Firstly let’s confess at the outset that there will be no one day identified in history when marketing died and to be honest marketing is not dead, just a little sick! So what is the purpose of the title of this article? Well… the issue is a very serious one for both the marketing profession and senior personnel in business. So what is the illness?
For some in the marketing profession what follows will sound like heresy and for some Finance Directors oxygen may be required. The problem is ‘measurement.’
Evaluation methodology and return on investment have long been issues in the world of marketing and for good reason. Marketing needs to be able to make a case for itself and not be constrained to abstract concepts of the ‘brand’ and distanced from a direct link to sales and profitability. There is also no suggestion here that evaluation of campaign outcomes is not needed, neither that expenditure does not need to be justified. The problem is that the marketing industry is being guided towards channels that are easier to measure and away from creativity and a wider understanding of effectiveness.
Anyone aware of the need for an integrated campaign will know that a set of marketing objectives normally requires the deployment of different tools and techniques to achieve an objective. The problem is that when a particular tool or indeed an idea proves problematic when it comes to evaluation or measurement the balance of a campaign can be skewed and the ultimate outcome not as successful as it could be.
Valuable tools such as e-mail marketing, web based campaigns and some areas of social media are fabulous for providing evaluation information. Marketing meetings can be given over to discussions about, open rates, ‘likes’, bounce rates and so on. But these channels need to be used with an understanding of what they can achieve and not just be plumped for because the outcomes can be measured.
As a marketing consultancy Conical is regularly targeted by Google. This is not surprising – but wait for it – they use a great deal of post and print. How can this be? A ground breaking web based business using Luddite methods? Not in the slightest. Post is now an incredibly effective channel for some marketing output. It is not crowded and has a near 100% open rate. It is expensive to print things, we cannot tell what time of the day the post was opened, how many people saw the flyer and what technology the recipients’ computer was using but that does not make it an ineffective channel.
Conical spends much of its time supporting professional services clients where the rather intangible issues of reputation, trust and referral still dominate sources of new and repeat business. Understanding what helps build a reputation and what helps stimulate a referral is essential when it comes to planning marketing activity to avoid choosing a route…. just because it is easily measured.
It is worth taking a long hard look at where marketing time and budget is being spent and then considering the likelihood that the initiative is the most effective route for building reputation, trust and stimulating referral. In professional services the disciplines of marketing and quality are very closely linked because of the role that service quality plays when stimulating new business.
If marketers spent as much time looking at re-engineering services from the clients’ perspective as they do printing off e-mail and Google analytics reports then the balance could be redressed.
A particular area where measurement threatens effective marketing is in the area of ‘creativity’. Fortunately, we have plenty of enlightened businesses showing just how effective off the wall ideas can be. How would your MD / CEO have responded if you floated the idea of building a complete virtual world of stuffed toys speaking and writing in broken (non-pc) English in order to sell comparison services? Without pretty expensive and extensive market research it is tough to test creative campaign ideas but we need to be open to creativity and new ideas or indeed marketing may be dead.