By Maxine Hess
Writer | WhatsApp marketer | Creative
Updated on September 29, 2023
Are you a digital marketer with a more, more, MORE approach to marketing? Please make 2023 the year you take the foot off the pedal. It's the right thing to do, especially as you move to more personal channels like WhatsApp.
How many emails do you get a day? How many ads do you see? Online? On TV? In the train? In print? On the radio? How many flyers? Billboards? Posters? Video screens?
Forbes says we see 4-10,000 marketing messages a day. In reality, it's more.*
And that’s on top of the content you intentionally seek out – blog posts, Facebook posts, YouTube videos, LinkedIn updates, Instagram stories, TikTok reels, Wordle – or whatever it is you look at on your phone while commuting, watching TV or taking a toilet break from work.
Marketing is already an overwhelming intrusion into our lives. And it's growing more abundant all the time.
There's a reason there's a course for marketers called Everyone Hates Marketers.
And there's a reason that WhatsApp is growing so fast as a marketing channel. WhatsApp is a place that's free of advertising. Your customers have to invite you there. Intrusions are (pretty much) impossible.
In fact, people increasingly want to interact with businesses on WhatsApp, with two-thirds of Singaporeans saying they prefer to chat with a business on WhatsApp. It's quick and easy, they can send a quick message and expect an instant answer, and it doesn't interrupt the flow of life as much as conventional marketing.
But that also gives you a responsibility
WhatsApp is a personal, ad-free space. Unlike online advertising, over which we have little control, this is a place where consumers rule. Your customers have to say they want you there (customer opt-ins are required by law in the EU) and can easily block you if you overstep the mark.
As a brand, you need to respect this space. You may not be seen as a friend, but you're sitting in a feed next to friends and family. You're not classed as an unwelcome annoyance, like most YouTube ads, but as an equal.
Your messages sit next to pictures of new babies, friends needing advice, Tinder dates taking things off Tinder.
It's exciting and a huge luxury to have constant, direct contact to thousands of people who are have said they're interested what you have to say. It puts a great deal of power in your hands. And as we all know:
(In fact, Uncle Ben did not come up with this)
What's crucial is that WhatsApp stays, now and forever, spam free. Many parties care about this. If spams and scams start filling up this beloved app, consumers will first be annoyed. Then they will leave. WhatsApp will lose money. And not only would we lose out as a company, we would no longer feel good about what we do.
Feeling good about what you do is important. And we want marketers and brands to feel good about what they do, too.
That's why we spend so much time with clients on an ongoing basis. Not just when they sign up for our software but forever, advising on individual campaigns and long-term strategies.
The hare doesn't win the race
Most companies starting with a WhatsApp channel are used to sending many messages through many touch points. They create regular email newsletters, countless targeted online ads, regular CRM emails, more, more, more marketing.
Used to high-octane strategies, many brands think they need to transfer this same speed to WhatsApp. Those that do will fail because they don’t understand they need to approach this channel differently.
Our weekly meditation session is a calm, safe space where we slow down, connect with ourselves and others, think more clearly, feel taken care of.
That’s how your customers should feel on your WhatsApp channel.
Core to our daily business is advising our clients of the need to treat this personal channel and the people who use it with respect and restraint. Together with the measures already in place to keep spam out of WhatsApp in Europe it's companies themselves who need to put in the work keep WhatsApp spam-free and enjoyable.
This comes down to starting off with a less aggressive mindset.
And in the end, it's actually a lot less work.
In WhatsApp, you need to hold back
If you take anything away from this article, it's this:
Low frequency, high relevance.
This is a mantra we repeat endlessly to ourselves and to our clients. Also known as: minimum invasion, maximum persuasion.
Earn your customers' trust by only reaching out to them 1 to 2 times per month with highly relevant and segmented content.
That's the beauty of WhatsApp: you can be very specific about your target audience. You can send them campaigns you know they'll be interested in, not one-size-fits-all emails. And your results in terms of revenue and brand perception will be better.
What's this got to do with mindfulness?
How mindfulness prevents WhatsApp spam
“Mindfulness” may be a buzzword not often related to the business world, but it’s vital that we start integrating this attitude into our marketing – whether in or out of WhatsApp.
At charles, we have a mindfulness half hour once a week where we sit in a room together, breathe deeply with a yoga instructor and do some light stretching. It’s not as awkward as you’d imagine. It’s a calm, safe space where we slow down, connect with ourselves and others, think more clearly, feel taken care of.
That’s how your customers should feel on your WhatsApp channel.
You’re not making a billboard or TV ad. There’s no need to shout in WhatsApp. This is a personal, two-way space and requires a respectful, calm, slow approach where customers feel safe and heard.
And it's the key to making sure your customers feel safe, protected and spam-free in WhatsApp.
What is mindful marketing?
Mindful marketing is marketing that has the best interests of the consumer at heart. It's thoughtful, not invasive, ethical and has a positive impact on people (and, idealistically, the world).
This more restrained way of selling products and services is steadily gaining traction among marketers who want to feel more purpose. Meanwhile, consumers are grateful for a sense of calm and being treated with respect in place of being shouted at.
