Cutting through the clutter: communication strategies for connecting with customers


We're going to talk about: 

1) how hard it is to get people’s attention;

2) why it’s worth the effort, and

3) how to take the first steps to doing it like an expert


Pay Attention @ 2:44

Everybody feels that they are stressed, that it’s hard to pay attention and get through the clutter. You have social media vying for your attention. Maybe the family car needs repaired. Maybe the dog needs a walk, or the kids’ school just called, the phone rings. It never ends.

It is harder and harder to pay attention in a busy world where we are all electronically connected, and we are trying to live our lives – that of family or volunteering. We have a lot going on right now. So, how hard it is cut through the clutter? I read an article recently that showed that over 20 times an hour, roughly every three minutes, they’re looking at another screen or pulled away from one thing and distracted by another. According to recent data, the average person’s attention span is around eight seconds. It’s hard to stay on task.  

As marketers, we are marketing in a world where people feel busier than ever, and they aren’t exactly helping themselves because they are so easily distracted.  Consider the number of commercial messages that were broadcast to consumers five years ago versus the number of marketing messages a consumer sees on an average day today.

It has been estimated that we see some 4,000 messages directed at us every single day: that’s billboards and other outdoor advertising, everything you see online scrolling through webpages’ it’s magazines and newspapers, radio; and nearly 1.5 million times a year somebody is trying to get inside your head. Another question to consider: do you subscribe to a media or streaming service that doesn’t show ads or commercials. Think of Pandora, a website or blog without paid ads, Netflix anyone? 

This is a bit of an act of self-preservation. We are actively hiding from marketing messages, trying to avoid them at all costs. We are all busy. We have a short attention span. Messages are coming at us fast and furious, and we are hiding from them if we can. The marketplace we’re trying to reach with our messages about our organization, to carry forward our mission and to the work in the world that we want to do, they've got to be good to make a difference. The messages must be able to get customers to really understand and believe in the brand.

A little introduction for you here: I spent 20 years in the corporate world with global firms like Hewlett-Packard, McKinsey & Company, and Microsoft. One of the last couple of corporate roles I was in was working to help Microsoft make close connections with senior executives from big customer and partner companies as director of the executive briefing center. I was a speechwriter for a senior executive at Microsoft for a while.

These days, I keep myself busy with consulting on marketing and messaging for companies and their teams, coaching on messaging and storytelling and public speaking for individual leaders and organizational departments. I love public speaking and I love teaching. I love helping people build relationships. Now I have my own company, 3C Comms. We call ourselves the three C's for the “customer connection company.” If we can help our clients build stronger and more productive relationships with the audiences that matter to them, we are fulfilling our mission.


Why Closeness Counts @ 13:15

It’s very important to build a relationship as a brand with your customers, partners, or employees or any other important audiences. The evidence is very compelling: there is some variation between the business to consumer and business to business markets, but the same principles apply. Loyal customers are repeat customers. A customer who purchases from a brand one time has about a quarter of a chance going for a second purchase. And once the second purchase gets made, the odds jump to over 50% of their going to make a third purchase. It is our job to make sure that this happens. 

If 90% of your customers are spending that much with you, there is a group of about 10% at the top who are spending almost three times as much. What do we as marketers have to do here? 

We have to get more customers, sure, but they can’t simply be clustered at the bottom of your customer period. Your goal has to be growing fans and advocates, not just transactional customers, because loyalty counts. It pays off in spades.

It has a couple of characteristics to it that are important to think about here: not only can you decrease your customer acquisition costs if a lot of your business is coming in through referrals, you can increase your customer lifetime value when you turn them into fans and advocates.


Why The Things You Can’t Count Matter, Too @15:40

Sometimes your first and best customers are the people who will try your beta products and services, are going to be the folks who have been with you for a long time. Many people crowdsource their content and they pull themselves out of the middle of the customer conversation, letting them talk amongst themselves to amplify the specific brand messages. 

I’ve been with organizations that have taken advantage of advisory groups of loyal customers. I’ve seen companies that have hit rough patches in the road, and the folks who stick with them (whether through controversy or sub-par delivery of a product, etc.) – it’s your loyal customers who will support you in tough times.

Think of the business to business world, the referral sites and discussion forums (Angie's List, Trust Pilot, G2, others) – the number of people going to sites to find out what other people say about products and services is growing. They go to look for affirmation that a particular product or service is valued by other people in the market. Interesting. 

A recent study in the financial services industry by Bain showed that a 5% increase in customer retention turned into more than a 24% increase in overall profit. So, it’s not just an increase in customer lifetime value, turning a customer into a loyal one, a fan or advocate, it becomes more profitable and they do more business with the brand.

--> Start listening @ 17:35 for examples of marketing that connects with customers.

It takes seven impressions just to get noticed. How many more does it take to be remembered, and what happens if you put messages out there but they’re not connecting? What if you’re putting messages out into different channels and they don’t alight with one another, buttress or amplify one another? 

I was on the phone with a prospective client the other day, a leader for a museum, and they’re getting ready for their annual financial campaign. The woman I was speaking with was responsible for getting out the annual campaign, and she had her email plan all together, and was handling direct mail, and I told her that was all great. Then, I asked her what they’re doing to support the efforts on social media? She said, well, that comes out of a different department. I asked if they were going to have posters in the front of the museum where people pick up their tickets or prep the ticket-takers to share information about the campaign. I asked if there was going to be a button they were going to have made so the docents and guards or ushers could wear them and reinforce the campaign messaging. You can probably guess her answer: she doesn’t control that channel. 

Audience-focused, Benefit-led Messages @ 24:05

Introduction to the Messaging Framework: it’s going to answer some questions for your organization, and ultimately as you face the outside world: who are you going to reach, and what is the perception you want them to have of your organization? 

Messaging Framework: key themes in context, examples @ 24:50

Wherever you are – on social media, your website, email marketing: wherever those who come in contact with your brand are, they should experience your brand the same way. The real value of a Messaging Framework is it serves as a single source of truth for what you say about your brand and how your business shows up to the world. 

  • @ 39:15 ~ The art of storytelling, building, chasing stories

  • @ 43:30 ~ How are you going to create community? 

  • @ 45:15 ~ Q and A begins



Click on the image below to learn more about communication expert and founder of 3C, Bryan Rutberg: