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Digital versus Traditional – a Journey of Discovery

Two years ago our 100-salon group switched ad agencies, moving from a small boutique firm we’d been with for six years to a larger enterprise with offices in three Canadian cities. The new firm had all the polish and razzmatazz that can’t help but impress, and it has delivered, in certain areas.
Our motive for the change was the rise of digital marketing. Traditional techniques were not bringing in the return they once had. Seven or eight years ago we’d get a 15-20% lift on comparables after sending out a direct mail piece. Two years ago it had dropped off to around 2-3%. I thought digital was the way to bounce back.

Much as I loved working with the smaller company, its experience of the digital world was limited and, while it was keen to expand its knowledge, I didn’t want Chatters to be its guinea pig. So we switched.

The new company arrived, all-singing-and-dancing, saying all the right things. It took us through a fantastic brand refresh (which I’ll talk about in another blog) and advocated going full digital. We said yes, but that was a mistake for us at the time.

Digital is great in many respects. It is a lot, lot cheaper and it’s easy to monitor. But it was less effective and that became obvious very quickly. Sales softened.

We do a lot of customer surveys, and within a few months it became obvious that customers and potential customers were seeing us less than previously. Cue some serious navel gazing. The problem was obvious; our CRM just wasn’t robust enough.

With more than 150k contacts, our database is a respectable size for a Canadian company but not enough for digital. A lot of it was pulled for PoS data, and it wasn’t without its mistakes, mostly down to human error at input. It was a wake-up call for us, and we have started a program to boost the size and integrity of the database. We recognize that the future of marketing is personal. We need to identify individuals’ preferences and push to them. If a client bought three Joico products in a year, then we need to target our marketing so it talks to her directly about Joico and introduces her to similar products she might like. Our target is to grow our database over the next two years so we have a more robust CRM with as much detail and flexibility as the government will allow us so we can develop personalized targeting.

Alongside this push to beef up our data, we have also morphed our marketing back to traditional. We are now running a strategy split 60/40 across traditional and digital. It seems to be the sweet spot with other big corporates in Canada. That means pushing in-salon promotions that are changed bi-monthly, sending direct mail and buying ad space on radio and in print. On the digital side, we are focusing on email marketing, which works well in the older demographics. But email is dead for millennials and younger consumers, so we are running a tandem policy targeting ‘lookalikes’ on social media and online. This is where we look at someone who has engaged, then digitally seek out similar individuals and market to them using Facebook advertising and Instagram.

Having everything in one agency basket hasn’t worked so well for us; the bigger company is incredible in many ways but tended to focus on one area at the expense of others. So we have brought in a smaller, digital specialist to run the digital. We feel now we are on the right road to reach loyal customers and prospects effectively, and on their terms.

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