We got away from it for a while. By “we,” I don’t mean Relationship Martech, or our industry or even our generation – I mean the whole planet got away from relationship marketing for many years. Those years were known as the Industrial Revolution. Before that, all transactions were based on relationships, going all the way back to the Dawn of Marketing, in fact. By working strictly on a referral basis, consumers got, not just a product, but a relationship with the merchant.
But they didn’t have a lot to choose from. That’s why that Industrial Revolution became so poular: lower prices, wider selection and, eventually, globalization. Sometimes called the Product Marketing Era, its marketing was based, not on relationships, but on features and benefits. Products, like appliances for example, captured global market share by having a smarter feature set than their competitors' on the assumption that the end-users were essentially the same.
Then “smart marketers began to question this approach,” according to Responsys President Scott Olrich. “Why…were we marketing to similarities? Why not differences?”
To market to differences, mail-order catalogs like LL Bean started to segment their mailing lists, ushering in the (re)birth of Relationship Marketing. Mail-order segmentation was followed by databases linked to email, cable television, Internet searches, social media and other increasingly sophisticated marketing tools designed to match different market targets to organizations’ differentiators. These tools have now refined niche markets into highly personalized groups – allowing individual, or 1:1 (personalized) marketing campaigns.
At the same time, many of these software tools have also given consumers the power to speak out about how the products and services work or don’t work. This two-way street has enabled us to reach Relationship Marketing 2.0.
According to consultant Vignesh Subramanyan, that’s the point at which “personal recommendations are the primary driver of consumer purchase decisions at every stage of the purchase lifecycle, for the majority of product categories and industries.” Hence, we’ve now come full circle back to true Relationship Marketing for companies, associations and even governments.
But how can you have true relationships on a global scale? By automating the basic processes and freeing up humans to go deeper with your customers and prospects.
(Image Credit: Photo by Christine Roy on Unsplash)
I remember when marketing departments were a team of media buyers and designers; now it’s much more about data science and automation. I’ve played a small part in that transition, starting in 1987 when I brought desktop publishing to local advertising in Maine. After my first web project in 1993, I managed some of the earliest banner ad and search marketing campaigns, co-founded 2 dot-coms, helped the State of Maryland fight spam, developed social media strategies for clients like Celestial Seasonings and launched one of the first apps on Capitol Hill.
By that time, we all had begun to broadcast personal data about our identities, preferences and whereabouts continually from our pockets, thanks to smart phones. Privacy advocates were alarmed, but billions accessed the increasingly relevant information anyway.
Privacy is important, but relevance is essential: the best and only defense against our very serious 21st century problem of information overload. The novelty of 500 million search results at a time had finally worn off, and relevance had always been my battle cry in my decades-old personal vendetta against spam and junk mail.
At the turn of the last century, the average American encountered about 12 marketing messages a day. Now it’s well over a thousand, so relevant information is more important than ever, and a global economy demands that information processing be automated.
I learned about bots in 2016 when interviewing a guest on my radio show, The Marketing GPS Challenge Hour and became more interested in marketing automation. Soon, martech (short for “marketing technology”--my field finally got a name) was what I was building, speaking and evangelizing on as I found technologies to harness relevant, actionable information from the every-rising tide of data.
The purpose of all of this is to deepen relationships. Wait, am I about to use “computers” and “relationships” in the same sentence? Yes, computers, the great information sorters, are best at sifting through data. If we get computers to do a better job handling the excess and the mundane, humans become more freed up to address what’s meaningful, and it’s what’s meaningful--things you actually care about--that builds relationships.
In fact, marketing has come full-circle from pre-industrial days when you bought goods and services based on who you knew. Then transportation brought globalization, and, in the last couple decades since those first banner ads, the Internet has now made relationship marketing possible again, on a global scale. Marketing automation is the key to streamlining, saving time and labor and empowering those relationships.
Call me a relationship “martech-er.”
Tom McClintock is the owner and founder of Relationship Martech.