To be agile and responsive, companies need to abandon the notion of campaigns and embrace the concept of channels. Here are five rules for managing a successful channel.
Clearly the new constant in marketing is change, and agencies and marketers who embrace this constant change are best suited to succeed in today's environment. But where does this leave businesses and business models that have enjoyed success and prosperity based on formulas that relied on particular media channels and constants?
Goodbye to Old School
I remember I was in a meeting with a direct marketing company that literally did hundreds of millions in sales via a simple formula: celebrity spokesperson plus DRTV (direct response television) plus limited print. When they first started 20 years back, there were a handful of national and local networks and a menu of shows that hit their demo like an arrow to a bull's-eye. They ran their ads, the phones rang, and the dollars poured in. The cost per customer was low and the profits were high. Simple! Today, this is not the case.
Shifting Media Landscape
The shifts in media and media consumption habits have been more frequent and more profound than in the last 50 years. Audiences got fragmented as cable ushered in literally hundreds of channels; search changed the way consumers of all ages located goods and services they wished to purchase; print circulations plummeted; banner ROI viability came and went; thousands of affiliate marketers chasing bounties cluttered the web with spammy search results, ads, and email, making it harder for this company to dominate as they did with television; and finally, the analytics requirements to identify what worked in their ever-diversifying environment got ever higher. On top of that, even when the analytics did identify a winning formula, it was often a "nugget" that lacked scale and long-term viability.
So now here I was in this meeting with what I would consider to be very traditional marketers, and do you think these industry war heroes wanted to hear about social and mobile? I was there to tell them about the next big shift in consumer media consumptions and they were looking forward to another variable in their business model like a hole in the head.
Channels, Not Campaigns
The thing that these executives need to know is that it's possible to succeed in this environment if you embrace change and learn to test, measure, and harvest faster and better than your competition. To do this you need an agile real-time platform that can adapt and evolve to changing requirements and opportunities. In other words, you need an optimization-enabled channel.
The Power of Now
Noted author and speaker David Meerman Scott talks about "the power of now" in his book "Real-Time Marketing & PR." He put it best when he spoke in a lecture I saw about how planning campaigns based on old data can be a dangerous approach in today's real-time, ever-changing world. He presents a scenario where data from a campaign that was launched six months ago is analyzed. Then a campaign is planned and launched based on that data. Let's say this whole process takes three months. (Yes, a long time, but have you ever tried getting creative developed, approved, and through compliance?) So in this scenario many companies are launching campaigns that will run for months based on results and data from campaigns that were addressing market conditions nine months ago! This is not leveraging the "power of now."
The Agile Optimization-Ready Channel
The approach companies need to take to be agile and responsive is to abandon the whole notion of campaigns and to embrace the concept of channels. (This applies to both direct response and branding.) A campaign has a start date and an end date. It either works or it doesn't work. A channel goes on forever; it has none of these absolutes. It never goes dark, can change and evolve as needed, and builds on itself year after year.
A channel by its nature is agile and ready for optimization. It has a pulse that can be visualized and acted upon. It typically doesn't have a point of no return. It doesn't bet the farm on its success. Media types, placements, and creative ad units can be tracked and turned on and off at will. They develop patterns and trends that can be tracked and replicated.
Five Rules for Managing a Successful Channel
So to convert the mindset of a company from campaigns and channels, here are five rules that will help you on your way:
Any more rules to add? Do you agree with me? Disagree with me? Please comment, "like," and share this column!
As founder and CEO of Overdrive, Harry Gold is the architect and conductor behind the company's ROI-driven programs. His primary mission is to create innovative marketing programs based on real-world success and to ensure the marketing and technology practices that drive those successes are continually institutionalized into the culture and methods of the agency. What excites him is the knowledge that Overdrive's collaborative environment has created a company of online media, SEM, and online behavioral experts who drive success for the clients and companies they serve. Overdrive serves a diverse base of B2B and B2C clients that demand a high level of accountability and ROI from their online programs and campaigns.
Harry started his career in 1995 when he founded online marketing firm Interactive Promotions, serving such clients as Microsoft, "The Financial Times," the Hard Rock Cafe, and the City of Boston. Since then, he has been at the forefront of online branding and channel creation, developing successful Web and search engine-based marketing programs for various agencies and Fortune 500 companies.
Harry is a frequent lecturer on SEM and online media for The New England Direct Marketing Association; Ad Club; the University of Massachusetts, Boston; Harvard University; and Boston University.
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