Best Practices For Contextual Marketing

Right service. Right product. Right platform. Right person. Right time. Right place. That’s the next generation of cross-channel and it encompasses every aspect of our existence. Call it contextual marketing.

Rebecca Lieb, long-time digital media journalist and now an analyst, author and strategic advisor, released research last week based on her interviews with 17 marketers who are practicing contextual marketing.

Among the best practices recommendations Lieb culled from those interviews:

  • Definitely do it
    Small pilots lead to understanding.
  • Have a Vision
    Know what you want to achieve and what the consumer wants.
  • Start Slowly
    MGM Resorts’ Beverly Jackson, vp social media marketing and content strategy, told Lieb a whole new operating model had to be created around contextual campaigns.
  • Hedge Your Bets
    Pilot multiple initiatives because these campaigns can touch marketing, supply chain, customer service, product and more.
  • Make Data-Based Decisions
    Understand and incorporate data and determine what the desired data outputs are. It’s not just knowing who a customer is, but also where they are and why they’re there.
  • Share Data
    Usage data can funnel into product and it’s important to get those insights into the right hands.
  • KPIs and Metrics
    Marketers want to select achievable, measurable goals and build going forward. Differentiate offers by channel to enable tracking. A beacon audience, for instance, should receive a unique code for proper attribution.
  • Triangulate Multiple Data Sources
    Neal Welbourne, director of analytics strategy at InTouch Solutions, recommends crunching internal customer data with supplier data and social media to build real customer personas.
  • Move Beyond Insight to Action.
    Data can provide insight but knowing the problems you can solve with that knowledge is where the real opportunity awaits.
  • Reality Check
    Physical reality and environment factor heavily into measurement. Runners on treadmills in cold climates are not the same as outdoor runners.



To make this all work requires an open and sharing business environment that encourages and rewards cross-pollination, Lieb notes. Pilots can start anywhere in the organization — email, customer service, social or mobile — then spread throughout. If things stay in a silo, the promise can’t be met.

In terms of spending, Lieb elicited some specifics from Gunjan Bhow, svp, direct to consumer at The Walt Disney Co., where contextual marketing is the fastest-growing part of the budget. Disney spent an estimated $1 billion to roll out the MagicBand park pass, a multi-sensor wristband that uses real-time data to enhance the overall park experience — including reducing the time spent standing in line. Disney has a multi-million dollar budget for platform build-outs with Apple, Amazon, Walmart and other partners. It’s all in the name of providing service.

MGM Resorts has more than doubled its contextual investment from 30% last year to 64% of budget this year, taking the money from traditional media spend.

And how does this sound? Marantz’s connected audio speakers give the manufacturer so much insight into its customers that “we absolutely, 100% have evidence that these targeted campaigns have a 5 to 7% purchase rate on all the emails we send,” said Scott Strickland, D+M Group’s global chief information officer. “The email is so targeted that our open rates are 40 to 42%.”

Lieb offers the complete results of her research for all to use and you can download it here.

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