The IT Marketing Paradox
For at least the last two decades, the tech sector’s marketing efforts have been essentially demand generation-driven – a fixation on short-termism and lead gen (most often through email; seen as cheap and easy to execute) matched to a requirement to be measured and deliver ROI.
In contrast, bar a tiny minority of some marketing-led exceptions, budgets for advertising and especially brand activity have been in sharp decline. Victims of the hard-to-measure-the-value argument.
This essentially reactive and short-term focus has certainly not enabled the IT marketing function to shine, especially so given the reducing response rates reported industry and world-wide along with the diminished budget pot gift-wrapped with the message; ‘please can you do more with less’.
The Digital Revolution
With the inexorable rise of digital, a whole new world of possibilities (and complexities) has opened up such as PPC, SEM, content syndication and a whole gamut of social media options. This has led industry commentators such as SiriusDecisions to claim that these ‘inbound’ marketing vehicles will be the future of demand generation. For once the hyperbole seems justified, given the massive market acceptance and adoption of all things digital.
Also riding this digital wave, new technology-based marketing tools have surfaced – from free-to-use web analytics through to sophisticated, automated marketing and lead nurturing platforms.
These convergent trends represent a massive opportunity for marketers – the ability to create the most powerful integrated marketing.
The Integrated Marketing Revolution: Nurture
With typically just 5% of a company’s addressable target audience in the market to buy at any one time (based on FPS Market Research), it makes sense that the customer demand cycle begins with demand creation in order to drive reach and scale before delving into the nitty gritty of the lead generation machine.
By its very nature, advertising is the discipline that works best at the front end of this demand cycle – building awareness, affinity and preference before ‘handing over’ to direct marketers to drive leads – getting those hard-to-convince prospects into and through the purchase funnel (when they’ve finally decided that they are in the market to buy). Until relatively recently, these disciplines have been distinct and largely unconnected (often different marketing agencies and indeed different client side functions).
The difference is we now have the tools and the capability to connect the two, to join more of the marketing dots together in a manner not possible before. At the same time being able to embrace all those new media opportunities that the digital floodgates have let in.
Coming Full Circle – the inbound impetus
Many moons ago, in the exuberant and IT-naïve 80s, Fox Parrack Singapour started life as an advertising agency with a dedicated focus on the burgeoning tech sector. Gradually, over a few years, we morphed into an ‘integrated agency’ by embracing the potency of direct marketing. It now feels we’ve come full circle.
Advertising, in its full sense (not just the printed stuff) is once again back on the agenda (for the enlightened at least) and finding its rightful place within the marketing mix; the recognition that we need to bring scale to our marketing with reach strategies and move away from our dependency and myopic focus on tightly targeting the few (that elusive 5% already in the market).
And it’s not just advertising that’s returning to favour. Brand is back too (it really didn’t go away, just sadly neglected as the expensive thing that was the exclusive domain of corporate marketers back at HQ). Brand, as we’ve always known, holds massive sway in the purchase decision process. In tech terms, the principle that in 90% of cases customers buy one of the two or three front-of-mind brands they already had on their mental list before getting into the maelstrom of the decision-making process still applies.
If inbound is the future of demand gen, then advertising and brand (kindly delivered through those self-motivated social channels) will be the fuel.
What’s making this all the more relevant are those marketing automation and lead nurturing platforms such as Eloqua, Marketo et al. We now have the ability to successfully connect these scattered dots, to stimulate and then track customer journeys, to understand intentions though behaviour rather than seeking answers through inane questions on painful forms or through even more painful telephone calls (research shows they’ll lie anyway just to get you off the phone).
Let’s embrace the world of the empowered digital consumer and customer. Don’t seek to control them, just aim to excite, engage and motivate them through the gentle (and sometimes not so gentle) art of persuasion.
We call it marketing for the digital age.