In the past, businesses had three basic marketing options: television, radio, and print. Fortune 500 companies traditionally spent billions developing slick commercials and paid to air them at the most widely watched events, such as the Super Bowl. Or they placed expensive ads is glossy trend-setting publications like Vanity Fair, Vogue, and GQ. Smaller companies had to settle for radio spots on local stations, city billboards, or tacky inserts in newspapers.
None of these methods is efficient. At FastForward.ai, I emphasize to CEOs that their money could deliver a far more substantial return on investment if they embraced what I call a “social retail marketing” (SRM) approach—engaging customers where they spend most of their online time: inside social media channels. But far too many of these executives simply can’t break with the status quo or override the objections of their hidebound marketing departments.
To increase sales in modern marketplace, companies need to create and analyze the “journey” a consumer takes before buying a product. But with traditional advertising, the touchpoints in that progression are impossible to track.
There isn’t any journey.
You haven’t created one.
You run a TV ad during a Dallas Cowboys football game, and if your sales increase in the viewing area over the next week, you assume that the ad accounted for that increase. But this is a very crude measurement. You don’t have any sense of who is (or isn’t) responding to the ad or what parts are (or aren’t) persuasive or whethera different kind of approach might have produced better (or worse) results.
You’re essentially blind to the complex chain of events that leads to a purchase.
With SRM, however, all of that changes. Now when you show people a product—the image of a dress shirt, for example—you’re establishing a two-way channel: you know precisely how many people clicked on it and what those people have in common.
You can create multiple journeys and use simple A/B testing to determine if you get a greater response for a red shirt or a blue shirt, an indoor or outdoor setting, a handsome model or a regular-looking Joe, a famous person with blue eyes or a man on the street with brown eyes.
You get the idea.
The point is to design journeys based on data you can use. You give consumers choices, see what they prefer as they swipe or click from one box to another, and then you fine-tune the next iterations. You’re setting up a Darwinian process in which the consumer exerts the selection pressure, and your messages adapt to the market environment.
It’s survival of the fittest. And the consumer determines what survives.
So rather than relying on the qualitative hunches of your Man Men marketing gurus to determine “fitness,” you’re using quantifiable consumer decisions to refine your message—often in subtle and counterintuitive ways.
After each computerized assessment of the data—because you don’t need people to do this—you’re message gets more and more efficient. Instead of trying to predict, imagine, or guess what might potentiallyappeal to consumers, you’re simply calculating and responding to what they actually prefer. You can’t do that with a static image in People magazine or a commercial you play over and over until people can’t stand to hear it again.
In the new model, you’re no longer trying to create a purchasing trend: you’re just reading it from the data and using artificial intelligence to help interpret that data. You don’t have to hope and pray your strategy works because the consumer has already shaped that strategy.
And it costs very little. You pay a small amount to Instagram, a little to Facebook, a little to TikTok. But all of this is just a fraction of your old marketing budget. SRM upends and democratizes the traditional advertising and marketing industries because you no longer need to spend a fortune on ads. Instead, you can get more reliable information on social media while saving money.
So what are you waiting for?
Hanging on to the past, living with entrenched attitudes, trusting the status quo, sentimentalizing old triumphs, giving-in to nostalgia—none of these are options in the revolutionary post-Covid 19 marketplace. Revolutions are scary—not everyone survives. Change takes courage. If you can convince yourself there’s a way out, you’ll fail to summon that courage. Guaranteed.
But the truth is that there is no way out. You’re facing a binary choice: adopt the SRM approach or be prepared to lose business to those who do. Be brave or be finished. The choice is yours.