The RISE of the micro marketing machine
The past makes me confused about the future of marketing
The Bellwether report for January 2015, found that the “fragile nature of the economy has knocked the confidence of marketers and forced many to adopt “cost-efficient” online strategies to reign in their advertising spend.” It then went on to state that, “Despite the slowdown in advertising spend in the final months of 2014, marketing budgets continued to rise as companies elevated expenditure in line with better revenue and profits growth.” Despite the fact that being “cost-efficient” appears to be a key to better revenue and profits growth, we can expect, and I quote from the report, “The planned increase in marketing budgets for the coming year is more aggressive than anything we’ve seen since data were first collected back in 2000.” So being “cost-efficient” is out and being “aggressive” is back in? The report’s conclusion (to be fair based on a survey of 300 top players) is that hard times forced clients to put more money into the internet thingamajigy but we can soon go back to pouring vast sums into “Main media” channels.
“Main media” what an insult
This kind of contradiction in the face of the obvious is part and parcel of the complex battle lines being drawn in the fast developing struggle for control of global advertising budgets that pundits are predicting will rise above $650 billion per annum by 2018. On one side of this disruptive conflict, sit the vested and influential interests of globalised agency services groups such as WPP Onmicom and Publicis. On the other side stand the increasingly discontent ranks of the world’s most powerful brands, headed by the likes of Apple, Microsoft and Google. Between both reluctantly co-dependent factions, who already refer to each other as Frenemies, exist billions of increasingly demanding customers empowered by new communications platforms, utilitarian technologies and self-absorbed tendencies that will ultimately shape and determine the outcome of this struggle. This autonomous and rightly demanding audience has come to the notice of visionaries working in the fastest growing CRM-related sector: marketing automation. To them, the situation seems odd: if 63% of the companies that are outgrowing their competitors use marketing automation software, why is it that marketing automation software only has a 3% adoption in non-tech companies? The reason for the slow development is that the potential for growth is only surpassed by the potential for disruption and that makes non-tech companies cautious.
We are all tech companies now
In the world of spontaneous mobile communication, persuasive social influence, real-time attribution and universal control of marketing activities, serving the fast changing needs of potential and existing customers with intimate efficiency in any given moment will require a complete reconstruction of the current agency/client construct. It is simply too slow to respond in context. The agencies groups such as WPP have responded in the time-honoured fashion of growth through acquisition and market expansionism. WPP is currently focusing on 3 main areas as it seeks to develop its $17 billion turnover – geography (China), digital (advertising) and consumer insight (research). Brands such as Apple have responded by trying to constructively align research and development, sales and marketing, human and physical resourcing, agency relationships and stakeholder requirements with ever more ambitious business objectives. An objective not completely aligned with the simple fact that customer experience is now regarded as far more important than having a business goal of being a $40 billion a year company.
Missing the point by a microscopic mile
Both strategies are macro solutions in a world that is about to shift to the micro level of customer engagement in context – think Minority Report. The micro level is a world in which the contextual generation of spontaneous interpersonal insights, self-propagating content and precision budget optimisation throughout the customer journey is a reality. Contextual marketing is a means of profiting from the increasingly fragmented and ephemeral nature of customer engagement. It will give rise to the age of the Micro Marketing Machine. The Micro Marketing Machine is not a device but rather a cybernetic approach to marketing that will deliver four distinct advantages:
Reduced marketing costs to minimal levels
Increased ROMI to optimal levels
Streamlined marketing operations
Engaged customers in real-time
- The Reduction in marketing costs will stem from the elimination of the need for 80% of agency involvement
- The Increased return on marketing investment will arise from the optimised relationship between targeting, content and call to actions
- The Streamlining of marketing operations will emerge from the direct connections made between business and customers without the need for media and content intermediaries and the resulting control over all activities this delivers
- The Engagement of businesses and customers in real-time networks will help businesses profit from closer contact and relationships with customers
The RISE of micro marketing machine has macro repercussions
In order to facilitate the Micro approach to marketing clients and brands will need to take complete control over not just the day-to-day but moment-to-moment engagement with customers. Agencies will find themselves reduced to the role if brand activation content production. Past the broad strokes of the initial awareness phase of marketing, clients will use technology to immerse themselves in the brand/customer network. Clients will need unprecedented access to live data on customers, across all channels and be able to pinpoint each contact on an individual customer journey map in a matter of milliseconds and respond accordingly with the right content for the given moment.
Massed data from a potentially limitless number of primary and secondary sources will have a substantial role to play, as will all associated search and social activity records. Even in the developing world of Big Data, this will be difficult. This problem, however, is relatively easy to resolve in the face of developing a means of generating an infinitely variable range of precision response content in a wide range of formats that can be sourced, reconfigured and delivered automatically. Many of the tools to achieve these seemingly impossible objectives already exist. They simply do not exist in the same place.
The skills gap is greater than the tech gap
The skills to develop, deploy and manage these processes will place immense power and responsibility in the hands of a those who will need to understand every aspect of marketing and how it might finally become an integral part of delivering business objectives. They will need to be customer-centric and media-neutral thinkers, capable of detecting the key issues in any market context, defining precise and realistic objectives, creating inspirational strategies, delivering actionable and accountable tactical plans and providing detailed cost projections, response metrics and ROMI accounts. Micro marketers will be masters of the omnimix-channel dashboard. In this world of split-second decision-making, they will seek competitive advantage through the aggregation of marginal gains rather than the big idea. They know that if you deconstruct everything you could think of that goes into making a sale, and then improve each element by 1%, the end result is a geometric increase when you put all the micro wins together. It may seem that Micro marketers will be have to be somewhere between exceptional and phenomenal in all aspects of marketing. The truth is they will have help in the form of AI systems. These artificial intelligence machines will be able to model the finest decision-making processes of marketing experts from all disciplines, by context, category and content.
The biggest issue will be finding or training the next generation of micro marketers. Their skill sets will be hard-earned, like their work processes they will have developed competitive advantage through the aggregation of marginal gains over many years of putting theory into practice. They will need to be strategic and tactical experts. The will need to be data and creative experts. They will need to be left and right-brained thinkers. They will need to be customer-centric and media neutral. They will have to be conservative planners and intuitive risk takers. They will be polymaths with insatiable appetites for knowledge and restlessness in the face of common practices and silo-thinking. For them, marketing will be a 24/7/365 experiment that requires systemic thinking to solve the puzzle of how individual moments influence each other to cerate the whole customer experience. The micro marketer of the future will know that small catalytic events separated by segment, proposition, touchpoint and time can be the cause of significant changes in complex marketing eco-systems. More importantly, they will know how to exploit them for competitive advantage.
Hang on to your micro hat
As Adobe’s insightful Digital Distress Survey pointed out, “Marketing has changed more in the past 2 years than in the previous 50.” I’m sure we are moving to a place in which that rate of change will seem off the pace. I am looking forward to being a micro-marketing fly on the wall.