A Marketer’s Most Important Question: Why?

mattnaegerData-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is by Matt Naeger, executive vice president of strategy and analytics for Merkle’s Digital Agency Group.

The one certainty of digital marketing over the last 20 years is that it is always changing and evolving. It started in the mid ’90s with email, and then we saw the additions of display, search, social and programmatic display.

Today, the fast-moving sector is further developing with addressable media while, at the same time, digital delivery has morphed from sluggish desktops with rudimentary browser capabilities to high-speed mobile devices and wearable devices.

Why am I wasting precious space with such obvious claims? What you really want to know is what’s in this for you. Why should you keep reading? How will this make you a better digital marketer?

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that your customers are asking similar questions as they decide whether to view your ads and buy your products. It seems that we have focused so much on optimizing programs toward the last stages of acquisition or the transaction phase that we’ve forgotten our end goal.

What we are ultimately trying to do with our marketing is build meaningful, lasting relationships with people. We need to answer their “why” questions with our advertising, throughout all phases of the marketing funnel.

A Focus On The Customer

In order to answer the consumer’s “why” questions, the advertiser must answer its own questions about the customer.

What caused the customer to have a need? What caused her to think about that need when she did? Why did she choose to interact when she did and on the platform that she chose? These are all things that we as marketers need to ask and have a path to answer, through research and planning. We need to look at both the context of where someone is when interacting with a brand and what drove her to that state of mind and location in the first place.

Through the use of customer behavior information, in conjunction with first-party addressable advertising platforms, such as Facebook Custom Audiences or Twitter Tailored Audiences, you can start to fill in the blanks on why the customer is or should be in-market and how to deliver a message that will build a better relationship with that person.

For example, if someone has purchased a new home, it can be inferred, based on prior customer data, that the new homeowner is more likely than the average customer to be in-market for a new bank, insurance company, furniture, car and home accessories. It is even likely that he or she has either welcomed a new addition to the family or is downsizing because of children leaving home.

All of these situations create opportunities for companies that are armed with this information to serve the needs of customers. You could provide them with tips on how to plan for the next financial stage of life, how to deal with a growing family or things they should be thinking about when they move. If a company sells any of these products or services, it is likely to deliver a great offer based on this information in an effort to close a sale.

But what if a potential customer instead needs a road map for how to handle a move? Do you have a plan to help these customers with the problem that they have today? That’s the only way to ensure that when customers are in market for your product, you are already engaged in a dialog with them, thus placing you in their consideration set down the road.

Be Part Of The Solution

Typically, advertiser programs are designed either for broad awareness or for last-stage sales capture. Neither of these approaches enables a lead capture and nurture program that answers customers’ questions, serves experiences that help them make decisions and then gives them relevant and timely offers based on what is known about their prior research.

With today’s world of addressable media and the rapid expansion of first-party data advertising on digital platforms, marketers have an opportunity to be a part of the process a customer goes through during that mid-funnel stage between awareness and final purchase. Brands must learn how to answer the questions of why this person did what he did and what he or she was trying to achieve, and then incorporate that knowledge into their creative and media programs.

Those marketers will be able to message an audience throughout the decision journey and differentiate themselves at the points that matter most – those in the middle of the marketing funnel.

Follow Merkle (@merkleCRM) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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