5. How To Build A Great Communication Strategy
For that geeky marketing person inside you
I do a lot of thinking about communication and communications strategies, and I think it's safe to say that the worst communications strategy is to operate with no strategy.
So let me jump right to the point here:
If you don't have a communications strategy at all, go make one. It doesn't have to be a fancy process, you can just who-what-where-when-why-how on the back of a napkin if you need to. Or many napkins, depending on where you’re eating. What's important, aside from the napkin size, is that you know why you're doing what you're doing. (But, again, I won’t discount the napkin in the mix)
Just because something worked a certain way in the past, doesn't mean that's how it's going to work in the future. Platforms change their algorithms, people change how they consume information and, lucky you, it gives an opportunity to update your communications strategy along the way.
Crunch data like you’re on the way to 6-pack abs (crunch…. get it?)
Test everything, and come up with your own playbook. If your tests can't prove something is worthwhile, who cares what anyone else thinks.
Communication Styles Are Ever-Changing
Communication with your consumers is changing. That's because general communication expectations in our culture have changed. That’s because technology has made different communication methods easier and, frankly, more fun. That’s because people like Steve Jobs had good ideas that caught on.
Thanks to smart phones and smart apps that are easy to use for stupid people, communication isn't what it was like as recently as just five years ago.
What I'm telling you is that if you are somebody who communicates with your consumers, you have to continually reinvent your communication strategy or risk irrelevance.
If your marketing strategy is reduced to “let’s send mass emails,” you’re missing the boat. In fact, you’re missing the boat so much that you’re looking for the boat at the horse and carriage depot.
Participants don't want to be just another name on your list of irrelevant emails. If they feel that way, your list will eventually get smaller and smaller.
Let's take a quick test:
Are you getting more than .5% of people (1 out of 200) unsubscribe every time you send an email?
Are you getting more than .05% of people (1 out of 2000) reporting you as spam?
If you answered “yes” to those questions, you’re in a whole pile of Not-Doing-It-Right.
Here are the average email open rates (23%), click through rates (2.76%), spam reports (.02%) and unsubscribe rates (.28%) as it relates to sports and events.
So what can you do differently? Well, that all comes down to consumer expectations in today’s day and age.
The Secret of PRT
With the mass amount of information we see in a single day, our biggest need is a filter. The communication that consumers are drawn to are the ones that are:
You know those messages you get on your phone when your plane is delayed? *That* is a great example of information that is PRT - personal, relevant and timely.
Google alerts? Same thing. Personal. Relevant. Timely.
You know what's also relevant? Texting previous consumers with a personal, special offer for them to get something before everyone else.
Or sending an email to previous consumers and referring to them by name, recognizing their previous purchase and giving them access to a unique offering.
Which brings me to my main question: how are you managing and mining your data?
The Secret of CRM
Are you being passive and sending out mass emails? Or are you actively mining the data, perhaps leveraging a CRM tool (more on that in a sec), and creating smart notifications that are personal and relevant?
It's a big switch to go from passive to active. But as I mentioned in a previous message, it costs you SEVEN TIMES MORE to get a new participant than it does to keep an existing one.
I can talk for hours about this, but that's for another time. For now, here are some companies to look at to help manage your email communications:
Template Based Email Senders
MailChimp (www.mailchimp.com) - A leader in the space and, arguably, the best. Super-easy to use, good looking templates, loads of features and support and the ability to connect to their API.
Constant Contact (www.constantcontact.com) - Assortment of templates, decent metrics. They used to be the leader in the space but have a lot of competition now.
For the sake of having at least three bullet points, and for those that for some reason don't want to use either of the above, you should check out these systems which I find are worth a looksie:
CRM (Customer Relationship Managers)
What the heck is a CRM tool? A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool is a platform that helps you manage and analyze the activity of each of your customers. Think of each consumer having a separate entry where you can store all of their data: contact information, birthdate, what they’ve purchased, when they purchased it, and more. Much more.
If you have the data, you can communicate with your consumers in personal, relevant and timely ways, based on their behavior. Maybe one week after somebody buys your Product A, you automatically send them a quick survey about how they feel about Product A and why the opted to purchase it. You see where this is going?
Automated Communications that are Personal, Relevant and Timely.
With that said, here are the CRM tools you should be looking at:
Hubspot (www.hubspot.com) - In the CRM and marketing space, Hubspot is the biggest name you may have never heard of. Hubspot has created an extremely user-friendly platform for CRM, email, blog, automations, customer support and so much more. Personally, I highly recommend Hubspot, but that’s another beer.
Salesforce (www.salesforce.com) - Salesforce is the name that everybody knows. They are a massive company and the product is pretty darn flexible. However, what comes hand-in-hand with flexibility is complication. The more choices you have to build something, the more complicated in may be to get exactly what you want. If you are at a larger company and don’t want to use Hubspot - or need an immense amount of customization - Salesforce is probably for you. If you’re a smaller company, don’t bother.
Sugar CRM (www.sugarcrm.com) - A hipper version of Salesforce. Doesn't have all the thousands of bells and whistles that Salesforce does, but you don't need them... yet. For the vast majority of endurance event companies, Sugar should have what you need to bring your data mining and participant communication to an entirely new level.
Zoho (www.zoho.com) - Zoho is the next step down and is a bit more focused on sales pipeline management. That said, your previous participants are your sales pipeline and you should be thinking about them like that.
Your first step, though, is to start thinking about how you are engaging people, check out your metrics and think of what types of adjustments you can make to ensure your communications are personal, relevant and timely.