Getting personal: 3 problems with marketing in 2012 and hope for 2013 #marketing


I recently had the privilege of sharing some thoughts with more than 200 marketers* on "what to expect in marketing in 2013". Of the six themes (big data, unified marketing platforms, content marketing, mobile, social, marketing team transformation) by far and away the biggest response/interest came around the whole area of personalising marketing to the needs of the individual. This is a hot topic, spurred on by the need to build stronger connections in an ever increasingly noisy world.

I'd argue that despite the explosion in communications channels (communities, forums, social media etc) marketing fundamentally hasn't changed. We might be doing more stuff more often, but we still have three problems:

  1. We fail to recognise the sales cycle is now the buying cycle. 2013 is the year of the buyer. We no longer have the majority of attention of our audiences. They're in control. They call the shots. And if you think otherwise, you're doomed to fail. In markets like travel, consumers can review up to 15 websites before making a purchase decision. Having the right relationship at the right time is key in this promiscuous age. Oversell and you're off the list. Undersell and you never make it. 
  2. Buyers make decisions without your involvement. With real time, self service information channels buyers probably hide anywhere up to 75% of their buying cycle from you, even more so in B2B. What's more buyers don't want you involved. But still we gate content, hide information and force buyers into talking with us. This just doesn't work. Buyers won't to work with brands that facilitate their decision process, not obstruct it.
  3. The segmented audience approach is failing. We're still in the mass marketing mind set. Even with our understanding of segmentation, we're still broadcasting relatively generic messages to aggregate group of individuals. And what's more we time these comms out of sync with the buying cycle (see Daily Deals!!) of the individual.

The rise of content marketing in recent years has been seen as one way in which to tackle these problems. Build relevant, engaging, entertaining content that forges a better emotional connection with your audiences and you'll stand out from the crowd. On our webinar 67% of delegates said they felt they were now producing relevant content regularly. But still, content marketing is a relatively blunt instrument to build engagement. It still ignores the needs of the individual. 

Personalisation is key. What's needed is a personalised approach. Its the difference between an off-the-peg and a made-to-measure suit. Its comfortable, individualised and feels just right. However only 15% of our webinar delegates personalised content based on the individual's needs.

Let's be clear, I'm talking here more than just personalising "Dear XXX" and "Yours sincerely YYY" in an email. Its about dynamically changing copy, personalising offers and building out taliored comms not only in email, but online, in social and on mobile.

Think Behaviors. But more importantly, its about timing these communications based on behaviors. Its no longer good enough to send a special offer to everyone called John in West London who's bought an Xbox. Its about understanding the behaviors of that segment and timing/tailoring those offers when those individuals are ready to buy, not when you're ready to sell. Its also about choosing the right channel for the individual. So if I prefer eBook content on facebook (as expressed by my behaviors), communicate with me in that why. Its a new shift in how to do marketing.

The great news is you probably already have the tools to make this shift right now. The technology such as big data analytics and unified marketing platforms is well within the reach of even the smallest business. It just needs you to make a shift in your thinking. So let your New Year's Resolution be to make the leap into behavioral marketing!

* at a Brightalk webinar (watch the replay) and a Figaro Digital Seminar (see the slides)