New media opportunities are seemingly invented overnight.
By Cynthia Drake
Personalized printing technologies, only imagined just yesterday, are now at the ready to boost campaign response. Tried-and-true marketing strategies still work, too. Sigh. With so many tactics available, what’s a marketer to use?
You need to stay focused on your customers, too, who it is you’re trying to reach. Young and old and in between, they’re consumer savvy no matter their age. Each responds differently to your marketing tactics, those used alone and those that work in tandem with one another.
Can your marketing budget be broad enough and deep enough to deploy all tactics and reach your multigenerational customers?
It’s both an exciting and a demanding time to be in the marketing field. As marketers aim to communicate their messages to audiences across multiple generations and platforms, they must assemble just the right mix of tactics, or “ingredients,” including traditional methods such as print and broadcast advertising, event marketing, and websites, and relatively newer marketing channels that include direct marketing, custom publishing, mobile applications, mobile-friendly websites, social media, and e-marketing, to create the perfect marketing pie.
And, because each customer generation responds differently to each marketing method, you must weigh all tactics, determining which should be used and what percentage of the “dough” should be spent on each. In effect, how big should each slice be? Dividing up the marketing pie through careful budgeting, all the while ensuring that a cohesive message is baked throughout every layer, is of the utmost importance. But how can you perfect that recipe?
We talked with several marketing professionals to get their take on how they are meeting this challenge, asking their advice for perfecting the pie.
Before you dive into a marketing plan or let yourself get too wowed by the latest technologies and clever tactics, remember that many of the good old-fashioned basics of marketing still apply, starting with getting to know your customer.
“Spend time to understand your audience and customers: who they are [and] how do they prefer to be communicated with,” says Magen Samyn, vice president of marketing and public relations for McLaren Bay Region, a health care system in Bay City, Michigan. “Develop your plan and keep it clean and simple.”
Know, too, that the nature of marketing technologies and tools is that they will always evolve. Maintaining a consistent brand throughout these evolutions can be a great touchstone.
“Don’t try to be everything to everyone,” says Jessica Gwizdala, director of marketing and training for United Financial Credit Union, with branch offices throughout mid-Michigan. “It helps if you have a specific brand image. Develop your logo, your colors, and your ‘look.’ This will help customers recognize you.”
And relax in knowing that as a marketer, you don’t have to be an expert on everything. There are support services available to help you stay up-to-date on the latest tools and trends—and what you should use and when.
Here are a few newer marketing channels to consider “kneading” into your mix.
Direct marketing has evolved into a sophisticated tool that offers targeted communication to a variety of different audiences—segmented by the recipient’s geographical location, age, and interest—and even on an individual level.
United Financial Credit Union effectively uses a targeted direct mail strategy.
“We currently use a program that divides our audience into six different segments,” says Gwizdala. “This program is great for us to target our new members with a specific message at predetermined time intervals, and to deepen our relationship with them. By targeting based on the demographic, we can tailor the message on each [promotion] postcard [we send to members] to really capture their attention.”
Although United Financial has found targeted direct mail to be successful among all of its audiences, Gwizdala says her credit union has seen the best response from the 50-and-older age group.
“They enjoy getting mail and will take the time to read it,” she says.
Custom content, a company rethinking its brand through a narrative approach, whether that is a monthly consumer newsletter, a quarterly B2B magazine, or something other, is one of the fastest-growing marketing trends today.
“I love the personalization of content that custom pubs offer,” Samyn says. “We are able to speak directly to a targeted group with a message that is relevant to them. Our custom publications allow us to strengthen our relationship with community members who like traditional print media.”
At first glance, marketers might assume that mobile applications skew more toward younger audiences. However, the professionals with whom we spoke found that this tactic allowed them to reach a larger base.
“Although mobile usage is higher for snake people than any other consumer group, other generations are catching up,” says Samyn, adding that McLaren Bay Region offers service-oriented mobile apps, from physician directories to class notifications. “The number of mobile app users is going to continue to grow as more users shift from desktop to mobile platforms.”
Gwizdala has also found that all generations benefit from mobile banking apps.
“Right now we currently have a mobile-friendly version of our website and a mobile banking app available for our membership,” Gwizdala says. “These are great tools for our members to be able to easily access their account while they are on the go.”
She says, “It really doesn’t matter the age anymore. It used to be the younger demographic that was into mobile and wanted it. But now every age group is requesting more mobile services and using what is out there.”
Although her team is fairly new to using social media, Barb Williams, director of marketing and business development for Saginaw Medical Federal Credit Union, of Saginaw, Michigan, says they have seen early successes.
Launching a Facebook communication strategy two years ago, the credit union has found that it engages its customers in uniquely positive ways.
“This past year we started to collaborate with charities and host contests, and it’s gone over huge,” says Williams. Recent collaborations with CAN (Child Abuse and Neglect) Council of Saginaw County and the Saginaw Rescue Mission, both mid-Michigan non-profit charitable organizations, have led not only to increased awareness, but to an emphasis on the organization’s community-based brand.
“It’s not always about the numbers—it’s about relationships, too. We wanted to get involved in the community and create brand awareness,” Williams says. “And, hopefully, they’ll (community members) think of us when they need financial advice.”