Proactive marketing is all about looking ahead and seizing future opportunity in real time. It’s the antithesis of reactive marketing, which is the practice of looking back to see what worked and then creating plans based on historical data.
Proactive marketing is something search marketers are well-positioned to embrace. After all, there’s no more proactive consumer than the one typing a keyword into a search engine.
In 2006, I wrote a Search Insider column titled “Why Does Search Marketing Work So Well?” In it, I pointed to four key features of search marketing that “will dictate the formation of tomorrow's marketing methods of choice.” Those variables were proactive consumption (intent signals that can be used for better targeting); mass customization (showing different ads to people based on what you know about them); instant point-of-need direction (customized landing pages); and dynamic performance-based pricing (pay-per-click auctions).
At the end of that column, I put out a call to arms:
“So, as we think about search pervading traditional mediums in the coming years, how can we create advertising opportunities that incorporate the key features of search marketing as we know it today? Put another way, to all my fellow search professionals out there -- rather than trying to convince marketers to reallocate budget from TV and other platforms because search works so well, why not convince traditional media providers and publishers to redevelop their properties and platforms with the aforementioned attributes of search in mind so that all advertising will work well?”
Now here we are eight years later, and the marketplace is rife with addressable advertising and real-time bidding across channels and devices. The biggest online advertising companies are those powered by programmatic media models. And it’s the proactive marketers who are best equipped to capitalize by making informed predictions about the future of their market, their audience, and their investments --and acting intelligently on those insights.
So what does it take to be a proactive marketing organization? Here are the 10 effective habits of proactive marketers:
1. Integrated teams with aligned objectives. Proactive marketing organizations don’t have separate teams for each channel, each with specific objectives. Create a structure with fully integrated teams working for goals common to all.
2. Real-time budget planning. Proactive marketers are constantly (re)calibrating plans based on performance and market opportunities. If you’re still a slave to your annual or quarterly plans, it’s time to wake up and smell the real-time roses.
3. Real-time updates to plans. Proactive marketers use predictive forecasts to consider the future potential of their campaigns. Go beyond historical data trends and even current performance to model future opportunities and evaluate different scenario plans to meet your goals.
4. Cross-channel targeting with intent and interaction data. Proactive marketers buy audience segments using search and social signals on top of other behavioral and cookie-level targeting. If your programs are built on basic demographic and geographic targeting or broad reach and frequency goals, you’re not taking advantage of today’s dynamic marketplace, and you’re not maximizing your potential outcomes.
5. Retargeting based on site/purchase/search/offline history. Proactive marketers don’t simply retarget prospects or customers based on what these people did on company websites. Leverage all available information -- including what these people bought, searched for on third- party sites, and transacted offline -- to drive re-engagement and cross-sell/up-sell.
6. Technology platform integration. Proactive marketers execute campaigns through one integrated software platform that can take data and insights from one channel and automatically apply them to another. If you’re still manually managing campaigns or using several disparate technologies to activate your marketing, you’re missing out on key apertures to connect with customers and trump your competitors.
7. Real-time optimization based on business goals and marketing opportunity. Proactive marketers optimize their creative and bids in real-time based on what they know about the audience and the available market opportunity. Don’t build your practice around weekly optimizations based on last week’s performance; use algorithms that can take your actual business goals and identify future opportunities to reach them.
8. Automated reporting with business application. Proactive marketers don’t compile data from multiple sources on a recurring basis to analyze campaigns and find insights that can be applied to their business. Use a platform that automatically pulls from all your various systems to create real-time dashboards with de-duplicated data and actionable alerts.
9. Multi-touch attribution tied to bidding. Proactive marketers not only go beyond last click when it comes to evaluating the effectiveness of each ad, they go beyond multi-touch attribution to automatically update bids based on the true value of each placement. If you’re using separate technologies to do your attribution and bid management, by the time you’re making campaign changes based on attribution outcomes, those decisions are outdated.
10. Success measurement based on achieving actual business goals. Proactive marketers don’t settle for key performance indicators based on proxy marketing metrics. Measure the success of your campaigns based on revenue, profit, or customer lifetime value, not impressions, clicks, conversion rates, or even ROI.
The fundamentals of search marketing have gone mainstream and provide opportunities for marketers to be proactive across all channels and devices. So don’t just carpe diem, carpe diem cras!