Making Sense Of The Consumer Journey In A Digital World
Businesses rely on the internet to handle communication and commerce. People rely on it for entertainment, shopping, education, work, as well as interacting with others on social media platforms. In many ways the digital world mirrors our physical lives, in other ways, it looks nothing like them (ever tried online dating?). It’s important that businesses and financial institutions create smooth, intuitive user experiences across the digital channels they adopt.
Despite the steady integration of digital media into our personal and professional lives, many banks and credit unions have struggled to adopt digital channels as part of their business model. On one end of the spectrum, the big corporations, large institutions especially, have pushed into the digital space and strengthened their brand with new customers and a reputation for cutting-edge technology. On the other end, you have institutions who embrace the digital world the way you hug a cactus: gingerly and with virtually gloved hands.
The most common digital channels are those used for marketing, such as:
- Social media
- Search and display
- Digital event promotion
Your institution probably has a presence on one or more of these. But the more important question is, how smooth is the journey consumers take? How many touch points does a consumer have with your brand? How many channels will they visit before they talk to you? Have you ever taken the journey for yourself?
These questions are critical for anyone considering a new channel as part of their marketing strategy.
Baby Steps Can Take You A Long Way
Does the idea of diving into social media intimidate you? Do you avoid search and display advertising because it just seems too complicated? You shouldn’t avoid entering a new digital channel simply because you can’t do it perfectly. At the same time, there are a few points you should keep in mind before adopting a new social media platform or digital channel, such as display advertising.
- How does it fit into your brand?
- Are the consumers you want to acquire active in that space?
- Can you deliver an experience that fits with the rest of your marketing efforts?
It’s a good idea to develop an overarching plan and set some achievable goals. Maybe your first goal is to set up a professional-looking Facebook page, once you have that down, you can look at posting regular content and buying a few ads. Start small, and upgrade your digital operation as you start to build confidence. And above all things: test, test, test, and then test some more. Experiment with different types of social posts. Try new email subject lines. Find display ads you like and look for ways to try a similar approach. Unlike the famous Ronco Rotisserie, you cannot “set it and forget it,” when it comes to building out digital marketing channels.
The Road To Growth Is Traveled By Happy Consumers
Nearly every institution is looking to acquire new customers or members. That doesn’t mean that you need to adopt pushy sales tactics in the digital space. It does mean that you need to think through the journey that a consumer will take and do your best to optimize it. Here are some helpful categories when it comes to thinking about your audience and what your next steps should be.
1. The first type of audience is “rented.”
When you gather an audience on a social media platform, you are effectively borrowing or renting them from the company who operates the platform. At this stage, they benefit Facebook or Twitter through advertising revenue. You have access to them, but you engage with them on someone else’s terms. You might think you own this audience when they like your page, but remember, these social platforms can restrict your access to them at any time.
2. The second type of audience is “owned.”
You can convert a “rented” audience into an “owned” audience by creating a relationship where you communicate on your terms. That could mean subscribing people to your email list, or capturing their phone number or physical address. With their contact information in hand, you can deepen the relationship and market relevant products. A common way to turn a rented audience to an owned one is by building value on your website. This can be done through the creation of a blog, a newsletter, or a "lead magnet." A lead magnet is a high-value item (typically a piece of content like an ebook) that can be accessed in exchange for the visitor;s personal information.
3. The third type of audience is the customer or member.
Once you hit on an offer that appeals, you can work on the most important conversion of all: turning a casual fan into a “paying” customer or member. You shouldn’t stop at just one product or service though. You need to continually look for ways to engage customers and members in conversation so that you can offer new products and services when they need them. Imagine that you have attracted an audience on Facebook and then turn them into an owned audience through an ebook titled "10 Ways To Grow Your Homes Value." A smart marketer would then serve ads or promotions to those recipients promoting the new home improvement loan your institution is offering.
When In Doubt, Authenticity Is The Best Policy
Today’s consumers can sniff out a phony in less time than it takes to click a “like” button. You’re probably going to make some mistakes (if you don’t, you probably aren’t testing enough) and when you do, be ready to own the mistake and ask for forgiveness. The same motivation that drives you to serve your community plays just as well in the digital world.