Ahh, the good old days… It was a simpler time. A time when marketers could create a campaign that ran for weeks at a time and had only to concern themselves with getting the monthly catalog into the mail or making sure the call centers were coordinated with the letter shops. They could spend weeks working with their product lines, creative departments and supply chains to ensure everyone was ready for the campaign. The first age of marketing. Those days are gone.
That end came gradually. As we ushered in the second age of marketing, the number of e-mails sent by consumers grew from the millions to billions, and marketers realized the importance of reaching their customers there. Marketers began creating e-mail newsletters containing information about their products and services. They began to reinforce their direct mail messages with follow up e-mails and eventually those e-mails started to replace some of the direct mail volume.
Since consumers were on the Internet already, landing pages were set up to echo the messages from the e-mail to give consumers a more consistent experience. These pages, as well as the company’s home pages, were optimized for search engines so that they could be easily found. Some marketers began to make intrepid explorations of online media by placing banner ads on major web sites or those of their partners. Marketers had more to think about.
More sophisticated marketers moved into the third age of marketing as advances in business practices allowed them to ensure their pages would be found on search engines by paying for specific terms. Landing pages became more complex as campaign-specific pages were created to reflect the offers in the e-mail or direct mail. In many cases those landing pages became personalized with offers and content tailored to the consumer. Marketers could collect information in real time channels to recognize consumers or customers and treat them in the most appropriate way. E-mail remained an important part of the marketing strategy and grew in importance as it became possible to add content to non-marketing transactional e-mails. Now up-sell offers could be sent in e-mails that provided order confirmation, account status or monthly statement notifications.
The online media space was becoming more complex as the marketers now had mechanisms that allowed them to re-engage consumers who had visited their web site. The online ad networks developed the ability to target audiences based on some attributes or behaviors that were observable in online channels. As the Internet was changing, so were our phones. The marketer had to figure out how to get messages to people’s cell phones to support the messages and offers being provided in other channels.
In what we consider the fourth age of marketing, the marketer’s life today continues to grow more complex. Positional marketing where an offer is made based upon a consumer’s proximity to a retail location has increased the importance of mobile marketing, which is no longer limited to just cell phones. Laptops, tablets and the burgeoning wearable communications devices will make mobile marketing more and more critical. Real time engagements are being enhanced with automated learning and optimization technologies. Online display ads are targetable to very specific entities across publishers and myriad social networks.
We can assume that these technological changes will increasingly affect the lives of marketers as television becomes more addressable and is displaced by on-demand programming and as the methods for placing ads become more intelligent and quicker to respond to a consumer’s interests and as consumers become more empowered, the offers provided by marketers will have to reflect the nature of their interactions. Gone are the days of 16 week campaign cycle. There will still be communications that are planned and executed at fairly regular intervals, but those messages will be supported by online media, e-mail, real time and interactive applications and channels that have not even been invented yet. The marketer who wins is the one who is able to plan and coordinate communications across all of the channels so that the messages build upon each other, reinforce each other and move the consumer closer to a purchase decision with each contact.
If you are curious as to your level of sophistication and you want to compare to others in your industry, pick out a few random customers and look at all of the communications you had with them throughout a given month. You’ll be able to identify areas of weakness and strength, giving you a strategy for making improvements that will make today the good old days.
- Did your e-mails and direct mails make the same offer to the same customer?
- Did your e-mails and direct mails for that customer use the same creative elements?
- If a customer called your call center, would they be presented with the same offer as in the e-mail or direct mail or would they get something different?
- Is there a web page customized for the e-mail or direct mail offer? Does your web site personalize to reflect the offer made in other channels?
- Do your display ads reflect the same creative elements in as your e-mail?
- Is there a pattern of offers in each channel and is that pattern repeated and carried through all channels?
- Do your SMS messages feature the same product, price and promotion as any of the offers made in direct mail or e-mail?
- Are search terms purchased in conjunction with your e-mail and direct mail offers?
- Did you have a consistent customer ID associated with of the offers in your e-mail, direct mail, telemarketing and mobile channels?
- Is there a way a customer can post comments about an offer in another channel to their social profiles?
If you answered no to some or many of these questions, you should assess how your marketing solution provides these capabilities and identify new technologies that could help you tie these together.