To delight, to sell or to serve – steps to centralise modern marketing

Anant Sharma, CEO of branding agency Matter of Form, looks at the importance of a centralised marketing strategy.

• Understand the entire experience.
Centralised marketing isn’t about some huge spreadsheet somewhere, with tactics for each channel. Well it is, I suppose. But it certainly isn’t the place to start.

Every touchpoint in the guest experience has the power to change how your brand is perceived. In an era where your product truly is your marketing, you run the risk of missing a big opportunity if your message is disjointed.

At Matter of Form we use what we call a Brand Interaction blueprint to organise the entire user experience. This looks at all the opportunities your brand can use to deliver three things – delight, commerce and service. Identify your guest journey in these three buckets, and establish which departments or people in your organisation are responsible for delivering against these moments.

When you can see everything in one place, it empowers you to start thinking about what marketing tactics you’re going to use, which parts of your business they touch on, and what type of content you’re going to need.

This form of user-centric planning is so often overlooked. The details in how you deliver your experience speak volumes of your brand. People often wax lyrical about user-centric approaches – but all too often this very manner of thinking happens in a silo. Don’t think user-centric just in terms of your website UX, CRM or even your business – think about the very first interaction, and the very last. Then articulate what your brand means at every juncture (I’ll avoid another hackneyed digression on ‘purpose’ brands. No one needs more of that!).

Remember, less is more. You don’t need to be everywhere. Consistency across the experience wins. Start simple. Map it all out. Think through the eye of your guests.

• On that note…developing personas that you actually use
Not everyone believes in personas. I do. Not only are they important in helping tailor the right marketing messages, they’re also handy for aligning your own team, stakeholders and agencies. In hospitality in particular, there is often a gap in how management and staff on the ground view both the level of service and true guest needs. So it’s helpful to co-create personas — they force you to lay a marker down around who your guests are now, and who you will aspire to target in the future.

They serve to reflect the reality as well as chart your aspirations. So as you change as a business and a brand, you ensure you aren’t alienating your bread and butter revenue streams, neither stifling braver creative decision making.

We develop personas internally at Matter Of Form for our own marketing (and indeed, to help us run accounts more effectively): it’s amazing to see their impact. Without them, teams can quickly lose sight of the wood from the trees, and marketing strategy can fast become ‘inside out’ instead of ‘outside in’.

• Content is king
Once you’ve defined your personas (which should be a constant WIP), it’s worth laying out all the content you already produce so you can assess what you’ve got. This could take some time depending on the size of your business – if you have an intern, this one’s for them. Sort the news from the evergreen, and audit things like quality, tone of voice, SEO and relevance.

Often there are reams of great marketing-ready content made across an organisation, but it can be poorly disseminated across channels. It’s worth taking stock of what you’ve done at a brand level (that magazine you publish for the room or lobby?), as well as the more tactical ground level stuff (CRM content, or even copy produced for ad banners).

• Creating a new taxonomy structure
Once you’ve got everything out on the table, I’d recommend moving through a card sorting exercise. Look at how you organise and classify the content you produce already. Often, you’ll find that the nature of what is produced has outgrown its system, or can be more effectively mapped across your new touchpoint structure.

• Content personalisation
Once you’ve got some fundamentals in place you can start thinking about more advanced forms of marketing and personalisation. This is probably best realised if you have a more advanced web content management system than WordPress or Drupal. Advanced CMS (or EMS platforms) platforms like Kentico or Sitecore allow you to lead score against your pre-determined audience types.

Web content can be adapted based on individual browsing history, comprising factors including demographics – address, age, job title, gender; behavior – visited pages, purchased products, campaign clicks, searched keywords; and context – purchase stage, location, etc.

Say, for example, a user enters your site and enters the travel professional section. We can immediately tell we’re dealing with a b2b audience type, and attribute the session to the associated persona (with most advanced content management platforms we would have inputted the persona attributes directly into the platform). We might choose to adapt imagery, lead in copy, or promoted products or experiences as they move through the rest of the site. We may want to test out a new package or exclusive, and see what type of demand we might garner from our b2b audience. From a consumer perspective, perhaps someone looking at the kids club will convert more easily if the website content features family imagery.

Not rocket science, just small tweaks.

• Don’t be everything to everyone
Once you’ve worked out which bits of marketing go where – and really rationalised what part of the experience and to which persona you’re looking to appeal to – then (and only then), can you start to think about tactics. Safe in the knowledge your content is conceived to delight, to sell or to serve.

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