Know Social?

Social Images Over 14 years navigating direct marketing data sources, I’ve traversed the buzz-word landscape.  From today’s “Programmatic” to last year’s “Big Data” and all the way back to "Algorithmic Response Modeling” and “Multi-Channel Marketing" (which 10 years ago merely meant sending a follow up e-mail to a direct mail package), one thing remains abundantly clear:  The direct marketing landscape is fluid even though it’s principals remain highly effective.

But the puzzle remains unfinished.  Big Data supplies the incongruous pieces that marketing pros are hard at work to fit into harmonious patterns.  The goal is connecting as many pieces as possible to learn about consumer behavior, their attitudes, and combine with tried-and-true direct marketing tactics for optimum campaign results.

But there’s a gap … a missing link.  How do we figure out what data is important; that which is really relevant?  The simple answer is testing.  And testing is less an investment than ever thanks to the technology at our fingertips.  Without committing much budget at all, we can now explore true causal relationships between various data points and bring them all back to the e-mail address to which they are tied.

Social has been the most vexing of the various marketing channels.  There is a treasure trove of behavioral cues indicating those profiles ripe for offers at optimal times.  Take for instance the car-buying experience.  A challenge for most auto brands is identifying the appropriate time to ratchet up promotional offers at the precise time when potential buyers are ‘in the market’ or actively shopping.  Consumers reveal a ton about their intentions via their social platforms; but how do we channel that data for top-converting direct marketing tactics?  Sure we can serve up social display ads, but those conversion rates pale in comparison to the response that traditional direct channels generate.

What if we can harness the content of social interactions – where most of us are sharing VERY detailed information about our intentions, cares, and concerns – and utilize to deliver the right offer at the right time?  Many indicate their ‘in the market’ behavior by checking-in at auto dealers, opining about the benefits of certain car makes/models, soliciting opinions from their friends, or even lamenting about the painful process in which they are engaged to replace their current vehicle.

So, connect the dots:  Combine the valuable behavioral insight gleaned from social with proven response copy/creative via e-mail to lift response rates.  Third party commercial e-mail lists are limited in that they mainly offer only self-reported interests.  Checking a box indicating use of a product or endorsing a particular candidate does little to indicate strength of interest which really is the key to acquisition targeting.

We are using heavy interest indicators derived by social behavior to refine vast prospect e-mail universes, focusing on those showing the most interest, at the right time.   And we can test house customer and prospect files at virtually no cost before committing to outside list rentals.  We identify the social chatter resonating most strongly amongst the top customers as related to the product/service being marketed, and simply measure if house file prospects who also score highly for such content respond better within already-scheduled e-mail campaigns.  Most times we’re able to prove this correlation and then use to refine rented list universes to those who also strongly correlate.

But why E-mail?  Well, it continues to be the leader in the clubhouse for marketers who want the flexibility that digital offers and the conversions that traditional direct marketing delivers.  And budgets are reflecting this claim:  In his article, “More, Better Email In The Offing” Jack Loechner from The Center for Media Research indicates that e-mail is planned to continue its dominance in 2015, eclipsing social by 12 percentage points.

This is further developed in his follow up piece entitled “Hoping For Social; Depending on Email” where the point is clear that we can learn a LOT about our prospects via their social behavior (and other channels), but to convert them to paying customers, donors, advocates, etc., e-mail continues to be the tactic favored by marketers.

“Know Social” is a play on words where most traditional direct marketers will automatically translate as “No Social” as getting conversions from that medium is challenging to say the least.  But combining social with a top converting channel (e-mail) equals today’s paradigm:  Big data and it's effective use will separate the winners from the losers.