Creating Marketing

What Is Proactive Marketing? Anticipating the Future and Unearthing the Present

What Is Proactive Marketing?

What is proactive marketing? Proactive marketing, also known as predictive marketing, allows marketers to meet consumers’ needs by unearthing latent requirements and predicting future actions. This is done by using data analytics to study consumer behavior.

Here’s a fun fact. An automated waste collection system uses underground pneumatic tubes to transfer garbage and waste from point A (ground-level containers) to point B (central waste and recycling plants). These systems take the place of the standard, noisier, curbside garbage pick-up trucks.

By now, you might be asking why a content marketing article, especially one with “proactive marketing” in the title, is focused on, of all things, garbage collection. The answer is that the waste collection industry is — well, an industry. And, a highly competitive one, at that. This competition led one automated waste collection (AWC) company to overhaul its entire marketing plan in an effort to win market share from more traditional waste collectors.

Rather than simply relying on the traditional “4 Ps” (product, pricing, promotion and placement/distribution), the company put its effort toward focusing on customers’ latent needs. In other words, the company focused on pain points, or problems, of which the customer was unaware. Then, the AWC pointed out why its products and services were superior in solving those issues.

The AWC also developed marketing systems to deliver better value (and to tell customers about that value), and to continue building brand recognition, while working to stimulate future demand. This company went beyond the traditional marketing plan efforts to anticipate what customers would likely require at some future time.

Welcome to the world of proactive marketing.

multi-dimentional use of proactive marketing

The multidimensional definition of proactive marketing

When you Google the term “proactive marketing,” the search engine will provide you with more than 87 million results, offering a vast array of definitions. There is even a company operating under the name of Proactive Marketing.

Examining the term from a content developer and marketing point of view, proactive marketing, also called predictive marketing, goes beyond the usual 4 Ps, or the 7 Ps of service marketing (product, price, place, promotion, process, physical evidence and people). Specifically, proactive marketing allows marketers to understand consumer pain points, not by focusing on their current needs, but by unearthing their latent requirements and predicting future behavior and actions.

Gaining knowledge of what a consumer might do next week or six months down the line doesn’t require a Tarot reading, fortune tellers, or crystal ball gazing. Rather, it is accomplished through the dedicated use of data analytics.

The analytics help marketers determine strategy direction before they create and launch a specific marketing or content plan. That plan then offers satisfactory solutions when it comes to solving consumer problems. The above-mentioned AWC succeeded with proactive marketing by tapping into the underlying and future needs of its consumer base, then providing solutions.

Steve Jobs of Apple Inc. could be considered the poster child for proactive marketing. He famously pointed out that Apple’s job is to “figure out what they’re (the customers) going to want before they do.” This strategy brought society the iPod, iPhone and iPad, to name a few Apple-specific products.

You don’t need to be Steve Jobs or equivalent to be successful at proactive marketing. You can, however, outthink your competition by using your outstanding customer data to make predictions about future behavior, then target your content efforts to align with their upcoming actions.

Now, for the antonym of proactive marketing

One good way to understand proactive marketing and how it works is by discussing its opposite action. This is reactive marketing and, as it implies, it’s, well, reactive. Rather than anticipating consumers’ future requirements, reactive marketing is conducted in response to a sudden, unforeseen event or action by the competition. For instance, if a company hires a celebrity spokesperson to market a product, the competitor’s reactive marketing action might also involve hiring a celebrity spokesperson.

Let’s take another look at a specific reactive marketing example, as demonstrated through Company A, an apartment market data company. Company A collected information, which included construction, unit numbers and rents, then sold it to brokers and developers.

But Company A found itself in reactive marketing mode when its competition, Company B, put more money into its advertising budget to build brand awareness. Company A wasted a great deal of time and effort in counteracting Company B’s actions (not to mention creating a great deal of angst among Company A’s leadership).

While reactive marketing isn’t necessarily always a “follow-the-leader” focus, it generally occurs in response to something external. In the case of Company A, the external trigger involved its competition’s increased ad budget.

Company A would have been better off with a proactive plan, which might have involved studying the underlying, or future, needs of its clientele, obtained through great data. Then Company A could have developed content to show clients both the latent needs, and solutions to those needs.

In other words, rather than reacting to an external factor, Company A would have gotten more bang from its marketing buck through gaining a better understanding of its clientele and then creating content to demonstrate that understanding.

why to use proactive marketing

Why use proactive marketing?

Let’s face it. Attempting to ascertain consumers latent and/or future requirements and needs is hard work, requiring a great deal of effort. The achievement of any successful proactive marketing activity depends on great data. This means developing and maintaining an accurate data collection method that captures consumer behavior and feedback. Once that information is collected, it then requires analysis. Because of the time-consuming nature of predictive marketing, reliance on reactive strategies can be much easier.

