Marketing by Accountants Doesn't Work | SalesAndMarketing.com
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Marketing by Accountants Doesn't Work

I have a confession. For eight years, I led people astray. I was seduced by the click-through mantra that favored immediacy and accountability to a fault. I am a graduate of one of the country's best marketing schools, and I lost my way. When hiring new marketing talent, I gave them a math test. I trained my marketers to be accountants!

But I am here to make amends. There is a rising tide among marketers to view marketing accountability through a different lens. One that is still highly accountable, but looks at the world like a marketer, with an eye toward changing and measuring consumer behavior over time rather than reviewing a daily spreadsheet. Advocates of this approach are no longer slaves to the click-through—judging every campaign based on the last place a consumer clicked before making a purchase. Instead, they are taking into account the significant role advertising impressions play in influencing individual behavior and attitudes over time. 

The conceptual model behind this approach and its true, long-term power comes from the tried-and-true concept of the ongoing dialog. It requires that:

a) we return to our roots and begin to think like marketers again, and

b) we focus our commitment at the individual level, concentrating our efforts on influencing each consumer over the long term to take the next step with our brands.

The practical model—what makes this approach possible—is a technology-enabled marketing platform that delivers personalized media based on a consumer's profile, and provides the analytics to judge its performance at the individual level. By interacting with consumers over time, you can gain an understanding of not only how each individual thinks (what makes him tick, what makes him respond) but also the status of his relationship with your brand (prospect, new customer, repeat customer, etc.). This means you can cater your message to each step in the customer life cycle, from awareness to acquisition to retention and finally loyalty. 

What happens in today's Run of Network world is that 90 percent of programs are stuck in the acquisition stage, treating every consumer the campaign comes into contact with as a new prospect to be acquired for the first time regardless of where they are in the customer life cycle and what their relationship is with the brand.

The situation is worsened by the aforementioned accountant mentality, which forces online marketers to rush to judgment on the success of their campaign based on initial response/sales. Ignoring the basic considerations of consumer marketing, marketers often "go for the jugular" with every contact by demanding an immediate purchase (and sometimes putting lucrative incentives in front of consumers to do so).

The result? Lackluster campaigns, which the industry essentially has gotten used to. After all, if today a "good" click-through rate for RON banner ads is well under 0.1 percent, what kind of ROI can you really expect? 

Perhaps the more important question though, is how many potential sales are you leaving on the table? 

With the new lens, you slow down and take a longer-term view of not only your program performance but your relationships with each consumer.

A key first step is to stop judging acquisition programs based on the first dollar you make and instead focus on the people you bring into your franchise. Moreover, don't even think of it as acquisition; call it engagement instead. Take the time to engage consumers in an ongoing dialog rather than sell them—introduce your brand, build trust over time, and ultimately build desire and convince them to spend their hard-earned dollars on your product. 

Not every consumer is going to make a purchase after first contact; it's human nature to have to be convinced of a need/desire for a product and then convinced to buy your brand. That's why you need the ability to identify consumers who began to engage with your brand but did not purchase. This is your ideal time to learn from your interactions and continue the dialog to take them through the next stage. 

And your Website is probably your ideal online marketing weapon. High abandoners are there with a purpose—to learn more about what you offer. That's when site-based profiling and in-market messaging/remarketing kick in. This part of the dialog is a crucial component to the overall success of an acquisition campaign since it enables you to learn more about what a consumer desires and to "seal the deal" with your best in-market prospects. To succeed, however, it should be treated not as another sales pitch but as an opportunity to accelerate demand and build trust with each individual. It needs to offer a personalized plan for the content, frequency, and sequencing of each message based on a given consumer's profile.

From a pure dollar perspective, in-market messaging can have the biggest impact on your program's ROI because it works with every acquisition campaign and all the consumers you missed the first time around. To give an example from my own experience on several hundred campaigns over the last four quarters, remarketing drove an average lift in purchasing of more than 34 percent compared to a control group that saw only an acquisition campaign.

And now it can get really interesting. Few online marketers consider it (largely due to the lack of scalable options), but using display advertising for retention marketing is a logical next step in the ongoing dialog and can greatly add to the bottom line of your total program. Once you identify a consumer who makes a purchase and becomes your customer, you should continue the dialogue to encourage repeat sales and ultimately brand loyalty. Again, this means treating them differently based on where they are in the life cycle versus continuing to talk to them like they've never heard of you before. An ideal program would enable you to personalize display advertising and show retention-oriented messages based on their individual profile while hiding new acquisition-themed advertisements.

Of course, skeptics can have a hard time with all of this, returning again to the question of measurability. Appropriate to its nature, measuring the ongoing dialog requires that you resist the all-too-common practice of judging programs and budgets in silos, where, more often than not, you miss the big picture.

Instead, keep in the spirit of the new lens. Take a holistic, long-term view of acquisition, remarketing, and retention campaigns in relation to the ongoing dialog and measure them together as you initiate consumers into your franchise and track how they perform at each stage of the customer life cycle. Doing so will provide you with a significantly more accurate evaluation of your total program, as well as the true dollar amount you are generating through your efforts.
And that's something you don't need to pass a math test to understand.

Ken Treske is chief marketing and operating officer at online advertising provider Dotomi, where he manages the product marketing, development, studio, and operations functions. Prior to Dotomi, Treske served as the president of Vente, an Experian business unit. For more information, visit www.dotomi.com.