For years marketers have been trying to reach as many people as humanly possible. In the grocery industry, we print thousands of ads each week and distribute them through newspapers and direct mail. We cast a big net in hopes of getting the sales and foot traffic we’re looking for. But is that the best way to do it? Does casting the largest net, going after the largest audience, equal customers in the stores? In this age of subscribers, fans & followers, Jeffrey Rohrs says maybe not.
I saw Rohrs speak at an American Marketing Association event recently and his talk centered around how we’ve become about numbers: which brand has the most likes on their facebook page or the most followers on twitter. Yet, in many instances that’s not what is most important. The important part of that audience, or those numbers, is how the people those numbers represent engage with the brand. Are they finding the posted content worthy of their time? The only way to know that is whether they are sharing, liking, retweeting and otherwise engaging with what is being presented.
When I first started the text-message marketing program here in the Advertising department, our goal was to get as many people as possible to opt in to text campaigns. We gave away $5 gift cards and essentially paid people to opt in. We sent out the first few coupons and got minimal engagement. As we analyzed the numbers, the program wasn’t “succeeding”. We were spending more money on deals and texts than we were on the return. At that point we changed strategies. We cleaned up the database and only asked people to re-opt in if they wanted to keep receiving deals. No incentive other than their willingness to receive great deals once a week. The numbers of redemptions skyrocketed. Sure the pool of numbers was smaller, but it didn’t matter, we had found the sweet spot of people who we didn’t need to pay to be engaged, they understood the value without it. By narrowcasting content to people who cared instead of broadcasting content to people who didn’t we proved out the value of the program. It fundamentally changed the way we operate any opt in programs such as email and text marketing.
There are people and companies out there now selling twitter followers: truly fake accounts made to help those willing to put up the money seem like they have larger followings and larger presences. There are groups that sell email addresses, hoping the buyer will not understand that email addresses, likes, or follows from people who don’t want to be contacted, or who haven’t given their consent, can actually more damaging than it is helpful.
We must cultivate the audiences we want. We have to observe what they engage with, modify our content plans according to their likes, evolve our promotion ideas to focus on what they want, determining how it fits with our objectives as we go. As Rohrs pointed out, audiences are assets, and we must treat them that way. The days of shouting from the mountaintops are over, customers engage when they want to, and our jobs are to make them want to.