But reactive marketing is not always better. In addition to the potential of coming in second-best to a competitor’s marketing efforts, even the most successful reactive marketing strategy can reach a plateau. This, in turn, can lead to a mad scramble for yet another market or content strategy to attract and retain customers.

So, while proactive marketing requires a great deal of up-front and ongoing effort, it yields many of the following advantages.

Stronger segmentation efforts

Segmentation is absolutely essential for successful marketing. Proactive marketing provides the necessary data and information for more effective segmentation. The focus on future consumer behavior can also help propel prospects down the marketing funnel more quickly and efficiently.

More effective content creation and distribution

You could create and post the most readable, engaging content. But that won’t mean a thing if your audience doesn’t access or read it. Using data to anticipate your consumers’ latent requirements or future needs not only provides important topics on which to base content creation. It can also help you track what is working, versus what needs to be tossed into your computer’s recycle bin.

Additional opportunities for upselling and cross-selling

The good news about data? It can be used for more than one purpose. Specifically, you can use it to upsell and cross-sell current consumers who are already familiar with (and like) your product or service. The collected data provides insight into buying patterns, allowing you to anticipate other products or services your customers might like.

According to Renae Krause, author and co-founder of B2B agency ER Marketing, customers that have already purchased from a company cost far less to retain than finding new customers.

Making proactive marketing content work

By now, you’ve most likely gotten the point that good data is the foundation on which a successful predictive marketing effort is based. Company A, mentioned above, could have used client data to figure out buying patterns, and could additionally have relied on surveys to collect information about topics, such as the time of year during which the product was most useful.

Data also could have told Company A when a higher number of subscriptions were renewed, and why. With that data, Company A could have developed content to encourage clients to extend their subscriptions, add on to their services, or even provide incentives for coming over from the competition. Company A is in a business-to-business field, but the same proactive marketing techniques are useful with B2C services.

Proactive marketing example

If you operate a company that sells scented soaps, candles and detergents, you might notice that one customer, Elisa Buyer, increases her purchases of pine-scent products in November, in anticipation of the year-end holidays. You know this because you’ve analyzed her previous behavior. She arrived at your website, last November, via an organic search, and ordered your pine-scented products.

This year, rather than waiting passively (or reactively) for Elisa to return to your website, you can use your data analysis to develop the following content strategies.

  • Reach out to Elisa (and similar Elisas) in October to give them a heads-up that the pine-scented products will soon be available. This underscores the consumer’s latent needs and gets them ready for action.
  • Offer discounts or other incentives for pre-ordering those pine-scented products. This provides a solution to those latent needs by encouraging consumers to buy ahead of time.
  • Develop and send “referral” content that offers a free gift to Elisa if she shares information about your company and its products with her friends. This helps expand your audience and can increase market share.
  • Ask Elisa to send photos or testimonials as to how she uses the products. This encourages consumer involvement while providing you with additional information about Elisa’s habits.

proactive marketing elements

3 elements of a proactive marketing strategy

Whether you are a B2B service corporation or a B2C business that sells products, your proactive marketing content strategy should also focus on the following aspects.

1. Keeping track of what works

Not all content will resonate with your audience. Those content decisions will depend, once again, on data. In other words, knowing what content language and type will work best to spur action. If visuals prompt more response than editorials, then, by all means, your content strategy should keep your graphic designers busy with infographics, tables and graphs. If your Facebook retargeted ads are seeing more action than emails, call on your social media experts to deliver more messages. Speaking of which…

2. Offering the right message

Remember Steve Jobs? Initial iPad advertising content tapped into a desire for organization by showing how the devices could do many things at once. Did people know they needed the iPad? Not until they understood that the iPad was one key to organizing their lives on one device. With the backing of your data, your content can do the same thing.

3. Ensuring flexibility

An in-stone content plan is a sign of reactive marketing. “In-stone” means you change things in response to an external market or competitive trigger. Instead, plan to collect consistent data on how well your content is working. If your content is slowing down, change it up. Try A/B testing. Or ask your consumers what works. While your Facebook ads might be successful right now, they will plateau. Your customers might decide, at some future dates, that your long-form blogs are more interesting than those one-line ads.

Don’t sit back

The goal of proactive marketing is not to sit back and wait for something that might mean a change to your marketing plan. Rather, proactive marketing’s focus is an ongoing analysis that determines insights about underlying consumer needs and potential action behaviors. Understanding what your consumer is planning is an important aspect of your content plan.

What will your customers buy in the future? How do you tell them about needs they might not even be aware of? Click here to learn more about how #proactivemarketing and data analytics provide a competitive advantage. Click To Tweet

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About the author

Amy Sorter

Amy Sorter is an award-winning journalist, copywriter, and principal of The WordSorters. Her work has been published in regional and national business and consumer publications. Amy's focus is on creating customized, highly engageable content in a variety of formats for non-profit organizations, small businesses, and Fortune 500 companies.