The subject of customer communication is undoubtedly one of the most important issues when it comes to business also because, often and often, customer communication is the basis on which to build a positive and profitable relationship for both. For this reason, we need to talk about it in depth in order to understand its importance and especially to understand how to make it more effective and match people’s expectations.
Because, after all, it all starts from there: what kind of expectations do they have of the company? And how can the company respond appropriately to these expectations, even in light of the new tools made available by digital transformation? To answer all these questions, you need to start by studying the starting context.
No longer the product, but the customer at the center of everything
Traditionally, communication with customers has always had the product or service offered by the company as its main focus. In this sense, it can be said that communication has always had a purely functional character, providing the information a client needs.
Although this aspect is important and not to be overlooked, it certainly cannot be the only one, as it would mean having a limited view of what a company can do and how communication can become a powerful tool if done correctly and strategically organized. It’s also because the most important trends show that users expect something different from companies, namely the fact of being put at the center of their own communication.
One of the main digital marketing trends of 2021 emphasizes precisely this: companies will have to put people at the forefront of their communication activities (and not only) to be truly relevant.
Confirming this trend is a recent research by Deloitte, which underlined how companies have evolved from a “business-centric” approach towards an increasingly “customer-centric” approach, where optimization, profits, and processes are no longer in the forefront, but rather human needs.
This has obvious repercussions on various aspects of the business: from purpose, which becomes a differentiating factor to be transmitted to one’s own audience in order to create a sense of belonging, to experience, which is no longer just customer experience but becomes human experience, introducing the human aspect as an element of differentiation, up to the concept of trust at the basis of new forms of contact and communication with users.
Relevant communication has relevant content
The first thing that changes in the light of this renewed attention to human needs is the content of communication, which can no longer be the same as it used to be. Also because if you don’t change, you will never become relevant to the people you want to reach. But how can such a result be obtained by intervening on the very message to be conveyed?
One way – certainly the most popular in this period – is to use content marketing, that specific marketing approach aimed at creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clear and defined target audience – with the aim of driving customers towards a profitable action. According to the data, “content marketing” is one of the most searched phrases on the internet when it comes to digital marketing.
But what does it really mean to “do” content marketing?
In practice, this means creating content that is relevant to the user and therefore not just commercial information, or at least it does not do so directly, but uses transversal paths. The alternatives that a company has available are different and make it possible to modulate the approach with the user in many different ways.
Content perceived as relevant is, for example, content that teaches something, that shows how to make something concrete or how to learn something: these are the famous “how tos,” content that is easy to read, immediate, and of great interest.
Another type of effective content is the “case study,” the success story of another individual who shares an area of interest or business with the user. The strength of this type of content is related to the fact that it brings concrete stories, in which users can really find themselves and from which they can draw inspiration. Among other things, case studies are the most effective content to use when it comes to implementing a B2B marketing strategy, as they allow you to reach professionals by using the example of others who are perhaps particularly influential in their area of business.
Another example is that of empathic storytelling, using true or imaginary stories to convey one’s values or the corporate purpose (an example is the Carebonara from Barilla made to celebrate World Carbonara Day in the theme of tradition).
This type of content is interesting because it exploits a very powerful “input,” namely emotional input: the story aims to generate emotions, a feeling of empathy, which despite being irrational, is an effective driver to lead people to take certain actions and especially to associate a positive feeling to the brand.
Communication must be strategic
There are many types of content that can be created and they are not limited to the three examples above. There are also interviews, reviews (which are a formidable tool since the user tends to listen to other users), infographics (which makes comprehension easier and more immediate since they effectively replace long text) and many others.
Obviously, choosing one type of communication over another cannot be a random choice. On the contrary, it is necessary that the communication adopted is the result of a sensible and conscious strategic evaluation so that the communication itself contributes to the growth of the business.
For this to be possible, it is necessary to have a precise understanding of what you want to achieve so that you can give communication a specific role, clearly define its function, and later assess whether your choices have been correct and your aims achieved.
The purpose of client communication
In general, when it comes to communication based on content marketing, the main purpose is to capture the attention of the customer and increase the time spent on your page.
In this case, the advantages are an improvement in positioning at an organic level, which means climbing the ranks in search results and being more likely that people will find that specific page more easily, increasing and strengthening the consideration of the brand, with whom the user associates with quality content (source:Wam).
But client communication through content is also very useful for other, more “business-oriented” objectives. For starters, a good content strategy attracts more users. In fact, a page that uses content marketing can generate traffic on the site eight times higher than a page that does not use this approach.
Secondly, content marketing is also able to increase the conversion rate by six times, which means that those who build their communication to customers through content have a greater persuasive power, able to direct the behavior of users and push them to visit a specific landing page, to leave their data to access a whitepaper or maybe just to buy a product or a service.
Appropriate communication also changes content, but not just content
However, communication to customers has not only changed by rethinking the message and inserting content that is more focused on the needs and requirements of customers themselves; another aspect of radical transformation is that which concerns the container or tool that is used to communicate.
Also in this case, the reflections to be made and companies’ choices always start from a greater observation of customers and especially from the new habits that they have developed, especially following the pandemic period.
From this point of view, the role of mobile devices is now key, as much for communication as for other phases of the business.
Suffice it to say that more than half of consumers already check the availability of a product at home, even before entering the store, while 38% check the presence or absence of a product just before arriving at the physical store and 34%, instead, use their smartphone directly in the store to search for information and reviews on a particular product.
Not to mention the fact that mobile devices are now the tool of choice for enjoying online content, whatever it may be. This means that communication, even when it’s aimed at sales, must imagine new times of engagement and adapt to a faster, more fluid, and active use by the customer, who moves and reacts when he needs to and when he finds what he’s looking for.
Obviously, client communication is not only affected by customer habits (since the smartphone is the main tool, content must be optimized for a small, vertical screen where the browsing experience must be simplified as much as possible), but also by customer tastes and must adopt the specific formats accordingly.
The right client communication takes formats into account
The choice of a format is fundamental to build effective client communication, since not all formats work in the same way on the same objectives and equally meet the preferences of users. In this sense, it goes without saying that the winning format, or the most popular one, is the video format.
On the other hand, videos are the users’ favorite content. Just think that about one billion hours of videos are watched only on YouTube every day and 500 hours of content are uploaded every minute.It is not difficult, therefore, to understand why customer communication is increasingly turning to video as its main tool.
Video, in fact, is one of the formats, if not the format with the greatest persuasive power. According to Hubsoft, 64% of customers who have watched a video are more likely to buy a product or take a concrete action. This is because a video tends to be more memorable than any other content and is more likely to be watched until the end.
Incidentally, videos are now used on a regular basis in the retail environment, as almost half of users tend to watch videos about a product before buying it. This means that before they become customers, users are viewers of videos: that’s why every company must integrate them as much as possible in its communication plan.
For example, they can be included in emails or used within newsletters so you can be sure to reach your customers with relevant content – even more so if the video is personalized, so it directly addresses the user, surprising them.
Or you can make videos to use on your blogs and business sites. In this way, not only is it more likely that the user’s time spent on the page will be longer, but you are sure to generate traffic, since Google’s algorithm rewards the use of video and in terms of SEO as you improve your position during the search.
Message, support, format, and focus: communication towards customers changes along these lines, and it is along these lines that we must move to create an effective and competitive strategy.