Now it's about realizing the relevance. Taking the steps to successfully implement a new approach and mindset, and acquiring the tools or providers to make relevance a reality.
The Human Component
I believe the human component to realizing relevance is more significant than most give credit. Regardless of an organization’s digital marketing sophistication there is a tremendous chasm between those embracing relevance and those lagging far behind. On Monday I identified the role of the Evangelist. This role is critical to overcoming the barrier of complacency. “The Evangelist must convince others a new direction is a positive step, establish the value of a new mantra, and build the organizational consensus – a body of believers not skeptics.” Your organization’s Evangelist must be tireless and persuasive, and willing to re-teach others how to think about communication, on a daily basis, always asking the question “is this message valuable to us, or to the recipient?”
Until an organization can overcome ingrained habits and laziness leading to broadcast messaging there is no cause for the organization to worry about the technology component. The technology is only useful to an organization that understands its purpose.
The Technology Component
The finest technology cannot solely unburden an organization of its outdated habits. The technology can make adoption of a new approach easier, far less daunting, and accelerate the development of irrefutable proof-points by providing objective data that proves the relevance pay-off.
I will not shill for specific technologies or platforms here (obviously I am biased to our own software platform). Suffice to say the technologies available advance quickly, and there are many powerful platforms and providers ready to help serious marketers take the next step. Many cater to large enterprises, many focus on mid-size or small online and hybrid businesses. No matter the scale of your organization or specific needs, to realize relevance in your digital marketing there are three critical components that must work together:
- Data: It must be available and accessible. If you have critical customer data in multiple systems, this data must be unified into a single software platform from which you can reference your full universe of known attributes. There are systems available now that can also track online behavioral data, allowing you to associate known and observed attributes. If this data is not within reach of the marketer – if various components of IT or data services staff must be enlisted to produce even the simplest data set – then this does not meet the definition of accessible or actionable. Picasso, Van Gogh, and Monet – they did not have to submit a workorder or ticket to prepare their pigments, paints and oils before putting brush to canvas. If your ability to re-imagine how you target your message to your customer – and act on your imagination – is hampered by poor access to data, you require a technology upgrade.
- Content: Associating your digital content – banners, emails, SMS, landing pages, registration forms, video and rich media – with the data, is the next critical component. A rapid, yet fragmented evolution of online media over the last 15 years has spread this content out across many platforms, unless you have a multi-channel digital approach. So, while it’s a victory to unify your data, if it is not closely associated with the multiple content platforms, you’re schlepping customer data, segments, lists and activity reports between numerous applications. The practice of relevance means consistently extending the most relevant experience across channels. Your customers expect a single message from a single brand.
- Deployment and Analysis: It’s likely that the platform or provider that is hosting and managing your digital content is also deploying the campaign through their respective channel, and producing the correlating activity and performance reports. Digital content, deployment and analysis across many platforms yields ungainly processes that involve scheduling and monitoring deployment, then associating that activity data and metrics to other reports from other channels.
Finally, automating your newly developed, relevant communication tactics is a very important value-add feature in the technology evaluation. Once investing in the human component of conception and architecture, the advantage of leveraging sound technology to deploy automated marketing programs triggered by specific events and behaviors brings an organization closer to realizing relevance.
The Process Component
I always remind our clients, “email, mobile and website marketing are fantastically fast in deploying and measuring results. However, sound strategy, planning, development, and analysis still take as long as they did 20 years ago.” Sure we have tremendous tools that help us compile, sort, organize, design, and disseminate ideas and data. But, realizing relevance takes operational discipline and, yes, campaign lifecycles will in fact be extended due to the marketer who now manages multiple data conditions, audience segments, content assets – and the obligations that appropriately impact testing and analysis.
Wrapping Up Relevance Week
New processes should not be daunting. The goal of embracing relevance in digital marketing communications is helping you realize a positive business outcome: doing more with less. You achieve equal, or greater, results by any measure. Yet, you’re sending fewer emails and SMS messages, deploying more targeted ads not extending reach, and converting more orders through more relevant offers, and more relevant website and landing page experiences.
I hope this week’s discussions on the barriers to relevance, the return on relevance, and the realization of relevance have inspired you to take up the torch, and start taking the next steps towards a more effective and consumer-centric view of direct digital marketing.