The proliferation and expansion of how people are consuming different technologies and using the internet is causing marketing channels and customer touch points to fragment. This increasingly fragmented environment is making it hard for marketers to create a comprehensive marketing strategy while still providing a reasonable return on investment (ROI).
New interactive touch points introduced to the marketing mix, and the costs of developing and deploying a campaign continue to increase, introducing new integrated marketing challenges: How does a marketing team ensure they are reaching their customers across all of these interactive channels? Which touch points are most effective? How can you test whether a new digital tactic is worth pursuing? Campaign structure and approach must change to be successful in this new fragmented environment.
Changes in online communications
For starters, we need to clarify the drivers of fragmentation, which are essentially the results of two significant changes in online communication channels.
First, the web browser is no longer the only way people consume the internet. The growing number of new devices with internet support means audiences can consume content in more ways than ever before. Smartphones, portable devices, game systems, and kiosks are providing convenience, quality, and access to digital content from almost anywhere at any time.
Second, social media has become a critical bi-directional communication channel and one of the most dominant ways people are exposed to online marketing campaigns. Marketers must evaluate to what extent they should engage in these interactive social settings to be successful, while still balancing other online and traditional marketing channels.
Fragmentation requires marketing teams to both identify the right marketing strategy and mix across touch points and respond quickly to changes in the market and two-way social engagements. This is not an easy task, given the typical time and cost to design, deploy, monitor, and tweak components of a campaign. Marketers must adjust how they manage fragmented campaign elements in order to improve the bottom line.
Managing fragmented campaign elements
Marketing professionals will have to make a dramatic change in how they create and execute interactive campaigns. This paradigm shift means marketers need to get a little more technical when defining an interactive marketing strategy, thinking not just about how to execute a specific tactic, but designing an entire interactive framework around managing and deploying tactics.
A framework allows marketers to manage the various marketing assets of a campaign in a single resource so they can be updated and deployed into any marketing vehicle without having to recreate an entire component. For example, an insurance company might deploy a campaign across its website, dealerships, and through a Facebook application. By using a framework, each interactive element of the campaign is managed from one location even when deployed through multiple channels. Because content and tactics are built, managed, and executed from one source, marketers can improve ROI and better engage their audience. A framework can be defined with a three-pronged approach: architecture, services, and embedded applications.
The first step requires marketing professionals to create a digital repository of all key media and branding assets (web content, documents, videos, etc.). This repository needs to be open and flexible, like the Java Content Repository (JCR), so assets can be pulled into any platform. This does not necessarily mean existing content management systems will work. Many popular CMS systems are limited to delivering content in only one or two locations, like your website.
Second, marketers need to leverage a web services architecture with tools to help manage and deploy marketing assets residing in the repository in a consistent manner. Using the insurance company example, when the company provides auto quotes for customers, the service will efficiently and consistently handle insurance inquires from multiple touch points -- the website, an iPhone application, a Facebook application, or a kiosk -- no matter where it comes from. The request to acquire and display the asset is handled the same way regardless of channel.
Finally, campaign components should be built once and used multiple times by leveraging universal embedded applications. Continuing with the insurance inquiry example, users are provided an application to request insurance quotes. The application is built once and then embedded into multiple locations or touch points: the corporate website, Facebook, a partner site, or within a landing page tied to a search engine campaign. This method means only one investment is made in the component up front, but it can be applied and monitored across different tactics, campaigns, and touch points to determine which approach will be most successful.
A new marketing philosophy
The philosophy behind this is to have marketing teams leverage some of the same philosophies and strategies successful with the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model. Marketers build what they need to support the brand and turn assets, features, and components on or off as deemed appropriate for each individual touch point, thus creating tactics deployed in what could be called a marketing-as-a-service (MaaS) model.
This new approach allows for the reduction of cost across a fragmented landscape and provides stronger campaign ROI. Marketers can compare similar campaign approaches, react to which elements are working, and build in more timely feedback mechanisms around customer responses. Continuing from the example above, if the insurance company decides to add a new pricing plan, the campaign content and the pricing can be updated using the framework, allowing all consumer touch points to update simultaneously.
This model is sustainable over time, evolving with campaigns as business goals and markets change -- a more-efficient, money-saving alternative to the one-by-one creation, testing, and execution of tactics. Over time, it becomes easier to drive down the cost and time to deploy a tactic, creating efficiencies across the entire marketing strategy.
The fragmentation of marketing channels does present some challenges, especially to marketers engaged in integrated campaigns using multiple interactive, traditional, and social tactics. However, progressive marketers can begin to invest in an iterative interactive model to enable faster, more cost-effective campaign deployment.
Justin Grossman is managing partner of meltmedia.
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