Listening – The Secret of Real Engagement

The marketing industry’s buzzword in recent years has been engagement. Forget all the old ways, we are told, engagement is where it’s at. I couldn’t agree more, getting your target audience interested enough to interact with your brand is essential to success. But I think successful marketing goes deeper than this. Before we get to engagement we need to understand not only the dynamics of the marketplace, but the way our customers and prospects think and behave.

It has long been The Marketing Forge’s belief that getting into the mindset of a given customer base is really important. What is important to companies providing goods and services, might not be what motivates customers. It might seem logical that a target audience might be motivated by one key factor such as say, service or reliability. It is tempting to take such logic as a given. However, the target audience might be searching for immediacy, or quality, or sustainability, or expertise or any other number of factors.

Successful marketing communication must identify not only what these factors are but we must be able to priortise key issues from the consumer’s perspective. (This is true whether dealing directly with consumers or if working in a specialist B2B market). Sure, social media is one way to help identify such factors, but real understanding comes from original research, when consumers are given a chance to articulate their decision making criteria and behaviours. For those of you who have never experienced it, there is nothing so enlightening as listening to respondents in a qualitative research setting discussing their purchase behaviour and decision making criteria. Who are the decision makers? Who are the influencers? How do their perspectives differ? How is your brand viewed in relation to competitors? Which brand is associated with the attribute that’s being searched for?

So, before you assume that your marketing is great because your use of social media is prolific, make sure that you understand the psychology of your customer base. Listening is the route to success.thinking

The Davids and Goliaths of Retailing

Recent news from retailers has been dire. Christmas and Sales figures have disappointed and following the demise of brands such as Currys, we have witnessed the death throes of major retailers such as HMV and Jessops, although there are plans to rescue some element of these two once loved brands.

So what’s gone wrong? Yes there is a recession (double-dipped, triple-dipped, infinity-dipped as far as we know); economies around the world are struggling and yes, consumers (and businesses) are thinking twice before purchasing. But why do internet outlets fair better? And why, despite the increasing number of boarded up shops around the country, are independents surviving whilst major brands fail?

I suggest that in the past two decades of increasing retail concentration and global super brands, that somewhere along the line, major retailers have lost the plot!  In their drive for increased market share and reduced costs, many retailers have failed to keep in touch with what their customers want. Often, this ingredient is simple. Consumers want relevant products, good value (at any price point) and more often as not, they want good reliable service. Providing this, it seems, is becoming beyond the reach of many retailers.

I’ve been in Jessops a couple of times over the past years and have had to wait for quite a long time for the admittedly knowledgeable, sales assistants attention. 45 minutes later, I want to purchase the item of my choice and find there is no stock. On other occassions, I’ve ordered in the desired item to find that on collecting said item the shop has given it to someone else. I am not surprised they’ve gone bust, the writing was on the wall.

Similarly, the much loved and once iconic HMV failed to keep in touch with its customers. Failed to extrapolate its product range and develop its customer experience.

On the other hand, small independents have had to survive by being customer focused and tuned in to customer needs. It would seem that the Goliaths still have something to learn from the Davids of the retail world.