Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/kiranvalipavenkat
I recently took a cruise with Carnival Cruise Line (@CarnivalCruise). Before embarking, I signed up for its VFP program—Very Fun Person program. My expectation was that I would be signing up for a program that would offer me special deals on aspects of my cruise. And to some degree, it does.
The cruise went well—though there were a few hiccups along the way—and we returned home after a week travelling to and from the Caribbean.
Immediately upon return, I started receiving—no, being bombarded with—#marketing emails from Carnival. Every one had the same basic message—buy now! The details of the deals would change, but overall the #messaging was completely the same. So much so, in fact, that I finally opted out of receiving the majority of those messages. I figured I could look at the cruise line's website (and its competitors') the next time I planned on taking a cruise.
Where I think Carnival missed the boat, so to speak, with its email #marketing messaging is that while I would like a deal, there was little or differentiating incentive for me to buy now. Maybe a deal is enough for some folks to continue to open and read those almost-daily emails, but for me, I want more.
Stop Selling Me, Start Telling Me
Today's consumer wants more information than just a "buy now" message. We want messaging relevant to our lives. The days of direct selling messages are over.
What does that mean?
Tell me a #story. Make me feel like I could be experiencing that vacation. That's called #storytelling. And it's today's way to use #content to market to your customers. Let's look at the difference. Here's the email I got from Carnival (excerpted).
Subject: Holidays In July END SOON (Gifts Inside!)
Content: A graphic (see below)
An Alternate View
Let's look at how this could be changed to make it more experiential and engaging for me.
Subject: Season's Greetings Sale Ends Soon! (And Free Gifts!)
Content: Imagine lush, warm beaches, tropical drinks and endless sunshine—in the middle of winter!
While your friends are shivering in their woollies, scraping ice off of their cars and shoveling endless piles of snow, you'll be basking in the warmth of the Caribbean sun and lounging on white sand beaches, without a care in the world!
And don't forget our Season's Greetings gifts—just for you!
I would keep the graphic, but I think adding the text personalizes the message. In fact, I might even go so far as to write an email highlighting one of the islands—talk about its beaches, nightlife, sights to see, excursions I could take, and so on. If I read about the island this way (rather than having to do the homework myself), I might be more inclined to, you know, buy now!
Stories as Marketing Tools
Another way to go would be to tell the story of a recent cruiser. Perhaps there was a couple who took a cruise from the port I left from but who went to different islands. A short story highlighting their #experience would go a long way to getting me to picture myself on that cruise—and maybe I'd push the button to buy that experience. I know I'd be more inclined to do so with a story in my mind to encourage me to do so!
If you want to keep your customers, then you need to identify them with the product or service you're selling. Talking at them isn't going to entice them to spend more money with you or renew their #relationship. And constant bombardment of yet-another-sale-today just becomes ineffective white noise. Your customers will begin, like I did, to ignore those emails and you will have annoyed them for ultimately no reason—no sale!
Using content to create an experiential feeling is a great way to engage your customers—to get them to consider a new purchase, renew a membership and share their own experiences on social media to help your brand go viral.
To be honest, maybe the buy-now approach works well for Carnival. Perhaps the thinking is that, like car dealerships, if they constantly are in front of their customers with deals, when they're ready for a deal they'll remember Carnival.
But so far, I haven't booked another cruise with them, so it obviously isn't working for me!