Having context for something implies we have experienced something like it before. It is impossible to have context for a subject or person without prior experience. And, it is that prior experience which frames our perception of an ensuing interaction, even a transaction.
The moment you are living now will have a more satisfactory result if you have context for the situation or the relationship. It is context that fills us with rightful expectation or warns us to remain on guard.
Making your Customer Strategy contextual means that, as an organization, you’re well served to establish awareness of your brand, communicate values and a brand promise to breed trust with people who may one day become customers. The evolution of Social Loyalty into Contextual Loyalty highlighted where the real value of using social networks as marketing channels could be found. It wasn’t about channel penetration and coverage, it was about the value created through the content served up that mattered.
As brands raced to establish a presence in as many online social venues as possible, they found that it was hard to keep pace. Like chasing a runner who’s got more gas than you do, the ability of brands to take stock of every new social network introduced to the market left them wanting. Without time, understanding, and often human resource to create an optimal impression in every channel, brands settled for something regrettably superficial, eroding trust among their current and potential customers in the process.
Moving from social loyalty to contextual loyalty shifts focus from channels to value. Online, that value translates to trust when communications are transparent and helpful. If you are also open enough to answer questions, even resolve disputes in public forum, you accelerate the process.
You see, your brand’s voice becomes amplified in social venues. Tell me something through direct or email and I can respond through a private channel. Tell me the same thing through your Facebook or Pinterest page, or Twitter account and the feedback is vibrant, dynamic, real time and unstoppable.
Viewing your online presence through this lens makes it clear that there shouldn’t be any other option for execution beside transparency. But, we’re still in a phase of development where not every organization views online marketing this way, therefore there is plenty of opportunity to be different by being real.
Being real engenders trust. Managing this way consistently over time demonstrates your commitment. Giving customers a voice and transparently addressing their needs is the foundation of a relationship based on reciprocity.
It also means living out the brand promise.
Everything I’ve been describing here is about building context with your customers. Charlene Li, founder of Altimeter Group, described it with these words (heard in a webinar sponsored by Badgeville earlier this year) “ Real time marketing is immediate reaction, the marketing of relevancy, achieved by listening and anticipation of consumer need.”
In the webinar, Charlene talked about how Wayne Gretzky would skate to where the puck was headed, not where it was at that moment. The context of those movements had fans talking about his incredible speed. Maybe it was his “anticipatory skills” that created the appearance of more speed than he actually had. Who cares? He is the superstar that we all remember today.
Your customer strategy should include an element of anticipation as well. By determining which channels your customers actually care about and by delivering valuable content in those channels, you’ll strike up a dialogue that is the precursor of context. If you stick with it, you’ll have your brand ingrained in the mind of the consumer, earnestly and positively.
Even if they’ve never purchased from you before, it is the subtlety of trust that you have created that will influence their purchase decision as they read a message from you about a special offer on their Smartphone. When that happens, you’ll know that you’ve been successful in creating Contextual Loyalty.
It might even be that one day, customers will be swayed less by the amount of the discount you offer than by the cumulative impact of the efforts you have made through your online marketing.