Digital marketing: Get the push vs. pull balance right
WRITTEN BY VANESSA CLARK, Mobiflock Marketing Director
In Hugh Lofting’s Doctor Doolittle books, the Pushmi-pullyu is a rare animal from Africa with two heads, half gazelle and half unicorn. When it tries to move, it gets pulled in two different directions.
It wouldn’t be surprising if many marketers feel like this at the moment, trying to navigate the rapidly changing digital marketing world, and getting the balance right between push and pull marketing.
Digital marketing is touted as the great conversation between a brand and its customers, but someone has to initiate the right conversations at the right time for your brand. Happy days indeed if your customers are spontaneously saying the right things about you, but most of the most successful viral campaign need to be seeded.
We all know it’s not a case of if you build it they will come. Consider a real life situation: you wouldn’t turn up at a networking event and stand in the corner, expecting people to flock to you to find out how interesting you are. Neither would you march up to people, interrupting their conversations and start shouting about how marvellous you are and that they really should be talking to you.
Somewhere between these two extremes is the right balance, for your company that will allow you to engage with your customers in a meaningful, relevant, authentic and sustained way.
African Business Review takes a look at how marketers can get the mix right.
Content is king
According to Pieter Streicher, Managing Director of mobile messaging company BulkSMS.com: “We know there is a rapid shift happening in how brands interact with consumers: from one-way, top-down communication, to an ongoing conversation between the consumer and the brand. Instead of broadcasting messages, brands need to focus on listening to consumers. By giving consumers a voice, brands have the ability to adapt their messages and products to give their customers what they really want.”
Jo Duxbury, founder of outsourced marketing agency Peppermint Source, maintains that content is key to ramping up your pull marketing activities.
“Great content underpins all pull marketing. If you make your content great, people will sign up from it. Make your content so fabulous that people clamour for more of it. Make them want to hear from you. And make sure you sustain this quality – that way you’ll build a long-term relationship and loyalty,” she said.
“Assess what your customers need, and then make sure you answer their questions in an accessible, entertaining (if on social media) and valuable way. This is an art – get a content specialist to help you with it if you don’t know where to start.”
Saying the right thing in the right way
Hand-in-hand with content creation, is deciding which channels are the best to not only reach your prospects and customers, but also to spark a conversation. Duxbury warns against choosing a digital marketing channel simply because it’s the one receiving a lot of hype at the moment.
“Each online channel has its pros and cons and may not be suitable for every brand,” she said. “Success will come from choosing a medium that can be used to deliver relevant, useful and interesting content to the right audience, in a way they want it. Content is king, and context is vital too.”
When choosing which platforms to use, consider what the company offers and how tech-savvy your customers are. “If your audience is online a lot, Twitter is potentially a great channel. Facebook can also be really useful, for a wider online audience,” she said.
In addition to looking to new, bright and shiny digital channels, marketers should be making sure they are getting most bang for their buck by running multi-channel campaigns, incorporating both old and new media, as appropriate. BulkSMS.com advises clients to use SMS to bridge the gap between static traditional media and more interactive and engaging digital media. It says SMS is a particularly appropriate way to achieve this, thanks to its reach, pervasiveness and acceptance by consumers across all demographics.
For instance in a retail context, an SMS short code campaign can transform a static channel such as a point-of-sale promotion, in-store posters or on-pack special offers into the start of an immediate conversation with the customer. “The brand can grab the customer on the spot when they literally have the product in their hand and allow them to enter a competition, access a discount on the product, give their feedback or sign up for future communications,” said Streicher.
Streicher also advises that marketers consider all the channels they will be using, both push and pull, at the outset of a campaign, rather than tacking them on at the end, with very little thought given to how to continue engaging with them.
Duxbury agrees and said: “Repurpose your conversation materials, don’t simply broadcast them across multiple platforms. For example, your tone on Twitter is likely to be different from that on your blog. Make it relevant to both the platform and the audience.
“But do make sure that your customers can converse with you across a wide range of platforms and devices – if they can’t find you on one, chances are they may switch to your competitors than try to find you on a secondary platform.”
Get the balance right, for your brand, and you will start meaningful conversations that take your brand forward, rather than being pulled in all directions at once.
SAS: Improving the British Army’s decision making with data
SAS’ long-standing relationship with the British Army is built on mutual respect and grounded by a reciprocal understanding of each others’ capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM for SAS UKI, states that the company’s thorough grasp of the defence sector makes it an ideal partner for the Army as it undergoes its own digital transformation.
“Major General Jon Cole told us that he wanted to enable better, faster decision-making in order to improve operational efficiency,” he explains. Therefore, SAS’ task was to help the British Army realise the “significant potential” of data through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and conduct complex analysis.
In 2020, the Army invested in the SAS ‘Viya platform’ as an overture to embarking on its new digital roadmap. The goal was to deliver a new way of working that enabled agility, flexibility, faster deployment, and reduced risk and cost: “SAS put a commercial framework in place to free the Army of limits in terms of their access to our tech capabilities.”
Doing so was important not just in terms of facilitating faster innovation but also, in Crawford’s words, to “connect the unconnected.” This means structuring data in a simultaneously secure and accessible manner for all skill levels, from analysts to data engineers and military commanders. The result is that analytics and decision-making that drives innovation and increases collaboration.
Crawford also highlights the importance of the SAS platform’s open nature, “General Cole was very clear that the Army wanted a way to work with other data and analytics tools such as Python. We allow them to do that, but with improved governance and faster delivery capabilities.”
SAS realises that collaboration is at the heart of a strong partnership and has been closely developing a long-term roadmap with the Army. “Although we're separate organisations, we come together to work effectively as one,” says Crawford. “Companies usually find it very easy to partner with SAS because we're a very open, honest, and people-based business by nature.”
With digital technology itself changing with great regularity, it’s safe to imagine that SAS’ own relationship with the Army will become even closer and more diverse. As SAS assists it in enhancing its operational readiness and providing its commanders with a secure view of key data points, Crawford is certain that the company will have a continually valuable role to play.
“As warfare moves into what we might call ‘the grey-zone’, the need to understand, decide, and act on complex information streams and diverse sources has never been more important. AI, computer vision and natural language processing are technologies that we hope to exploit over the next three to five years in conjunction with the Army.”
Fundamentally, data analytics is a tool for gaining valuable insights and expediting the delivery of outcomes. The goal of the two parties’ partnership, concludes Crawford, will be to reach the point where both access to data and decision-making can be performed qualitatively and in real-time.
“SAS is absolutely delighted to have this relationship with the British Army, and across the MOD. It’s a great privilege to be part of the armed forces covenant.”