Two of our executives attended an Omnichannel conference at a resort near Atlanta recently, where technology vendors like us were matched up with brand representatives. We came back with great prospects and some important observations.
Foremost is that Facebook is roaring into the consciousness of every brand with a marketing budget, which is every brand. We’ve moved beyond the age of mass advertising and into the new age of lead generation systems. There will always be a role for creatives in positioning and defining products and in highlighting the most desirable attributes of those products. Those creatives are migrating to digital shops where their talents are blended with the quants who can precisely target ad spend. The traditional agency model of general media buying on a percentage of spend is rapidly being superseded by far more measurable and effective new pathways to customers. Google’s near monopoly on SEO and SEM has become part of a duopoly with Facebook and all its platforms. Brands no longer need worry about which half of their advertising is wasted; almost none of it has to be.
We heard repeatedly from marketing officers that they are assessing how best to capture this new thought pattern. Think of it like fishing. We are no longer casting a big net to haul in thousands of shrimp from which some will be ready for consumption. We are fly fishers who have matched the hatch and are looking for a particular species in a particular spot using all the gadgets and guile we have accumulated.
Lead generation companies in B2C and B2B know how to use data to reach the most likely prospects for any business. One can continually test and refine a message and its targeting and base decisions on calculated results and not just intuition. If people wearing red shirts and walking through a mall are your targets, you can probably find them right now. You don’t have to blanket the airwaves when much less money spent on digital media will bring you only the customers that match your criteria.
We had last year a number of conversations with both sides of the high-profile 6th District Congressional election in Georgia to replace Tom Price. We had personal connections with the two competitors. In the end, such vast amounts of money were poured into that contest that we watched them buy all the available TV spots in the Atlanta area. The KPI’s of the two campaigns were to spend as much money as fast as possible. If a rational strategy using data science and targeted media had been adopted by either one of them, it would have had more impact on the vote than the next 50 TV ads they ran. It might even have tilted the election. Perhaps in 2018 there won’t be enough free-flowing political cash to suspend common sense in the many contests on the docket across the country, in which case we’ll see spending for voter acquisition get in step with what’s working for businesses large and small in customer acquisition.
Most well-run companies don’t have the luxury of being over funded just because cash is magically handy. Marketing managers run on budgets and have no reason to spend more to acquire a customer than that customer is worth in the long term. We sensed that from companies who have never used anything beyond weekly flyers to those who have jingles you would recognize. All are cognizant of keeping abreast of where the Facebook/Google duopoly is taking what used to be the advertising business. They are ready to listen to the quants and enjoy the benefits of doing so. Many we met had already tested the waters, but few had really made the big leap to prioritizing lead generation over media buying. They will soon get to that decision as they see what their peers are achieving.
Next comes the decision of which technologies to employ from the more than 5000 technology companies in the ad tech space. The answer to that is to find one that has proven itself with big brands and can get the job done. No matter how that market eventually shakes out, one can be sure that the right tools will be available for the Google/Facebook platforms. Brands can wisely make commitments now to shift from classical advertising to quantitative lead generation. Our time on the road listening to them only reinforced that assertion.