ronjacobsToday’s guest expert in our Intersections series is Ron Jacobs, President of Jacobs & Clevenger, a multi-channel digital direct marketing agency. Ron is a recognized leader in applying database and direct marketing to branded products using traditional and electronic direct marketing. 

Ron has spoken at seminars and events in the United States and around the world, is co-author of the Eighth Edition of Successful Direct Marketing Methods, and serves as the sponsor of the Ron Jacobs and Bob Stone Multichannel Marketing Communications Certificate Program at DePaul University. 

In his role at Jacobs & Clevenger, Ron has guided the agency in planning effective integrated marketing campaigns using direct mail, print and web-based advertising.

Jacobs & Clevenger has been around since 1982. How have you seen direct marketing evolve, particularly with the rise of digital?

Digital technologies have had a great influence on the practice of direct marketing. I often point out how the tools and techniques of direct marketing are the root of all modern marketing.

Direct marketers of 100 years ago wish that they had all of our advantages. The use of social data and captured user behaviors provides richer and more timely data sources than ever before. Analytics can be scored and modeled. What consumers are saying about brands can be identified and tracked online. This gives marketers the ability to create dialogs that are more relevant, thus more responsive, improving results.

But it is not just outgoing direct communications where we see changes. Multichannel marketing is both outbound and inbound. Consumers expect marketers to provide multiple ways for them to respond. So, direct mail packages routinely include personalized URLs, and emails may include a phone number or a call to action that builds traffic to retail store.

Marketing has become a mash-up of tools of online and offline, push and pull, analog and digital tools, each filling a niche in marketers’ toolkits.

The heart of direct marketing is in its measurability. This has also been the linchpin for digital advertising. As more channels, devices, and systems complicate the consumer journey, how have your organization and your clients reacted to the shift in focus in this multi-channel world?

Measurement has never been more important. If you’re doing social, search, online display, email, direct mail and other offline channels, attribution may be the bigger issue.

A consumer may have four, five or six touches before responding. Is the first touch most important? The last touch? Should you apportion results equally across channels or should one channel get a higher percentage? How about time-decay models?

We can look at conversion paths, but generally there is no single path for customers or conversions; they are not as informative as we need. Bottom line: there is no one single attribution model that can work for every brand or organization, nor every customer.

Marketing has become a mash-up of tools of online and offline, push and pull, analog and digital tools, each filling a niche in marketers’ toolkits.

We ask our clients a series of questions around channels and channel measurement that lead us to a recommendation from each business’s historical perspective. For example, we ask how prospects and customers get information about their category and business.

We ask what marketing goals, customer behaviors and repeat behaviors are most valuable to them. We look at their most important key performance indicators (KPIs) and compare that to their goals. By taking this micro view of their channels and business, we get the information that we need to create a customized attribution model for each client.

Multi-channel has been a significant area for development for Kenshoo, particularly the synergy derived from search and social. You attended our Intersections event here in Chicago. What key takeaways resonated with you? 

At the Intersections event, Aaron Goldman made the point that today’s consumer journey is a cross between search, social, push and pull. Consumers trust search and spend 21% of their time searching, and 25% of their online time with social. This is consistent with what we see in their consumer marketplace. Search and social have become the “go to” channels for connected consumers.

For their part, marketers are spending more than half of their budgets on search and social. However, response is often the goal, not branding. Our clients want us to help them build new customer groups based on search intent.

You can imagine how interested I was to learn about Kenshoo’s Facebook predictive media optimization technology and targeting solution, Intent-Driven Audiences (IDA). Being able to match clicks on search engine ads to audiences on Facebook in real-time is great leap forward.

I can see how we would be able to serve ads to consumers who have searched for specific keywords and also use Facebook’s targeting capabilities to find more customer lookalikes. This combines a number of tools that direct marketers are fond of using (optimization, predictive analytics, etc.) and applies them in a way that I have not seen before. I can imagine a lot of client applications for this.

What advice would you give to marketers trying to execute more search and social and cross-channel programs?

Search and social have a natural synergy for reaching out to prospects. They can be linchpins in an inbound marketing program. Too often, we see social and multichannel executed with no connection to search. And we often see the expectation that search and social together are a faucet, at the ready to provide a fast and constant flow of leads, prospects and customers. Both of these ideas are misguided.

Even marketers who are good at using keywords to improve their SEM and SEO often don’t use their top SEO keywords to drive their social content or even their online advertising. Keywords should drive the “optimize and socialize” efforts of marketers to share, promote and increase their reach. But it needs to go further and be included to drive online and offline ads that are relevant to prospects and customers who purchase their products and services. The words of prospects and customers are often much better at communicating benefits than any words that a copywriter can create.

The second part of this is the need for patience. That’s often difficult when marketers are expected to reach short term sales goals.  Search, online ads, email, direct mail and retargeting provide relatively quick results. Social marketing is a long-term investment. The intent of most consumers on most social sites is not to make an immediate purchase decision. They may be learning and gathering information.  If marketers provide that information, they may earn a piece of the consumer’s attention. That can translate into revenue, but in the long term. It’s not a faucet to be turned on and off!

Consumers respond when they are ready to make a decision, not when your organization needs to sell to them. Organizations need to be inherently social to make a difference, leaving the information faucet on all the time. As a marketer, the best that you can hope for is the slow drip of new prospects and customers.