Decisions don’t make themselves. Or do they?
Marketing decision-making has changed since the days of Mad Men. In those days, we used valid and reliable quantitative survey research to inform strategic and tactical decisions. We also drew on qualitative studies—focus groups and in-depth interviews that delved deeper into motivations and helped us craft messages that resonated with consumers.
We tried to improve our insights with kooky qualitative methods and neuro-linguistic programming. We spent large sums testing copy for persuasion, day-after-recall, and readership. We longed for a way to tightly connect marketing stimulus with individual consumer response. But it rarely existed. So, market researchers were treated as the high priests of consumer information.
Then the evolutionary force of technology changed everything.
It happened slowly, so that we noticed change but lost perspective on the important issues involved.
Media fragmented, first with cable TV, then with the Internet, not to mention in-store media and other innovations. This gradually made media measurement inconveniently patchy and expensive, if available at all.
We stopped gathering and using so much national, statistically pure data about consumers and market segments.
We started talking about individuals and the possibility of one-to-one marketing. For a long time, it was a future that was only fulfilled in our aspirations.
Today, it feels like the future is finally here. In short, the preponderance of the “map” of consumer behavior and attitudes now exists online, so we’ve rightfully turned our attention there. The media are online. The consumer’s information gathering process is online. The consumer’s social interaction is online. We can converse with individual consumers online. The store is even online.
We can now track nearly every move the consumer makes, and in many cases, we can even follow the behavior of individuals across advertising media, marketer websites, social conversations, email communications, and shopping behavior.
As a result, we are awash in consumer data—market research data, if you will. We have all become high priests of consumer information. We have it, and we control its use in real time.
But here’s the sad truth. Our consumer data is totally out of control. Few of us have the numerical and analytical skills—much less the time—to make much out of the sea of data that surrounds us. We are inefficient and ineffective high priests of information.
Into this embarrassment of riches, a new future is rushing in. It’s called Marketing Automation, and it’s software that takes individual customer data across all types of online activity and presents it so that we can respond appropriately, automatically, and efficiently to individual behavior, advancing the consumer decision process and following up appropriately after purchase, hoping to deepen the relationship.
And Marketing Automation makes thousands of decisions for us, based on real time consumer data.
So, the digital technology that broke everything down is now putting it back together again.
We may as well get on board and learn all we can about it, because the evolution is relentless.
Oh, and by the way, it’s a good thing. Managed well, it does what good market research is supposed to do--increase customer satisfaction. Long live Marketing Automation.