Today’s Revamped Marketing Group

IT’S HARD TO NAME A VERTICAL upon which the Internet age has not wrought upheavals. In marketing alone, in-house departments and outside firms look nothing like they did as recently as when I began my career as an intern at 17, and I’m only in my 30s. (My early 30s, thank you very much.)

Successfully revamped marketing groups have some traits in common. Here are a few I have observed:

Technology and creative are one. No longer can a marketing group get away with having a writer and designer cook up an ad which they hand off to a programmer for uploading. Successful interactive work is born within the context of knowing the technology—how it works, what it can do, and how markets use it—along with that of knowing how to appeal, seize attention, and generate action. If the requisite skills do not all reside in the same people (likely they do not), then be sure these folks work together, not in separate vacuums, and not in competition.

Emphasis on search. The strongest message is useless if the right people can’t find their way to it. Expertise in organic and paid search becomes even more crucial with the rise in mobile devices, where showing up in anything lower than the Number Three spot is not much better than not showing up at all.

Emphasis on dialog. Wisely or not (I think not), marketing once largely consisted of sending out a message. Today’s markets can have true interactivity and, it turns out, they demand it. More than just letting customers reply, true interactivity means encouraging customers to get involved, listening to them, letting them know you’re listening, and acting on what you hear.

Living (not pushing) the brand. Gone are the days when you could cook up a warm, fuzzy image, buy lots of target points and, voilà, people swallowed it. Millions of customers using social media make up a powerful mass medium in their own right. This is a world where you attain a brand image not by claiming it, but by earning it. It is a two-edged sword. Just ask Delta Air Lines.

Marketing participates in policy decisions. In too many organizations, policy is made in a vacuum and, after the fact, marketing is told to make it fly. But not in smart companies. By definition, a truly interactive marketing group dialogs with your customers. If they’re doing their job, they bring perspective that you must consider when forming policy.

Preaches less, publishes more. Markets will talk about you with or without your help. Savvy marketers facilitate dialog with blog comments, forums, and user communities. User communities allow your passionate brand advocates to hold you accountable and identify when you make a bad marketing move, e.g., BMW and Vanguard. It builds customer trust and holds your feet to the fire.

Still honors craftsmanship. Having your message appear on a device in front of the right audience is still no guarantee that you have reached anyone. It’s tempting to mistake the glamor of sexy apps for marketing. It’s equally tempting to let online tools lull people who aren’t writers or designers into thinking they are. The toys are a must, but so are the crafts of connecting and persuading.

Never assumes having arrived. Interactive marketing is dynamic. Not just devices, but apps evolve daily. So do the environments in which they—and you—work. The moment you think you’ve mastered interactive marketing, you’re in danger of falling behind. The best any of us can do is to continue running as fast as we can to keep up.

Partners with IT and Analytics. Interactive marketers can no longer afford to lock horns with these two groups. Make them your best allies and you can conquer the new world.

Leave a Comment