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Prospect Marketing – One of the Dark Arts?

Jed MoleOctober 23, 2015

Some things really infuriate me. And, from a business point of view there are few things that infuriate me more than seminars where, it seems the world is full of perfectly logged in customers, where we marketers know exactly who we’re dealing with and when all we need to do is to just use that data wisely, with some badass new tech and customers will be happy, stay loyal and parting with their hard-earned cash to keep the rest of us smiling all the way to the C.E.O. Well, the last time I checked, other than perhaps the UK’s National Health Service or the likes of The Police (the real thing, not Sting, Andy and Stu), I can’t think of any brand or organisation that I wasn’t a prospect of, before I became a customer!

To be fair, most marketers worth their salt must have appreciated by now that it costs somewhere between three and seven-thousand times* more to win a new customer than it does to keep an existing one. And, that your current customer base is the very first place you should look to increase revenue and profitability. I totally agree with these sentiments and I sure you do too.

So my point is this, prospect marketing is all around us, it is absolutely necessary and if done well, it can be great for customers and brands alike; in which case, why do we not celebrate it more, why is it often kept out of the spotlight and treated like one of the ‘dark arts’?

Before we go further, it’s worth saying that brands who treat customers like prospects are doing themselves no favours. Most of us know what it’s like to get the great mobile offer for new customers we couldn’t get as a loyal one and most of us have been served ads for the product we’ve already bought as a result of search we previously made. Increasingly these days, marketers can minimise these risks by ‘onboarding’ their online and offline data, using solutions such as LiveRamp Connect but let’s get back to the pure prospecting.

Consider this. You fly occasionally, sometimes long-haul building points, but never quite enough to get you to the level where you’re granted lounge access. In these cases, I think most of us would volunteer pretty much any information short of our partner’s bank details if that data would get us into the lounge but still, for all of their smart data-driven customer experience and marketing, your airline determines the 1s and 0s add up to a big fat 0 in terms of you getting a bit of TLC.

However, what if another airline had done a great job of trying to find prospects that looked just like some of their best customer segments when you considered their lifetime value. What if they used that data to reach out and engage with an offer something like ‘if you fly with us four or more times in the next twelve months, you’ll get lounge access for the next three years’? Sounds tempting.

The airline example is, perhaps a medium-consideration purchase so what about deep-consideration purchases such as cars? Well, time is often on their side as we tend to take between three and five years between our purchases. Auto manufactures, always under the microscope for new car sales, have time but they also have the challenge of the central brand vs the dealership and all digital points in-between. Connecting the data is of fundamental importance if you’re to bring in new customers and this whitepaper on the complexities of the customer journey, now revealed by data may help.

So to light-consideration purchases and few things are lighter than your favourite brand of cola. But still, CPG manufactures are becoming increasingly smart and data-driven in their strategies to market ‘one to few, to many’. While they may not be going heavy at the one-to-one level, they are trying to recognise you as a type and reach you especially through social and programmatic media.

Econsultancy’s 2015 report on Marketing Budgets shows that investment in acquisition marketing stands at 38% compared to investment in retention and engagement at 19%. 43% of companies view them equally but still, if there is a winner it’s acquisition, so why so little talk of it and doing it well?

A final thought brings us full circle to the consumer, the person that matters most. While my airline example may seem a little idealistic, let’s not forget that the consumer remains in control. Over time they respond to the marketing that works for them and vote with their wallets. And, regardless of channel and device, what the customer wants is value and increasingly tangible, direct value as can be seen from this independent report commissioned by the DMA (UK). The key metric here is only 7% of consumers feel they benefit from the data exchange while 80% feel we do as brands. This is the metric we need to change.

Data is, as always, a huge part of the answer to every contemporary marketing challenge. It may be easier to use data to impact customer experiences but let’s not forget prospect marketing. When so much of our investment of budget and effort is on winning new customers, let’s make sure we’re doing it well and let’s not be shy about it, especially if the winner is, the customer.

* may have exaggerated a little