Transactional ease has become a flaming hot topic in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, especially for industrial organizations or manufacturers who didn’t put a lot of stock into their websites or ecommerce before this point. The Bright Ideas series by Acuity Brands® recently released an entire episode around how to delight customers with transactional ease.
However, with the approach of the holiday season, the still-remaining gap left by the lack of in-person B2B sales is growing all the more apparent.
At the risk of repeating what many corporate marketers have been preaching for the past decade, B2B companies would do well to take a page from Amazon’s playbook to improve their transactional ease. But wait just a moment– because that playbook may not be what you think.
This year, it was an actual– er, book.
DID YOU KNOW AMAZON.COM MAILED OUT PRINTED TOY CATALOGS THIS YEAR?
You read that right. The world’s most prolific online marketplace, which made its prolific start without a single brick and mortar store, is now evolving its digital marketing tactics to include printed collateral as well.
And we can tell you now… it’s been a smash hit already.
What gives? You might be asking. Haven’t marketers been pushing ecommerce as the future? Haven’t printed mailers been discouraged as an outdated tactic with unreliable, unverifiable ROI?
Why does Amazon get praise (and profit) for its printed marketing tactics, but manufacturers get zilch? Four reasons.
- They knew their audience.
- They offered free, helpful services beyond just products.
- They integrated QR codes and digital resources,
- They made it all easy.
That’s why companies like Brennan Industries have encountered success while cutting their print advertising budget in half year over year, yet offering a highly-popular guide in booklet form only.
1. THEY KNEW THEIR AUDIENCE.
Amazon’s entire platform started because Jeff Bezos anticipated what many of us now know: that customers crave convenience. He knew their pain points included the hassle of in-person shopping, and he built his business around that idea. This printed catalog is just the next step in that self-same formula.
More people than ever before are stuck at home and will likely participate more in online shopping this year for the holidays… perhaps even more than will participate in Black Friday deals at brick and mortar locations. But someone else very important is also stuck at home more than usual this year.
Danny witnessed the successful results of Amazon’s tactic firsthand when his children opened the mailbox and discovered the toy catalog waiting for them before any adult could slip it away. They charged back into the house to tear through the entire magazine, fill out the activities, and circle the toys that they wanted.
Had most kids been at school, their parents might have managed to slip these catalogs out of sight before they could be discovered. But not this year.
Now granted, kids are a far more receptive audience than manufacturing buyers. But all the same, Amazon knew where they would be and what sorts of things they might be looking for. Your knowledge of your own prospects and clientele is key to determining what tactics you employ to get in front of them.
Just don’t forget– you aren’t your customers! Just because you like or dislike something doesn’t matter if evidence shows that they do.
2. THEY OFFERED FREE, HELPFUL SERVICES BEYOND JUST PRODUCTS.
Transactional ease, funnily enough, doesn’t exclusively include monetary transactions. Building a relationship with your customers and prospects also means giving them a hand here and there, perhaps with information that may prove useful. Even if you don’t necessarily get a profit out of the giving.
Along with pages and pages of available toys, Amazon’s catalog also included hot chocolate recipes; coloring pages; puzzles; and a nice, neat page where kids could make a list of all the items they wanted for Christmas.
What does Amazon get out of those activities? Tangibly, just about nothing. But by engaging their audience, they sparked and strengthened a relationship and gave a helping hand to kids who maybe hadn’t started on their Christmas lists (or who wanted to make their lists look even prettier than before).
Content marketing is the same way. It means sharing resources and information with your prospects in order to build a stronger relationship with them– regardless of whether or not they buy. In fact, sometimes it may even mean showing them why your product or service may not be the best fit for their needs.
That’s not always a fun experience, but it is vital to establishing trust. If they know you’ll put their actual needs before your sales quota, they’ll be more likely to return to you – and to bring friends! – when another dilemma arises for which you may have the solution.
3. THEY INTEGRATED QR CODES AND DIGITAL RESOURCES.
Even though Amazon did indeed send out printed catalogs this year, it’s still not their primary marketing tactic nor their primary source of closing deals. And furthermore, what they sent out wasn’t a self-contained print item.
Those catalogs are digitally-integrated.
That’s not to say the pages are filled with microchips or anything quite so sci-fi as all that. But, anyone who browses those booklets will notice something very quickly: there are no prices listed… but there are QR codes.
QR codes allow just about any smartphone or tablet to scan a barcode with its camera and immediately be taken to a particular website or landing page. In fact, Amazon’s catalogs even had a feature that would allow users to take a picture of a particular toy with their phone, and be taken straight to a webpage where they could purchase it.
Instant gratification. Instant user-tracking.
Just as digital campaigns online involve some measure of cookies and user identification, these QR codes and landing pages would allow Amazon to recognize and better serve their users based on their website activity and receptivity to the magazines.
So even though Amazon sent out traditional, printed catalogs… those catalogs still connected straight back to their ecommerce platform and made the entire purchasing process borderline instantaneous. If that doesn’t display transactional ease to the max, nothing does.
4. THEY MADE IT ALL EASY.
This year, even kids who couldn’t read would have recognized the picture-heavy, text-light pages full of merchandise the moment they laid eyes on it. Parents or children who didn’t have any ideas about what toys to get were handed pages and pages of inspiration on a silver platter. It showed up right at their door, and all they had to do to make a purchase was pull out a phone and hit a button. And they got an afternoon of puzzles and hot chocolate recipes, to boot.
Again, manufacturers and B2B buyers are far harder to market to than holiday-frenzied kids. However, knowing where to find them and what they actually want may lead you to adapt your marketing techniques. Maybe you need less traditional tactics, maybe you need more– or maybe you just need to better infuse your existing traditional tactics with digital connections.
Let’s say you’re an equipment manufacturer who has just sold and installed a multi-thousand-dollar machine, and you even trained the users how to work it. What happens, though, if that position has a high turnover rate?
You could provide them with a regular manual… or perhaps you could offer a manual with QR codes that can take users straight to training videos or FAQ collections where they can search for common technical issues. That could make maintenance and troubleshooting hellaciously easier!
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