8 Ways to Build Interactive Marketing from Scratch
Our ancestors had plenty of time to adjust to those new-fangled devices we now call primitive tools. After all, agriculture wouldn't come along to change their world again for another 400,000 years.
The amount of time between world-changing events has been shrinking ever since. The Agricultural Revolution gave way to the Industrial Revolution in just 26,000 years. Electricity and the internal combustion engine overhauled the world again in a mere couple of centuries. It took less than a century from the time Thomas Edison patented his light bulb for desktop computers to burst on the scene, and only two decades for them to take over.
Today, just two decades after that, portable electronics that were once the stuff of science fiction are transforming the world at blinding speed.
With these latest changes, marketing changed, too. One-way messaging is dying while interactive marketing thrives. It's sobering for old-style marketers groomed on running ads and waiting for in-store sales. For direct marketers, whose work has always been interactive, the shift comes in keeping up with fast-evolving technology and adapting back-end practices to the instant nature of online communication.
But unlike our ancestors, we don't have eons to adjust. If it's your job to overcome "The Way We've Always Done Things" and propel your company's marketing into a new age, here are some tips that may help.
1. Sell the concept at the top. Vision trickles down. To build an interactive marketing department with teeth, secure the CEO's enthusiastic backing. If you don't have direct access to the CEO, enlist an empowered advocate to bring and keep the CEO onboard.
2. Next, sell the concept system-wide. Everyone, from the highest to the lowest paid, needs to know what you're doing and why. (They also need to know not to panic as they see less mass advertising with improved targeting.) After all, these are the people who fulfill what your marketing promises.
3. Keep it visual. To many people, interactive marketing is an intimidating mass of techie jargon. Everyone, including the CEO, responds better to being shown than to being told. Have your data at the ready, but make your case with easily grasped visuals.
4. Hire the right talent. You need writers who create interaction, not just clever phrases; designers who will choose communication over aesthetics when the two conflict; and programmers who have the self-discipline not to indulge every bell or whistle simply because it "it'll be way cool." Your people must keep up on best practices, and be ready to shift gears as fast as the market does.
5. It's about dialog. Interactive marketing means active, not passive customers. No more "getting your message out there." You must engage.
6. Don't overlook offline media. By definition, direct response in any medium is interactive. Print, radio and TV, and direct mail continue to deliver respectable results, and can be a powerful part of your mix.
7. Track and report results. John Wanamaker famously said, "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half." He would have loved interactive marketing. It reveals what works, so you can do more of it, and what doesn't, so you can do less of it. Track direct sales, and also clicks as correlated to sales, since many people click for information but purchase later over the phone, by mail or in-store.
Beyond improving effectiveness, use tracking to sell the value of interactive marketing to management on an ongoing basis. If you wait for "Those Who Control the Purse Strings" to ask, you have waited too long.
8. Don't overpromise. Even if you build the best interactive marketing department in the history of man or beast, your company must still offer products and services people want, at a price they'll pay, via delivery systems they accept. It must treat customers well. It must operate within the context of the national and world economy.
So be careful not to set up interactive marketing as a panacea or, worse, a scapegoat. Interactive marketing is fast and powerful, but it's not magic.
Matthew Wilcox is vice president of corporate marketing and communications for Zions Bank in Salt Lake City. He heads the bank's interactive marketing department.