Marketing’s lucky number is one

Marketing has always been about numbers – how much you spend on advertising versus the returns it gives you. It’s always suffered, of course, from the Wanamaker syndrome: ‘I know that half of my advertising doesn’t work. The problem is, I don’t know which half.’

Wanamaker’s problem was a symptom of mass marketing. It just wasn’t possible to identify which sales resulted from a specific media campaign. If you spent a lot you’d hope sales would go up, but how could you be sure that you couldn’t have spent half the amount and still get the same result?

Direct response marketers tried to solve the problem by tracking a prospect’s activity from go to woe. They’d promote different phone numbers so they could identify the source of a sale. They’d stick codes on coupons and offer discounts for shoppers who helped to pinpoint what had driven the purchase.

Of course, while this concept of one-to-one marketing made sense, the philosophy was full of holes. Not least was the underlying question of whether you chose a particular medium because you could track it, even if it wasn’t the most effective at delivering results. And, when a customer says they decided to buy after reading a brochure through the door, what else had influenced them subconsciously beforehand?

The real issue was that marketers were still trapped close to the point of sale. In reality, our purchase decision is driven by influences over many weeks, or years. Sometimes a lifetime. Sure, some FMCGs can be bought as an impulse purchase, but for most goods and services we’d like to think we, as consumers, have a little more control. That means there are a myriad of factors that influence our decision making, at different stages through the sales cycle.

The good news for the analytical, process-driven marketer, is that a lot of that influence is happening online. Whether it’s on Facebook pages, company websites, campaigning landing sites or purpose-built apps, we’re now able to follow our prospects behaviour and interactions.

We started to call this direct response marketing, but the term was really focused on simple email campaigns. Today we’re monitoring behaviour and segmenting customers to determine how we engage with our customers. It can be a long journey, but increasingly we can trace all the interactions back to the first point of contact and see what factors are influencing the ultimate outcome. Was it a strong initial campaign ruined by poor follow through? Was there a process loophole that provided a poor experience? These days we can track more of this than ever before.

Today the process is as important as the campaign. If someone visits a specific webpage page, or reads a white paper, it might be time for a phone call. If they log a complaint it’s certainly time for an apology and some sort of incentive to keep them sweet.

It means nobody follows the same process, from initial contact to sale. Everyone is unique. It’s true one-to-one marketing.

The downside is, it’s complicated. Every eventuality needs to be considered, with an element of automated marketing sitting behind it. The wealth of data created by tracking behaviours and responses to communications allows the marketing approach to be continually refined. Ignoring the data is missing an opportunity. Following it through helps to identify Wanamaker’s wasted half of the marketing budget.

All this requires a very different marketing person from yesteryear, when a day’s work was looking at some agency creative and flicking through a media schedule. Today it’s all about understanding the process and ensuring everyone is treated as an individual.

When a company gets it right, there’s a big prize waiting. A company that personalises how it deals with a customer will help to develop an ‘earned reputation’. In other words, ‘I’ll buy from you because of the way you treated me’, rather than a bought reputation, which basically involves spending big on mass media campaigns. An earned reputation will always stand the test of time, particularly as consumers trust mainstream advertising less and less.


Did you know: in each issue of the print edition, Marketing includes the very best opinion articles curated from our huge industry blogging community, as well as exclusive columnists writing on the topics that matter? Becoming a subscriber is only AU$45 for a whole year, delivered straight to your door. Find out more » 

Aden Forrest
BY Aden Forrest ON 28 March 2013
Aden Forrest is Australia/New Zealand managing director at Marketo.