Websites, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, mobile media, etc.: since many years now marketers are confronted with more and more media and communication channels and a complete change in the way people communicate and buy.
Where are the days that a good sales letter, an event and/or a few TV spots were enough to reach (potential) customers, fill the sales pipeline and create awareness?
Nowadays, reaching the right people (‘target groups’) on the right moment and using the right tools is a challenge for many marketers. On top of that it’s not (only) about reach anymore, it’s about conversations and dialogues.
It reminds me of a study by McKinsey (published in the McKinsey Quarterly, 4th. Edition 2004). The company found (remember, we’re talking end 2004 here) that twenty years ago big companies needed one advertising spot on three television networks to reach 80 % of the US population.
At the time of the publication, McKinsey found, they needed up to 20 messaging and media programs to get the same reach. I would like to see a follow-up on these data (for the record: McKinsey may have done a follow-up, but I don’t know since I stopped my subscription a few years ago).
Anyway, the days of pushing out company-centric, brand-related or product-related messages to a passive audience using all kinds of broadcasting techniques (‘push marketing’) are over. I guess you all know it.
The customer is in control (kind of)
People are more in control (I don’t like to say that customers control everything like some, because it’s a lie: corporations rule the world, not you and me).
People are in control over the way they engage with your company, how and where they look for information throughout their buying process, if, when and how they receive messages from you and when and how they want to talk to you (and you better listen when they do).
Are you thinking “what the hell is he (yes, I’m male) talking about, we know all this” now? I surely hope you do because what I just wrote (apart from the personal notes and the words Twitter and Facebook) is an exact translation of a text I wrote in 2004.
The difference is that I was not talking about social media then (I think blogs just were becoming more or less popular at the time) but about email marketing.
This is what I further wrote: “one of the marketing vehicles that’s ideal for all these changes in customer behavior, media consumption, etc. is email. People decide if they want to receive your messages because it’s an opt-in medium and – if well used – email marketing offers the possibility for people to interact with you”.
By “well used”, I meant personalized, enabling recipients to interact and following a list of rules I will not further develop now.
Hell, I even wrote that it was important to not only measure the number of delivered mails, open rates and conversion rates but also the number of forwarded emails, responses and interactions.
Email was never meant to be used as a mass medium
What do I want to tell writing all this? That I was some kind of visionary?
Of course not. Seth Godin’s “permission marketing” was on the market and Dave Chaffey’s “Total E-Mail Marketing” was first published in 2003.
But, looking back at something I wrote in 2004, I realize now that the social possibilities of email marketing have always been there. However, many email marketers chose to use email as yet another mass medium.
Just like online pioneers did in the beginning with Internet. I remember that, when portal websites became hugely popular, the sales people at Microsoft, Yahoo and the likes were trying to convince advertisers that Internet was now a mass communication vehicle. And they didn’t mean that their portals were used by millions of people, they meant that advertisers could now broadcast and push their marketing messages via their online media too, just like on TV!
Why did they do that? Partially, because they needed to. Advertisers were (and many still are) thinking about reach, broadcasting, monologues and branding only and were unfamiliar with (and even very sceptic about) everything that had to do with “online” or had “e-“ in its name. After the famous dot com bubble burst, those poor sales people needed to convince advertisers even harder.
Maybe we needed social media
However, partially those same online companies and their ad sales reps also were very confused about where marketing on Internet was going and what the true marketing potential of Internet was (except maybe those two dudes that started a small search engine with a stupid name that no one that lives today will ever forget: Google).
Anyway, apparently we needed – or better, invented – social media to make businesses aware that online media and email marketing are not about mass communication but about creating relevant conversations and striving towards the most personal interaction possible.
Let me translate one more phrase from that text: “for marketers, email marketing offers unseen possibilities for permission-based one-to-one communication, targeting, personalized messages and lead generation through relevant content”.
The text was based on a white paper I wrote earlier that same year with a female colleague digital marketer who worked for an ESP, that used it to generate leads.
Looking back, it seems to me that there still is a lot to do.
And I’m glad social media will help us do it. If we invented it, we needed it, whatever the reason.
And now I stop before I take you on a sociology ride about the increasing isolation of people and the need to virtually connect to fill a void.
Join me in the Social Marketing Forum