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A Case For Precision Marketing

Sandra Zoratti, vice president of marketing at Ricoh, believes it's both an exciting and scary time to be a marketer. On the one hand, marketers have a plethora of innovative tools to engage customers and prospects on all new levels; on the other, marketers have less control over messaging and branding in an age of customer power. Company transparency, she notes, happens whether it’s intended or not.

“Online conversations, not brand broadcasting, are the new determinants of a company’s brand identity,” says Zoratti, author of Precision Marketing: Maximizing Revenue Through Relevance, who was named Colorado’s Business Marketer of the Year in 2012. “Peer-to-peer conversations are increasingly powerful because we’re communicating with people, not business entities, and those same people make recommendations and shape brand perception. Leading marketers are learning how to engage and bond with customers and prospects by listening, asking, and sharing.”



Zoratti, who is scheduled to speak at the 2013 ANA Advertising Financial Management Conference, May 5-8 in Scottsdale, Ariz., discusses the key principles of precision marketing, how to implement big data programs with backing from procurement, measuring the success of multichannel marketing programs, and more.

Q. You define “precision marketing” as using customer-driven insights to deliver the right message to the right person via the right channel. How can marketing automation tools and platforms improve the relevancy of brand communications and increase response, revenue, and ROI?

A. Marketers have to speak in the language of business. Measuring ourselves in the context of revenue, response, and ROI allow us to show the concrete value of our investments and bridge our marketing activities to broader business goals. The need for marketing automation tools might not be obvious, but when you look at three unacknowledged, yet almost universal truths that the Chief Marketing Officer Council recently uncovered, the call to action becomes quite clear. The shared stumbling blocks to personalizing, targeting, and timing communications are insufficient data-gathering methods and analytics, silo data that is rendered hard to obtain, and inaccurate and/or unclean data. This is where marketing automation has the potential to “save the day.”

Marketing automation tools and platforms lay the foundation for “precision marketing,” which is leveraging data-derived insights to improve marketing outcomes by delivering the right message to the right person at the right time via the right channels. Marketing automation addresses the three common problems I just described by increasing the efficiency and accuracy of data gathering, analytics, targeted marketing message deployment, and measurement. To put it simply, marketing automation tools and platforms can help to identify the best outbound customer marketing by gathering inbound customer behaviors. They also help marketers overcome the “data paralysis” that holds us back from grabbing the gold ring of turning data into meaningful information that helps us be relevant and engaging with customers -- and pave the way for future revenue.

Q. How can marketing make a strong case to procurement for implementing big data programs?

A. Actually, this is the irony. Big data programs imply big dollars, lots of time, and infrastructure investments. With the plethora of cloud-based and modular solutions, there are great options for marketers who want to crawl-walk-run and implement, measure, learn, adjust, and repeat. That will enable the marketer to generate results that are relevant to the business, the customers, and the prospects and bring those facts to the CEO, CFO, CIO, and other executives. Since leveraging insights from data-driven techniques is a marathon, not a sprint, this is an excellent way to start and then expand.

Q. How can brands better bond with customers in an age of media proliferation?

A. Brands can strengthen bonds with customers in this tricky environment by conversing across all channels, being visible and transparent, listening socially, being responsive and relevant, and “dogfooding” -- using their own tools and products to prove their value. The data gleaned from customer behavior provides the insights that guide this interaction, which is why it’s so important to use tools like marketing automation to divine the most meaning from the proverbial well of data that we’re standing on.

Q. How is Ricoh uniquely using social media to engage customers and boost its lead generation efforts? Please share an example.

A. For Ricoh, lead generation isn’t our primary goal with social media -- engaging with and influencing prospects and customers is. This more personal focus is reflected in the candid, informed conversations that I have every day about Ricoh-relevant topics, such as data-driven marketing, leadership, social media, marketing, and industry trends such as publishing.

On a larger scale, Ricoh’s social media properties are focused on building trust, interest, and relationships within different vertical industries, not on having an egocentric conversation about our products and news. We initiate and participate in dialogues about the trends and challenges that our customers are facing. Leading up to, during, and after industry events, we build buzz and engagement by doing cohesive, coordinated social campaigns that feature insights from our thought leaders and customers in our company blog and YouTube channel. We also engage attendees, prospects, industry watchers, media contacts, and more through live, “on the ground” posts on Twitter and Facebook.

One specific example of this is a post-trade show Twitter chat that our executives participated in to share their expertise and suggest questions that we should ask the audience. The latter part is key to creating the dialogue that I just mentioned.

Q. How do you measure the value and ROI of your multichannel marketing programs?

A. Being a B-to-B business may help. Ricoh tracks revenue on a campaign-by-campaign basis using internal tools along with our marketing automation platform. Sometimes, we need to insert manual assumptions or checkpoints. Thus, we calculate ROI for marketing activities and report that back to the business. Because we are marketing, not sales, we report influence revenue as well. We are influencers and it is our sellers who are the deal-closers. If we do our job right as marketers -- helping sales create and progress prospects and customers to partnerships -- our success is reflected in both metrics.

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