Legendary bank robber Willie Sutton, when asked why he robbed banks, replied: "Because it's where the money is." The same is true of your installed base: If there is any money to be made in this depressed market, it's here. This means if you're not doing dedicated, installed-base marketing, you're losing moneyand ground.
But your installed base-like the pretty girl at the dance-knows it's in demand and is playing the field appropriately. So simply doing more of the same marketing programs isn't going to work with these customers. You need a new way to gain their attention, to keep them engaged with and loyal to you, and ultimately, to induce them to buy your products and services. Here are the seven basic steps to get this program up and running:
1. Ownership: Ultimately you should have a vice president or director of installed base marketing. In the interim, assemble a SWAT team from marketing, product development, and support and establish specific, measurable objectives related to this program. Then, working with the vice president of sales, establish a revenue goal for each region and rep for their installed base.
2. Reaching and attracting your installed base: Reaching your installed base is one thing; getting those customers to respond is another issue. Use a targeted lead generation campaign, focusing on what your base cares about: solutions and business advantages based on your technology and products. For large numbers, use a compelling outbound electronic campaign; for higher-end clients (vice presidents and C-level executives), 3-D packaged piece may be necessary. Either way, the goal is to get them to respond, which for this example means bringing them to a microsite.
3. Engaging your core audience: Once you attract them, there better be something waiting for them at the other end-information, peer connections, or financial benefit. I'm suggesting microsites here because they can grow and be modified organically, showing that you're listening and responding to your audience's interests and needs. Give your users a number of options for points of entry and continued engagement: technology, products, industries, company size, business challenges, and solutions. The key is to provide these customers with sites where they can get valuable information they can't get elsewhere. And, once they're there, give them the opportunity to interact, not only with your products and technology people but with other users who share their interests and needs.
4. Keeping them engaged: Once they come to your microsite, you can keep them there initially with valuable information and communication opportunities. But keeping them coming back and participating requires equal parts information and an ongoing draw. Continually update the site with whitepapers and technology discussions featuring key company officials and product gurus where appropriate. Host conversations on provocative topics and act only as the facilitator, not as the authority. Also throw in a game or contest-something that is updated on a monthly or quarterly basis, allowing you to alert and reengage your audience on a regular basis.
5. Monitoring and directing the conversation: This is the most critical component, and the one that many companies overlook. Someone (or a team) needs to actively monitor and engage with your audience on these microsites. Make sure users know there's someone listening and responding, whether it's a direct response to a query or a quick response to a larger issue (such as getting the CEO to respond with a message to an issue that gets raised by a significant number of users). Route customers into your sales automation program if they show the right level of interest. On the training side, there are firms that specialize in social marketing that can train your employees or can provide trained monitors themselves.
6. Use micro-events to supplement your efforts: Many companies have some form of an event (user conference or the like) in which they bring together their installed base. If you're one of those, remember that your main event should be the culmination of a 365-day engagement cycle and the beginning of another. One way to keep that cycle active is to use micro-events. Whether these are digital, social, or virtual, they keep you in touch with your base and keep your solutions on display.
7. Do it again, only better: If your engagement marketing experiment bears fruit, it's time to take it from the experimental stage and integrate it into your marketing strategy. Take a fresh look at your marketing calendar for the next 18 months, with an eye toward integrating engagement into each initiative. The quicker these new technologies and methodologies become an organic part of your marketing operations, the stronger your campaigns will be, both in terms of revenue and customer loyalty.
Engagement marketing, done right, changes the dynamics of the vendor-customer relationship. It moves the dynamic from monologue or dialogue to conversation. It gives you the opportunity to show the depth of your business solutions as well as technology. And it helps put a human face to your company. All of which adds up to more engaged-and loyal-users, who will not only buy, but recommend. You couldn't ask for anything more in these economic times.
About the author: Tom Hogan is principal and creative director at Crowded Ocean, an event marketing agency. Contact him at email@example.com or 408-355-0108.