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Thaddeus B. Kubis

Converging Technologies and Print

By Thaddeus B. Kubis

About Thaddeus B.

Thad has developed The Institute For Media Convergence (www.tifmc.org), into a leading Media Convergence research group and NAK Integrated Marketing Inc., (www.nakinc.com) an internationally known, integrated marketing resource utilizing emerging technologies linked to print.
 

The Future: Close-the-Loop Marketing

 
If you look back at a blog I wrote on customer-centric marketing, you will see the futurist in me. Recently, while being interviewed at a pharmaceutical event, I spoke about the need to link all components of marketing—both hard and soft—into a fully integrated marketing weapon.

I explained that true integration would eventually be defined as media convergence and what I termed a “close-the-loop” logic trail. The term “close-the-loop” generated excitement from the interviewer, who asked me to elaborate. I explained the concept of customer-centric marketing, using one of my current projects as an example of the application of the close-the-loop concept.

“Wow!” was the response, including a strong comment that mentioned a trend in the marketing field of assigning the title of “manager of close-the-loop marketing” as a new level of management in the marketing table of organization. Some firms within this vertical structure call the position by a slightly older name: director or manager of multichannel marketing.

I searched Wikipedia and did not find any definitions. A few more searches left me still looking for the answer, but then, via a Google search, I found a firm called HubSpot, which uses the term. Further searches suggested that the term originated in the pharmaceutical industry.

What does this have to do with print, marketing, media convergence and me? On the surface, not much; but if you look to the future and HubSpot’s website, you’ll see simple customer-centric marketing. A business associate, Jeff Stewart of Trekk, has been working on back-end links that provide in-depth reporting of customer interactions. Another business associate has been looking into developing a “black box” to manage the complete process. (I can’t divulge his name or his firm’s name at this time—if I told you, he would have to kill me.)

The description below from my pharmaceutical contact explains the link between print and profits. As many have said in the past, printers need not add products or services but MUST integrate them into their firms’ offerings.

Closed-Loop Marketing: The closed-loop marketing approach measures the results of marketing and communication initiatives by tracking the response of targeted groups. The results of responses—such as completed surveys, promotional entries, coupon redemptions, and purchase behavior—are added to a database for tracking and evaluation to improve future marketing decisions. Marketing campaigns can then continually adapt to customers’ wants and needs, creating a true relationship. Simply put, it allows marketers to develop and monitor highly targeted strategic campaigns based on a wide variety of customer histories and behaviors.

Think of points of integration that also can be regarded as points of profits. Look to integrate the key services of the description above into what you already do or will do. Yes, much of this integration includes soft media, e-mails and SEO, but equally important are hard media, surveys and direct marketing.

Where can a printer or marketing services provider fit into this new chain of communication—this new world of customer-centric marketing? If you are a printer looking for new discussion topics to establish or engage a prospect, you have more than a few new directions in which to travel. The same goes for marketing firms—you need to start to thinking about integration as full menu and not an àla carte offering.

Talking points like these may get you in the door, but they will not—in most instances—win you the project. What will get you the project is intimate knowledge of the needs of your prospects and the targeted vertical you are approaching. You need to establish your own levels of customer-centric marketing; I hate the cliché, but, yes, you will need to practice what you preach.

Most important is the need to focus on the end result—the close-the-loop phase of the operation. The future of media marketing lies not in developing the tools first, but in developing the needs of the consumer, business prospect or target first and then defining the media.

So, if you are a printer or marketing provider, you can’t just sell your products. You need to sell the end results, or “sell the sale.” That’s not a new term, but one that defines not only the need but also the direction and, perhaps, the road map to taking advantage of the close-the-loop need.

Multichannel marketing, integrated marketing and print-based marketing services are converging. They’re all looking for one source—one face to the market—that will define the process, the tools and the results. The market already has said what it wants—sales—and it seems that need has no limits.

Recent research indicates that marketing budgets are increasing; even the luxury market looks to an integration of three media to reach the high-end three-percenters. They prefer traditional tools first and emerging tools second. The key is not the order, however, but the mix.

The mix will define the last segment of media convergence—the ROI. In today’s fast-paced world of try this and try that, of jumping off one bandwagon while jumping on another, ROI is the constant and may be the only reason you’ll see return work, expanded business and increased profits.

Attempts to measure not only response but program-wide ROI have been around for a while. Prior to his success with The DMA, Larry Kimmel developed HOT ROD:

“The technology was designed to take disparate data feeds from legacy databases and easily put them on accessible, user friendly platform so that results from the full spectrum of media could be evaluated in real time and results maximized. The technology was called HOT ROD: Holistic Optimization Technology for Results On Demand. The technology, invented in 1999, was about 10 years ahead of its time.”

If you offer the hard and soft tools used in close-the-loop marketing, directly or via a partnership, you can start to control the process and increase your profits. According to Tom Marin of MarketCues, “Given that some industries have shrunk by as much as 50 percent, retention of current customers takes on a very real meaning.”

But what about new customers? What do you need to do to adapt to the seismic shifts right under your feet? Who will your new customers be, and how will you help them find their new customers?

This dramatic landscape offers a great opportunity for those who know what to do and say. I mentioned a key word—partners. Instead of adding marketing and design staff, have you considered finding partners? Supportive partnerships open many doors, enabling a firm that may offer a select baseline of services to grow without the need for internal expansion. I know of at least five firms that follow this protocol, and I am a supporting partner for at least three extended-family firms.

If you look to the new world of media, as I forecast it, you’ll see that few firms can offer all the support, all the tools, and all the results. But, you can aim to understand what your clients need and find the correct supporting cast. Look to industries such as aircraft and automobile manufacturing. Both own much of their supply chain, but partners also support them.

Partners help fill in the blanks and expand services, all with profit as the key motive.

Looking to close the loop on profits, find a profit, or talk? I can be reached at thad@nakinc.com or 917.597.1891.
 

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