The Most Important Marketing Question That You’re Probably Not Asking

In November last year, Gartner concluded a survey that found that 51% of companies plan to increase their digital marketing budget in 2015, by an average of 17%. They also observed that digital marketing spend has never been higher, last year accounting for at least 25% of total marketing budgets.

Digital marketers today have numerous channels that set them up for success. Last year, email was once again rated as the most effective channel, and the easiest to measure ROI against. Social networks were next best, with more than half the people surveyed planning budget increases to improve social engagement. Rounding out the top 5 programs tabbed for budget increases, were mobile marketing, search and display. Clearly, digital is where the action is.

However, as a marketer when I see all these channels doing well, I get extremely confused. While these trends make perfect sense, it makes me wonder whether we need to rethink how we look at communication, considering that the lines between communication channels are being blurred every day. For every study that prefers one channel, there seems to be one disagrees or offers a completely different view (See Alert Solutions report on SMS messaging vs Marketing Sherpa’s report talking up email).

I invite you to ask yourself the following question as a marketer:

Is it time for your communication strategy to become customer-centric, instead of channel-centric?

Think about that while you allow me to explain further.

The above mentioned numbers of channel growth suggest that we may be looking at this all wrong. The truth is that each vertical and behavioural type warrants individual attention, irrespective of what channel you choose. Last year, Urban Airship analysed more than 1,000 apps and 3.8 billion push notifications to find that highly targeted messages drive 293% more app opens on average than generic, broadcast messages. For email, Mailchimp sampled over 11,000 campaigns and found click rates in targeted campaigns that were 55% higher than in bulk, non-segmented campaigns. To anyone looking at these numbers, it’s pretty clear that which channel to use may not be as important as focusing on what to say, and when to say it.

When we get to what we want to say to a customer, and what behaviour we want to drive, personalization is the name of the game, and tracking behaviour is critical. Almost 80% of marketers surveyed as part of Econsultancy’s Email Marketing Census in 2014 predicted that within just five years, all email will be integrated and personalized, and that one in three companies is already engaging in content personalization.

Let’s face it — whether you look at all this from a customer’s point of view, or that of a marketer, it can be inferred that no one likes to be treated as just a name on an email list. The new paradigm in customer communication software will need to focus on triggered messaging based on events and behaviour, and be agnostic to what channel should be used; ergo, customer-centric instead of channel-centric.

I submit to you that this is a question worth asking not just for your company as a whole, but for every campaign that you choose to come up with going forward. Putting the customer at the centre seems to be the most likely way to get those engagement and LTV numbers pointed in the right direction, and hence build customer champions for your brand’s future.

Originally published at on June 6, 2015.

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