Integrated Target Marketing For The Now-Economy

By Tony Buxton

If you are a marketing executive at a Global 1000 company you might be willing to concede that geographic marketing has made incredible advances over the past decade thanks to information technology.You might even agree that the capabilities of today's desktop and online GIS systems could not have been imagined twenty or thirty years ago.

Over the past three decades, there have been many incremental improvements in the application of geo-targeting but only two real breakthroughs.The first breakthrough was in the 1970s, when an imaging system at the US weather bureau displayed a thematic map of census data for the first time.The second breakthrough was in early 2003 when, for the first time, a local distributor was able display a map of his target market on the web and then purchased the mail to reach his audience a minute later.I would argue that all other advances between these two breakthroughs were basically incremental in nature.

This incremental advances of the industry have left many marketing executives feeling somewhat frustrated.Because along with the advances has come increased complexity and arguably a case of "too much of a good thing." Still stuck in the mindset that best of breed is the only winning sales strategy, many GIS software vendors have elected to focus on specific applications or markets.By doing so, they have inadvertently compartmentalized the marketing process into a series of disparate, often incompatible technologies.And in the "now economy" in which we live, where speed is king, can marketers really afford the inefficiency of a fragmented marketing process?

Sophisticated marketers should expect a lot more from their geographic marketing systems.Most of all they should expect them to be integrated so that they seamlessly tie together each step of the marketing process across an enterprise, from planning all the way through to execution.And of course, they should expect big results.Imagine the gains you could realize in market share, profitability, and cost reduction if you could leverage all of your marketing assets to their full collective and streamline your marketing activities in real-time.

The emerging buzzword for this seamless approach is integrated target marketing.

What Is Integrated Target Marketing?
Integrated target marketing is just that.It is the ability to seamlessly integrate the entire geographic marketing process, starting with strategy development and planning, and ending with marketing execution.Achieving this level of integration eliminates the chaos of disparate applications and puts control firmly back into the hands of the marketing executive.

The leading the adoption of integrated target marketing.A handful of American companies have already commercialized such systems during the past eighteen months.Not far behind are Canada, Japan, Brazil and the United Kingdom, where web-based infrastructures are being put in place to support integrated systems.

A truly integrated target marketing system should be able to perform three basic functions:

  • Organize marketing activity by delivering relevant information to the right people in an organization at the right time;
  • Accurately target customers by tapping inputs from all relevant data sources, both from internal systems and external resources; and
  • Execute customized media campaigns and marketing activities that deliver a measurable ROI.
In information technology terms, an integrated target marketing system must be based on a single open architecture platform that supports desktop, online and enterprise applications.Sadly, many of the desktop GIS products available on the market today not only splinter the marketing process but are incompatible with their web-versions.

Why Now?
Integrated target marketing is a very relevant approach in the context of the high-speed, wired economy, where every opportunity to gain speed for competitive advantage has to be taken.To remain competitive, the Global 1000 is racing to adapt to a real-time marketing environment in which the difference between success and failure can be measured in minutes, hours and days, not weeks and months.Success requires underlying technologies that drive the lags and latencies out of processes like marketing to make them more efficient.

It is also a very relevant approach in these times of tight budget controls. Because of the efficiencies it delivers, integrated target marketing does not necessarily require a huge investment and it is almost certainly more affordable than the cost of purchasing, installing and supporting numerous specialized geographic marketing applications.

Making It Happen
To make the initial breakthrough with this approach, innovative corporate leaders will need to be aware of some technological, administrative and political obstacles.

The technological issues center firstly on the choice of standards, data security, design and implementation.Correct technical solutions involve properly designed connections between all of the solution components: GIS engine, data, interface design, transaction processing, security and billing.

The administrative challenge is getting new systems and procedures into the hands of the people who can best employ them, and this is mostly solved by training. The good news is that current systems are generally easy to use.

The political issues are the usual barriers created within corporate structures where fear hinders progress.In today's world, however, since ROI is more measurable through transaction-based activity and accountability is built into new target marketing systems, there is much less reason to fear the unknown.

Over the next few years this new ability to streamline marketing will profoundly separate leaders from followers and transform businesses around the world.Integrated target marketing is already being adopted by progressive marketing executives and I believe it will become much more mainstream within the next two years, particularly in industries such as retail, real estate and media.

Published Tuesday, February 24th, 2004

Written by Tony Buxton

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