Three potential points of failure for widget programs
Relationship marketing through widgets and BDAs has much in common with other relationship marketing tactics, such as email. There are also aspects of widget marketing that are different enough to be called out separately and represent some common points of program failure
The distinction between campaigns and relationships: Managing the widget audience is one of the most challenging aspects of widget-based permission marketing, particularly for advertising agencies, but also for brands. If a widget is deployed for a specific campaign, and there is a measure of viral success, then what does one do with the audience at the end of the campaign? These can be a brand's most valuable and loyal customers, so simply abandoning or switching off the widget seems like an injurious waste. The best widget campaigns are a permanent part of a brand's ongoing CRM efforts and should be optimized and evolved over time.
Widget distribution: Poor distribution and promotion is probably the biggest single point of failure in widget marketing. It is often the case that the business unit developing the widget is separate from the business unit embedding, distributing and promoting the widget, and they don't get brought into the project early enough. It is unfortunately common for widgets to be hard to find and mislabeled, even on the brand's own website, and they may not be a part of normal opt-in opportunities such as newsletter sign-up. Widget marketing is at its best when it is relationship marketing, and as such should be deeply embedded in all other marketing efforts.
Optimization and transfiguration: The key to growing audience and long-term engagement is optimizing and evolving widgets over time. By measuring user engagement and using a relationship marketing platform, a brand can improve and enhance its widgets and applications, adapting them to new marketing initiatives.
Future directions and trends in relationship marketing
At this point in time, I think we're in a bit of a widget backlash, particularly for banner-like web widgets. Many brands have spent money (although probably not lots of money) developing and deploying widgets, and expecting a big viral pay-off. But they are largely not getting it. Early viral successes are hard to reproduce, and the very nature of viral means that only a very few will rise to the top. However, there also seems to be a growing interest in using the larger widget space to extend a brand's CRM activities and direct marketing programs.
Near term: We see increasing integration between email, widgets, desktop applications and mobile applications. User management and content targeting are key to making the widget experience meaningful and long-lasting. It's the relationships that matter, not the platforms.
Long term: We see continuing fragmentation in the messaging and content market place. New platforms will evolve, old platforms will change roles, and younger demographics will be harder to reach using traditional tactics. The lines between websites, microsites, widgets and software will continue to blur, and success will be measured in smaller slices over a wider array of customer touchpoints.
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Mitchel Ahern is director of product management for OTOlabs.