Small is the New Big: Why Relevancy is the Killer App

December 12, 2016 Jay Baer

by Jay Baer

Every marketer since the time of Pompeii has told him or herself the same lie:

“My customers are just too busy to consume, engage, and interact with my marketing.”

It’s absolutely untrue.

In business and in life, when people tell you they are “too busy” to do something, that’s actually a coded phrase. They are trying to let you down easy. What “too busy” actually means is that whatever you want them to do or read or watch isn’t RELEVANT ENOUGH for them to do so.

When you give customers what they want in the format that they prefer, the time necessary for them to consume, engage, and interact with your marketing magically appears.

Battle the Invitation Avalanche

Relevancy is the killer app. Big, broad communications and marketing are often less successful now than small, hyper-targeted variants that are more specific and relevant.

This phenomenon becomes more important with each passing day, as all customers are enveloped by an invitation avalanche—the collected appeals of thousands of businesses asking them to watch, share, click, comment, read, and download.

And of course, this invitation avalanche reaches peak velocity during the holiday season, making conditions perfect for studying the companies who successfully tunnel through the metaphorical messaging blizzard with specificity and relevancy.

In my book Youtility I wrote about Midwest retailer Meijer’s early use of a mobile app called FindIt to help in-store patrons plot their path through cavernous retail locations. This is hyper-relevant when you have a shopping list that includes disparate items like socks, batteries, hangers, milk, and motor oil, and you are confronted with a purchasing environment larger than many Indiana towns.

Since then, many more large retailers have adopted similar technology, including Home Depot, whose mobile app includes not just item location functions but an augmented reality feature so shoppers can determine how items might look in their own home. That’s relevant!

The app also helps bring online and in-store purchase behaviors together, according to Home Depot spokesman Stephen Holmes in an article in USA Today where he stated that 40% of online purchases from Home Depot are picked up at a store, and nearly 25% of those shoppers make additional purchases when picking up their items.

Bridge the Relevancy Gaps

Bridge the Relevancy Gaps

Historically, one of the biggest “relevancy gaps” in retail is salespersons’ lack of information and insight. Few things irk consumers more—especially during the holiday buying crush—than a salesperson on a retail floor that knows no more (and sometimes knows less) than the customer.

Toys R Us, GameStop, Kate Spade and other companies are using new, relevancy-boosting software from Tulip Retail that gives retail salespeople access to detailed product info, specs, inventory and other helpful information via a mobile app than can be accessed in seconds when assisting a customer.

But perhaps my favorite relevancy amplifier in retail exists only in e-commerce. It’s called Needle, and it’s the ultimate in live chat because the “how can I help you” conversations feature real customer advocates, not company employees.

I covered Needle in my newest book, Hug Your Haters.

 “We find the advocates—for example, Adidas‘ best customers who are just passionate about Adidas soccer and are already talking about Adidas in social media and in forums. And we put them to work to drive sale for Adidas,” Amy Heidersbach, Needle‘s former CMO told me when I interviewed her for the book.

Norwegian Cruise Line has been a Needle customer since 2012. A cruise is a big purchase festooned with uncertainty. Which ship should I book? Which itinerary? What excursions?

Barrie is a cruise expert who loves answering questions, and she is the one of the top-performing Needle advocates in the Norwegian Cruise Line community. Since she‘s been a certified Needle advocate for NCL, she has sold more than $5 million worth of cruises, according to Heidersbach.

“If you are on Norwegian Cruise Lines‘ website and are exhibiting behavior we‘ve identified as needing help, you might see a window appear that says, ‘Would you like to talk with Barrie, a cruise expert?'" Heidersbach explains. “And if you click on that, you are then put into a chat conversation with Barrie. And she‘s a real person. You can see her real photo. She can talk with you about all the cruises she‘s been on. And she knows the dimensions of the state rooms and how many inches are between the end of the bed and the wall. She knows it all.”

A real customer answering my questions about the product exactly when I want, and the whole time I never even have to get dressed? Now that’s relevant!

Commit to Small & Specific Marketing Plans

While these examples are dedicated to retail and commerce, the need for relevancy is just as acute, and perhaps more so, in content marketing and communications.

Customers have neither the time nor the desire to slog through your manifesto that attempts to educate and inform them about 14 dimensions of your product and service. That kind of marketing tries to make up for lack of specificity and relevancy by covering every base. This is definitely efficient for the marketer: "Hey, let’s just make one, really long white paper!” but is not the best way to fight through the invitation avalanche.

You don’t need a marketing plan; you need many marketing plans, each dedicated to informing, persuading, and delighting a specific customer at a specific point in the consideration funnel.

Instead, marketers (and content marketers, in particular) should commit to creating more content in more places, with more relevancy and more faces. Specific stories rooted in humanity will work vastly better than broad, flabby, general collections of bullet points.

You don’t need a marketing plan; you need many marketing plans, each dedicated to informing, persuading, and delighting a specific customer at a specific point in the consideration funnel.

And this is why marketing software is a must-have at this point. If you focus on relevancy, you must create more iterations of every piece of communication to keep them sharp and focused enough to resonate. It’s nearly impossible to keep track of that in your head, on a piece of paper, or in a Google or Excel doc.

Whether you use Workfront or something else, software that helps you organize your many marketing executions will allow you to stay on task, on time, and on point, enabling you to outflank your competition by being more relevant than they’ll ever be.

About the Author

Jay Baer

Jay Baer is a renowned business strategist, inspirational keynote speaker, and the New York Times bestselling author of five books who travels the world helping businesspeople gain and keep more customers. Jay has advised with more than 700 companies since 1994, including Caterpillar, Nike, Allstate, and 32 of the FORTUNE 500.

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