What is Interactive Marketing?

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Interactive MarketingGood friend, Pat Coyle, asks, “What is Interactive Marketing?“.

Wikipedia has the following definition:

Interactive Marketing refers to the evolving trend in marketing whereby marketing has moved from a transaction-based effort to a conversation. The definition of interactive marketing comes from John Deighton at Harvard, who says interactive marketing is the ability to address the customer, remember what the customer says and address the customer again in a way that illustrates that we remember what the customer has told us (Deighton 1996).

Interactive marketing is not synonymous with online marketing, although interactive marketing processes are facilitated by internet technology. The ability to remember what the customer has said is made easier when we can collect customer information online and we can communicate with our customer more easily using the speed of the internet. Amazon.com is an excellent example of the use of interactive marketing, as customers record their preferences and are shown book selections that match not only their preferences but recent purchases.

Many moons ago, someone asked me what the difference between advertising and marketing is. I replied with the metaphor of fishing, applying that advertising is the event or medium, but marketing was the strategy. With regard to fishing, I can grab a pole and hit a lake today and see what I catch. That’s advertising… waving a worm and seeing who bites. Marketing, on the other hand, is the professional fisherman who researches the fish, the bait, the temperature, the weather, the season, the water, the depth, etc. By charting and analyzing, this fisherman is able to catch bigger and more fish by constructing a strategy.

Advertising is still part of that strategy, it’s just a discreet event or medium within it.

In years gone by, both advertising and marketing were largely unidirectional. The marketing or advertising department told us what to think and they didn’t care what our reaction was. They controlled the message, the medium, the product and the price. Our only ‘voice’ was whether or not we purchased the product or service.

IMHO, Interactive Marketing is the evolution of marketing where the consumer is empowered, entrusted, and recruited to aid in the strategy. Imagine if we had a chance to talk to the fish and see what bait they like and when they’d like to eat. Perhaps we’d throw some good stuff out on the pond so that they would entice their friends to come feed with them next time. (Most of us don’t want to gut and fillet our customers – but you get the point.)

No longer do we have absolute control over our message or brand. We share that control with the consumer. That consumer, albeit a happy customer or an angry one, is going to utilize tools such as the Internet to tell his/her friends about their experience with your product or service. As marketers, we need to ensure we can be part of that conversation and feed their attitudes and ideas back to our companies.

Perhaps a closer analogy would be the employee review of yesteryear and the 360 degree reviews of today. At one point in our careers, we would quietly wait to receive our review. The review would rank us and provide goals, compliments and criticisms that we’d be held accountable to until our next review. The 360 review is much different… the goals, compliments and criticisms are discussed and written from both sides of the table. The employee’s advancement and success is defined with the mentoring and leadership of the manager or supervisor – but not simply defined by him/her.

Companies have found 360 reviews to be incredibly advantageous because it assists the manager become a better leader as well as provide them with insight to personally work with that employee. (No two employees are alike – much like no two customers are!). Interactive marketing is no different. By building strategies that include our customers’ voice and leverage it, we can improve our marketing reach considerably.

Where I stumble on Interactive Marketing is that there’s somehow a ‘point in time’ that it became viable. I like Wikipedia’s definition because it points out that it need not be an online strategy. I believe that Interactive Marketing has been used considerably well throughout many mediums for quite some time. I personally don’t believe it was an Internet phenomenon. How is a direct mail survey any different than an email survey? If the company utilized that data that was received to better serve its customers or attract new ones, I believe that’s as Interactive as an online social network.

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