This post is a slightly longer version of a piece I recently contributed to Database Marketing magazines annual What lies ahead feature, published in their January edition.
Since its inception as a discipline, Marketing has essentially consisted of sending out messages to the marketplace, promoting products and services. This process has certainly become increasingly sophisticated, with direct and data-driven marketing holding out the promise of better targeting and more personalisation. Digital marketing has driven this development forwards, with greater segmentation, customisation and the ability to more reliably track and measure marketing outcomes.
However, the phenomena of search marketing, social media and other forms of user-generated content are leading to a reversal of this process. Consumers (in both the B2C and B2B sense) are increasingly rejecting this marketing-out scenario, leading to the falling effectiveness of email and other direct marketing communications. Instead, they are seeking out companies and their products, based on search results, referrals and online buzz. This is nothing new, with search optimisation and social media presence having represented key marketing priorities from some time now.
The emphasise though is moving to the question of how to engage those responding to marketing stimulus (whether pushed or more organic) in order to initiate the relationship that is crucial to successful marketing? This is where inbound marketing steps in, and where I believe significant development is taking place in focus and sophistication. Marketing is used to sending out communications with content customised for specific groups of recipients, but increasingly the same experience is now expected by website visitors.
Based on previous visits, IP look-up and online profiles, website visitors can experience content relevant and optimised for them, increasing the effectiveness of a brands web presence. The introduction by Facebook earlier this year of Instant Personalisation is an example of this trend, and according to Mark Zuckerberg we are moving from a web that doesnt know who we are to one where the web knows exactly who we are.
And it’s data that drives the ability to provide and track this experience between visits and web locations? As database marketing and web analytics necessarily converge and evolve, the next generation of direct marketing will get underway. Choosing the right data-driven marketing technology has never been so crucial to ensuring this is successfuly achieved.