<B>'Precision' marketing: panacea or just more of the same?</B>

Enrique Dans. Professor. Instituto de Empresa

25 January 2004

New technologies have made their mark on the marketing world, making it a more precise management tool. However, tools like geomarketing or micromarketing cannot guarantee long-term client satisfaction unless used with the appropriate strategy.

Much has been written about the benefits of so-called “precision marketing”, an interesting euphemism employed to refer, fundamentally, to two technologies: micromarketing and geomarketing. Given their highly technological nature, these bring to conventional marketing the sensations of increased security and reduced uncertainty that many marketing professionals seem to need so desperately.

For uncertainty is one of the fundamental problems facing marketing professionals. With any conventional marketing action, uncertainty is always lurking, posing doubts such as, “Will they come because of the promotion or just because they happened by?” or “How many people will really see the ad?” or “What proportion of my marketing budget am I actually throwing away?” This kind of wariness casts so many doubts on the scientific nature of marketing that it is left looking like a sort of alchemy. It hurts so much that, in the face of any hypothetical reduction of these doubts, we view the possible corrective actions as a true panacea.

Intentions, good and bad

When we speak of micromarketing, we are actually referring to the application of statistical techniques - of greater or lesser sophistication - to our customer base, with a view to fulfilling several different intentions. The most praiseworthy is seeking to understand our clients in the different segments into which we classify them, to be able to offer them those products or services they are really longing for. This will help strengthen the company-client relationship. In this fashion, we shall not merely gain their loyalty, but also get them to associate our name to the products we manufacture. We might even be able to extend that name to categories of additional products we feel they may need.

However, other intentions exist that are more deplorable, yet many companies clearly stoop to using them. These include using micromarketing as a precision weapon or telescopic sight that lets us hit the client right between the eyes, maximizing the impact of a campaign. A continuation of traditional marketing, such confrontation between company and client maximizes current value but leaves out a focus on the relationship and on the future. Geomarketing proposes something similar: it lets me locate my actions or points of sale on a detailed map, which lets me measure the intensity of my efforts, the logic behind my opening a new outlet, a salesperson’s route or the impact of a given campaign. We can use geomarketing to comprehend and better adapt to a territory and its inhabitants, or apply it as a battle blueprint, a method of situating enemy troops and confronting them effectively and with the most suitable arms.

Part of its success depends on the intention with which we implement the marketing strategy. Why we seek precision is fundamental. Turn the tool into a rifle with a telescopic sight and you will be taking your clients into an oppressive world, similar to the one depicted in the film Minority Report. As a result, they will end up rewarding you with their scorn and contempt, inventing ways of defending themselves from such harassment. On the contrary, you can use this precision to understand your clients and their needs and make friends with them. In this case, you will be able to reap the true advantages of being client-centric, and go on to join that growing list of companies that view relationships with their clients as the focal point of their activity. In all this, micromarketing and geomarketing are no more than tools. They are good, sophisticated tools, but only tools, when all is said and done. How you use them is up to you.

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