you collect are commodities,” Krishen Iyer said. Using that data effectively makes it easier to forge meaningful and sustained relationships, making it harder for your competitors to win or steal those customers.”
Krishen Iyer: Expand the Digital Communications
How does a brand use digital to grow awareness and move customers through the pipeline … while not being repetitive and coming off as tiresome? The answer, according to Krishen Iyer, is more complex than building a home page and using that content, messaging, and graphics on social media and digital advertising.
“Businesses have a real challenge with familiarity versus repetition,” Iyer said. “On the one hand, they are hoping to reach thousands if not millions of customers. Yet they still need to provide those customers with experiences that feel fresh and new.”
A digital-first strategy needs to be smart, ideally using tools that know a customer’s history and can lead them to the right solution – whether it’s a product page, a live customer service professional, or information about their account, products, or services.
Digital marketing and customer service need a shared dataset that allows everyone in an organization to understand a customer’s past experiences and needs. These solutions can be automated, but there needs to be customization and a customer-driven approach in order to keep customers feeling special and served.
While using the same content repeatedly is a sure way to turn off customers, that doesn’t mean your brand shouldn’t be persistent. Good, seamless approaches to the customer experience should still be at the forefront, with persistent work to lead customers to and through the funnels your brand wants them to follow.
Persistence can also lead to memorability. It’s a fine line – memorable or repetitive – but when done correctly, a persistent approach has your customers remembering your brand. When the time comes for them to make a purchase decision, that persistent memorability is likely to pay off.
Persistence in digital, with today’s customers, means establishing a relationship. The interaction needs to be dynamic and personal. There needs to be a clear flow, a clear purpose. That’s the advantage of customizing a digital-first approach. It allows you to know who your customers are at each point in an engagement. That familiarity leads to a relationship that leads to more sales.
Think about the relationships that in-person sales reps can create with customers. Those nurtured, persistent relationships lead to business. Your digital strategy needs to replicate those relationships to be effective.
Krishen Iyer Encourages Marketers to Create a Seamless Journey
A seamless journey does not need to be a straight line from Point A to Point B. Few relationships work that way, whether personal or business.
Customer journeys are never going to be straight lines, Krishen Iyer notes. In fact, what your business is likely looking for instead is something closer to a circle. You want your customers coming back again and again, believing that your brand is the one for them, with the experiences and history that build that belief system.
Your digital marketing needs to show that your brand can offer a customer the experience that will endure. It also needs to recognize and plan for the reality that customers will experience your brand across multiple channels over time.
Throughout that journey, it’s important to provide a seamless experience so that no matter where on the journey – on the circle, a customer finds themselves, it always leads back to your brand.
Krishen Iyer is the founder of MAIS Consulting and a minority owner and advisor to Nashvox, a Nashville-based recording studio.