The Flow Marketing Paradigm
At Oxyma, a Merkle company we strive to create the best experiences for customers, users and prospects through omnichannel & people based marketing. Going for the next step in people based omnichannel marketing, requires a new marketing strategy paradigm: flow marketing. The more classical approaches were 'push' vs. 'pull' marketing and 'planned campaigns' vs. 'triggered campaigns'. Let us quickly revisit those to freshen up the memory, so I can explain the concept of flow marketing.
To make you grasp the theoretical basis of this blog and make it easier to recollect the old approaches, I will use a tantalizing analogy. Oohhh analogies, what would we do without you... Let us use the analogy of the dating world (the very classical 'boy meets girl'), because we can all relate to this in a way and also because it exemplifies how communication and building a relationship works. And let's not forget the most fundamental reason for using this analogy: It makes reading this theoretical blog more fun. Okay, so let's go through those old theories.
Push marketing means making products more easily available, this can be done through distribution (being readily available) and by giving discounts to potential customers. The classic example is products that are placed at eyelevel of the consumer. Looking at the essence of this strategy, making the barrier to buy as low as possible has become relevant in a new way, thanks to ecommerce & social media.
Dating: Talking about lowering barriers, I think push marketing can be explained as going to the bar, drinking a few beers and talking to as many girls as possible while offering them drinks. It will annoy some, but it's a numbers game and at one point some unlucky lady will find you interesting enough to keep talking to you.
Pull marketing means increasing your brand preference or product preference, so that the customers will come to you. In this case the consumer is usually already aware of what he or she would like, question is; what specific brand and product will it be. Social media has also had a large part in increasing the potentials of this strategy. Only look at the word 'viral'. Viral marketing is highly related to social media. It creates such a buzz around a product or brand that the campaign itself sells the product.
Dating: Let's say, you are in that same bar and Dave over there is running from girl to girl and you think "that is not really my thing... But I'm a good dancer though". And in this case, there are in fact girls who think you dance well, they look at you, they look at each other, and the one brave enough to do it, comes to dance with you.
Now that we have revisited Push and Pull marketing, let's quickly go over another seemingly opposing marketing strategies, or even more specific, campaigning strategies; Planned campaigns vs. Triggered campaigns.
Planned campaigns are a classic way of doing marketing; you think of a goal, set objectives, plan out your channels, media, messages and most importantly your target audience and start creating and implementing the campaign and at the end of it (x amount of planned time) you see what the results are.
Dating: Your Tinder profile and the following messages consist of carefully thought out jokes and taglines, which you will use systematically and in the order that you planned it. The internet is full of examples of conversations that show that this might work. Another example of this is from the movie (and I know you've seen it...) Crazy Stupid Love. In which Emma Stone's character asks Ryan Gosling's character; 'what is your play?' and he explains her that he works Dirty Dancing into the conversation and then does the dance from the movie in which they end up kissing.
Triggered campaigns, on the other hand, is a more recent development. These messages are activated when a certain behaviour is detected, a field within a person's profile is changed, or when a certain threshold or date is reached for that particular record.
Dating: Let's say you have acquired that one girls phone number, but you only send texts when she sends you something first, when she has not send you anything in the last 24 hours or when she changes her profile pic on Whatsapp. You are a classic 'triggered dater' ;).
As you hopefully get from the very blunt analogies, every one of these 'dating strategies' has its pitfalls. And most of them complement each other in such a way that they can minimize each other's pitfalls. Now let's quickly go through 3 old school cases and see how we would allocate these and afterwards, see how they are now have complementary features.
- Email offers - I would say it was quite push and planned.
- Facebook ads - Initially these ads were pull and planned.
- Billboard ads - These used to be pull and planned.
What you might notice is that I wrote the answers in past tense. Because looking at how these channels where initially set up, differs a lot form how these (can) work at the moment. Email offers for example can be triggered, when you have the right campaign software and after implementing a DMP these emails can even be triggered by website behaviour. In lead nurturing these emails are also used as in a pull strategy, because customers are reminded about the brand during their decision process to hopefully choose for your brand at the end of their buyer journey. Facebook ads nowadays can be filled dynamically based on what you have searched for, what your interests are or what sites you have visited. These ads can now also contain CTA's so can be used to push products and sell them almost directly through the Facebook platform. Even digital billboards (DOOH) can now be altered directly to fit the weather for example. I Image the next step is that based on phone / WIFI usage these ads will change to fit the group of people walking by (just think about the personalized ad from Minority Report).
Dating: If we go back to our analogy, in the end our potential dating partner would probably prefer a combination of both Push and Pull, Planned and Triggered communication. In other words: Be a great listener but also show initiative at the same time and at the right moments.
As more marketers are into NBA's (Next Best Activities), Voice (conversational) and drawing out Customer Life Cycles and Customer Journeys I think we are well on the way of combining these 'old skool' marketing approaches in a more seamless way. As new technologies emerge I think that almost every digital channel will touch upon multiple squares on the matrix. And this is the reason why a channel, a campaign or a marketing strategy will not only match the criteria of pull OR push and planned OR triggered. But it will be one seamless conversation, hence the name: flow. (With Pega, marketing software, for example you can already have triggered NBA's and planned campaigns running within an ecosystem that has mutual dependencies with each other, to name an example.) And the same applies to campaigns. That is why we are entering a new kind of marketing, I call it flow marketing, but if you want to call it something else, let's call it something else. What we can take away from this blog is that our way of planning campaigns, looking at marketing tooling and aligning customer communication within the different silos of the organization needs to be altered to accommodate flow marketing to its fullest.