When the traditional channels of TV, radio, and print were the only marketing channels available, marketers had to rely on big messages that reached a lot of people at once. The marketing mentality was essentially “big campaigns with big budgets.”

When the digital age dawned, marketers stuck with what they knew-- that same “big message-big budget” mentality -- and applied it to new channels such as email. Thus, batch-and-blast was born.

As the digital environment evolved, we can now see the flaws in that big campaign mentality. You don’t have to look any further than the terms associated with email marketing campaigns to see how this mentality views customers and prospects -- ”campaign,” “blast,” and “target” are all evocative of warfare. Today, it simply isn’t pleasant to be on the receiving end of these campaigns. It hurts. No one wakes up in the morning, thinking, “Wow, I hope I get blasted by a marketer today.”

Stop Blasting People and Start Over 

It’s time to erase the campaign mentality from digital marketing. Luckily, digital is inherently built for something much better: conversations. Unlike traditional channels, the digital space encourages customization. Technologies today enable marketing to be more relevant and interactive than ever before.

Digital not only allows you to listen and respond, but you’re also able to respond in a manner that’s most relevant to each person. This means marketers have to reclaim their human side. The rise of digital marketing is yielding genuine, natural relationships. It’s no longer sufficient to blast everyone with the same campaign, hoping something sticks. Rather, the new mentality is “let me listen to you and respond in order to build a relationship.” While this may sound foreign to marketers, it’s something that mimics real life. Treating customers and prospects the way we treat our friends and families should come naturally.

For example, it’s as though you’re breaking the ice during that initial conversation on a first date. If you talk about yourself the entire time, chances are you’re not going to have that second date. However, if you listen to the other person, learn from their behaviors, and respond in an engaging and relevant way, you’re much more likely to meet again.

Having said all this, I understand this is not an easy mentality shift for marketers to make. We’ve treated marketing like a vending machine for too long -- dollars go in, and out comes the shiny lead. You have to wean yourself away from that instant gratification and invest in long-term relationship marketing.

How to Pull It Off

So how do you accomplish the switch? The first thing is you need to build the right team -- a group of people that don’t see customers and prospects as bags of money for the taking. There’s a specific kind of marketer that gets customer-centric marketing and building long-term, durable relationships.

Second, make sure the technology itself is designed to do just that: build human relationships. Engaging, customized email marketing is much more complex than batch-and-blast can handle, therefore, you need technology that’s equipped to enable customer dialogs, and that place more emphasis on relationships than “blasts.”

Once you’ve aligned your technology and your employees with the new mentality, you’ll begin to see the benefits of making customer conversation the priority. Not only will you cultivate more natural, sincere relationships with your customers, but you’ll also see a long-term positive impact on your ROI.