Successful consumer marketing combines digital, face-to-face strategies to make it personal

The Corner Shop Diner in Bramwell, WV, opened circa 1910 as the Bryant Pharmacy and is still in business.  Photo from  Wikimedia Commons , photo credit: CC BY-SA 3.0.

The Corner Shop Diner in Bramwell, WV, opened circa 1910 as the Bryant Pharmacy and is still in business.  Photo from Wikimedia Commons, photo credit: CC BY-SA 3.0.

Customers, including the much-desired millennials, crave personal marketing.

This lesson is resonating in the age of digital customer relationship management. But all customers, including tech-savvy millennials, need more than an email to feel wanted, warns a host of business experts.

“The future of consumer marketing is personal,” proclaimed in a recent article.

“This is a revolution in marketing,” article noted. “It is shifting marketers from thinking in terms of media, channels and audiences to thinking about personalized messaging to individuals, each with their own preferences, personal history with the brand and unique value to the brand.”

Yet, the revolution also is a throwback. TechCrunch compared these consumer marketing shifts to age-old techniques: “In some ways, this is similar to retail a century ago when the local storekeeper knew your preferred brands, your shopping habits, when you had guests in town, your medical conditions or other personal details, and tailored their service appropriately. Some people appreciate the personal service; some would prefer the storekeeper not to know their business.”

Personal marketing is also a case of right place, right time. Companies are now armed with the technology that has allowed businesses to deliver a more customized approach to marketing while at the same time facing the challenge of reaching the millennial population —  the generation born in the 1980s through the mid-1990s, who in large part created the need for personalized marketing.

An Entrepreneur article reiterates the point: “Model your business on the corner store. Even with technology at your fingertips, don’t forget the face-to-face interactions that can make a difference.

"Everyone likes to feel they're important enough that someone remembers the little things in their life. It's one important way we go past viewing customers as a dollar sign to a human who is appreciated,” said Laurie Brown, owner of a sales training company in Detroit and the author of The Greet Your Customer Manual.

Other consumer marketing advice offered by Brown included asking customers questions first and talk about yourself to establish a bond, be patient, and “step away from your computer and smartphone.”

That last piece of advice to step away your devices seems counterintuitive in the age of millennial shoppers, but Entrepreneur made the case.

“While it's often much quicker and less stressful to email a potential customer, face-to-face meetings and networking are far more effective in creating meaningful connections,” the article noted.

This notion gained some validity last year. Last summer, a study of millennial shopping trends debunked the notion that these younger shoppers rely solely on handheld devices to shop.

Adweek reported last August, “A new report suggests that contrary to popular assumptions about the much-coveted generation of digital natives, millennial shoppers actually like going to brick-and-mortar stores — a great deal, actually. According to research by behavioral marketing firm SmarterHQ, a whopping 50 percent of millennials not only go to physical stores, they prefer going to them as a primary means of shopping. …”

The article continued, “The picture that emerges is that millennials are not as easy to snare as their Gen X and boomer counterparts. Even so, a number of retailers have already adapted to the millennial shopping patterns identified in SmarterHQ’s report. They have, in essence, confronted showrooming by opening showrooms.”

Forbes, in an August 2017 report, urged companies to remember the marketing personal touch, particularly when dealing with millennials:“Millennials, like all others, are engaged by stories of people like us who go through journeys relevant to our lives. As such, a company's best asset is a compelling story arc of a millennial who's been a customer or employee. If you reach out in a very real and personalized manner, your interaction and engagement will lead to a better understanding of your brand.”

Ultimately, no matter the age of the customer, personal marketing is all about being in a relationship — one that has meaning to both parties. Forbes concluded, “Great customer service equals great marketing. That authentic voice is what all people, millennials especially, are looking for.