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How contextual marketing affects your strategy

Originally published in iMedia Connection.

In one of my college communication courses, the professor began every semester by writing C=f(p) on the blackboard — communication is a function of perception. This couldn’t be any truer in today’s world of digital marketing, where communication can only be effective if the customer perceives value in both the message and in the communication method.

Contextual marketing seeks to solve this problem — providing value to the customer by offering them the perfect message at the perfect time and place. Ultimately, it will provide value to the business as well. To understand how contextual marketing will help us create more mutually-beneficial marketing programs, we first need to define it. In its most basic form, contextual marketing is all about relevancy, which is the most aspect of digital marketing — something I have been preaching to clients for years. We now have the data to craft and send messages at the most valuable moment, predict behavior, and communicate to the customer in the most relevant way.

Data points for contextual marketing

Data points for contextual marketing

The concept itself isn’t difficult to understand, but there are a number of challenges marketers often face as they get started building a contextual marketing strategy. Some common questions include:

What new challenges should we anticipate as we build contextual marketing capabilities and new sources of data?
The biggest challenge is knowing what information you have and how best to use it so your campaigns speak to your customers in a truly relevant way. It is important to understand the various sources of data available and what we should and should not do with that data. One rule of thumb I often tell my clients is “don’t be creepy.” Just because you have data doesn’t always mean you should use it. Make sure that you are using it in the right way.

With real-time triggers across channels, are there new deliverability issues marketers need to take into account?
Anytime you send campaigns, it’s important to track and monitor those messages, whether they are promotional or triggered. The issue I see a number of marketers have is that they only worry about reaching their customers’ inboxes and don’t think to monitor their triggered IPs or domains. While this is usually true, it is important to monitor this by following various trending within your campaigns for opens or clicks.

There is so much data of which we could be taking advantage — new brand and customer touch points as well as unique customer data sources. How can I focus?

The most exciting thing about this new push for contextual marketing is all of the opportunities it provides to marketers. Customers are beginning to demand more relevance, and as these programs advance they will likely continue to be open to the possibilities that contextual marketing programs have to offer. To understand where to focus, think about the end customer’s needs. Where can you increase relevance to better their experience? By focusing on the customer, you’ll be able to make the right decisions to encourage long-term brand advocacy.

How will this actually help me make more revenue?

While it is widely accepted that email is one of the most cost-effective marketing channels available, it doesn’t mean it is the most effective for everyone. Being able to choose the right channel based on real-time contextual data will help you increase relevance and improve the chances that you reach the customer at the time they are most likely to act.

For more information, download From campaigns to context: Embracing the contextual marketing mindset.
Follow Spencer at @SpencerKollas, Experian Marketing Services at @ExperianMkt, and iMedia at@iMediaTweet.