We have already identified the pervasive problem of over communication with customers due to the wide variety of internal silos all communicating at once. But being aware of the problem is one thing, doing something about it is quite another, especially considering the complex nature of organisations and often their ever increasing global comms footprint. So where do you start in trying to eliminate silos to ensure you become truly customer-centric as a business?

Think from your audience’s perspective


First of all you need to start with your audience and sadly this is where many companies trip up at the first hurdle as each team within the business silos are too focused on their own internal objectives of selling more of X, launching Y or achieving Z% engagement rate, which leads them to make decisions that are for the company’s benefit and not their audience’s. The result can lead to the complete opposite of the intention of contacting the audience in the first place, with customers leaving or potential new customers abandoning before purchase, simply because they are fed-up of getting mixed messages and getting too many communications. As well as the annoyance of too many communications, if you also factor in the cost of creating the communications in the first place, the result is that many companies are actually paying to make their customers leave them! Neither the company nor their audience is winning in this current silod setup.

The issue is that it is so easily done in complex modern organisations. For example one team send out a communication on a great new offer for their product or service, but this gets sent to a customer who recently purchased the same thing at the higher rate – how does this make them feel towards your company? Another team sends a prospect a communication about one product but they have been engaging in content relating to a completely different product on the website managed by another team – how are they going to react to not being understood? All these communications had good intentions, but they should not have been sent, which business guru Jim Collins articulates well when he said. “Bad decisions made with good intentions are still bad decisions”.

Adopt an Audience Engagement Strategy


Now you are thinking from an audience’s perspective and see how internal silos can damage the relationship with between a company and its audience, how do you utilize this new perspective into a strategy that will help break down your internal silos and make you more customer-centric?

We believe the answer lies in having an effective Audience Engagement Strategy (AES). Here you think about your audience, which includes their personas and attitudes (not their demographic information as your age and postcode does not indicate your current needs and wants) and define the business goal you want your audience to reach. With this information you can map a structured journey that relates to the psychological stages your audience needs to go through prior to reaching your goal. This structure gives you a defined buying journey, which has your audience at the core and allows you to create content briefs that will fulfill the needs and wants of your audience along each step of the journey.

Each journey contains three defined parts that span from:

1. Marketing engagement with your audience, including initial contact and providing information for your audience to research

2. Sales engagement which educates your audience on your product/service and takes your audience through to becoming a customer

3. Customer engagement where they have an on-going experience and facilitates retention and upsell that aligns with parts 1 and 2

At this point, it is also important that the people being communicated with are described as the ‘audience’ until they purchase something, upon which they become a customer. The beauty of the three stages of the Audience Engagement Strategy is that there is a consistent journey based on the buying journey of the audience and not the selling journey of the company. By understanding how your audience buys, allows you to provide the information in the form of content to facilitate their journey. And it’s the creation of multiple journeys to facilitate multiple goals for multiple personas that makes up your Audience Engagement strategy. The crucial thing to note is that each defined journey allows all teams that currently communicate with the audience to clearly see and add value at their part of the journey. So no longer are they sending out communications based on their internal needs they are sending them based on the journey the audience is taking. Each team is still using their expertise but delivering to a unified strategy that spans all teams that communicate with your audience whether this is your social media team, sales team or customer services team.

However, despite all the advantages of audience journeys there does need to be something in place to stop certain communications being sent, even if they are relevant to the audience, as they could still cause harm to the customer relationship e.g. sending a recommended product email when their current product is faulty. To remedy this implementing a customer contact strategy to compliment the Audience Engagement Strategy will help.

Implement a customer contact strategy


A good customer contact strategy sets out a clear set of rules to encompass a variety of scenarios to ensure the customer doesn’t get affected. These rules can include:

  • No more than 5 communications per month
  • Never to send a discount promotion for a product/service they have purchased in the last 12 months
  • Never to email a customer with marketing if there is an open case via customer services

These are just a few examples but shows the type of rules required to compliment an Audience Engagement Strategy to ensure you have the best possible relationship with your customer and stops other teams and silos accidently contacting customers and potentially damaging the relationship.

Content, Context and Contact

In summary, an Audience Engagement Strategy allows you to create a journey that maps your audience’s buying journey and enables you to create compelling content to help them along this journey. At every step of journey each team can see where the customer is and use their functional expertise to help the audience progress further along their journey without impeding other team’s communications. This journey context allows much better communication with your audience to increase their likelihood to become customers and when they do become customers you then have a contact strategy in place to ensure no mistakes are made to jeopardise the relationship the entire team before you worked so hard to achieve. With this approach you work with other internal teams instead of against them to move the customer towards a business goal that you can measure while the customer receives a relevant experience that fulfils a genuine need they have, providing a positive for all.