Touch Point Marketing: Reaching the Customer from the Inside Out

Branding is no longer about tailoring marketing and PR to a product/service - not if you want it to be successful, anyway. You can thank rapid brand proliferation, disintermediation and stakeholder empowerment for that. Today's reality is far more complex: cost-effective and scientific brand-building requires a new starting point from which all strategies and collateral emanate - that starting point being customer's identity. A past report from the McKinsey Quarterly sums it up nicely: "By employing a touch point marketing strategy, the brand can marshal and manage resources more efficiently and effectively to prioritize and affect the most valued customer segments with optimal frequency and a combinations of 'touches' to deliver the highest yield for the dollars invested." Okay, maybe the verbosity of that summation could use some optimizing, but the basic point is this: Brand-building requires communicating that brand's advantages in ways that are both relevant and resonant with individual customer identities. The key, then, is how. GolinHarris, in conjunction with InsightExpress, conducted a survey in the spring 2007 to gauge the level of trust in various media. Based on these results, culled from more than 1,000 respondents, the team built a "Trusted Media Index" (TMI) that looked at the following things in relation to touch point marketing: 4 dimensions of trust: Confidence in medium; value of medium; use of medium and general perceived trust in medium. 10 media to trust: Newspapers/newsletters; magazines; radio/audio; TV/video; dedicated online media; Internet forums; social networks; blogs; word of mouth; and experiential. The findings point to a seismic shift in the direction of marketing and communications, one that requires significantly revamped strategies. For example, the tremendous increase in the importance of social media, coupled with the changing buying behaviors of consumers across the spectrum, have resulted in marketing and reputation efforts that are largely dependent on third parties. So, what does this mean for communications strategists? *Know your audience. We've said it before, so we'll have someone else say it again - specifically, Anne Isenhower (SVP, U.S. media relations) and Mark Rozeen (SVP/director, research and strategy) of GolinHarris, who presented their findings at the 2007 PRSA International Conference. There, they identified the following reasons why knowing your audience - and embracing touch point marketing - is a strategic business decision. It: "Offers holistic and stakeholder-centric marketing based upon the myriad ways the stakeholder learns, experiences, interacts and decides;" "Creates a cocoon of communication, call-to-action and ongoing support that builds dynamic relationships between the stakeholder and the brand;" "Consistently reinforces, refreshes and refocuses stakeholders on the personal benefits delivered by the brand;" "Enables the brand to integrate and manage all marketing and communications resources holistically for greater potency and cost-effectiveness;" and, "Provides a meaningful metric of evaluating ROI, strategically deploying resources and mapping progress." However, all the benefits of touch point marketing are moot if you don't know whom to "touch" in the first place. *Segment your audience. Very important in the process is dividing your audience into segments, as these groups become integral to the tactical execution of touch point marketing. For example, for the purpose of their presentation, Isenhower and Rozeen identified three audience segments: Americans (age 13+), proactives (19% of age 13+ Americans) and Moms 25-44 (16% of age 13+ Americans). The segments can be based on commonalities, from demographics to psychographics. These are the groups you will test against media channels to determine their trust and affinity levels in each (for a sample of trust levels in various media, see chart). *Determining trust levels. Once you have identified and segmented your target audience, it's time to figure out to which media channels they would best respond. The TMI GolinHarris survey results uncovered some generalizations that can help with this matchmaking exercise (though individual organizations must always consider the nuances of their industries and markets first and foremost). Among the findings particularly relevant to touch point marketing: Women are slightly more likely than men to trust word of mouth, but they are just as likely as men to use dedicated online media; however, they are significantly less likely to trust it; Proactives - "public opinion leaders who actively participate in their communications, advocate issues and share information" - trust digital and social media much more than the general population; and, Direct experience and word of mouth are the most likely to hold their status as highly trusted channels in the future. *Pair audience segments with the media characteristics that appeal to them. Different media are trusted for different reasons, so identify the characteristics that appeal to your audience segments - accurate, entertaining, innovative, accessible, authoritative, diverse, timely, etc. - and then use those specific channels to reach individual segments. Yes, this means spending more time tailoring messages and identifying distribution channels, but the payoff is worth it in the end. Finally, put all the pieces together. Customize messaging for your individual audience segments, and release it to them via the media they trust the most. PRN CONTACT: Ann Isenhower,;

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