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I recently wrote about agile marketing, focusing on reactive campaigns. Many of the 26 examples I highlighted in my post used a news trigger as a kind of jumping off point for a marketing campaign (‘campaign’ isn’t quite the right word for some of them, e.g. a single tweet). 

This made me think about the other types of triggers that exist, which provide brands with the opportunity to reach existing and prospective customers. I was surprised by how many there are, and no doubt I have missed dozens of others. 

What’s a trigger, exactly? It is, simply, an opportunity to contact somebody. Trigger-based marketing is all about being reactive, and targeted, rather than just pushing out arbitrary brand messages to big audiences. 

Triggers might be based around individual or group behaviour. They could be time-specific. Triggered comms may be activated post-purchase, or post-abandonment. They often factor in customer data and will be highly personalised (though let’s not write off segmentation). They can be automated, or they can produced manually, and made to measure.

As with all forms of marketing communication, there is a balance to strike. Everybody loathes spam, but people do like to be rewarded, to be entertained, and to feel valued. So be careful, be meaningful, and be generous. And test, test, test.

Before we look at the triggers, let’s first think about some common formats for marketing campaigns / comms. How, exactly, might you communicate to a customer (or customers) once a trigger has been pulled?

CREATIVE FORMATS

Agile marketing communication comes in many forms, from ads to emails. I’m inclined to think that the more targeted, personalised, and two-way the better. Nothing irks me more than a ‘no-reply’ email address. 

Here are a few of the more common communication formats that can be used for distributing your trigger-based messages to people:

Ads

TV ads, print ads, outdoor ads, online ads. Retargeting can be annoying at times but there’s scope for brands to be a little smarter about how they go about it.

For example, has anybody done a sequential story-based retargeting campaign, where the creative changes with each subsequent ad impression?

Direct mail

An oldie but a goodie. A travel company could send a specific brochure about villas in France to people who had searched on their website for something along those lines.

Direct messages

You know all of those folks who follow you on Twitter, who retweet you and send you messages? Why not give them some love via a DM?

Emails

For example, Amazon’s ‘things you may be interested in’ emails. Much of the content is based on my browsing behaviour.

Onsite content

Content can change dynamically as the user journey progresses. If an electronics retailer knows that somebody has done a site search on ‘digital cameras’, or has browsed this category, then it might make sense to add a few widgets to display some dynamic content / messaging.

Phone calls

I recently left Lovefilm, a process that included about five pages of rapidly escalating ‘are you sure?’ messages that progressed to the point where they were practically offering me money to reverse my decision.

Some weeks after I clicked the ‘yes, I’m sure’ button I received a call from Lovefilm, to ask why I’d left and to try to lure me back. 

Social messaging

Brands seem to be getting better at listening and responding to people via social, but there remains massive scope for improvement.  

25 TRIGGERS FOR MARKETING CAMPAIGNS & COMMS

Many of these are based on user / customer behaviour, and can be the catalyst for a one-to-one (or group) marketing campaign. Others use third party / external information as a jumping off point, be that an event, a news story, or a viral.

I'm sure there are plenty of others, but here are 25 for now, starting with a few of the more obvious ones...

1. Site search usage

“You recently searched for X… you might be interested in Y.”

2. Browsing behaviour

If your data is accurate then you’ll know that certain people are already warmed up, and may be ready to buy. Why not tip them over the edge with an offer they can’t refuse?

“You spent almost two hours browsing on our site for a new phone. Buy one today and we’ll give you X.”

“You recently looked at X - do you need any guidance?”

3. Sales triggers

“You recently bought X. You may be interested in Y”

4. Checkout abandonment

“You bailed out... what went wrong?”

5. Basket procrastinators

“You have X items in your basket and we wanted you to know that we are offering free shipping this weekend...”

6. Customer ratings and reviews

“Thank you for leaving a review on X. Write another one about Y and we’ll do something lovely for you.”

