“Aren’t you guys talking to?” has been my question of the week here at both the annual Email Insider and Search Insider Summits in Utah. As I listened to some of the leading email experts in the country it became clear how relatively isolated and siloed most of these marketing groups are. Since I think of email as a subset of all manner of messaging, I was fascinated by the possible connections between this field and chat, social media, app alerts, text and the many messaging apps that have become the default communications platform for my 22-year-old daughter and her peers. I kept asking speakers and panels about how they are weaving their core discipline into all of these emerging but not unrelated channels. I was astonished to find how few emailers were using offline or online sales as triggers for campaigns let alone considering how their field relates to things like mobile alerts.
To my question whether these channels were speaking to other departments in earnest, I got a pat and almost universal answer that went something like this: “We have been told to sit down with the folks from social, video and content marketing, but nothing has come of it yet.” A few of the people I asked volunteered that cross-platform integration was above their pay grade. “I think CRM and loyalty mainly are working on that,” one marketer told me.
And yet we kept hearing from the stage declarations about silos being torn down, old fiefdoms being disrupted, and more. “There will no longer be email marketers or search or digital marketers” one speaker at SIS declared. “We will just all be marketers.”
All of which sounds theoretically compelling, if only there were more evidence of it happening. It seems to me there is a lot more high level talk about the necessity of more integrated approaches, but relative silence when it comes to the internal sharing and strategy necessary to pull it off.
And so I was heartened at least to see a panel at the Search Insider Summit that took on at least one corner of the problem. Jon Kagan of MARC USA, Frost Prioleau, CEO, Simoli-fi, Sid Shah, Director of Business Analytics, Advertising Solutions, Adobe and Cameron Urry, Senior Interactive Marketing Manager, Extra Space Storage explored Why Search Marketers Should Lead Programmatic Media Buys. It was an interesting discussion of how skill sets, traditions and marketing perspectives do and don’t play well together. Even though programmatic display advertising may have some roots in branding display, it is more aligned with performance and DR.
Almost everyone agreed that superficially, search professionals and the new generation of programmatic advertising hot shots should share similar skills: real-time bidding, performance, metrics, listening to data, and an optimization mindset.
But there are key differences, not the least of which revolve around the importance of creative. Shah warns that display “campaigns don’t last forever.” You can’t just set a text ad and forget it for six months to work its magic at the bottom of the funnel. Often the creative is only running for a few weeks at a time and in combination with other ads, especially TV.
But it is in those very tensions that Extra Space Storage’s Cameron Urry has enjoyed the biggest benefit. He told the fascinating story of how his storage company had started exclusively in search – very data driven and keyword focused. In looking to display to aim higher in the funnel, his team also discovered new ways of coming at their own customers. Search was about harvesting hand raisers, those in need of a specific product. Aiming higher in the funnel required that the marketers ask harder why and when their customers really would need them. The search team led the display effort but soon found that “the challenge we ran into was that display forces the search teams to start looking at clicks and impressions – at people and events,” he says. People look for storage usually at life-changing moments in life –a move, a family death, some change in life. The new question becomes “what message do we show them to make a difference?”
Urry argues that by getting the search team to think about display and understand the data those campaigns were casting off it forced a different approach to messaging. Now all the marketers throughout the funnel had to think in terms of a coherent story that speaks in different ways when it reaches the user at various points. “Search marketers understand the stats,” he says. “The hard part is the soft skills – learning about the people.”
In some sense the tension between search and even performance-based programmatic display is obvious in terms of the basic model involved. Search is about keyword-based pull vs. audience-based push. But the idea that these two disciplines can inform and not just complement one another is intriguing. As Kagan adds to Urry’s insight, it is about “getting the team to understand they are not looking at a search query but a person.”
Urry goes further in championing the overall positive imact of true cross-platform information and discipline sharing. He says that the search and display teams are learning from the Web site group as well. “They are helpful in understanding the customer.”
In many ways the cross-channel approach runs parallel to the emergence of big data analytics, which also ideally occur across online and offline channels. The ironic result of a great emphasis on technology, data and analytics is that together these channels help form a better, deeper and more fully human profile of the customers so that companies actually deal with them in more conversational, human-like ways. “There is a lot more brain power to craft a complete experience” for that customer than can ever occur within silos.