[Context is a] transformative tsunami, one which will change work and life.

Robert Scoble and Shel Israel
Authors, The Age of Context

First, let’s be clear on what context marketing is NOT:

  • Context marketing is not a channel like email or social media.
  • Context marketing is not a technology like marketing automation or content management.
  • Context marketing is not content marketing.
  • Content marketing (producing helpful content to attract visitors) in fact combines with context marketing (making your marketing more personalised and relevant to an individual using data) combine to form inbound marketing.

When we say “context marketing,” then, we mean the practice of personalising your business to your audience based on who they are and what they want, need, or do. Rather than “one-size-fits-all,” your various touch points with an audience, from email to landing pages to lead-gen forms and more, change based on the individual interacting with you at that moment in time. People do this offline quite naturally, adapting what you say and how you say it based on the individual or group with which you’re speaking. Today, technology has enabled us to move that same, friendly, personalised interaction online.

In other words, context marketing is the realisation of more one-to-one human marketing.

Context itself is not a new idea. Generating a complete picture of who
a person is (and what drives them) is the best way to really understand someone. Similarly, creating a contextual profile of your customers is also the best way to learn what messages or approaches will deliver the most help and value and thus motivate them to buy. It’s why the best salesmen primarily ask questions in their initial meetings.

The core of context marketing also centers on listening. It’s about using new technology to do fact-finding online and understanding both how and why people find your company or research your products. It synthesizes all your marketing channels and tools and uses them to create great content that connects with people, and then puts that information exactly where that person wants to read that story.

Most importantly, context lets you learn more about your audience as your relationship progresses. Even better than taking notes as you talk over coffee, tools that leverage context about prospects, leads, and customers can sort and track all the seemingly disconnected online interactions, remembering which pages they clicked on and which messages they shared to illuminate what really matters to them. Your marketing, from your content, to your site and landing pages, to your email, should be more personalized based on this information. (Email is often highly segmented and personalized by marketers today, but we’ll get to that later.)

By focusing on people instead of clicks, context pulls marketing back to
its roots. Just like tailored financial plans, contextual software creates a different online experience for everyone who sees your website or clicks your emails. Context gets to the heart of why someone reached out to your company and can solve real problems for real individuals – at a scale that my salesman couldn’t possibly achieve.

The collision of several new technologies is dramatically changing todays culture. Social media sharing, mobile access, big data, location tracking, and smart sensors unite a world where technology can actually predict behaviour. Sort of like George Jetson’s robotic maid guessing he’ll want eggs for breakfast, Pandora’s radio algorithms now “learn” what consumers want to hear, and “smart” home monitors anticipate when to turn air conditioning units on and off based on whether the house is occupied or vacant that day.

This contextual technology has dramatic implications for business and leads us to ask: What, exactly, does this age of context look like for marketers, and how will it change our daily lives?



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