For nearly the past 15 years, my career has been focused on helping marketers leverage data to better understand and more effectively market to customers on an individual level. In my early days in the industry, I worked primarily with marketing groups leveraging offline channels like catalogs and other forms of direct mail. In recent years, I’ve spent most of my time working with relationship marketing and database marketing groups and with online marketing groups. What amazes me (and is my key topic of my post today) is that while these marketers view themselves as so different they are really starting to converge.
Marketing Channels Are Evolving
There’s lots of change happening in the marketing domain. It’s a time of uncertainty but also one of opportunity. Marketing channels are evolving at a rapid rate:
- Mass media is less and less effective as audiences fragment and adopt technologies and tools (like DVRs) that enable them to tune out ads.
- The Internet is no longer “new media” since most consumers are online.
- Traditional outbound direct marketing channels require more analytic sophistication as response rates decline and more states consider and adopt privacy legislation.
Addressability Is the Common Link
Addressable channels are channels – both outbound and inbound – through which marketing can communicate directly with an individual – known or anonymous. This includes traditional direct marketing channels including direct mail and phone, internet channels like Web sites, email, mobile, and social media and, as technology and distribution capabilities continue to evolve, even traditional mass marketing channels like TV, billboards, and radio.
As addressable channels become more prevalent, marketers are recognizing that they need new skills to effectively engage, communicate, and interact with customers. Specifically, marketers must:
- Listen to all information provided by customers and prospects – both explicit and implied.
- Understand past and present information to determine the best possible marketing action.
- Communicate in a compelling, timely, and relevant manner.
What’s more, marketers must do this across inbound as well as outbound channels and in an integrated way.
Interactive Marketing Will Emerge As A Dominant Marketing Discipline
I believe that the best term to describe the fusion of these capabilities is “interactive marketing” which I will define as:
Engaging each customer and prospect in a cross-channel dialog that builds upon their past and current behavior.
Although the term isn’t new, few (other than Prof. John Deighton of Harvard who is widely credited with coining the term) define it as broadly as I have here.
What’s interesting is that, in many organizations, the required capabilities already reside in different parts of the company – relationship marketing, database marketing, online marketing, ecommerce, etc. Unfortunately, rather than integrating these skills many of the companies I talk with are adding duplicate capabilities within stovepipe marketing groups. The result? A widening gap between “online” and “direct” marketing functions.
Rather than continuing to grow the silos, companies should explore cross-training, opening lines of communication, and integrating marketing teams that communicate with customers via addressable channels.