Memories from the heyday of formula-based brand management are fading fast. The days of mediocre products powered by brute-strength marketing are gone. Buyers took the power back, and social validation now influences all purchase decisions. Marketing campaigns, as we knew them, have become irrelevant.
Brands initially answered this challenge with a “radical” idea: stop selling and offer something of real value at the top of the funnel. So content marketing was born. But content marketing begs the question: how do we know if our content is “valuable?” That itch was scratched by a wave of analytics software, followed by a tsunami of data and Frankenstein creations like segments, cohorts, avatars, etc. And this roiling swamp of uncertainty produced a mind-numbing array of mar-tech products.
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And despite all that—or maybe because of it—we’re at a crossroads. There are only two channels that matter: Google and Facebook. And what’s happening there? Rising costs with diminishing returns.
So, what now? Did we come all this way to find ourselves in the same position as “Mad Men” era marketers, fighting “share of mind” battles?
The Marketing Geniuses Among Us
The solution to this problem is actually obvious. True marketing genius is around us, and we’ve all seen it. It’s that rare sales clerk you meet—the one that just seems to “get” you. It may seem organic to you, but it’s not random. The good ones are operating on a personal level. They’re intuitive; they listen for signals, read your body language. They’ve seen you (or someone like you) before. They know from experience what to look for—when to push, when to back off. People like that make shopping an actual pleasure.
So what is it, exactly, that these gifted marketers do? Three things:
- They evaluate you when you arrive: have they seen you before? And if so, what did they learn, and how does it apply now? What did you buy before? What do you still need?
- They read your current behavior: are you in a hurry? Are you on a mission to get a certain thing or just browsing for inspiration? Just killing time maybe?
- They establish a connection: do you want to get a call if a certain item comes in? Or can we order it for you? Do you want a heads up when the Fall collection arrives?
All of this information helps them precisely tailor their approach to you as an individual, but the real magic of these people is that they not only have the most satisfied customers, but they also make the most money! That’s the sort of win-win that brands need.
Imagine if that type of genius could scale—if we could do in the digital realm what a top-notch brick-and-mortar sales clerk can do with real, live customers. And what if we could exploit technology to push the concept even further than is possible in the brick-and-mortar space?
It turns out we can. And we need to.
If we want to revitalize our slumping sales channels, People-Based Marketing is the future. We can follow the blueprint of human sales clerks to make marketing more efficient and more effective.
- Know Your Visitors
Our first step, much like the sales clerk, is to evaluate each new customer in real time. When someone visits our site, we need to know who it is. For existing customers or total strangers, we can deploy People-Based Marketing and identity resolution technologies to capture identifiers that will allow us to accurately determine how we should interact with each consumer across browsers, devices and sessions. It’s not just identifying cookies; it’s about knowing and understanding real people.
And the identifiers we use for people-based marketing are “sticky,” so marketers aren’t limited to engagement on one site. In many cases, we will know when and how they interact with our content on other sites, such as Facebook. This means we can track and remember interactions everywhere in the digital space and deliver on the as-yet unfulfilled promise of omni-channel marketing.
With the one-two punch of capturing identifiers and using them in real time to instantly identify visitors, brands can build a framework to create and build individual relationships that get richer, deeper and more lucrative over time.
- Read and React
And if we consistently know who is engaging with our content, then (and only then) can we get into truly personalized marketing. We can read behaviors and decipher the signals. Has a user zoomed in on certain products? Have they checked out certain sizes and colors, or highlighted a product name to comparison shop? Did they explore a certain product on Facebook?
We can ascribe these behaviors to intention levels, and from that we can infer the right moments to engage and the right messages to send. In those key moments, we can use digital tools—pop up CTA’s, emails, push notifications—to send appropriate, precise messages or prompts designed to produce a desired result. This type of precision makes marketing messages more relevant, and yes, often even welcome, and captures new revenue potential.
Look at this example: Samsonite used People-Based Marketing to open a new stream of digital revenue that is performing as their second best channel overall, producing 9.8% of their total revenue. In a similar case, Accuquilt employed People-Based Marketing to generate a 55% increase in revenue from their email channel.
- Create and Strengthen Connections
As we engage with individuals this way, independent of browser or device, we stay connected and informed of every brand interaction. We get a much clearer picture of customers than most brands presently have. Over time, these persistent connections provide more information about each of our customers. We can learn preferences and dislikes. We can observe behaviors that tend to precede or follow other behaviors, i.e. what most often signals purchase intent, what usually leads to cart abandonment and what messages consumers tend to click. With such an individual feedback loop, the user’s experience can be precisely tuned to their personal characteristics and needs.
The net result will be fewer messages, but more effective ones. And very much like the brick-and-mortar clerk, we can build a relationships that are less effortful and more lucrative for us and simultaneously more relevant, enjoyable and rewarding for the customer.
With happier customers buying more, who knows, marketing itself might become the creative and rewarding enterprise we all hope it can be. And with People-Based Marketing, your customer data will take on a new, more powerful structure. You’ll understand individuals (people!) and have the ability to ascribe unique sets of characteristics to each one. With such unique records and rich data, new technologies like machine learning can be more fine tuned. Predictive analytics can make better predictions.
The future of marketing is here—and it’s all about people.
About Ryan Urban
Ryan Urban is the Co-Founder and CEO at BounceX, a People-Based Marketing cloud company and the fastest growing software company in America. A veteran of the e-Commerce space, Ryan was formerly Director of Acquisition at Bonobos and prior to that, Head of Ecommerce at Brickhouse Security. He serves on the advisory boards of both BabyAge.com and Bonobos.
Ryan holds an MBA from Fairleigh Dickinson University and spends most of his free time working on the behavior of his dog – Telemundo.