As digital marketers continue to wage battles for eyeballs, I am struck with the notion that it’s not so much the eyes that matter, but the “ize” – as in the need to personalize messages, recognize the target market, customize customer journeys, specialize within media platforms, synthesize marketing results, and publicize creatively.
The concept of meticulously drilling down to target the most likely buyers is, of course, nothing new. Micromarketing is as fundamental to today’s experience-based customer engagements as the newspaper display ad was to the local hardware story 60 years ago. But with the world’s digital information now being measured in zettabytes and expected to quintuple by 2025, the ways we create, communicate, receive, process, interpret, and act on data often changes overnight.
The ability to nimbly respond to advances in marketing technology and consumer trends no longer is sufficient for brands to succeed. To truly prosper, marketers must not only anticipate what new martech products are likely to evolve, but also how new and future technologies, trends, and customer preferences will combine to drive markets.
I believe several advances in digital marketing that we are already starting to see and others just over the horizon promise to transform the future of marketing. While they have yet to reach their full potential, they all demonstrate that profit is in the action of the IZE:
Publicize with Podcasts
Service providers and influencers continue to flood into podcasting. Podcast content has grown by 40 percent in the last year to 29 million episodes. And while you may not be interested in writing, hosting, recording, editing, and distributing a podcast every week, you can still take advantage of the shows’ popularity. Nearly half of America’s teens and adults have tuned in to podcasts, and the audience increased by 10 percent last year. That’s good news for entrepreneurs, CEOs, freelancers, and anyone with a skill to share and a service to market. Podcast hosts crave interesting, informative guests, and the groundswell of programs means there’s bound to be a show that focuses on your industry and a host who wants to pick your brain.
To score guest spots, you or your marketing consultant must demonstrate to the host the value you will bring to listeners. Pitch hosts with a “hook” that ties into industry trends, controversies, technologies, etc. and positions you as the expert in the field. If you already boast your own strong social media following, it wouldn’t hurt to mention your promotion of your appearance would increase listenership.
Guesting on a podcast means you can reap all the rewards – publicity, audience exposure, leads, and cross-marketing opportunities without investing the time and resources needed to produce your own program.
Phygitize to Create Customer Experiences
The last decade has put to rest the notion that the internet would obliterate traditional marketing and de-emphasize our interactions with the physical world. It seems silly now to think that Kindle could make paper-and-glue books obsolete or that Amazon and eBay could make us desert our local Walmart.
But digital advances have blurred the lines between online retailing and permanent or temporary brick-and-mortar physical locations. The convergence of physical and digital – phygital – marketing offers a new frontier for established retail brands as well as up-and-coming online-first brands. In total, 90 percent of all retail sales take place at physical, offline locations, where customers can see, touch, sample products, try on clothes and cosmetics, try out computers, appliances, and other goods, and pick the brains of sales associates. And it’s not just people who grew up shopping at the local galleria who are boosting on-site sales. The youngest consumers are continuing the mallrat tradition, treating trips to the mall as social gatherings.
The most successful sellers do not merely maintain both physical and digital storefronts. They integrate these channels to feed off each other. For example, digital walls and interactive signage within the store triggers buyer engagement, allowing them to virtually travel the road to purchase retailers envision. Savvy sellers can even create surreal environments in which shoppers’ input and reactions determine the messages they receive. Multimedia in-store displays reflect and remind customers of their online experiences. Digital signs present much more than on-location advertising. With sophisticated artificial intelligence, cameras, and high-def displays, phygital marketing can suggest complementary products to customers intending to purchase, play videos demonstrating how products are used, trigger celebrity endorsements, and more.
The key is to treat phygital as a true omnichannel marketing opportunity, not merely building a website and social presence as an afterthought to a physical store. On the other hand, pure-play ecommerce companies will not achieve the results they want by simply opening a pop-up shop without first defining their goals and dovetailing the location with their online marketing strengths. Again, it’s all about creating user interfaces and experiences they want to have in order to engage with your product or service. Otherwise, attempts to phygitize your marketing will create a Frankenstein’s monster that is decidedly less than the sum of its mismatched pile of poorly attached parts.
Personalize Email with AI to Claim the Inbox
Big data platforms that allow huge organizations to collect, store, analyze, and act on information generated in multiple locations and in diverse formats are finally available to entrepreneurs and small businesses. And one of the most effective ways to put the power of machine learning and artificial intelligence to work is through customized email campaigns. Companies that go beyond market segmentation and even customer persona development take control of their users’ experiences with the brand. No longer do sellers and marketers place their faith in algorithms that predict behavior based on what similar customers have done in similar situations. Rather, they put individual consumers’ activities to work for them. By collecting actual – not predicted – outcomes at the granular level, advertisers can tailor messages, promotions, and discounts to appeal to specific buyers. You can even anticipate when prospects will be most amenable to receiving their specific offers, how often they prefer to be contacted, and what keywords are apt to tickle their fancy.
Ironically, the best way to establish personal relationships with customers is through impersonal data analysis and content generated by robots. Though personalized marketing is adaptable to many digital and phygital channels, it is perhaps most evident when you visit websites. Think mind-reading banner ads on ecommerce sites, Netflix recommendations, and personalized Spotify playlists. But because of its effectiveness and iniquitousness, email is the obvious place for small businesses to start with the one-to-one marketing AI empowers. Software engines can translate machine learning into email subject lines that infallibly generate the greatest open and click-through rates and even write the email messages themselves, customizing the offer to each recipient’s motivations.
Optimizing messaging is just the start. Using AI to plan, implement, analyze and adjust email marketing campaigns avoids many time-consuming manual interventions required of many other market-segmentation programs. Campaign rollout times shrink, effective messages can be adapted to new demographics and scaled in minutes, not months. With this technology, marketers can create massive amounts of marketing assets, curate them to meet each customer’s desires, and deliver them at the optimal time to generate the greatest revenue and engagement.
Specialize with Micro Influencers and Social Media
Despite the world seemingly hanging on Kimye’s every word, the buying public continues to flock to non-celebrity micro-influencers to obtain product and service recommendations. This move toward more authentic posts and stories seems destined to receive a boost as Instagram appears headed toward hiding the number of likes posts receive. The move may make it harder for influencers to monetize their opinions, but savvy companies will engage marketing consultants who have built industry cred and strong relationships with micro-influencers to obtain more comprehensive data on influencer reach and impact. Marketing agencies will prosper only to the extent they can identify influencers whose content – not the engagement metrics – match the vibe and project buyer persona of the brands they represent.
Value will depend less on their popularity and more on the quality of their information and the reliability of influencers’ opinions. As a result, brand managers and marketing directors should look to build a stable of influencers whose collective content not only can reach the maximum number of target customers, but also lends itself to cross promotion, leveraging, and amplification. As one observer noted, “Twitter is a great place for celebrity and sponsored tweets. Micro influencers on these platforms are four times more likely to get a comment or other interaction than celebrities.”
Brands that can extend influencer reach and themes to online and brick-and-mortar marketplaces, earned, owned, and purchased media, and customer service encounters will flourish in the new influencer reality. Winners in the influencer marketing game will take advantage of each social platform’s inherent strengths: Facebook for boosted and promoted posts, stories on Instagram, YouTube’s pre-roll ads, etc. Tapping micro influencers through an omnichannel strategy gives brands a ready-made media mix that reinforces each platform while attracting related, but slightly different demographics within the target market.
So open your “-ize” to all the new insights and tools digital trends have to offer. You just may find you will revitalize your marketing program and supersize your ROI.