Creating and automating relationships at scale

19th of Aug 2020

Peter Morales Valovirta

Growth Team Lead

How to grow by creating a genuine connection with your audience.

If COVID-19 has taught us anything it’s that’s we’re social creatures who crave real, human connection. Breaking physical ties with our social groups has caused a 200% increase in calls about loneliness, people risking fines to meet in groups and Zoom’s revenues up 169% YoY.

Our isolation hasn’t stopped us making connections. In fact, we’re finding new ways of making them over social channels, text, and video. The situation has amplified our reliance on these channels and likewise our need for truly meaningful connections when we’re on them.

If technology has amplified our ability to connect in multiple ways then brands find themselves uniquely positioned to foster connections between people online. To help build a connection with a brand they don’t yet know or love by offering something first, and asking for something second.

Why is this so important? Connection breeds loyalty and bottom line growth. Investing in relationships with consumers directly impacts business revenue. When customers feel connected to brands, more than half of consumers (57%) will increase their spending with that brand and 76% will buy from them over a competitor

So how do start-ups and scale-ups quickly build authentic connections with their audiences in order to move them towards a shared goal? Here’s our process framework for how to use the right data, channels and content to create emotional connections with future customers in this uncertain market.

How to start a conversation with your future customers

Conversational marketing – the creation of a real dialogue. Moving away from “personalised communications to” anyone that may listen, to having a “unique conversation with” your organisation’s specific prospects. For this to be achieved, a value exchange needs to take place. Econsultancy’s, The Future of Marketing, describes this process as more than directing consumers towards a product. It explains how brands need to provide insight, and inspiration – often best communicated through an informative piece of content – something that moves customers emotionally rather than pushes them to “buy our product or service”.

Foresight apply a four-phase approach to creating and managing conversations with future customers:

  1. Listen
  2. Strategise
  3. Execute
  4. Optimise 

1. Listen

In order for brands to connect with their audiences, they need to understand what matters to them most. Reaching that level of insight starts with listening. Listening reveals what types of content matters most to your prospects right now. Only then is it possible to create, participate in and host relevant conversations online. 

Here is the system we use at Foresight:

  • Objectives – define what success looks like and within what timeframe
  • Audience analysis – undertake a review of a clearly define, the brand’s audiences into personas
  • Review objectives – make sure they are aligned with what the audience actually wants or needs
  • Ideate – workshop or brainstorm the messaging and copy, making sure it adheres to objectives and answers the future customers’ defined need
  • Synchronise – macro environmental market shifts that may impact on what future customers think and do, and therefore, how they might act
  • Analyse – behavioural data analysis tells us where the customer is in their journey and what kind of information they value at each stage.

2. Strategise

Once you’ve listened, you have the insights to create a unique asset which enables you to engage in a value exchange between you and your future customer. Here are some other things to consider:

  • Build your database. A robust dataset is required in order to target the right audiences. This is achieved by matching your audience segments to the data available across the different platforms.
  • Identify the right channels so that your message is welcomed by the recipient rather than an interruption. The right channel will ensure the message is ‘convenient’, it’s where they already are and your brand is meeting them there. The behavioural profile and personas together enable you to define the right channels. The additional development of micro-personas achieves the granularity required for very specific and tailored targeting.
  • Make sure the conversation is scalable with a well prepared plan for each next interaction and the resources to deploy the comms to many
  • Have conversations with context. These are ones that progress as you get more information back in the two-way dialogue so each time there’s a new interaction, it’s relevant to previous ones (this also plays into the convenience factor for the consumer).

