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.
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.