Just look at how many big brands Forbes reported to have avoided Black Friday deals in 2022 – Google, IKEA and Monki among them. It doesn't mean you don't communicate with your customers, or put out a creative idea, just that you don't bombard them with unnecessary deals.
Mindful marketing's close cousin is slow marketing. also growing in popularity with marketers and planners. Together, slow and mindful marketing takes the attack out of marketing and puts the human in.
How does mindful marketing work?
London-based agency, Doppler, says: "Practising mindful marketing means that as marketeers and humans we take responsibility for the way in which we promote products and services. That we think about values and purpose, not just profit and growth and we pause and breathe before we react."
The Zukunftsinstitut (Future Institute) in Frankfurt, Germany describes mindful marketing as having three core values:
- Authenticity: content that reflects your values, consistently at all contact points. Creative promises are not enough to trigger engagement in the long run.
- Storytelling: simple, easy-to-understand messages with a common thread, embedded in a story characterized by relevance, honesty and warmth.
- A substantial customer benefit. This is the absolute basic condition. Pseudo-innovations are not allowed. Problem solutions or customer experiences tailored to customer needs are essential, beyond the marketing fireworks.
Being mindful means less focus on short-term results and more focus on building long-term relationships. Sometimes it means heading into the unknown, without being certain of gaining certain conversion rates or ROI, but trusting that by treating customers right they will stay with you.
Mindful marketing takes the attack out of marketing and puts the human in
Don’t overload people with flashy deals. Don't sell people things they don't need. Take your time, carefully write your copy, show you care about individuals and their personal preferences and needs, entertain, educate. Listen and respond in a timely, respectful way.
Like when you ensure diversity and inclusion in a photo shoot, even it means extra work to find the right people. Or when you decide not to send a Mother’s Day email because it could hurt people who don’t have children. Or when you add a page detailing your supply chain on your website. Or when you make your email “unsubscribe” button big so it’s easy to find.
Or when you start doing your marketing on WhatsApp with charles :)
The benefits of mindful marketing
In essence, mindful marketing should improve the way consumers view brands. This leads to:
- Greater trust: when customers know you won't take advantage of them
- Longer term relationships: when customers know you're there in the background, but won't try and take up too much of their time
- Increased revenue: when customers feel good about your brand they're more likely to buy from you when they need something
It will also save you time and stress. Fewer messages, fewer resources, fewer big plans, more time to concentrate on other things – like listening to and answering to customers and making it to your kids' Christmas concert this year.
Our clients typically send only 1-2 WhatsApp campaigns a month. Some spend only 1-2 hours on their WhatsApp channel in total.
How to be slow and mindful on WhatsApp
In contrast to many software companies, we tell our clients that less is most definitely more. Here’s what we advise our clients:
- Send very few messages: only 1-2 marketing messages a month. No more.
- Be very relevant: send very specific messages to a targeted audience that you know will be interested in what you’re saying.
- Always get a double opt-in (a GDPR requirement): when people tap on a chat bubble, they can easily send you a WhatsApp message saying they’d like to get marketing messages on WhatsApp. You then ask them on WhatsApp “Are you sure?” They answer “Yes” and they’re doubly opted in and ready to go.
- Offer an easy opt-out: in your first message, tell customers they can type “stop” at any time to opt out. To make this easy, you can use our "global opt-out footer" and add this to every one of your messages automatically.
- Keep messages short: only send short, conversational, well structured messages that are easy to read and digest. Respect people’s time. Never, ever copy and paste from email.
- Give actual value: alternate flash sales and WhatsApp exclusives with content that’s genuinely helpful for your customers: like advice, style guides, product finders and tutorials.
- Be empathetic: “human” is a much overused word but a big part of being human and connecting to others is showing you understand someone else’s needs and struggles. A delivery’s late? Say sorry, we know that’s annoying and offer them a personalized discount.
- Be personal: favorite color, pet name, last product bought, whatever you know about your customer, let them know so they know you’re talking directly to them. A customer recently sent a cosmetics brand a message meant for a family member to say they bought a fridge. The customer agent at the company replied, “congratulations on your new fridge.”
- Admit mistakes: if you got something wrong, hold your hands up and try to fix it.
- Don’t use marketing speak: someone has given you their phone number and said it’s ok to message them. Don’t break this trust by sending clichéd, overly salesy marketing messages. We would say WhatsApp isn't the space for this, but there's no space where this is a good idea.
The lighter touch is worth it. Our clients are seeing great results because they take things slower than they usually would. They are steadily building a very loyal customer base and strong long-term relationships.
“I used to be a high frequency, high relevance guy. Fast was never fast enough. As I’m getting older, I realise that being patient pays off."
And, let's face it, business is about doing business: they get a returns on investment as big as 155x.
This is not only business gold, it feels good to have authentic connections with people.
As Florian Keller, CEO of our client, Pferdegold, says: “I used to be a high frequency, high relevance guy. Fast was never fast enough. As I’m getting older, I realise that being patient pays off.
"You have to play a tool by its own rules, not by yours, and WhatsApp needs a measured, thoughtful approach."
In short: on WhatsApp, as in life, don't be annoying. Your customers (and your therapist) will thank you for it.
*US figures from 2005 – it's hard to find a good stat after that. I'm guessing it's because from then on there were too many to count.
Ready to be more mindful? Let's get you into WhatsApp.