Redefining Interactive Marketing

Interactive marketing has been used in reference to online and Internet marketing, but the concept is nothing new. Since the advent of product marketing in the 1870s, marketers have been striving for interaction with consumers. Brand advertising and direct marketing of the 1970s leveraged improved telephone networks, media channels, and centralized customer-service centers for direct response (interactive) selling.

Improved understanding of consumer needs and behaviors allowed successful marketers to rely on highly trained sales agents and computer systems to script "conversational" (interactive) selling. The growth of the Web as an e-commerce channel, coupled with even further advances in sophisticated technologies now allows marketing to be more interactive. Yet, whether the sales channel is online, call center, retail counter, or kiosk, marketing is also increasingly complex.

The good news is that opportunities to creatively reach buyers are as endless as the offers and messages that relentlessly bombard today's consumers. The bad news? Research indicates consumers are effectively "selectively filtering," and response rates across channels are on the decline.

One dictionary defines interactive as capable of acting on or influencing each other. BearingPoint defines interactive marketing as the proactive ability to anticipate and respond to customer needs across an array of channels in a manner that influences marketer and consumer to achieve desired outcomes. Interactive marketing provides customers information and relevant offers via self-selected channels and self-selected mediums and consumers expect the marketer to responsibly manage the customer experience.

Increased customer expectations, ease of channel selection, pricing transparency, increased choice of providers (usually due to lowered barriers to entry), more rapid upgrade or replacement cycles has shifted the power from the marketer to the consumer. Yesterday's marketing was product-driven and often focused on using price as a call to action. Today's environment is customer driven and solution-oriented leveraging a keen understanding of the customer--needs, attributes, behaviors and expectations and then engineering a cohesive, cross-channel customer experience.

Marketers now use predictive algorithms, coupled with data from the here and now to interactively home in on the most appropriate offer from the sellers perspective. With leveraging zero latency technologies, marketers even predict secondary and tertiary offers, or calls to action in an effort to present the most appropriate response to meet the needs of any customer--at any time--within any channel.

To succeed, these leading companies are transforming marketing enterprises by establishing new marketing frameworks that better support today's interactive marketing. These frameworks include:

The maturing and adoption of interactive marketing capabilities is leading strategic change from marketing out to the consumer. Sustainable revenue growth, improved brand equity and shifting the internal paradigm from customer satisfaction past "the customer experience" to customer advocacy hinges on the ability to drive increased discipline and focus within marketing. Market leaders will transform the marketing organization by developing new skills; engage in focused, detailed planning and investment in new technologies. Marketing--and marketers--as well as the entire marketing support infrastructure will become more truly customer centric, and demonstrate respect for the power and choice of the individual.

Patrick Hayes is a managing director with BearingPoint, one of the world's largest business consulting and systems integration firms. Hayes focuses on working with clients who are transforming their customer relationship strategy, including sales transformation and improvement, touch point strategy, marketing strategy, and campaign management initiatives. Zimm Zimmerman is a senior consultant with BearingPoint. Leigh Duncan is a manager with BearingPoint. www.bearingpoint.com.

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