7. Wishlist / bookmarks

“You have X items in your wishlist. Why not share it with your generous friends?”

8. Recent customers

“Welcome! Thanks for buying from us…”

9. Social buying patterns

“People who bought X also loved Y.”

10. Loyalty triggers

Spot your best users and reward them. Then reward them some more.

“You joined us three years ago and we wanted to say thanks. Happy cake day! Here’s a 20% discount voucher for you to use today…”

11. Hot trends

“This week’s hottest items include...”

12. Churn triggers

“We’re sorry to see you go. Can we tempt you back?”

13. Service triggers

“You recently called us. Please help us improve our customer service by telling us how we did. It will take two minutes and we'll give you 10% off your next order...”

14. Social love triggers

Mentioned favourably on Twitter? There's a great case study on how Scotty’s Brewhouse rewards people for doing precisely this. Social currency FTW. 

15. Social hate triggers

Seen some bitching about a competitor on Twitter? There's a retargeting tool for that

16. Social spike triggers

As well as responding to individual, ad hoc tweets, you can also plan for popular Twitter spikes. Let me once again reference that remarkable Old Spice campaign, which actually initiated these triggers, and then responded in a series of videos on YouTube. 

17. Event triggers

Real world events. These might be things that you sponsor, or have a presence at. For example, festivals, for B2C companies, or trade shows / conferences, for B2B firms. 

Third party events. Super Bowl. Agile marketing is always-on, in theory, and this certainly seems to have been the case during the Super Bowl.

Various brands spotted an opportunity when the lights went out, and quickly fired tweets along these lines:

It cost $4m for a 30-second TV ad to be aired during the Super Bowl this year, which tells you a thing or two about the reach and scale involved. A clever tweet is akin to free marketing, and a tweet that is shared 16,000+ times is a massive earned media win. 

18. Vanity triggers

For example, this, from LinkedIn: 

19. Life Stage Triggers

These life events present you with an opportunity to help people. Think about content (e.g. things to remember when planning your wedding / moving home) and services (can you help save these people money / time?).

“You’re having a baby / getting married / moving to a new city!”

“Happy birthday!”

20. Seasonal triggers

“This time last year you bought a gift from us… do you need some ideas?”

21. Retention triggers

This is especially important for companies like ours, with subscription products that expire. Triggers may be simply time based (a series of progressively persuasive emails, as the cut off date approaches) or anchored around some other event…

“Your credit card has expired – please, for the love of all that is holy, update your details to maintain your subscription.”

Other products expire too. For example, people might replace a mobile phone every two years, and a laptop every three or four years. If they’ve bought from you then why not figure this out and automatically start marketing to them at an appropriate time in the future?

22. Company triggers

Company events - such as a new product launch - are an obvious opportunity to trigger marketing campaigns. Check out the things Apple includes in its emails when communicating to customers about new products

23. Viral triggers

At this year's Future Of Digital Marketing event we heard from Sarah Wood at Unruly about how meme-jacking is one of the hottest viral trends.

For example, there have been 40,000 Harlem Shake videos created, including lots from brands (caveat: beware jumping on bandwagons!). 

24. Competitor triggers

Are there things that your competitors are doing that provide you with an opportunity? Probably.

25. News triggers

Horse meat! The Olympics! The Chinese New Year! You can use popular (or niche) news stories to fire up your creativity... get to it!

What did I miss? Please leave a comment below, and if you’ve seen any examples of brilliant (or botched) trigger-based marketing then by all means share them.

Chris Lake

Published 20 June, 2013 by Chris Lake

Chris Lake is CEO at EmpiricalProof, and former Director of Content at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter, Google+ or connect via Linkedin.

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Comments (1)

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Anthony Cook, Owner at Self-employed

This was a great article. Trigger-based marketing is really an art which revolves around timing and appropriateness of the message deployed. But when marketers get it right it is a powerful way to improve brand recall. I had read an interesting post about here http://bit.ly/1ea3f0Z

almost 3 years ago

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