Have you ever run into someone you have spoken to several times, and that person doesn't remember your name or what you talked about? How often do you have a similar experience with companies? You follow up on a complaint or a billing issue, and you have to start over with each service rep you talk to? It is annoying for sure, and most of the time the poor experience leaves you thinking less of the person or company.
Online marketers routinely commit similar sins that frustrate consumers, miss opportunities, and damage their brands. How often do you go to a website that you have interacted with, only to find that it has amnesia? It's even worse when it pretends to know you, but doesn't really: "Welcome back, John" offers the promise of enhanced service or value, so it's all the more disappointing when the greeting is the only personalized content displayed.
And isn't it wonderful when you see a company's juicy new offer in online ads or on the website, but you just signed up for a less attractive deal? Or you click on a paid search ad that doesn't have the decency to take you to a dedicated landing page, and leaves you to find your way from the homepage?
Marketers can't keep settling for this kind of mediocrity. There's simply no reason for any consumer to experience "message cacophony" today, and there is no reason for marketers to denigrate their brands through poor management of cross-channel communications.
Let's take a look at what the digital channels look like in isolation:
- While search is one-to-one marketing based on a user's intent, it only reflects demand -- it does not create it.
- Yes, display media is an important part of the mix -- but it's limited by the communication value of its creative format.
- Audience-based targeting with DSPs is a useful tactic, but it doesn't scale.
- Email can be highly effective, but it's usually off on its own and disconnected from everything else.
- Your website may have sizzle and flash, but at best it puts the burden on the consumer to find relevant content.
- And your Facebook page? No matter how many "likes" you get, it's still only a tiny sliver of your consumer base.
Don't fool yourself. No matter how useful on their own, even loosely connected tactics will not get the job done in 2011 and beyond. You need to start harmonizing these puzzle pieces into a coherent whole.
These disparate channels can be connected and coordinated by leveraging data and new decision technology that can make detailed one-to-one content and offer decisions in real time. True, the technology is just part of the solution; it takes a lot of planning and coordination to align the organization around customer segment rules and offers. But such a coordinated, integrated process is worth it because across every industry, we are finding a new type of uber-connected consumer who expects a personalized, interactive experience with brands. This consumer wants anywhere-anytime access to product or service information, and he wants it to be consistent and available over the web, mobile phone, email, or offline channels.
To meet this need -- and to win the hearts and minds of these consumers -- marketers need to begin building integrated capabilities today. Some companies are already making the investments needed to offer real-time communications, offers, and services across all channels and touch points. And while it will surely take some time to build the organizational competencies and processes to consistently deliver for consumers, they are already opening a lead on slower-moving competitors.
One way to start harmonizing your communications is to eliminate the siloed approach to digital marketing tactics, where branding is walled off from performance or direct response efforts. Next-gen analytics allow results from one half of this tandem to inform more finely-tuned optimization in the other half, leading to better allocation of dollars. This type of coordination has the dual effect of increasing the number of sales and conversations, as well as ROI, delivering improved campaign scale and efficiency.
The way to make this happen is by leveraging "big data." And by that I don't just mean an uncultivated mass of millions of user interactions (e.g., log files, website analytics data, and customer data). I'm talking about a focused approach that ties together integration, synchronization, data mining, and predictive analytics. Just dumping it all into a data management platform (DMP) is not going to get the job done. Without true data integration, you will still have only loosely connected individual digital marketing tactics.
So, what are some key tactics to achieving harmonized marketing?
- It has to begin with the consumer: What audience is he in and what are his needs? For this you have to bring in demographics and attributes, updating them in real time to find out who they are, what they're like, whether they have kids, whether they have a high household income, what type of neighborhood they live in, etc.
- Once you bring all this data together in an audience-focused way, you can create initial segmentation.
- Based on that, you can determine how to impact the needs surfaced through analysis of the demographic data, including the level of interaction and marketing investment needed for each segment in order to move it along the purchase funnel.
- One often overlooked way to do this is to identify and utilize the optimal frequency range (OFR) for each segment that will drive the greatest level of response, avoiding under-investment and waste while improving performance.
Memo to marketers: You need to find the connecting thread of data that links all your tactics together from first exposure to conversion, from the top of the funnel to the bottom. This will give each consumer a coherent, coordinated stream of relevant communication, and the marketer gets a total program that scales.
The promise of cross-channel marketing is not a fantasy; leading companies are making it a reality today. Harmonization across multiple consumer touch points is enabling the creation of a more relevant, engaging experience for the consumer and greater results for the marketer. This type of data-driven, cross-channel approach will be a differentiator for marketers, providing greater alignment between their messaging and the new ways content is being accessed and consumed.
John Nardone is CEO of [x+1].
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