These boots are made for walking…

To be successful, brands need to walk the walk as well as talk the talk, says Ashgrove Marketing’s Terry van Rhyn

When you’ve been in advertising as long as I have, you’ll have come across a lot of marketing jargon over the years.

As products, channels and new opportunities develop, there is always some buzz word or another being coined to describe the latest thinking or concept – direct marketing, inbound marketing and telemarketing being a few examples.

One that has received a bit more air time recently is the idea of “conversational marketing”. This specifically relates to engaging people through a website or other digital platform to help create a smooth buying experience.

Using live chat, chat bots or other broadcast features such as video, the aim is to help potential customers overcome any hurdles on the way to a sale. This could be by providing a demonstration, answering frequently asked questions or, if certain conditions are met, routing a customer through to a live operator.

In essence, it’s the online equivalent of a sales person. Whereas you might once have gone into a shop and been pounced on by an eager assistant asking if you want to buy a new washing machine or take out a mortgage, it’s a series of digitally-enabled nudges to establish what it is that you really want and how the company or brand in question can fulfil these wishes.

Done well, with a good understanding of customer trigger points and by providing the right content and response at the right time, conversational marketing can help seal the deal and also speed up the sales process.

But really conversational marketing is nothing new – it’s just a fresh term for what marketers have been advocating for ages which is having a two-way relationship with your customers.

The days of putting out a press, radio or TV ad and hoping it will bring customers flooding to your door are long gone. Sure, a snazzy campaign might see an uptick in sales but long term brand loyalty and trust are built through relationships – and relationships need communication both ways.

There’s an old idiom “Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes” and it’s one that is very apt in today’s world of marketing. While the speed of technological advances – and the myriad of slick and popular communication channels – is staggering, we are all still human and we will always respond well to authentic empathetic behaviour, regardless of how it’s delivered.

To my mind, empathy is, without doubt, still the most powerful marketing tool. And to acquire that, you need to understand human behavioural patterns and the various conditions that will influence the decision-making process.

Changing your perspective and looking at things through a different prism will give you insights you have not fully appreciated or perhaps not thought of before. You simply have to put in the hard yards early on to get a deep understanding of who you are talking to and what their real needs are – not just what you think they should be from your own perspective and experiences, while still wearing your own shoes!

It’s this “conversation” that will provide you with the powerful emotional messaging needed to capture the imagination and draw people into a brand story. This requires you to invest the time at the outset to find that one thing that separates you from the rest and then find the emotional trigger that will make you memorable and believable.

For we are nothing but creatures of habit and once we believe that a brand/product/service is for us then it is very difficult to change. This unflinching loyalty is what all brands aspire to and whether you are looking after a HNWI’s wealth or selling a retail product or making a pizza, it all boils down to how well you tell your brand story. Make it believable, truthful, authentic and let it capture the imagination – make the audience “feel” something – then you are on the right track.

Telling consumers what they need is a thing of the past. You have to engage in a conversation with a real person when you need to solve a problem – and purchasing a product or service is in effect solving a problem.

Having that conversation, making it relevant and doing it well – whether it is through digital chat or a real life advocate – is how we can make a positive impression and create that fuzzy feeling for our brand.

I will leave with a quote by Walter Landor: “Products are made in a factory, but brands are created in the mind.” More power to those businesses who recognise we are all simply “Feeling Machines”!