What does sustainability mean to you? When I consider the term, my mind jumps to the environment – achieving balance in our relationship with our own planet. You might think about climate change, or where the vegetables in your shopping basket are grown. But to sustain also means to maintain, support, or endure. So in marketing, the term takes on a slightly different meaning.
And that’s why today, as a fellow marketer (and buyer of in-season, locally grown vegetables!), I urge you to seize the concept of sustainability by asking yourself the simple question: Is my marketing sustainable?
The goal with all of your marketing is to build personal, engaging with relationships with customers – and then to sustain those relationships. Asking this question about your marketing activities (current or planned) may surprise and challenge you, but it will also provide valuable insight.
So how do you answer that question? Let’s take a look at the foundations of modern marketing success and see why sustainability is important across all of them:
In the digitally cluttered world we live in, your marketing becomes relevant through great content and – just as importantly – context. Data, particularly behavioural data, is critical to putting marketers in the right place at the right time. Successful marketers excel in collecting, storing, and leveraging this data.
So, as a marketer, you need to have sustainable processes (which adhere to both legislation and best practices) for acquiring, managing, and using your data. Data sustainability also requires the right processes around cleansing and enrichment.
But before any of the processes above are addressed, you need to define the data you’ll need. What type of relationships do you want to create with your customers? This will inform the type of data you collect.
If you think about the real-world relationships you have with your family, friends and work colleagues, what are the key ingredients in sustaining those relationships? Personal relationships thrive when you’re “there” for the people in your life – able to listen, understand, and respond.
Likewise, in your relationships with prospective and current customers, these same qualities come in handy. Technology – and more so the right technology – is what makes it possible for you to maintain those relationships (or sustain them, if you will) at scale.
So think about your customers: How do you want to attract, acquire, and retain them? The answers to these questions will inform what you are looking for in technology. Remember, as with everything, put your customers first and the right decisions will follow.
But what good is all the data and technology in the world without the right people? To sustain your relationships, you need individuals who can combine the first two assets (data and technology) with their experiences and creativity.
At a recent marketing meet-up, a consultant told me about a customer who was inaccurately scoring email marketing activity (such as click-through and opens rates). This led to problems – for one, potential buyers were being handed off to the sales team too quickly. There wasn’t a technical issue, and there wasn’t any problem with the data – the problem was in how the data was being used. Sustainable marketing is dependent on people who can make good decisions – but, more importantly, learn from mistakes and adjust quickly.
To summarise, you should strive for sustainability across all of your marketing activities. It is an extremely powerful consideration in everything that marketers do – from creating great customer relationships to analysing program performance.
Please do share your thoughts on this – do you agree that marketers should keep sustainability front of mind in all their activity?