Given the inundation of an average 300-700 marketing messages consumers receive each day, it’s shocking that marketing as a business function really only emerged little more than 100 years ago. It’s true. Compared to other business areas of the economy, marketing is a rather young discipline introduced as a concept in the early 1900’s.
Yes, advertising was well developed by 1900 but marketing – identifying existing behaviors and relationship between buyers and sellers – had yet to appear. And when it did, the marketing concept had little regard for what the customer really wanted but focused more on strategies and tactics to sell more products and services. The “sell-as-much-as-we-can” philosophy was embraced by companies with little concern for building long term relationships. “Brand loyalty” was a distance concept.
Enter new media in the 1950’s and marketers began recognizing the “sell-as-much-as-we-can” approach was growing less effective with consumers. A new approach was born – looking to the buyer side of the transaction for ways to improve. Marketers began learning they could no longer limit their marketing effort to just getting customers to purchase more. An in-depth understanding of who their customers are and what they want became an essential component.
Decades after this eureka – Don Draper – moment, understanding the customer is still THE most essential component of effective marketing. But today gathering that in-depth understanding of wants and needs is a data-driven science like never before. Gone are the days of in-person surveys and focus groups as the primary means of collecting general, sometimes ambiguous, information.
For the last 20 years, digital has empowered buyers with the ability to search online for products, learn about who you are as a company and what people are saying about your business – good, bad or otherwise. As a result, marketers need new tools and technologies to deliver personalized content so messaging stands out above the noise and damage control of “bad and otherwise” social mentions is manageable. Enter marketing automation.
Marketing automation software captures how a potential buyer interacts with your brand thru email clicks, website visits, social touch points, content downloads and more. Data gathered provides unparalleled insight into a buyer’s readiness to buy which allows marketing to deliver timelier and more personal messages that accelerates a buyer’s decision-making process.
Building a stronger relationship with your audience has been a pillar of marketing for some time now but the means to achieving that stronger relationship has changed. Marketing automation not only gathers data for personal communication but has the deployment tools to reach prospects in every major channel, at every touch point of the buyer’s journey. The technology cultivates interaction in meaningful ways so there’s personal, responsive messaging that (when managed correctly) delivers the “Wanted Value” when it’s “Actually Wanted”. How refreshing! Today there’s no reason why you, me or anyone else should receive irrelevant, unsolicited messaging.
Now I recognize there are many who’re uneasy with the idea of so much information being gathered not to mention privacy issues that come into play. Data (there’s that word again) shows Baby Boomers are the most apprehensive in the crowd. Nonetheless, resistance is gradually waning. Millennials have absolutely no qualms of their actions being tracked, often characterized the narcissistic generation. Generation Z (1990’s thru mid 2000’s) have no point of reference when tracking wasn’t present in their life – socially tagged online by friends, parents tracking their GPS location with smart devices, webcams everywhere including the home minimizing if not eliminating the need for hands on babysitters depending on the kid’s age. Mom and dad can parent remotely (within reason).
Technology delivers services that most of us once thought unimaginable in our lifetime – outside of the Jetsons, of course.
Without tracking knowledge, many aspects of our daily routine would simply cease to exist. Lights left on? A sensor tracks your movement and turns them off (autos have intuitively tracked and responded to that absentminded behavior for years). Forget to DVR a favorite show and a message alert delivers via mobile device so the tracked oversight is remotely correctable. If you’re really progressive, thanks to technology you don’t need to remember locking your house door, the software installed can do that for you. Think you’re safe speeding with no law enforcement in site but that traffic light cam took note, and the I-Pass cam caught you sneaking through too. Ticket to arrive at your doorstep soon regardless of who locked the door – you or the software.
I don’t have a remotely tracked house (today) and thankfully don’t have a lot of traffic light cams in my area (today) but the fact is, our behavior has been tracked on so many different levels for so many years now (can you say Google?) And, traveling in the virtual-world online as a consumer is really not that much different than traveling as a consumer in the real-world offline. Behavior is tracked during online buying experiences and behavior is also tracked during offline buying experiences.
Think about the last time you entered a physical store, you’re watched – if not by a person then by a camera. As you meander about looking at this and that a person or camera is still watching you, taking note of your actions to step in when behavior indicates it’s time. While shopping in the real-world a good salesperson won’t badger you and become your shadow but lets you know they’re available if needed and leaves you alone until your “behavior” indicates it’s time to help. It’s the same online. Observing behavior on website pages is no different than a person or camera observing behavior in-store. The pages of a website are the departments of a store, contents of a webpage are the products and services in-store. The offline salesperson or camera tracks and gauges behavior similar to how software tracks and gauges behavior online. In the end both realms have the goal of providing better service that meets your unique needs.
When I return to one of my favorite stores I’m greeted as a return visitor (same as online). I may have given my email address to receive specials and promotions (same as online) or they’ve just gotten to know me by name based on how often I visit. Sometimes store personnel know me well enough to point me in the direction of products they assume I’m likely interested in based on “past behavior” (same as online).
Marketing automation technology doesn’t see your face but it has your digital identity and recognizes you’re a returning visitor. You may be anonymous without a name in the database but the technology knows your primary interests based on past digital behavior and offers information (no different than in-store personnel)based on the assumption of repeat or related new product interest. A relationship of trust in the offline real-world is established the same as in the online virtual-world. No matter which realm, the seller needs to be respectful of buyers or the likelihood of a return (on or offline) decreases.
Marketers have a responsibility to respect your privacy, present only relevant and wanted information based on expressed interest, and IF they’re effective marketers who use data-driven intelligence they’ll treat us, the consumer, in the way we expect and deserve.
The new millennium is all about data-driven marketing. Some veteran marketers refuse to accept this reality, many kicking and screaming into the new millennium. Resistance is futile. The theoretic Pandora’s box has been opened and there’s no putting the genie back in the bottle. Whether you like it or not, Marketing – once art – is now Data-Driven Science MORE than art.
Stay tuned for next week’s Data-Driven Marketers: Part 2 on how NOT to use marketing automation technology. True stories of how marketing automation done WRONG cramps my style.
In the mean time check out this video on demand that provides a flavor of marketing automation at its best – courtesy of d.Mark’s automation partner, Act-On.
And – for kicks & giggles more on the Jetsons below – for reminiscing baby boomers or millennials eager to learn what baby boomer’s once thought unimaginable for at least 100 years.
Special thanks to Tom Fishburne of marketoonist.com for use of his amazing art!