The Participant Marketing Model and Performance


Part three of a four-part series on the “new” Performance Marketing

Posted by Daina Middleton, CEO, Performics

My previous posts covered the history of consumerism and the need to change marketing’s vocabulary to better reflect its participatory nature today. Now, let’s look at the new reality of marketing in the digital era and discuss why the participant marketing model will dominate performance marketing disciplines in the years ahead.

Marketing’s New Reality: Participant Marketing

The world has changed dramatically in the last ten years. Marketing in the digital era is about understanding people of interest to your brand, their needs and where they go to seek information about the product or service. Participants, the people who interact with your brand, are now dictating what, where and how they interact with brands. 

The changing media landscape has resulted in the evolution and growth of “real time” biddable search and display inventory, the explosive growth of social media, and marketers’ aggressive use of interactive media across channels to reign in costs, boost results and engage participants.

With so many options and media channels available to them, participants are more empowered than ever. In this new marketing reality, they expect to be heard and engaged with in a two-way dialogue; everything to be searchable; all content to be available on demand; all information to be available through blogs, podcasts and RSS feeds. They also understand and accept fair trade from the marketers they interact with. This means they may not recognize advertising like you and I define it as long as it provides value. My 23-year-old son views all media equally as long as it is relevant and provides meaningful value.

At the same time, marketers’ expectations have shifted dramatically in the last several years.  Investing dollars wisely is no longer just prudent. Given the pressures of the economy, a less than wise investment could cost a marketer his or her job. Ensuring every dollar counts, and having fewer dollars than ever before is a new reality that isn’t likely to change. Measuring ROI in real time is a must. Reach is A variable to consider when determining media spend, but not THE variable as it used to be. Connecting with appropriate niche audiences is just as important as achieving wide reach. The complexity of the media landscape is also a factor. In order to maximize total efficiencies, complete integration across mobile, social, search, feeds, comparison shopping, offline media spends, is vital.

These changing environmental conditions require marketers to adapt to a new set of tools in order to operate in this new environment. In this new marketing environment, “elective participation” drives results. Suddenly, applying the marketing principles for tactics like search, which were adapted for this type of performance to begin with, to other marketing tactics, such as display, social, feeds, affiliate – even optimized search, becomes vital.

Participant Marketing Demands Performance Specialization

The participant marketing environment requires an elegant blend of insight, creative, media and technology. It demands marketers invite participation and add value to every participant interaction and communication. At Performics, we like to call this new model the Participant Model.

The participant model illustrates the connections between brands and people, and people to people. Its underlying philosophy is that both the brand and the participant must function in new roles and with equal status. The model describes how participants, empowered by technology, are constantly spinning a wheel throughout the customer journey. The brand, also armed with technology, can capture demand at each point of the customer journey if they are engaged and prepared to facilitate connections. As an agency, our role is to facilitate the connections points and ensure sales and leads are optimized through these digital actions.

Participant marketing 2 

Performance Means Keeping the Marketing Spiral Spinning

By truly embracing the philosophy of the participant marketing model, a marketer does more than turn the conversion model on its side; it strikes it from the equation altogether. The traditional marketing funnel assumes the more advertising a marketer pours into the funnel, the more buyers will come out the other end. In reality, the time and money required to keep the funnel full exceeds both budget and resource capacity for today’s marketers.

Furthermore, the funnel model does not acknowledge the active role current and potential customers play in the marketing process. In the participant marketing model, participants play an active role in "spreading" content. Their choices, investments and actions determine what gets valued in the new media landscape. This is why an infinite spiral is a better analogy for today’s marketer.

Participant marketing 1

Search was the leading indicator of this new marketing model, requiring us to focus on the motivations and choices potential and current customers make, rather than choices media companies make, thus requiring advertisers to design content which better aligns with their interests. It compels the adoption of policies which sustain rather than repress the desire to help circulate relevant material throughout a variety of mediums. It also suggests marketing evolves to become a continuous relationship activity, rather than a set of intermittent blasts.

The final post of the series will cover some specific tactics marketers can employ to connect with participants in today’s digital era.

Daina Middleton is CEO at Performics. Contact her at daina.middleton@performics.com.


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