When you are thinking about how to communicate to your prospects and customers, what is your primary consideration?
Is it to whom you are speaking? In other words, is your first concern to understand whether your prospects are male or female, the ethnic group to which they belong, their income bracket or their age range?
On the other hand, do you first consider your product and service in relation to the challenges and problems that your customers and prospects face? Do you then give thought as to how your offering will assist them with those particular issues?
Or instead, maybe, you think of all the benefits that your particular product or service delivers for your clientele, and use these as the basis to deliver some powerful sales messages to them.
Of course, all of the above are areas upon which one should reflect in order to ensure that your organisation's communications are as compelling as possible. However, none of them take into account the most important consideration in marketing today. This is a sphere of thinking, which too many companies still completely ignore, when putting together their communications strategy. Maybe, this is because it is beyond the lexicon of traditional marketing. However, in a digital, web enabled world, it is probably the single biggest aspect to contemplate.
Do you remember when the web was first introduced to the world in the 1990's and in order for it to be accessed, we had to dial in? Using the web, at that time, was an event. However, after the year 2000, when broadband started to become ubiquitous, the web went from being something to which we had to dial into, in order to go 'online', to always being on. As it became easier to access, we started to use it more often.
However, even with broadband, most of us could only access the web from behind a desk, whether at home or at work. Consequently, although we would use the web to research and buy products and holidays etc., to find out information or communicate with others, our use, in many ways, would still mirror the way we picked up a book, read a paper or watched a TV show. In other words, it was an activity that prevented us from undertaking other tasks.
Then in 2007, Apple launched the iPhone, the first mass consumer smart phone. In the years following the iPhone's introduction, and with the development of a vast array of competitor products, the web has gone from a single activity we undertake, to something which we dip in and out of as a seamless part of our lives. From accessing the weather, to getting directions, to seeing what may be going on in a given area, at a particular moment in time, we are constantly flipping between the 'online' and 'offline' world. Moreover, with the introduction of new products like 'Google Glass' this is a trend that is set to accelerate.
While these developments were taking place the web was changing in another way. With the introduction of Friendster in 2002, MySpace and LinkedIn in 2003 and Facebook in 2004, social networking came of age. The web went from being a 'web of content' to becoming a 'web of people'. This, combined with the success of smart phone technology, means that today, social platforms are increasingly becoming the single most important channel for staying in contact, communicating and making arrangements with friends and colleagues.
So what do all these developments mean for a company's communications?
The message is very simple. 24/7 access to the web and continuous connection to friends and colleagues means, that today, people increasingly do everything 'in the moment'. From deciding where to go next during an evening, to having a conversation which instantly triggers an individual to look for a particular product or service about which they were talking, to seeing who is in a given area at any one time, activities are undertaken instantly. We no longer have to wait for someone to be at home to communicate with them, or be behind our desk to undertake a search on particular facts or items.
In other words the 'context' in which things happen, is playing an increasing importance in our lives. This is because we have the ability to react, to any given situation, in a way we never could previously.
Every purchase is triggered by an event. A friend cancels on us and we immediately look for something else to do. We start a new business and need an accountant. A new addition to the family results in us having to purchase a larger vehicle.
Today, every company needs to understand the different contexts under which an individual is likely to search online, and access your website or other content you have created or generated.
The context which triggers someone to look for what you do has become the single most important way of ensuring your communications resonate, and are relevant for any particular individual.
For example, if someone accesses a nightclub website, from a mobile device on a Friday night, the context is likely to be, 'what are we going to do now?' If the first page they see is a picture of a bottle of beer that states, show us this message and get a free bottle of beer this evening, it is likely to resonate and have a positive effect. On the other hand, a visit to a nightclub's website on a Monday morning is more likely to be from someone planning a party, stag or hen night etc. Therefore, if the first message a person sees is 'planning a party' click here.... it is more likely to be relevant.
Whatever your business, there will be a context to a purchase. This could be a weekly buying cycle, like the nightclub. There could be seasonal variations e.g., Christmas etc. Alternatively, there may be other events, not affected by time but rather circumstances, in a particular individual's life. For example:
No one wakes up in the morning and just buys curtains on a whim. Have they moved house or are they redecorating?
If they are searching on restaurants, are they looking to demonstrate to someone that they are special or mark an important occasion?
If they are looking for corporate training, are they a fast growing business that is currently bringing in a lot of new staff, or are they suffering from a drop in turnover and have low staff morale in the office?
Whatever your business, when you look at the big picture, the number of events and contexts that are relevant will only be in single figures. However, understanding the contexts, which are relevant to your prospects and customers, will be the single most important factor in being able to ensure your communications are relevant, add value and engage your clientele.