"Relevance" is a term thrown around a lot in the marketing world. Sometimes it's associated with (or confused for) "targeting," though the two aren't synonymous. In marketing, relevance is used as a foil for what are perceived as outdated marketing practices associated with "broadcast," or "blast"—static, one-message-fits-all" marketing.

A relevance-centered approach to direct digital marketing, as a concept, needs no justification. The premise is something like this:

Let's tailor the direct digital marketing communications to speak more directly to and pertinently with customers and prospects to ensure the information, offers, and calls to action presented are optimized for effectiveness based on the customers' and prospects' known attributes, behavioral attributes, and past activity.

In practical terms, a relevance-centered approach in direct digital marketing is simply a more deliberate practice of developing content and deployment strategies around key attributes, events, or behaviors that the customer exhibits.

This approach rewards sound practices such as a greater focus on strategic planning; greater attention paid to the database and opt-in lists for opportunities to segment based on attributes; and the use of data and technology, together, to track and respond to specific events in a buying cycle, customer life cycle, or other online activity.

In bottom-line terms, a relevance-centered approach to direct digital marketing is about marketing optimization and return on investment.

Adopting strategies, tools, and processes that allow your organization to connect more deeply with its audience and drive more revenue per dollar spent should be a no-brainer, right?

However, implementing this approach is a painful proposition for many organizations and marketing departments. Why? Because it means one static message may need to be replaced by multiple, more relevant and targeted variations. It means that a relevant experience must be extended consistently across multiple channels, which traditionally presents logistical headaches. It means increased responsibilities for thoughtful analytical review—and with closer analysis comes greater accountability.

Moreover, many organizations are unable to keep up with the pace of emerging technologies and practices, and therefore struggle with the historically fragmented provider/platform landscape.

Finally, some persistent old-guard organizational structures can make strategic shifts difficult to achieve.

Do any of those pain points sound familiar to you?

There are five keys to making a relevance-centered approach a reality in your direct digital marketing (e.g., email, website, mobile, etc.) programs. In the future, we will look at these keys in detail:

  1. Overcoming organizational barriers
  2. Piecing together the technology puzzle
  3. Segmenting and optimizing
  4. Taking an incremental approach
  5. Having a plan

In the next article, I'll explore some of the traditional barriers to realizing a relevance-centered approach that often persist within an organization.

Those barriers can include department or resource alignments that inhibit collaboration and innovation, or established cultures that erroneously reward the status quo while suppressing risk-taking. Sometimes the marketing DNA of an organization or a department needs retooling.

If such organizational hurdles are dismissed, a relevance-centered approach will simply go nowhere.

Stay tuned!

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Bryce Marshall is the director of strategic services at Knotice (www.knotice.com), a direct digital marketing solutions company. Bryce is a contributor to Knotice's blog, The Lunch Pail (lunchpail.knotice.com), and can be reached via bmarshall@knotice.com.