Providing the Right Information at the Right Time

Providing the Right Information at the Right Time

As a content marketer, you sometimes need to cast a wide net. When writing copy for your company’s website, for example, you’ll be working under the assumption that almost anyone could be a potential customer. And you’ll write your web copy based on that assumption.

At the same time, you realize that not every product is right for every customer, especially when you’re selling financial products. With some campaigns, you know you’ll need to target the right customer with the right information at the right time. And that’s where contextual marketing comes in.

Contextual marketing 2.0

In a nutshell, contextual marketing is a form of personalized marketing that allows you to target specific (current or potential) customers based on how they behave and what they search for online. You know what this looks like. You Google “best boots for Canadian winters” and search through the results. A few minutes later, you log onto Facebook and the ads all seem to be for winter boots.

With the ever-increasing move toward mobile, contextual marketing can go one step further to target the right customer with right information at the right time AND in the right place. You search for winter boots on your mobile, and you start receiving ads for the best deals on boots at stores within a couple of kilometres of where you are at that moment. You might even get a coupon to put toward your purchase, texted right to your phone.

With the ever-increasing move toward mobile, contextual marketing can go one step further to target the right customer with right information at the right time AND in the right place.

Finish Line

Targeted ads are a good example of contextual marketing, but they may not fit with what many content marketers do. So, what does this type of marketing look like within the context of a broader content marketing campaign?

Let’s look at the example of sports retailer Finish Line. The company created a direct-email campaign to announce a big sale at its stores. The announcement included a countdown clock that told customers how much longer the sale would last based on when they opened the email. Every time a customer opened the email, the countdown clock would update itself, making customers aware of the time-sensitive nature of the sale and creating a sense of urgency.

Finish Line also used its customers’ location data and stock information from each store to enhance the sale announcement. In addition to a countdown clock, customers could see a map to the nearest Finish Line location and up-to-date inventory of everything available at that particular store.

The company even took into account what would happen if the email was opened after the sale ended by providing an alternate message of great deals still available at their stores.

Contextual marketing for finance

Some financial services firms are already using contextual marketing with great success. One large retail bank, for example, tracks when a customer uses his or her credit card to make a purchase. The bank then sends the customer information on how to save money on similar purchases next time. One large retail bank, for example, tracks when a customer uses his or her credit card to make a purchase. The bank then sends the customer information on how to save money on similar purchases next time.

By using location data, the bank could also choose to guide customers to the best deals on complementary products. For example, if the customer just bought a new printer, they could be guided toward the best deals on paper or ink refills. The tie-in here is that the bank is giving customers information that will help them successfully manage their credit card debt.

A note of caution: Contextual marketing could feel invasive to some customers. There are plenty of people who use the word “creepy” to describe those Facebook ads that seem to know exactly where they’ve been, when and with whom.

The examples we’ve given here, with Finish Line and the large retail bank, weren’t overly invasive and were well received by customers. But if you plan to use what could be seen as very private personal data to create tailored content, consider allowing customers to opt-in to your marketing program first. And avoid using sensitive information that has become public but that a customer may not want you to have, such as news of a recent divorce.

Yes, it can be a challenge to create tailored information that doesn’t cross a line, but for those who get it right, the payoff is often significant.

Andrew Broadhead
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Andrew Broadhead is Communications Manager at Ext. Marketing Inc., where he creates content that helps financial services firms engage their customers and prospects. Andrew’ ... Click for full bio

The New Brand Differentiators Are Operations and Logistics

The New Brand Differentiators Are Operations and Logistics

Operations and logistics are frequently viewed as secondary functions that can be handled by someone else. But here’s the thing: With data so richly available, using it to help reinvent operations and logistics can help you stand out just as much as the next electric car or purple cow.

Just take a look at some of the world leaders in business.

Amazon, Uber, Airbnb, and other sharing sites are turning their industries around with structural and operational changes that challenge old paradigms. It’s not the products or services that stand out but the operations, logistics, and method of delivery.

For example, Amazon does not just succeed on lower prices or by offering different products than their competitors. They have revolutionized, simplified, and automated ordering, customer service, distribution, and warehousing.

The results have been staggering. It’s estimated that in 2016, they represent about 30-40% of internet retail sales and 8-10% of total retail sales.

Operations Innovation Isn’t Just For The Big Businesses

You might be thinking, “But that’s for the big businesses. How can that help my small business?”

Changing operational paradigms is for small businesses, too! Take a look at GrubHub. They are a publicly traded company, but think of whom they help: restaurants, big and small. They’ve helped thousands of restaurants expand their sales by providing seamless delivery.

Outsourcing key activities like web design, social media, cloud services, CRM, and even distribution have become both less complicated and more affordable.

No matter the size of your business, you can streamline or maximize your operations to take your sales and profits to a whole new level. The key is maximizing forecasting, inventory control, and distribution to maximize service, investment return, sales, and profitability.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Many operations experts say that 80% of sales are with 20% of your products. It’s often true, yet suppliers continue to proliferate styles, colors, sizes, models, and features to presumably serve more customers and provide more features. By keeping it simple, you help yourself and your customers.
  2. Pursue profit and not volume. Businesses frequently fail by adding too many stores, products, and marketing. In contrast, focusing on competitiveness, bestsellers, reducing costs, and reducing structure can have huge payoffs.
  3. Conduct a simple “SWOT” analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) to get a perspective on your business. The surprising aspect of this exercise is that we frequently take our strengths and opportunities for granted rather than maximizing them. For example, approaching key and repeat customers usually presents the greatest opportunity, lowest cost, and most profitable source of additional sales.
  4. Encourage testing new ideas and scrapping ones that don’t work. You will make mistakes. Focus on solving them rather than blaming someone. Consider using the process of develop, test, measure, and adapt. The measure step is, by the way, the most frequently forgotten.

It’s easy to get seduced by design, marketing, or the next flashy idea. Plenty of businesses innovate in these areas. Don’t forget, though, that just as frequently, success comes from innovation in operation and logistics.

Dr. Bert Shlensky
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Bert has over 30 years of experience as a results-driven executive leader.  Over the past six years he initiated five startup businesses--each of which achieved sales wit ... Click for full bio