As businesses, we communicate with our customers in some shape or form every day. Yet there are still organisations that work piecemeal or in department silos rather than within a robust, unified cross-company contact strategy. More worryingly, there are still organisations whose CRM systems house vast databases of incomplete, unqualified and poorly maintained customer and prospect data which may in fact be breaking compliance with regulations such as the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations).
Aside from exposure to legal and financial risk, establishing a consistent and compliant contact strategy protects against brand damage and avoids negative impact on customer relationships. To help you maximise the effectiveness of your customer communications and facilitate better relationships, we’ve broken down the core aspects of a compliant contact strategy.
Who are you talking to?
Firstly, who are you engaging with? It’s not enough to simply say “our customers”. Depending on your area of business, there could be a whole spectrum of stakeholders that your organisation and teams interact with at different points for different reasons.
Segmentation is a useful process within marketing strategies for categorising various types of customer by particular identifiers – if your business markets to particular age demographics for example, or tailors service offerings based on different locations.
In terms of your contact strategy, it can be a good idea to segment key groups so that you can distinguish their needs and make judgements on what they will need to know and when.
Lifecycle stage and customer journey
It’s important to note that not all customers will come to you with the same levels of knowledge, awareness or readiness. So, if you haven’t formally defined the key touchpoints in your audience’s journey, plot them out across the different stages of the customer lifecycle. A good rule of thumb is to align these points with the marketing funnel model and consider what stages you will encounter potential customers in their decision-making process.
By doing this, you’ll see clear distinctions between the information your customers need at these stages and can determine which individuals and teams within your organisation engage with your contacts at each of those touchpoints.
What do you need to tell them and why?
The basic concept of delivering a relevant message at the right time is as old as the hills but should be top of mind for every organisation working under GDPR. However, it is surprising just how many brands are pumping out unsolicited emails, posting social media updates or delivering newsletters into a void of white noise without pausing to consider the relevance or timeliness of their communications.
Consider the purpose behind different types of messaging and what value it adds for your audience. Do these communications match up with what you’ve set out in your vision and values for how you to promise to act, and do they align with your overall objectives? Again, you might find it helpful to use the marketing funnel stages for guidance:
Awareness: Placing your brand, its products and/or services into your audiences’ consciousness and harnessing awareness
Consideration: Nurturing trust and interest by supplying useful and valuable information or content
Purchase: Maintaining high contact with customers, demonstrating expertise and added value
Retention: Providing opportunities for customer feedback and incentivising cross-sales
Advocacy: Rewarding loyalty and nurturing stronger relationships
How will you reach your audiences?
When considering the channels you will utilise within your marketing mix, one of the biggest (and often overlooked) factors that will determine your success is where that all-important customer data will come from. If your CRM is full of out-of-date, incomplete and poorly segmented contacts, your email or telemarketing efforts are unlikely to hit the mark. Similarly, building an organic social media presence takes time and hard work and, whilst it can technically be carried out without a budget, how do you ensure the content you have created is seen if you have no brand awareness – how do you get in front of the right people?
Whether your business is new, looking to widen its offering to a new audience or gain a larger share of the market, consider where your audience is and which media is appropriate in terms of reach and how it will serve your purpose. You may use your social media, search engine optimisation and content platforms to support longer-term awareness strategies, but more direct, targeted channels such as telemarketing can drive faster results and extend your reach strategically beyond those browsing online.
Choosing the right channel for the job in hand is key but whilst tactics may vary, the overall strategy should be unified. It is likely you’ll combine a number of different channels so communications must be integrated if your message is to be heard. There is no point in your digital team deploying awareness strategies across paid social, pay-per-click, search engine optimisation (SEO) campaigns, if your offline media and telemarketing programmes deliver a completely different brand message.
Is the data compliant?
Since 2018’s introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), many are still uncertain of the dos and don’ts in terms of compliance and may even have put certain marketing activities off as a result.
Consent and Legitimate Interest
GDPR centres on an individual’s right to be informed of how their data is collected, used and stored, as well as empowering them to request access to or withdraw personal information that may be held about them. This means that any outdated or inherited customer data, or any you may hold that you cannot explicitly demonstrate consent for, should be cleansed, enriched or otherwise destroyed. However, under legitimate interest there are still ways you can responsibly communicate with prospective or inactive leads (see our previous article on cold calling) but again it is essential that the data you use is complete, accurate and up-to-date so that your programmes are targeted and relevant.
When should you be reaching out?
As with anything, there can always be “too much”, so assessing the frequency of your communications can help to reduce the chance of fatiguing your audience. Likewise, too little can run the risk of falling off the radar altogether. So how do you determine the sweet spot?
No matter what your product or service offering is, relevance and timeliness in communications is key. Empowering your audience to choose the frequency, content or method of communications is a great way to establish trust and ensure your communications reach a receptive audience that sees value in what you have to say. Aligning your contact strategy with the customer lifecycle will highlight key points within the journey and help pinpoint which forms of contact and content will be welcomed and helpful, and when.
Use the tools at your disposal wisely. Marketing automation programmes can help nurture prospects with timely prompts in a non-intrusive way but make sure to define email fatigue suppression rules to avoid mass spamming. Similarly, when using very direct approaches such as cold calling ensure all contacts are screened against the Corporate/Telephone Preference Service register. Most importantly, whenever you reach out to contacts and whichever channel you choose ensure any underlying database is complete, up-to-date and segmented to optimise targeting and relevance.
At The Telemarketing Company, we’ve been helping clients deliver compliant contact strategies for over 30 years. Whether cold calling to drive new business, appending opted-in emails or cleansing and enhancing your marketing data, we can integrate with your teams to help build stronger connections with your target audience. Get in touch to find out more.