Clearly, users of digital technology are driven into the cloud by intent. What happens then is the digital magic that has allowed the Internet to thrive going on ten years.
The idea of a cloud is not new. In fact, it is gaining traction with large players (IBM, Microsoft, Google, Amazon and Rackspace) fighting for our share of data. As physical storage moves closer to free, more of our daily interactions will happen inside the cloud. When our data is stored remotely, we come to expect access at increasing touchpoints. This is already blurring the lines between computers and mobile devices and will further blur the lines between applications and services. Marketers need to become aware of the cloud and the magical potential of the data within.
Once online, we are innundated with choices. A great deal of clutter already exists and is growing every day. With the new generation of digital users growing immune to messaging through clutter, a larger focus on utility is being created. LinkedIn has opened up its services to external applications in an effort to build greater utility around the original service. Now, in addition to business networking, ideas, trips, decks and buzz can be shared.
Of course, the ultimate goal of marketing is to drive consideration for products and services. Without consideration, no action can occur. While digital technologies are highly adept at driving consideration, a complete understanding of the process remains lacking. The age of “build a site and they will come” has long passed. With a wealth of choices for consumers, a site alone will no longer suffice. Yet, most brands remain content with their properties. Efforts to bolster sales revolve around enhancements to these properties with no consideration given to what drives consumers to these locations in the first place.
It’s not a stretch to think of branded sites as no more than destinations for transactions. In supermarket terms, the sites act as the registers. They are a location to bring our assorted thoughts, products, services and needs to a single point for action. Achieving that action is another story.
With innumerable choices for information online today, it is unrealistic to think that customers will seek you out. Thus, awareness is the first step inside the cloud. Ensuring your customers can find you when they need you should be a top priority. Again, this goes well beyond the banner ad and the web site. Awareness is everywhere. If you don’t believe me, take a look at Dell’s findings over the past eight years. Starting with Jeff Jarvis, Dell has learned that their customers will define the company regardless of any corporate stance.
Awareness is now generated anywhere interested parties meet. The effective messaging of today is being sent by existing customers. They are using SMS on their mobile devices, posting images on Flickr, shooting video to post on YouTube, participating in Forums and user groups, writing and commenting on their Blogs and talking in all sorts of new channels with funny names like Twitter and Mahalo.
This can seem daunting at first, but trust me, it’s actually very positive. These are customers and potential customers singing your praises (hopefully). This drives interaction. More clearly stated, this drives people to your properties. You didn’t think they all saw your television commercial, wrote down the URL and called it up a day later, did you? At some point in the digital process, they refined their intent and landed on your properties looking for an authorative voice.
This is where our analysts thrive. They want to know where people are coming from, what opinions they have formed, what they are seeing, what they are trying to see, where they are leaving, and how they are using those pretty pages we spent many days and many dollars trying to create.
Unfortunately, there’s an inherent problem here with digital technologies. Unlike the supermarket where those physical beings are staffing the registers (true, they are disappearing in some places), we have no human point of contact for users. There’s nobody to relate the praises and problems being reported in real time. Some sites are now beginning to incorporate live chat to provide customer service, but even in these cases, it is unlikely that the data is being used to improve performance.
All interaction needs to focus on one idea – evolution. Both corporation and customer need to evolve. We put a great deal of effort into training customers to be better customers while largely ignoring the need to become better suppliers.
Organize, profile and repeat. Find out where the problems lie and fix them. Learn about the most popular channels and stress them. The beauty of digital technologies is their flexibility. They can learn, adapt and be recreated. It’s not a billboard you’re committed to for a month or a television spot that needs to be reshot. It’s a string of digital characters that can be pushed, pulled and prodded every day.
This process builds user engagement. They are participating with systems in one way or another. Whether they are buying from your site, through Amazon, browsing on eBay or posting on CraigsList, they are engaging in some fashion. Take this information and learn from it.
Depending on either how well you have served this customer or how limited the other options in the market are, you have driven consideration. This should be the ultimate goal of digital marketing within the cloud.
When done well, you can pat yourself on the back, take a deep breat and sit back – until tomorrow. Because, in digital marketing, no campaign is ever complete.