It’s the art of perfectly timed marketing

Guest blogger – Jen Talbot, Senior Account Manager

Responsible for the day-to-day account management of some of Underwired’s clients including ESPN and Regus worldwide, Jen advises on digital best practice and marketing strategy, and coordinates planning workshops for customer journey mapping.

Jen joined Underwired in July 2013 bringing with her experience from previous roles at Havas EHS in account management and project planning for both digital and integrated campaigns for brands in the financial, utilities and leisure sectors including Barclays Wealth, CPA Global and E.ON.

In an age of connectivity, where everything has become instantaneous, the sense of meaningful communication has been lost in the constant noise of notifications and reminders. So, with this being today’s reality, what does this mean for the modern day marketer?

When you see a stunning rainbow or a great piece of street art, what do you do? Instagram it, Vine it, Tweet it, Facebook it? When you’re out for the day how many times do you respond to texts, WhatsApp messages, emails or tweets?

Media theorist, Douglas Rushkoff, has outlined our obsession for trying to capture the moment, but never quite living in it, in his new book ‘Present Shock’. He makes the point that, “The only kind of people that used to be contacted this frequently and this incessantly, were 911 operators – and they would only do it for two or three hours during the day. And then they would be medicated in order to be able to live that way”.

Kronos vs Kairos
Taking inspiration from Ancient Greek, today’s marketers have two differing methods to select from, when looking to determine the ‘right moment in time’ for customer communication. Definitions of ‘Kronos’ and ‘Kairos’ – both Ancient Greek words for ‘Time’ – distinguish these methods:

1. Kronos
Kronos means chronological or clock-driven. A marketer’s version of Kronos is: “I know that by sending my newsletter on Thursday at 1pm I will get a better response than at any other time”. Or “I know that by sending an email every week I will get more repeat purchases”.

2. Kairos
Kairos is the alternative sense of time, succinctly put by John Pulakos, in his 1983 article ‘toward a Sophistic Definition of Rhetoric’: “In short, Kairos dictates that what is said must be said at the right time.” In marketing, we can interpret this as both the readiness or ‘openness’ for conversation, and the choice of selecting the appropriate moment.

The age of bombardment
According to Microsoft, the average person has 184 emails in their inbox and receives at least another 28 emails each day. According to Ofcom, 49% of people regularly ‘media mesh’ – using devices for completely unrelated activities whilst watching TV – and an average of 500 million tweets are sent everyday.

With all this noise and irrelevance, companies are forever looking to achieve efficiencies using the Kronos method, a chronological approach to sending marketing communications. By doing a simple Google search of ‘best time to send email’ 1,550,000,000 results are produced. But how many companies implement this approach without looking further into their audience motivations?

When IS the right moment?
One source suggests potential reasoning for the most successful time frames for each sector and industry. For example, the ‘post work peak’ (between 5pm and 7pm) is considered to be the best time to send marketing emails, in terms of open rates.

When Gmail announced the implementation of ‘tabs’ to its inbox, companies were concerned that response rates would go down. In fact, within the first few weeks of the update, the opposite was true and the open and transaction rates actually increased. Although rates are approaching the average again now, this uplift highlights the affect of taking the Kairos approach and the importance of having an audience that is ‘ready’ to view marketing emails. This ‘readiness’ essentially means that recipients are in more of an open mind to click through to the email and transact where relevant.

Kairos in CRM
Readiness, or indeed Kairos, is absolutely key to CRM, as it ensures marketers are carefully considering when the audience is ‘ready’ to hear from your company. In so many cases, communication programmes are run on a periodic or silo basis – onboarding, newsletters, loyalty programmes, retention – all overlapping and clamouring for attention.

Let’s think now about how many times a company has said ‘thank you’ to you for being a customer. Now let’s think about how many times a company has said ‘thank you’ only to use this as an opportunity to cross-sell? Some might see this second option as an efficiency that their customers would appreciate. But by having a ‘dual-purpose’ communication you actually weaken both messages. There should be a time and a place for everything. The acceptance and desire for tools, such as the Gmail ‘tabs’ or Outlook’s ‘advanced rules’, show the increasing importance for customers to control when they are ready to be spoken to. So with this in mind, a thank you should just be that; ‘thank you’.

Kairos in practice
Confused.com is a good example of using Kairos in practice. Having used the insurance search engine for a quote comparison in March, a month later – when I’d nearly forgotten about it – they sent me a birthday email. There was no sales message, just a humorous email from the brand mascot, Brian the Robot. The email immediately put me in a great mood and brought Confused.com to the front of my mind. It made me want to show my friends and it generally made me feel pretty good to be a customer. A couple of months then passed by and they nudged me again, this time about a new app that was available.

Confused.com is playing the long game as it clearly understands that it will be a year before I make another decision about my insurance. We both know that I’m not in the market right now, but in the meantime I’m being made to feel appreciated – and entertained – therefore enhancing the chances of a repeat purchase. And before I return to the website, to potentially make a purchase, I have been providing my word of mouth recommendations to colleagues and friends about the company and its great customer service.

Conclusion
So after all this talk of Ancient Greek, where do we as marketers stand? Well, hopefully with a realisation that when juggling existing communications plans, business goals, stakeholder opinions and a disorganised or legacy database, the thought of “What does the customer want from my company?” can often fall by the wayside. But, this question should hold equal if not a greater importance than the thought of “What do I (the business) want to tell my customer?” This is because it can inform and give greater value to everything from data segmentation to communications content.

When a communication becomes supportive and not ‘shouty’, useful but not needy, and timely yet not thoughtless, we start to see appreciation in the form of response. Through this approach, we regain the value of meaningful communications and become able to cut through the chaos of a ‘Present Shock’ inbox.