What President Obama and Chicken Have to Do With Your 2013 Marketing Plan

In 2013 marketers must keep customer-centric approaches at forefront of campaigns

President Barack Obama once told 60 minutes that Harold’s Chicken Shack was one of his favorite places to eat when he was growing up in Chicago. Needless to say, the plug provided the restaurant a bump in popularity.

But while the news buzz may have boosted the restaurant’s sales temporarily, it was a commitment to customer-focused marketing that has resulted in the company’s long term success. Let’s take a look at the Harold’s Chicken Shack method that stands as a blueprint for 2013 marketing efforts.

Harold’s Chicken Shack wanted to boost sales during the slow dining hours between lunch and dinner. Because mobile marketing (SMS or text messaging) provides immediacy, they decided to offer customers an opt-in for SMS promotions.  Harold’s Chicken Shack used traditional advertising, in-store signage, and table top displays to encourage customers to opt in to SMS texts.  And they also provided incentives.  Customers who signed up received an immediate thank you message and an offer to save ten percent off on future meals on weekdays between 1–5 PM.  They were also offered a “Bring a Friend Along” deal within three days of the offer and each saved 20 percent.

Here is the most compelling element of the plan: Harold’s tested the timing and content of the offers to optimize the usage of the promotions. They did this by placing a distinct keyword in each promotional message to track and understand the customer response. Harold’s discovered that the best responses came from messages delivered before noon and redeemable after a span of a few days.

The result was 10,000 opt-ins during the first seven months. The promotions delivered 53 percent redemption of the introductory coupon, 37 percent redemption rate of subsequent promotions, and an overall 11 percent lift in sales, resulting in incremental revenue! Harold’s used a true data-driven approach that was successful because they listened to their customers and then delivered what customers wanted.  This is what it means to “know your audience.”

Lessons learned? Harold’s approach to customer relationship management clearly demonstrates that marketers truly must evolve and focus their efforts on consumer demand.  If they don’t, they won’t last very long into this New Year.

It doesn’t have to be as overwhelmingly of an undertaking as you might think.  In fact, here are three important tactics that will help marketers evolve with the ever-changing marketplace.

Know your audience

Businesses must get to know their customers.  In the case of Harold’s Chicken Shack, the restaurant gained customer insight through an engaging SMS campaign. An alternative way to do this is to utilize customer data already located within the organization.

Unfortunately, however, accessing this data doesn’t always prove easy. There is often an organizational divide between the people who manage data and the people who require the use of data in order to take action. And even when the data is accessed, it often isn’t “clean,” leading to inaccuracy and an inability to act. But there are solutions available that can help businesses achieve more strategic analytics. Companies like ING have implemented an information platform that enables them to actively reuse data across different product lines and geographies.

Use the right tools

According to the 2013 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends report, 87 percent of marketers are using social media to distribute content, but only 49 percent rate it “effective” or “very effective” – not exactly confidence-inspiring.  Finding the right balance for utilizing tools to distribute your relevant content and analyze what your targets are discussing is essential.

As we saw before, Harold’s utilized text messaging. But the chocolate company Godiva instead used an integrated marketing strategy across multiple platforms to connect to their audience. The company uses the data collected from its customer loyalty program to specialize individual messaging across each particular site. According to the DMMnews report linked above, marketing to support Godiva’s B2B and B2C sales includes email, the loyalty program, print catalogs, search engine marketing, and social media outreach.

Don’t scare customers away

Marketing is about bonding, not branding, so marketers must be sensitive when mining for customer data. Take the example of Target, who received backlash for sending promotions to women in their second trimester of pregnancy, hoping to draw in expecting mothers to their store. This tactic may have been applauded a decade ago, but today in an atmosphere of over-communication and privacy issues, marketing efforts must be more precise, both in tone and manner.  The company responded by becoming more subtle in its future promotions.

The Harvard Business Review describes today’s best marketers as having three key qualities: comfort with ambiguity, ability to ask strategic questions based on data, and narrow focus on higher-order goals.

2013 will be a golden year for marketers if they are willing to adapt to the consumer-driven trend, and if they are willing to blend customer data into a specialized and targeted message. Harold’s Chicken Shack did just this, and met with success. This type of precision marketing is the recipe for successful marketing campaigns, and enables professionals to deliver the right message at the right time via the right channels.

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