Cover Story : Big Ideas …
Experts predict 2010’s key trendsDecember 2009 By Heather Fletcher
It's as if marketing experts have been fooling around in the chemistry lab, mixing up potions to try to figure out what strategies will work best. And it seems as though they've discovered the future: integrated, customer- centric marketing.
Tracking back to figure out what these experts did practically involves a flowchart of the process. But, they insist, the procedure is quite repeatable, and good ingredient blending does consistently boil down to a result of integrated marketing with strong, lifelong customers at the center—who ideally are even involved in the process.
The experiment sounds simple enough. Start with direct marketing the way it is today, then add in customer centricity and creative ideas. Using the catalyst of privacy, heat up the mix and stir in some continuing conversation between businesses and customers. What should be taking shape about now is the beginning of customer insight, which can solidify into research ranging from behavioral to demographic to attitudinal—even to psychographic. But marketers have to keep the process going, so analytics professionals need to come and advise on how best to form the bubbling mixture into a cohesive strategy.
Still yet, this newly formed integrated marketing strategy must cool off and be absorbed into the company infrastructure. At the same time, up-and-coming marketers who've observed the nascent process can come in and help improve it. And so the process begins anew.
Big Idea: Integrated Customer Marketing
Many direct marketers understand that they must integrate channels to succeed today. And many within that group comprehend that they have to integrate disciplines, as well, such as pulling skills from or working with people in public relations, finance and so forth. This expert calls on them to do much more.
"If you look at what my definition of integrated marketing would be, I think it's really important right now to put the word customer into that statement," says David Williams, chairman and CEO of Columbia, Md.-based Merkle, a "customer relationship marketing agency" per its September rebranding announcement. "I think integrated marketing is a marcom strategy, not a business strategy …
"And the reason I think the word customer is so important is because it helps you frame the level in which you're having this conversation," he continues. "So the truth is, most direct marketers, when they're talking about their activities in their daily lives, they're talking about advertising activity. They're talking about direct marketing medias and how they're targeting those medias to create behaviors that they want—purchase behaviors, engagement, whatever it might be. But if you raise that conversation up a level, you would really raise that conversation up into a marketing conversation vs. an advertising conversation. Now we're talking about all four P's, not just one of the P's. We're talking about a pricing conversation, we're talking about a product conversation, we're talking about a placement or a retail conversation, and lastly, a promotion conversation, which is where advertising would connect to."