Looking Ahead for Marketing 2014: Micro-marketing

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If 2013 showed us one thing is that it’s traditional marketing, I’ll call that “broadcast messaging,” is on the decline. Why? Because as marketers have adopted digital into the traditional mix of print, radio, and TV, they have looked at digital only as another channel with very low barriers to transmission. The result? A lot of noise and little-to-no increase in conversion.

So the marketing industry went looking for something that would help them break the cycle. Well, a few of them did. And what was that? Stories.

Storytelling became the buzzword of Marketing 2013. Based on a lot of neuroscience about our affinity for stories, marketers adopted storytelling for two main reasons. First, it was more personal. Stories connect with us individually. When they are well written, with narrative and characters and plot and setups and following a dramatic triangle, our neurons fire on all cylinders. Second, they are differentiating. You can’t just copy a story, especially if people have already read it. So marketers were forced to really dig deeply into their organizational DNA, into their creative minds, to find the unique angle, the special way to portray their product and service within narrative structure. Many of them did that through video which is rapidly becoming the defacto and preferred content type for a global audience.

But there was also a lot of talk in 2013 about data and personalization. Marketing automation vendors like Marketo (went public in 2013) and Eloqua demonstrated that marketers wanted more quantifiable ways to engage with their audiences. Perhaps recognizing the digital noise that they helped create, or maybe responding to consumer behavior that reflects busier lives, marketers looked to pure technology to help them personalize the content experience. But even that becomes part of the noise.

And finally, 2013 was about the maturity of social network marketing. Many organizations already had a social media presence in the big networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) but new networks like Vine, and what had been considered non-essential networks like Pinterest, rapidly gained in favor with marketers as they realized that video and images were more engaging than traditional text.

Still, as we exit 2013, I am left wondering if anything really had a difference. Of course, that’s not the right way to look at it. Trends take years, sometimes decades, to fully come to fruition. And that’s why I think in 2014 we will see the birth of the real trend, the fundamental evolution that has been happening under the covers: micro-marketing.

What is micro-marketing?

Micro-marketing is the development of marketing programs targeted at a small group of individuals or a single individual. This is opposed to macro-marketing which targets an entire market or specific buying persona (what most marketers currently do now).

The first thing you might ask is, “well, how is this different than personalization?” Personalization is a component of micro-marketing. Personalization doesn’t take into account the campaign mechanics of targeting a small group or individual person. Within marketing, personalization is really about the content experience. It’s about utilizing technologies and data to deliver the right content to an individual based on their behavior (within the content experience) or other demographic/psychographic data.

Micro-marketing, on the other hand, focuses on developing campaigns and other marketing programs around a highly personalized view of individuals gleaned from direct engagement through social media, commenting, email, and other 1:1 digital technologies. It addresses the elephant in the room: “what do I do with all this one-on-one interaction?” So although micro-marketing makes use of the same data that personalization might use, it goes a step further by taking into consideration direct conversations and interactions with people. Consider this example:

  • Company A uses a social media management platform and a CRM. As they have direct conversations via the social platform, they record those into the CRM as part of an opportunity record.
  • Using analysis capabilities within the CRM, Company A aggregates these conversations into a report that exposes common threads and patterns.
  • Using that report, Company A designs micro-marketing programs targeting those opportunities specifically. But these programs aren’t entirely automated. Because they are based on direct interaction and engagement, some component of them relies on the same one-on-one interaction.

Micro-marketing is based on the premise that digital technologies actually unite us much more closely together than they divide us. With just a few clicks and keystrokes, anyone can connect with anyone else, especially customers to companies. This therefore supposes that relationships will be the primary differentiator and driver of business success in the years to come, especially when you consider how easily it has become for upstart companies to replicate products or services.

Micro-marketing, then, is all about capitalizing on relationships.

What exactly will we see in 2014?

You won’t see micro-marketing displace macro-marketing. That’s because macro marketing, although inefficient, is great for general awareness campaigns. What we will see is marketers starting to experiment more with micro-marketing campaigns. They will start leveraging the relationships they have been developing throughout 2013 to test sales funnels, marketing campaigns, and conversion tactics on much smaller groups…perhaps even individuals. It’s possible that software like Marketo, Elquoa, and even HubSpot will turn into micro-marketing platforms enabling management and maybe even some automation of micro-marketing campaigns and activities.

Do you see yourself practicing micro-marketing in 2014? Could you ever target a single individual with a marketing campaign?

Image courtesy of vladstudio.deviantart.com

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