Effective Communication Must Be In-Context

Posted by Kate Jurras on Mon, Aug 20, 2012

KW resized 600Guest post by Karl Wirth. Karl Wirth is the co-founder and CEO of Apptegic, a customer intelligence and marketing automation solution that enables online businesses to understand each customer and respond in real-time on-website and in-context based on the customer’s behavior and business characteristics.

Ten years ago, Seth Godin wrote that effective communication with customers must be “anticipated, personal, and relevant.”  I’ve always liked this.

But I think another word must be added: “in-context.”  Effective communication with customers must be in-context.

Let’s imagine a scenario. I have visited a company’s website and given them permission to contact me about a solution I want to buy for my work. I anticipate that they will do so. I am looking forward to the conversation. They prepare a great personally targeted, relevant response to me. This has all the makings of effective communication.  

But then they call me at 6:30pm during dinner to deliver their response, or at 11pm when I’m in bed. This won’t be effective communication.
Few people outside of telemarketers will make this mistake with a phone call, but everybody makes it with email. You don’t know when I will be checking my inbox, so it's likely I will get even your anticipated, personal, and relevant pitch out of context.

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We marketers need to think about communicating in-context as much as we think about delivering anticipated, personal, and relevant communication.
I’ve analyzed different methods of communicating to customers for how in-context they are across the following three dimensions:

  • Speed of response to what the customer says or does
  • Is the customer thinking of your business when you communicate?
  • Is the communication 1 to 1 or 1 to many?

One method might need explaining. In-Context Messaging lets you show a targeted message in real-time in your application or on your website. You can target it to a group of users based on their behavior and business attributes. This is nice because it's real-time and in-context.

Different methods of communication are appropriate for different situations, but the more we can make our communication anticipated, personal, relevant AND in-context, the better.
A time for email messaging and a time for in-context messaging
If the customer is not interacting with you, then email is one good way to try to get them back. At that point, your relationship is becoming again like new customer acquisition. You try to reach them and you settle for low percentage response rates.  
Likewise, if you have a business where your customer interacts with you infrequently, then an occasional email to remind them of your existence or provide an insight, update, or white paper can build the relationship.
But if your customer is interacting with you, if you have an ongoing relationship, then many things are best communicated to your customer in-context, as they are interacting with you. 

In-context messaging is the notion of messaging your customers right as they interact with your website or application. If you have something to say to them, tell them while they are thinking of you, while they are interacting with you.

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Here are 9 ways that companies use in-context messaging:

  1. Finish that funnel. Different message at each step in a funnel to move customers to the next step.
  2. Get set up. Encourage customers to finish the setup process with messages appropriate to where they are.
  3. Use my key features. "You've made great use of our document systems edit and spellcheck features, now try collaborating on this doc together with a friend"
  4. Use these new features. Don't spam everyone about your new features but encourage those who haven't used them to try them out.
  5. Advance to Go. Once a user has made frequent use of more basic features, give them hints about the more advanced features.  
  6. Friendly reminder. "Its been 3 weeks since you posted your last blog in our system, click here for ideas on how to get blog regularly and the benefits of doing so"
  7. Personal touch. You can use Apptegic to send a personal message to one user or to everyone in an account. Thank them. Point out something you were discussing.  
  8. Upsell/cross-sell. "Congrats on updating your Crunchbase page to show that you just got more funding. If you are looking to hire, click here to visit our JobBoard."
  9. Close the deal. Suppose a customer visits 5 times over the past 5 days, spends 20 minutes looking at the same item, offer them a 10% discount to buy now.

Consider adding in-context messaging to your retention marketing mix. Of course, it doesn't replace email, but it can be an effective way to communicate with your customers... in context.