There is much debate over 360-degree marketing — whether this is the right approach for marketing professionals who have a plethora of touch points to consider, especially in this modern age of more sophisticated, better informed and tech-savvy customers. Throw in the current economic crisis with its immediate effects on disposable budgets, and one cannot help but wonder if the days of 360-degree marketing are indeed over and companies should rather go for a "less is more" approach, also known as "targeted marketing."
What is 360-degree marketing? Is it just the full coverage of all marketing tools and channels? Or does it refer to a holistic approach to marketing or representing all aspects of a company, not just its products and services but also its corporate values as well as how these values run through its value chain?
The concept of a "360-degree approach" to any discipline should not be about investing resources in all available channels with all possible tools. Rather, companies should think about what their "360-degree" must include to be effective, efficient and competitive, while considering ROI measurements that link back to original goals.
Social Media in the B2B world
What is the role of social media in the B2B environment? Customers nowadays are increasingly tech-savvy and self-serving, accessing market information as and when required and via a wide range of channels— from traditional product catalogs to online portals and even mobile phones.
A crossover of traditionally B2C marketing tactics and techniques into the B2B realm has thus surfaced. Should B2B companies ditch the current and natural behavior of "This is a consumer marketing gimmick, it's not for us" and take a leap of faith, i.e., "Let's be the first to do it!"?
Recent studies on Facebook's growth by age group show a gradual shift away from its original demographic of college-aged users (18 to 25) to working professionals (26 to 44). Will the character of Facebook change with this shift?
It will be interesting to see if a similar development takes place when B2B companies start using such new media. If enough momentum is built behind such a movement, they may yet become the new marketing tools with which companies communicate with business partners. Take blogs. They are fast becoming serious platforms for enthusiasts and experts alike to exchange views on anything from celebrity wardrobe to the advantages of network versus analog in surveillance.
Corporate Governance and Social Responsibility
A marketing professional's duty, among other responsibilities and perhaps above all else, is to protect company reputation and safeguard brand integrity — hence the need for corporate identity guidelines.
But this responsibility should not stop with branding.
To truly protect a company's reputation and to safeguard the integrity of the brand, a marketing professional should place corporate governance at the core of marketing planning. While corporate governance is very much embodied in the form of processes, customs, policies, laws and institutions, the practice of corporate governance — the behavior of a company's stakeholders — can only be encouraged by the company's corporate values and the stakeholders' living by them.
The marketer's role in nurturing the stakeholders' behavior lies in keeping the core corporate messages consistent and easily understood in all communications via all channels, from internal broadcasts through product introductions to public relations. Corporate governance can be enforced, but good corporate governance is lived. When corporate governance is practiced throughout the company, the overall feeling of trust can be achieved, touching all stakeholders. With trust, marketing campaigns go beyond just a snappy tagline and naturally become more believable.
This leads us to the area of corporate social responsibility (CSR) which, according to Lord Holme and Richard Watts' "Making Good Business Sense," is "the continuing commitment by business to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as of the local community and society at large."
Many companies do believe in and practice CSR with many commendable efforts and engagement. But the communication of such activities is a tricky business. When done right, the results can be rewarding. But cross the line between encouragement and self-promotion, and all things fall apart. The important thing to remember is to stay genuine and that goes back to your corporate values and the trust you earn from your stakeholders.
The Mess Ages are out — Now What?
For creative ideas to fly, marketers need meticulous planning and a hawkish attitude toward details.
360-degree marketing is a modern interpretation of the McCarthy classification of four P's and the Booms and Bitner three-P extension to cover product, price, promotion, pace, people, process and physical evidence. What 360-degree marketing proposes is the thorough understanding of the character of each P and how they fit into a company's value chain.
What 360-degree marketing needs to work is planning, monitoring, checking and revisiting, from conceptualization to target-setting to execution to measurement and back to the drawing board.