Marketing takes so many forms, from the cold-calling telemarketer to more traditional print, billboard and radio and television advertising.
I’m no expert on marketing, but it’s an interesting art that’s largely become a science. In old school marketing, you wanted to make sure you sent just the right message to your potential customer. These days there is an extra effort to ferret out exactly who those likely customers are. Ads are often targeted, meaning you’ve expressed an interest in some way in a certain kind of product. Whether you signed up for a newsletter or visited a certain kind of website or given your name to a salesperson, you have somehow said “I’m in the market for this product.”
The science comes in when companies figure out who you are and what your interests are and you start to see and receive advertisements for the kinds of items you’re in the market for at that moment.
Businesses have become incredibly savvy about knowing who their customers are and what kind of product or service they are most likely to purchase.
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Data gathering has become big business. Jim Goodnight made a fortune off a process called data mining when he founded a little company called SAS. His company helps other businesses. I receieved an email one day last week from a vendor who was offering a software program that helps you access several databases in a single place.
And you’ve surely noticed that advertisements have proliferated on your favorite websites and how they seem to promote products you’ve been interested in of late.
I also got a telephone call last week from my alma mater, seeking a donation. The student on the phone described herself as a junior and she knew a lot about me from when I graduated, to the degree I earned and the job I now have. For the most part, it didn’t surprise me that she knew so much about me.
But, as it turns out, she also knew a lot about my daughter who is currently a student at the same institution.
It was, honestly, a little bit unsettling to realize that this otherwise innocuous school knew so much about me. I haven’t been a particularly active alumni. I haven’t donated money to the sports booster program and, my daughter’s enrollment there aside, I haven’t spent too much time on campus since I graduated.
But the experience just proves my theory that businesses – and, yes, a university is a business – are learning all they can about their potential customers before they try to make a sale. In theory, if a person has been actively looking for a product or service, he or she is much more likely to consider a pitch from a sales person.
That makes the investment paid out by the business more likely to bear fruit. As a business owner, that’s what the advertising strategy is all about. As part of a company that offers marketing services for local businesses that’s what we want to do at the newspaper as well.
We help our customers develop a plan that puts their goods or service in front of people interested in that product to begin with.
Marketing used to be about pretty spokesmodels and enticing you to buy whatever they were selling. Of course consumers have wised up and they can click off that screen in one swift move without paying any attention to what the seller is trying to sell.
They just aren’t as likely to do so because they are, after all, thinking about spending their money on a certain product anyhow. Now they’ve seen an ad for that product which could possibly meet their need and consumating the deal is again a simple process.
The science of marketing is raising the art form of marketing to a new level. How we, as consumers, respond to the the marketing messages that bombard us from every direction will determine how quickly the science of marketing continues to evolve.