3. Execute

Velocity (the volume of data you have and how fast you can execute your plan) is what creates campaign strength. Every engagement interaction is a data point that you can learn from; and the more interactions you have, the quicker you will achieve results. The first step (of listening) means you’ve understood the affinity between the brand and it’s potential future customers. So when you come to execute, you have a greater chance for a successful engagement:

  • Launch the campaign by initiating the first conversation
  • Listen for a response then use those responses to continuously optimise
  • Monitor in real-time so that you can respond in a timely manner

4. Optimise

As you respond, you can begin the ongoing process of analysis and optimisation

  • Respond and manage – a successful strategy is dependent on data enrichment; that is fast and reliable data such as communication history and customer information in order to have more seamless interactions with customers.
  • Analyse – further persona development based on the insights gathered at each touchpoint and response
  • Scale – marketing technology makes it easy to design a seemingly personalised experience with a brand and to engage each prospect uniquely; with many people at once.
Foresight Digital Campaign Flow Diagram

Using the right data (not just big data)

Scale-ups and start-ups need to grow as fast as possible. A sound methodology for continuous opportunity discovery is required. That involves gathering information to reveal which topics will best pique consumers’ interest, to create processes, and to introduce systems designed to promote exponential growth.

In this data-driven world, marketing technology has made it easier for marketers to identify, target, and engage prospects that fit our brand’s profile of the ideal customer. We can reach a large number of target buyers more efficiently by utilising these tools. LinkedIn, for example, provides the opportunity to reach 500 million users across 9 million business profiles in 200 countries. There is an abundance of opportunity.

Brands benefit when they offer a point of real connection. A highly targeted and scaled approach is required to reach qualified leads through accurate proxies that are relevant to your personas whilst also ensuring you reach the decision makers you wish to target. Some of the proxies we use to do this include:

  • Geographic: Countries, regions, cities.
  • Roles: Titles, seniority, function, industry, companies
  • Industry: Financial services, government administration, marketing and advertising, construction, management consulting, computer software, insurance, telecommunications.

This ensures the ability to reach your decision makers directly and access leads in the whole spectrum of your customer’s journey on the path to purchase – from awareness to evaluation.

Experimenting to evaluate and evolve your solutions

Thanks to a range of new technologies, conversational marketing can now happen at scale. Brands can have direct, one-to-one conversations with individual customers – and many of those customers at once. This means the ability to test the efficacy of multiple channels working together at once.

As soon as you launch a campaign you’re collecting data, which can be used to define trends and make more informed decisions; combining historical, behavioral, and profile data with real-time situational feedback.

Any growth activity is a constant process where the objective is to always define and execute on ‘the biggest’ opportunity possible. The reason we look for the biggest opportunity is because we want to ensure that all effort is spent on moving the needle as far as possible with as few resources? as possible.

To do this, we go through a continuous process of:

  • Identifying problem statements through looking at the data available (i.e challenges that customers face)
  • Defining the range of solutions that might be possible – these are both the things that will contribute to the value exchange between them and the brand, and the most appropriate channels to connect with them on
  • Evaluating the solutions to determine the experiments to test pathways to quickly address ‘the ‘biggest opportunity’.

Once this process is achieved, data attributed throughout the campaign creates a feedback loop to start the same process again.

This means that you develop a clear understanding of who your customer is and the product-market fit; but more importantly but it also gives you a cohesive understanding of the emotive and motivational factors of a customer journey.

Creating content for authentic engagement

Campaign mechanics are one thing, but emotional connections is a proven source of future growth for a brand’s:

  • Customers – those already or ready to purchase
  • Advocates – those who already know and love the brand
  • Facilitators – those that regularly engage with your brand without being transactional

The answer is to offer customers real value. This means leading with relevant content, not with sales messages. Success can be measured in the creation of social value, where a connection that enables a reciprocal value exchange takes place. The content must be genuinely beneficial to that individual for it to form part of a truly meaningful dialogue. Where that dialogue exists and a value exchange has taken place, it is at this point that you have been awarded with the customer’s attention. You have then earned the right to talk.

The 2018 Pulse check report by Accenture found that consumers are more likely to engage with a brand that treats them in a personal manner.

One of the issues is that the method employed to have conversations with customers often gets confused with personalisation and most personalisation approaches are based on assumptions and guesswork and fails to start with a one-to-one conversation. The key difference? Conversations treat customers like individuals instead of a set of users.

When you’d like help to develop a comprehensive conversational growth strategy, contact the Foresight team

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