[For the December cover story, Target Marketing asked a field of marketing experts the top four questions facing marketers in 2015. This is the second question in the series.]
Since the earliest days of direct marketing—and brand marketing, for that matter—efforts have been measured in the pseudo-military terminology of "the campaign." You have an objective, a plan, the resources to implement it, and you attack. The campaign succeeds or fails, then you go back to the drawing board to work on your next campaign.
In the always-connected, always-communicating world of 2015, that push and plan cycle isn't really good enough. Marketers are finding it necessary to move away from the up-and-down cycle of campaigns, and instead to embrace continuous, individually personalized and timed communication to customers and prospects. These strategies leverage marketing automation and other technologies available today to drive continuous engagement and revenue with a continuous campaign.
"Top marketers have a rabid focus on their customers, on the digital journey, and use the right tools and data to have an ongoing and relevant digital dialog," says Debbie Qaqish, principal and chief strategy officer of Atlanta-based The Pedowitz Group. "They aren't looking for the big fix. Rather, they are executing well-crafted plans that are laser-focused on driving revenue and aligning to other key company initiatives."
Rather than the big fix, it's the big picture.
"The most successful direct marketing companies today are viewing their marketing efforts as an overall campaign, rather than an individual series of events," says Lois Brayfield, president and chief creative officer at direct marketing agency J. Schmid & Assoc. "They are developing a key message—or big idea—that is developed into a campaign, which ultimately feeds all tactics, whether it's digital or print. These cohesive campaigns affect everything, including research, offers, product strategies and most certainly key messages across channels. Done well, the overall effect is a much more productive marketing plan across channels, and ultimately increased brand loyalty. It's amazing that so many marketers still take a shotgun approach to their efforts and create marketing plans at the tactical level only."
Omer Artun, Ph.D., CEO of Mountain View, Calif.-based predictive marketing platform AgilOne, has a suggestion for what that big picture might be.
"I believe there is going to be a shift from focusing on marketing to acquire customers with campaigns—such as large, blanketed discounts—to marketing that focuses on retaining customers," says Artun.
"Acquiring new customers is five to eight times more expensive than retaining customers," he continues. "This goes hand-in-hand with customer personalization and understanding our customers through data. Once you understand who your valuable customers are and what it takes to retain them and keep them engaged, then it is easier to create marketing that is data-driven, cost efficient and effective."
Stephen Yu, president and chief consultant of Old Tappan, N.J.-based Willow Data Strategy, says the big idea comes down to individuals.
"There is no online or offline, but there are buyers, consumers and prospects everywhere," says Yu. "There will be no channel differences in the near future, and consumers will want everything all the time through every channel. And data and analytics can guide marketers through that maze, but only if the work is done properly."
Dan McDade, founder of Johns Creek, Ga-based PointClear, puts it bluntly.
"Campaigns are out, continuum marketing is in," he says. "There is not a starting place or stopping place. Marketing is personalized, timely, helpful and appreciated, rather than annoying and cloyingly repetitious."