January 29, 2019

By Warren Patterson
LO President
Warren PattersonWhile attending the Congress trade show and conference last month, I stopped in at Landscape Ontario’s Garden Centre Symposium on Jan. 9 to listen to Zachary O’Connor, a digital marketing expert who helps businesses to navigate the complex and seemingly ever-changing world of marketing.

The truth is, nothing has really changed in marketing over the years — marketing it is all about being top of mind. What has changed however, is how you deliver that message to the right person at the right time. Credit cards, smart phones and the internet have changed everything.  

You may wonder what credit cards have to do with marketing. They have been around forever, making a profit from any balance we owe, plus taking a cut from retailers. But these days, they also have access to valuable data which they then sell to “Big Data”, which is then accessed by select marketing companies.

The credit-card companies compile audience segments based on cardholder transactions; identifying those who are most likely to shop at a sporting goods store or a high-end furniture shop. This data is used to model audiences geographically according to postal codes, rather than targeting individuals based on their personal transactions.

Using this data, combined with the data collected as you surf various internet sites, allows savvy marketers to deliver very targeted ads, offers and promotions to both existing customers and prospective customers who are in the catchment area of their clients.

This powerful new world allows small businesses to compete against big businesses simply because we focus on a specific geographic area to have our latest offerings delivered to a very specific group of people who are the best fit for our local products or services.

To do this, I am not talking about a simple Facebook post. I am talking about showing a 15-second customer testimonial video to a prospective customer who is looking for a backyard patio with a barbeque, that just visited the website of an interlocking stone company or just walked into Home Depot.

And how did “Big Data” know you just walked into Home Depot?  Well that smartphone (which is really too smart for its on good) is always looking for WiFi to connect to and reporting your location. Even if you don’t connect to the free WiFi that is now readily available at Home Depot, Tim Hortons or McDonald’s, your every movements are tracked. Large shopping malls have been doing this for years. They map your route from store to store, building a profile to sell back to marketers and tenants. All that location data goes back to “Big Data”, where marketers who have access to that data, then have the ability to market specific products and services directly to you.

Hopefully, you can see now how staying top of mind has changed in the new world of marketing.

I personally find this very difficult to navigate, which is probably done on purpose to keep marketers in business.

So as you take time to reflect on what your goals and objectives are for the upcoming season, take a look at the new era in marketing. It may be creepy, but it works!

Warren Patterson may be reached at warrenpatterson@barriegardencentre.com