Is This Your Brand’s Welcome Mat?

In case you missed my post on LinkedIn Pulse…

I tore a sticker off a food package, jumped on Google Chrome and entered a contest vanity URL for a chance to win a shiny Schwinn bike my daughter would love. This wasn’t one of my loyalty programs, just a simple “Get Your Instant Win On” contest from a brand I’ve never engaged online.

Hooked by their playful “Hey Mom!” marketing copy, I hit the website and was greeted with:

notactive2Oooh, nice touch on the rays.

My eyes scanned up, down, left, right for a follow-up message like “It’s not too late” or a pop-up like “Here’s something special.” I waited to be dazzled. Nada. Nothing happened, other than a strange feeling like I walked into a party a day late.

“We’re sorry, this promotion is not currently active.”

That’s when I saw the small print near the footer of the page about it being a “great community for moms.” Moms who don’t miss deadlines in fine print on the back under “Rules.” I’ve always hated rules.

I sat there, not as the marketer who knows web experiences for customers can be better; I was that customer who wanted the better experience. I felt unwelcome online, rejected over a silly contest. By a machine!

Lead Your Customers to Their Next Best Discovery

How many other CPG brands did I invest that time with online that day? None. Their brand’s missed opportunity–and my pouting about not being in the cool moms club–inspired me to share this experience.

Marketers refer to concepts like “Next Best Action” or “Next Best Offer.” Important? Absolutely, but if you’re a small company that doesn’t have a lot of resources or time to build models or automation, simplify. In fact, simple’s even good if you sell lunch meat. Look at the customer’s journey as one of discovering what’s next and exchanging value.

I’ll admit, tearing off a sticker and typing a code seems a little like taking a selfie with a Polaroid these days. But it led me, and undoubtedly a lot of chief household officers like me, to their website. It’s cool to market “old school,” just don’t send your customers down a dead-end path when they go online.

Think of marketing not as a means to an end, but as your customer’s journey to something more.

Put out your Brand’s Welcome Mat

Your website is your brand’s welcome mat. As a southerner in training, I’m learning a lot about hospitality. Website guests are party guests. Greet them at the door. Offer them a glass of sweet tea. Introduce them around. Pass the nibbles.

Eliminate Dead-Ends in Your Campaigns

At every step, ask what a customer’s next action could be. Create expressways to great content and ensure the customer gets a solid return on the time they invest engaging your brand over millions of others competing for their attention.

Don’t over-complicate things. Get started by looking at actions you’re driving and identifying what next step(s) the customer will take. If there are none, define one.

Here are few simple ideas to get started:

• Invite to your email list
• Link a blog post filled with tips
• Share a coupon for next purchase
• Comp access to an exclusive community or trial
• Ask for opinions on new products or services you’re considering

There is no official marketing playbook in the digital era, but hospitality reigns. Don’t shut your party down early. Think of marketing not as a means to an end, but as your customer’s journey to something more.

Got great ideas for making customers feel welcome on your website? Share them below or tweet to me at @joanna_rustin.

Joanna Rustin thrives on helping high-growth startups create a larger-than-life market presence. As founder of Rustin Communications, she advises and blogs on simple ways to ramp communications and engage influencers.