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What to give to the website that has everything?

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I was asked this morning to provide a quotation and rationale to develop a client's website. All very normal you might think and with lots of scope to recommend some basic digital and social marketing gizmos to bring this puppy into the game, proper like...

Well no, not exactly. This client already has a pretty good website - it's built well, standards compliant and on a modern content management system (CMS) and the design's fairly nice too. Man, it even has a blog running so what could I possibly add to such marketing magnificence?

Upgrading a relationship marketing websiteWell, for me, the main ‘glaring’ opportunity for this client is in the further development of their relationship or community marketing activity via the digital channels. Currently the site acts as a signpost and a bulletin board and offers the customers an opportunity for additional brand interaction via email and text, but really it is all still very much one way. There is a comments facility on the blog section but these only really offer an opportunity to discuss the topic that has been raised by the brand and doesn’t allow the audience to start their own conversation.

As digital marketing is maturing it is increasingly clear that the unique ‘killer app’ of the thing is that the availability of inexpensive, easy to use, always connected, fast broadband internet is providing like-minded to band together online to form communities to share ideas about issues of common interest which, in turn, influence the behaviour of the members of the community.

This particular client is very clear as to the identity of their ‘typical’ customer but my feeling is that they are currently telling those people what to like or want or have and are not yet engaging fully with the audience by providing them with the tools required to facilitate and learn from the conversation. This isn’t unusual since most organisations and brands are currently in the same place, but this is the future of digital marketing – perhaps all marketing? – and is the science/concept behind the rise of channels like Twitter and Facebook, and behavioural changes like the way we buy holidays (Trip Advisor), consumable goods (Amazon) and even in the way we elect politicians, Obama being the most obvious example.

Put simply, the technology has put the power into the hands of the customer and the brand should facilitate that, encourage it, track the conversation, measure it; listening and measuring so that the organisation’s offering better matches the needs and wants of the market. This is digital relationship marketing and this is how my client can develop their digital strategy going forward.

So, tactically, what does this mean for the brand? Firstly, there is the recognition that apart from a simple design refresh, the existing site isn’t at all bad and probably doesn’t need an expensive rebuild. What they do need though is a much improved customer community section, and the good news is that this can be very inexpensively added to the existing site. The community section should include the following elements:

  • Extended customer registration and login facility, saving the customer profile into a CRM database
  • Users’ profile information; who they are, what they look like, artistic preferences etc
  • Users’ blogging and internal messaging; what do they want to say?
  • Users’ own photos and video sharing
  • Moderated community forum; unlimited topics and threads of discussion
  • Polls and competitions; what is everybody thinking? What do they want?
  • Measurable activity stream; track what the community is doing and saying
  • Integral email marketing facility (without ongoing mail delivery costs)

So, why would the customer join the brand's online community? Well, for example, to get a ‘membership’ discount on prices or for a first option on new products or services etc but also to be able to really be a part of that market sector's personality; to really participate, have their say and to help shape future activity.

Why would the client adopt community relationship marketing? Well, to:

  • Facilitate the market's audiences
  • Provide value-added services to their markets
  • Improve audience-focused R&D so as to identify a more popular and financially successful offering
  • Increase adoption, usage and profitability through loyalty
  • Increased market penetration via ‘word of mouth’ recommendations and the ‘viral’ effect
  • Develop brand identity and ‘ownership’ of the particualr market sector
  • Etc, etc, etc...

The addition of this new ‘community’ element of the website could be easily provided for this client for around £5,000 (or maybe less if you needed it to) including the costs of software, web hosting, development and design so is something that could be recommended at relatively little cost but that would make an enormous difference to the client’s marketing activity going forward. Of course, having adopted such a system, there would be future opportunities also for content development, system management & moderation and CRM activity data analysis but those are the sort of things that are going to become increasingly important to brand organisations in the future and really do need to be provided by the marketing and advertising agencies.

Thing is though, it's still early days and most organisations (especially here in Belfast, Northern Ireland) are still just finding their feet with all this stuff. But we've just gotta try and give the best advice as often as possible and then be in the right position to help our clients when they're ready. Thanks for reading! Smile