There is an insidious type of online marketing called clickbait, which involves notifications of fascinating and irresistible stories that often start with “You won’t believe…” or end with “will make your jaw drop.”
These campaigns are designed to get people to visit a certain page and then stay there, wading through a forest of ads and additional prompts.
Welcome to the ugly underbelly of online commerce.
An acutely fascinating subset of clickbait involves videos with titles like “the one food you must never eat” or the most famous of all, “the one simple trick to removing belly fat.” These have become legendary in their effectiveness.
Are there lessons that other, more reputable companies can learn from the marketers who create these videos? Certainly, there are.
Learning from clickbait
The development of a digital transformation mindset can and should learn from every resource out there, even those whose tactics appear unsavory. There is no obligation to reproduce their tactics exactly, but there is an obligation to understand them. Even the gutter press extols some wisdom about how to sell.
Take the “Belly Fat” video model, for example. Anyone who chooses to watch these types of videos will find out first, they are quite long, perhaps 30 minutes or maybe even an hour. The big secret is held off until the very end. The narrator feeds the viewer with reminders not to click away. Very soon, the secret will be revealed.
The viewers are pulled further along, to a point where they have invested so much time that it would feel wasteful to quit before getting to the end. The video concludes with the big reveal, which turns out to be something of an anticlimax. The secret food might be pomegranates, the belly fat solution might be water. But the real sale has already been made. It’s not about pomegranates, it’s about customer data.
These videos have been designed to identify one type of prospect, the type who has the personality to willingly wait beyond the normal limits of patience, to learn the secret. They are willing to put up with a lot to get access to an as-yet unknown prize. That’s huge.
Databases of people willing to wait a long time and be led a great distance are of enormous value to marketers of all types of products, not just the sleazy ones. These customers represent a subset: passive, patient, curious and obedient. These are attributes that can easily be funneled into one of many marketing strategies that a High-Tech company, a bank or a car manufacturer might embrace to push a new product.
Tailoring online offers
Not every potential customer is patient enough to fall into the Clickbait trap, but the “belly fat” technique will help identify them so that their profile can be assigned to a tailored sales approach. Tailoring is a central pillar of digital transformation, and it is based on data.
Knowing the customer means that a company can anticipate what this type of customer will need, and when to intelligently up-sell and cross-sell, providing real value and convenience to each customer individually. Knowing their personality type is just one part of this puzzle.
A company must be able to instantly know what each customer has purchased in the past, how long it took them to make the buy decision, which marketing offer worked, how they use the product, when service is due, what issue they called customer service to resolve, what their recurring orders are, who makes which decision, what the spending cycles are, and more.
This intelligence helps marketers predict what the customer will need, when they will need it, and how they should approach customers with their offer.
There has always been a seedy underside to business, but as Sun Tzu highlights in The Art of War, knowing the battlefield is essential to being able to win the conflict. Companies in high-tech, manufacturing, or any other business must recognize that the clues to framing a more agile and customer-focused business lie in the most surprising places.
A keen vision, one that observes a landscape far beyond an industry niche, and which questions every activity, both internal and external, stands a greater chance of thriving in an increasingly digital economy.