How companies can take ownership of their brand by talking directly to consumers
By: Daryl Wurzbacher
Over the years, companies have leveraged representatives in various ways to acquire and service customers with varying levels of engagement. Depending on the company’s exact product, service, and culture, this could include a wide range of focus—from creating brand awareness and developing and conducting product training, through to providing customer service for new customers.
Today, there is an emerging trend of companies taking more control over their brand’s representation and outreach efforts by talking directly to consumers instead of relying solely on the representatives in the field. Through these direct outreach efforts, companies have been able to multiply and accelerate brand awareness as well as have more control over their customer acquisition process.
Corporate activities typically center around two types of goals: (1) procuring new buyers through customer acquisition efforts; and (2) growing relationships with current customers through customer journey mapping with value-adds planned for each stage of interaction.
Companies are fully embracing driving overall brand awareness, from being active on social media (content and advertising) to running pay-per-click campaigns in other channels.
While there’s a significant opportunity here, there are also a number of important components that need to be carefully thought through and planned.
Companies are fully embracing overall brand awareness, from being active on social media (content and advertising) to running pay-per-click campaigns in other channels. They have been slowly adopting these practices over the years, but we’ve seen an influx in this more recently. The biggest concern has always been ensuring that the corporate office isn’t competing with the salesforce. Now companies have leveraged several solutions that can turn this into a true partnership with the field.
When analyzing customer acquisition efforts, a few approaches that have been working for companies include:
Corporate-referred orders through websites – This helps promote and build awareness through social, pay-per-click (PPC), and other types of digital campaigns.
The creation of Amazon storefronts – This leverages direct marketing, keywords ads, and product reviews to create significant online awareness.
Simplify ‘Finding Your Representative’ During Ordering Process
When implementing direct-to-consumer programs, it’s essential to consistently remind the customer to “find their representative” if someone referred them in order to avoid a perception of corporate “taking customers.” Leveraging geographic locators or searching by Rep name are a couple of simple ways to associate the sale to the Representative.
When enabling a customer to search for their Representative, it’s also essential to think about where this fits in the overall journey and the balance between “low friction” versus adding friction with additional steps in the ordering process.
Areas to consider:
Immediate “prompt” when landing on a page – A simplified “promo code” (similar to what you see in Affiliate Marketing) can be required to purchase when on a corporate site.
Before cart/purchasing action – Purchasing from the corporate site can be prevented until the customer selects their Representative.
Before “finalizing” the order – Adding this step towards the end of the ordering process is another common location where companies can prompt the customer to find their Representative.
As companies look to connect blind customers with consultants, one of the most important decisions they will have to make is when to assign them—before or after the purchase. When a customer doesn’t have a prior relationship with a Representative, there’s a good argument to make the connection after the purchase. This enables a low-friction ordering process while at the same time provides a source of leads for the field.
Customer Benefits to Shop with a Representative
When considering a direct-to-consumer approach, it’s critical to incentivize customers to purchase through your field and have clear benefits to ordering through a Rep, versus directly from corporate. For example, some companies have higher prices when shopping directly from the company. By contrast, when purchasing from a Rep, customers would receive a customer/preferred discount.
Companies have sold their products on Amazon for approximately 10 percent to 20 percent higher than the retail price a customer would pay if they had shopped directly with a representative. Additionally, by owning your company store on Amazon, you have significantly more control over the prices, and you’ll reduce the risk of individuals listing products below the retail price.
Providing Benefits to Representatives
- Beyond capturing the initial sale, it’s essential to think through what happens after a customer has placed an order, and how that sale can benefit your broader sales organization. Again, companies leverage a variety of methods here, depending on their exact programs. A couple of examples are:
- Corporate “accepts” the initial order, which funds the customer acquisition efforts. The customer is then assigned to a Representative to enable a more personal relationship and benefit the field.
Corporate creates a “pool” bonus for these initial orders, which is paid based on rank/productivity requirements to those who fund the acquisition efforts through a website fee or other add-ons. After the initial order, the customer is assigned to a Representative to create a more personal relationship and provide an even more significant benefit to the field beyond the “pool.”
Regardless of the exact approach, your representatives must participate in and benefit from the solution. Once you align on the general approach, leveraging the field to assist in training and supporting the overall solution will become critical.
When implementing any “customer assignment” process, it’s essential to have methods to quantify results and ensure representatives are taking action and following up with their assigned customers—based on your specific approach and training. The last thing you want is to build an elaborate customer acquisition and assignment system, and no one follows up with the customers, thus eliminating the long-term value. Instead, use tracking to drive future assignments and eliminate representatives that are not producing results.
Leveraging Landing Pages and Simplified Ordering Funnels
When running pay-per-click campaigns, a best practice is to leverage simplified “landing and capture” pages that target specific products and reduced capture flows. This is especially important if you have several products and the marketing campaigns are focused on individual products. Conversion rates are highest when the landing page showcases the specific product featured in the ad.
Right now companies are developing drip campaigns aligned with capture pages, asking for simplified contact information (e.g., email and SMS), and leveraging this for automated follow-up if a customer doesn’t complete an order or abandons their cart.
Customer Retention and Growth
Beyond customer acquisition, companies are also engaging and growing existing customer relationships on behalf of the field. For example, inviting customers to receive rewards, discounts, or free products by participating in a customer referral program is an approach working for many companies.
Some additional examples include:
Email Marketing – Leveraging existing customers and developing ongoing marketing campaigns, from monthly product specials to other promotions. It’s vital to ensure that any purchasing links and “calls to action” link to their Representatives’ replicated site. This is one of the most common programs companies use.
Email Drip Campaigns – Developing targeted drip campaigns based on customer activity—whether it’s product-specific follow-ups, promoting opportunities to earn product for free, or abandoned carts, there’s a significant opportunity to drive more engagement with messaging that targets the specific activities of a customer.
Text Messaging – Email has become less effective over the years. With the extremely high delivery and read rates of text messages, companies are adopting texting solutions that drive personalized campaigns based on ordering and past activity.
Social Media Remarketing – Social Media has been a prime driver for growing sales in a quarantined world. Leveraging remarketing based on abandoned cart sessions or initial product interest is a great way to maintain interest and drive ordering.
Customer Referral Programs – When you develop customers who love your products, it becomes natural to reward those customers for sharing the products. Not only does this open the door to new acquisition channels, but it also helps solidify the long-term relationship with your most valuable customers.
One of the most critical elements to keep in mind as a company implementing growth and retention strategies is that you must consider how the Representatives can duplicate the messaging in the marketing materials and digital advertising. Consistency in the brand voice and messaging with material that is easy to read and re-share are vital.
In analyzing companies with successful direct-to-consumer strategies in 2021, the biggest takeaway is that those companies who implement growth, outreach, and client acquisition strategies should also give equal thought to how they can build their brand in the customer’s eyes and create a deeper relationship with those customers. At the same time, they should consider the impact of such efforts on their field and ensure their Representatives are aware of the programs, on the same page for messaging and triage, and benefit from the efforts.
As companies continue to figure out how they want to engage with consumers, the topics that will continue to evolve include making ordering more cost-effective and enabling more product-sharing.