Context Must Be in the Marketer Lexicon

This blog was originally published April 30, 2014 on the MITX Blog

We have all heard grand statements like “Big data is key”, “Content is king” and “Frictionless”, just to name a few, when speaking about how marketers should learn, think and utilize. And I cannot disagree that all of these are important. So, I want to throw my hat into the ring with my own hyperbolic statement: context is always most important.

Merriam Webster dictionary defines context as “the situation in which something happens: the group of conditions that exist where and when something happens”. Think about a recent conversation you may have had and think about how you adjusted your discussion based on:

  • Your last conversation
  • Both parties’ interest of engagement in the conversation
  • What a mutual friend recently told you about your partner in the dialogue
  • Time of day and time you both have to participate in the conversation
  • Rationalization of both of your expectations of the discussion
  • Queues – physical if in-person or emoticons if on line

A conversation takes many components into account and we as humans have learned how to engage and respond. Systems must be able to provide the insights and actions needed to utilize the different information in the dealing with customers. This would include big data, channel information, last contact, real-time information, transactional and social, but these are just some of the many informational snippets that marketers need to utilize.

In today’s marketing world conversations, with your customers, are taking place in Brick & Mortar, Social, Mobile, Phone, Direct Mail and I am sure I am missing some. The context is fundamental because that is what drives how, where, when and what you respond to a customer. Carl Doty from Forrester Research, Inc. focused on “The Power of Customer Context,” which is the title of his April 2014 report. The report states that “new approaches and investments in big data management and predictive analytics will be critical to your success (see chart below for examples).” Moreover, he articulates that contextual marketing results “translate into unprecedented levels of customer engagement, increased revenue, and better product experiences”

Many times we marketers focus on just the campaign, or our companies deal with the customer in a silo’d manner by looking just at digital, call center or physical location. I have been to dozens of online webinars or attended events where marketers want to drive frictionless and trustworthy interactions; this means we must always understand the context of our customers. To do this we must utilize real-time predictive solutions to enable this contextual understanding.

We marketers must rethink how we execute campaigns and converse with customers if we want to continue to compete for our customers’ attention. Customers have a lot of power and if you can’t converse with them in a contextual fashion, you may soon be left behind.


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