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3 Ways to Approach Customer-Centric Marketing
Marketing in a post-impressions world that puts the customer first means that brand must focus on quality, not quantity.
Posted Sep 14, 2016
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The currency of marketing has always been squarely rooted in volume: the more eyeballs, impressions, clicks, and views, the better. Television’s extreme reach is the basis of its continued dominance in advertising budgets—even as that stranglehold weakens year after year. Digital media’s continued growth is severely cutting into TV; total spending in digital is expected to surpass television in the next two years, according to Forrester Research.

A considerable—if not the primary—driver in the shift from traditional media to digital media was the ability of digital solutions in each channel (search, display, social, email) to get closer to consumers in their moments of need and based on some level of demonstrated intent or interest. Measurability and cost-effectiveness are also major factors, all of which have led to great results for many brands.

But we’ve reached a new stage. As Gartner’s Marty Kihn said recently: “Identity is more important than reach.” Knowing who is engaging with your brand, regardless of where that interaction takes place and especially when it’s an outbound message, is infinitely more effective. Why? Because:

  • Consumers respond better to relevance. According to a Forrester study, 66 percent of consumers credit personalization with a positive effect on their purchase decisions. Blasting a generic message is just noise: a better experience leads to better outcomes.
  • Personalized engagement is more effective. Research shows that personalized calls-to-action are 42 percent more effective than generic ones in getting a visitor to click through. Even better is when the targeted messaging and content is echoed on the landing page, decreasing bounce rates and providing a far more seamless transition from the discovery to engagement phase of the customer life cycle.
  • Missteps are costly for conversion and loyalty. Nearly three-quarters of consumers report getting frustrated when the content they see doesn’t align with their preferences, according to the CMO Council. Nearly 90 percent say they’re less likely to return to a site after a bad experience, according to Econsultancy. Too much has been written already on consumer choice and the ease of dropping brands that don’t meet higher expectations.  

By now, it should be clear that retaining outdated thinking whereby marketing equals blasting messages to as many people as possible is wasteful at best and detrimental to the brand at worst. Marketers have to revise the approach to data, technology, and measurement.

Here’s how:

  1. Focus on the individual. Marketers often complain about the pendulum swinging too far in this era of Big Data. There’s copious data to analyze, much of it with little apparent purpose or application. As a marketer, you don't need to understand every single customer holistically; instead, assess customer needs and intent as they engage with the brand so that you can facilitate their aims. Put a premium on contextual data: behaviors and actions that reveal intent, preference, and urgency. For example, publishers that make content recommendations based on the reader’s interests (and not click-bait titles that get high traffic because they have provocative titles) get far more engagement by all measures.
  2. Buy technology that integrates—or don’t buy it at all. The terms “interoperability” and “APIs” and “open platform” are favorites of every marketing software vendor on the market. But here’s the reality: An elite few are actually built to integrate in any meaningful way. Even the “unified marketing clouds” don’t integrate with products in their own portfolios. To build a connection with one of the major cloud providers (AWS, Google, Azure) means talking to three different teams and building three different integrations.  
  3. Measure for quality, not quantity. In the currency of cost-per-million, it’s easy to tolerate meager click-through rates or guarantees of impressions because, quite frankly, it’s cheap. But buying fewer, more qualified impressions makes better sense both for efficiency and effectiveness. The quiet reality is that ad targeting based on static segment definitions has had to be spray-and-pray; even the best aim can only do so much with “women aged 18 to 34 in the Northeast.” If, on the other hand, you’re starting with up-to-the minute data about your audience's behaviors and needs, you will be able to get in front of the right people; that’s always worth the extra buck. To start, create look-alike models based on the behavior and preferences of actual customers and prospects, not their household incomes.

As marketers and technology mature, the entire advertising industry will shift to charging a higher premium on identity and quality. This change will be embraced by those vendors and practitioners who recognize that a more accountable, targeted media landscape is a win-win for everyone—including customers.


Cory Munchbach has spent her career on the cutting edge of marketing technology as a Forrester analyst and currently as the vice president of marketing for BlueConic. She can be reached on Twitter @corinnejames or on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/corymunchbach

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