Is "Small Ball" A Good Online Marketing Strategy?

Bryce MarshallIn positive economic times, marketing efficiency is a back-burner proposition - whether we admit it or not. In positive economic times, has your organization ever said, "Let's put this revenue-generating, goal-meeting campaign on hold until we can architect a more efficient model." Mmm…I haven't heard that one yet.

This is, of course, hyperbole. But, it illustrates how a troubling economic climate can change the ballgame. We’re talking about a game featuring the massive blasts of the 1990s home-run derbies (epitomized by the Bash Brothers, Big Mac, Sammy, and Barry Bonds) vs. the classic 1980s small-ball approach of slapping the ball off the turf and legging it to first-base in your elastic-waisted, powder-blue jersey. Two completely different approaches.

We’re coming to a period of time where less is more. You want to win the same number of games, but the ball is staying in the park. The big boppers aren’t in the budget anymore. You have to do it with a line drive in the gap and infield singles. It’s smarter, faster, leaner, meaner.

Slip into your powder blues and choke up on the bat. This is about customer relevance management. Can you send fewer e-mails, serve fewer web impressions, and still maintain or increase your marketing effectiveness? Yes.

Your CRM suite is your big bopper. Here’s the question: Can you put that data to use as an actionable force for marketing effectiveness? Can you bunt your customer up a base, to the premium package?

A tough economic climate is going to require discipline. New cold customer acquisition – the grand slam – is going to be harder. New tactics are needed. Squeeze another few dollars out of the loyal customer. Increase the frequency of that traditional twice-a-year shopper to a quarterly habit. Execute this every game, 182 games a year, plus a dramatic post season (in this metaphor the holiday shopping season) and you’re looking at a ticker tape parade, my friend.

How do you play small ball? Just use the tools you already have – Data, smart people, and a less-is-more mantra.

We must create smaller email lists that are micro-targeted. We must engineer marketing-automation campaigns triggered by online behavior and pre-defined business rules. We must integrate and reinforce a campaign’s strength with re-targeting through web content. Reach your customers at exactly the right time and place – in home or out – with e-mail and mobile communications. Optimize every piece of content with A/B testing and other optimization tools.

You can reach out to your creatine-shake-drinking/steroid-using agency for a few creative assets. Then get your scrappy marketing staff in front of some really user-friendly tools. They may not be able to brag about a 460-foot moon-shot to left center. I bet with some critical thinking, your proprietary customer data, and intrinsic knowledge of your customers, your team will amass a very impressive record and some well-earned Fall glory.

Very soon we’ll be posting an ongoing series about specific online marketing tactics that drive results in tough economic times. Stay tuned.

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