When I sit down with a new client, the conversation inevitably centers around a common question: What is the best way to reach my target customer?

In technical terms, we call this marketing asset allocation; this is when you distribute marketing messages over a series of channels such as social media, in-store promotions, trade publications, etc.  To effectively and efficiently communicate with your customer, it is essential to prioritize your channels and emphasize the right messages.

But how do you know what, when and where to say it?

Let’s step back a second and consider the path customers go through when buying a product or service. When making buying decisions, everyone – from consumers to business buyers – typically pass through distinct stages. These stages include:

  1. Awareness: Once a need has been identified, your customers begin to develop awareness of the available options.
  2. Research: Customers now want to learn more about the various options that are appealing. They ask: What are the brands? Do they meet my criteria?
  3. Consideration: With a basic understanding of the various options, customers now evaluate which brand best meets their needs.
  4. Selection: Customers narrow down their options – often, the best two or three – before deciding which one they will ultimately select.

There are several tactics that can help you better understand which channels and what messages resonate with your customer, such as third-party tools and qualitative research. Both can better inform your marketing strategy, but they also have limitations.

Third-party tools can help you identify the best channels but often cannot capture the optimal messaging needed in each stage and channel. For example, it’s one thing for a website to tell you to call your parents – it is quite another when your spouse tells you to pick up the phone. (As a parent, I can tell you they’d LOVE to hear from you.)

Qualitative research, such as focus groups and in-depth interviews, can also help direct you towards the right channels and messages to use. However, an opinionated participant or small sample size can skew you to overemphasize one channel or message.

To gain a holistic picture of motivations, messaging and channels, SMS Research Advisors has developed a Path-to-Action quantitative research tool. Path-to-Action captures which channels and messaging customers are paying attention to during each stage, using the voice of customer data and advanced analytic models. The result is an interactive map that allows clients to see how their market operates – and it is the most efficient allocation of your marketing dollars.

Path to Action can help you gain insight to ultimately guide your customer through each stage and toward your product or service.

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