Commentary: Creating compelling content across digital marketing channels

Oct. 27, 2011

By Jeff Judge, CEO, Signal

In today's QSR landscape, communicating with all your customers in the same way using mass marketing is no longer effective. Guests respond more favorably to communications that are highly personalized and relevant. Thankfully, digital marketing gives you a variety of channels through which you can create these individualized communications.

If you are just starting to build a cross-channel digital marketing strategy, it's important to consider the differences between each of the main channels — email, mobile and social media — and customize your content for each. Below are some best practices for each channel that our QSR clients have used to good effect.

Email is the "tried and true" digital channel, and the one that QSRs are most experienced with. To communicate effectively with subscribers on your email list:

  • Use your company name in the "From" field and consider repeating it in the subject line.
  • Keep your subject lines 50 characters or less so they're completely visible upon opening. Use descriptive language and avoid "spammy" words.
  • Organize the most important information first in the body of the email. Break your content into short paragraphs and bullets.
  • Provide a highly visible link for special offers so people can easily click to a printable coupon.
  • Send morning offers to attract people to your restaurant for dinner or the weekend. Email open and click rates are high in the early morning, and also attractive in the mid-afternoon and early evening.
  • Tie communications to meaningful events, such as their initial subscription to your list, their birthday and company milestones. According to one study, the optimal email frequency is one to four times a month.

Mobile marketing is an ideal way to reach your most dedicated customers anywhere, in real time. Eighty-three percent of texts are read within one hour, and mobile has three to five times the reported click-through rate of other media. Remember to:

  • Keep your communications under the 160-character SMS limit.
  • Use short words, not abbreviations. Eliminate long URLs with a URL shortener.
  • Take advantage of mobile's timeliness and immediacy to send lunch and weekend specials at midday, when email open rates are lowest.
  • Focus on enticing offers such as buy-one-get-one free and loss-leader incentives to spur impulse purchases and keep people from unsubscribing.
  • Avoid overdoing it. Once a week or less is a good starting point.

Social media is the fastest-growing channel, and a great way to forge stronger relationships with guests. Avoid the hard sell, but do offer valuable deals and giveaways. One study found that 37 percent of Facebook users "like" fan pages just to receive coupons and deals. Understand the differences between Twitter and Facebook to tailor your approach to each.

On Facebook:

  • Create consistently compelling offers that prompt likes, comments and click-throughs. Facebook's algorithm determines whether your fans are engaging with your posts regularly, and removes you from their News Feeds if they don't — even though they "like" you.
  • Keep your posts no longer than one or two lines.
  • Consider posting every other day to start. One analysis found that Facebook pages updating with this frequency had the most likes. Remember, getting your fans to regularly click on your posts is integral.
  • Post during high activity periods such as lunch, early morning, late evening and weekends.
  • Reply to fan comments as promptly as possible.

On Twitter:

  • Don't be afraid to send the same tweet a few times throughout the day, like 8 a.m., 12 p.m. and 6 p.m. Twitter's Timeline is, as the name suggests, chronological and your followers are likely to see only your most recent posts.
  • Post at least once a day to start, and consider posting more often, but use common sense and don't overdo it.
  • Tweet during high activity periods, such as at lunch and at 6 p.m. Consider posting more often midweek and on weekends.
  • Write with a personal, human voice and maintain variety in your tweets. Share success stories and company history and engage followers with questions and surveys. But still keep deals at the forefront, as these create the most value for your followers.

While these basic guidelines should serve as a good starting point, you will only truly learn what timing, frequency and content works best for your customers in each channel through ongoing experimentation and analysis.

Over time, your goal should ultimately be to develop a universal profile of every customer across all digital channels. By doing so, you will learn the channel, timing, frequency and deals that each customer responds to best. This information, in turn, will enable you to harness the full power of digital marketing to personalize your customer communications like never before.

Jeff Judge is CEO at Signal, a Chicago-based company that offers a dead simple product that unifies e-mail, mobile and social marketing in a single platform. Recently named No. 108 on the 2011 Inc. 500 report, Signal offers more great insight on Twitter, Facebook and their blog.

Topics: Business Strategy and Profitability , Marketing / Branding / Promotion , Online / Mobile / Social

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