It wasn’t exactly a random survey. We reached out to ten people we think are smart and interesting, and we asked them: What does it mean to “rethink marketing?” How might you do that? We got ten answers:
One fundamental way to rethink marketing is to replace the notion of making an offer with the idea of delivering value. Marketing should be thought of as a value function much like the products and services being sold. Marketing, at its core, is an information-based service. More than ever we have the ability to customize information- and data-based insights to each of our contacts. These can be recommendations, tips and tricks, benchmarks, and best practices that deliver value over and above commercial products and services. It will be obvious to consumers which brands have adopted this new philosophy and which are still desperately spamming offers.
If I was asked to rethink my marketing approach there are always things that I would change. Who wouldn’t? For me, one of the biggest challenges is always considering the integration points between social channels, content, media, product marketing, owned media and so on and so forth.
In a data-driven marketing world, one of the most important things we, as marketers can do is measure the performance of our campaigns. However, to measure success we must not only read the data, but make sure we are tying our digital experiences together across channels and then measuring based upon a properly integrated approach. This isn’t easy, but it’s necessary and needs to be constantly considered as you build your marketing footprint.
The customer buying journey has changed incredibly with people spending much more time online and on their phones. Companies rethinking their efforts to transform the customer experience should focus on linking the customer’s digital buying journey to outcomes that create business value.
Marketing technology today lets us react to customers as they make purchasing decisions and also actively manage, measure, and nurture those customer decision journeys. I would start any marketing strategy reboot by first defining value-creating customer behaviors along the journey and developing a model of customer satisfaction and value.
Figure out how much of your marketing budget will go towards creative & content, and how much data science, analytics and automation technology you will need to execute your strategy. Prepare a plan for quick ROI by setting achievable goals in these areas:
- Enabling a simple, useful, and engaging digital experience for the customer.
- Personalizing and optimizing the steps in a customer’s journey – this could mean the need for higher velocity communication and diverse types of content.
- Use account based marketing and geo-targeting software to leverage data for hyper-targeting marketing efforts and deliver contextual, relevant messages to each individual
Finally, building skills in the organization to deal with having more data will be critical – people who can do the kind of analytics and data science available with today’s technology are in short supply. These skills are badly needed to achieve high performance, and to be more efficient with marketing budgets.
A significant portion of marketers believe that it’s best to produce as much marketing content as they can across as many mediums as they can to as large an audience as they can. Over time and working with several companies, we’ve found that this is simply unmanageable – with valuable resources wasted vetting irrelevant audiences or publishing mediocre content. I’d recommend that you a) communicate in the mediums that you are capable of mastering first, then add on new mediums as you progress. And b) stop producing volumes of mediocre content and, instead, focus on applying those resources to less, more robust and valuable content.
Truthfully? I would have all marketers shift their focus entirely. My research in marketing technology paints an interesting picture: With triple-digit, year-on-year growth in martech solutions, we have more technology available to us than ever before. Technology that helps us to understand the prospective customer in incredible detail. And yet we use it to send crappy, generic messages that are the marketing equivalent of a horoscope. So what would I optimize? The technology? No. I’d focus on having everyone act more like a human, and less like a marketer. Please utilize all the data and technology you have, but use it to talk to people the way you would if you had met them, got to know them, and connected with them. If you create an emotional experience for each member of your audience, you’ll see a massive return on marketing spend.
The fact is, marketing’s already been re-thunk for us by all the zeroes and ones that have washed over the first-through-third worlds and remade communications and society. This digital deluge has placed the great power of the marketplace in the hands of consumers, and this flood won’t recede like it did for Noah. It will continue to surge and ebb and flow. If I had a son or daughter who told me they wanted to be in marketing, I’d advise thusly: If you aren’t a person comfortable dealing with constant change, don’t. If you aren’t both aesthetically and digitally creative, don’t. If you aren’t willing to learn how to write code, don’t. It you aren’t ready to prove your worth to your boss with top-line revenue, don’t.
I’d get rid of the concept of ‘campaigns’, which are inherently not related to individual customers. Instead I’d organize around finding the right message for each individual at the right time, with “right” being defined as “the message that yields the greatest long-term return on investment for the company.” That may sound a bit crass, since we all like to talk about optimizing the customer relationship. But some relationships are worth more than others and our job as marketers is to maximize value for the company. In practice, this would mean you’d examine the value of the next best action for each customer and then pick the action with the highest value. At any given moment, some customers would get attention and some wouldn’t. And that’s okay; over the long run, different customers should rise to the top as diminishing returns set in on the most valuable and it becomes worthwhile to invest a bit in the others.
This all assumes you can actually make the calculation of the incremental value of each next best action – something much easier said than done. But even getting it approximately right is better than being highly accurate at something that’s fundamentally the wrong thing.
In the future, this goal may change as we move away from pursuing transactions with individuals to creating long-term relationships that include many transactions. That is, I see the economy moving towards a subscription based model for nearly everything, as people delegate many purchase decisions to automated systems and the primary battle becomes convincing people that your automated system is the one they should delegate to. This subscription model already exists in much of the economy – for example, I don’t pick a new bank every time I deposit a check; rather, I work in the context of a long-term relationship. Much of the economy actually works this way already (financial services, healthcare, insurance, utilities, housing, etc.). Retail is the biggest exception and that will change as “purchase bots” do more of the work and people do things like subscribe to a transportation service rather than buying a car or hailing a random taxi. In this world, most marketing is about creating a trusted brand that matches the buyer’s goals. Of course, there’s still other marketing about selling to the buyer’s automated agent: to stick with the transportation example, when I need a ride to the airport, my agent would ask for bids from a network of Uber-type drivers. Those drivers could offer different levels of service and it would be up to my bot to pick the one that best matches my preferences. Marketing for the drivers would involve presenting themselves to meet the preferences of the most lucrative set of customers, or tailoring their presentations to match the preferences of individual customers to the degree this is known. Fun times ahead!
One area where I think B2B marketing in particular is beginning to be rethought and optimized is technology integration. B2B companies understand the value of an integrated marketing stack; but with so many options out there when it comes to marketing technology, B2B marketing and sales leaders tend to lean towards the shiny new toys more than the tools that work the best with their current list of marketing technology. While there are some progressive B2B organizations that have fully integrated marketing stacks, it’s important for marketers to take into consideration how well new tools will work alongside the solutions they already use. If not, they may only be causing additional challenges for themselves later on down the line in their marketing initiatives.
Three years ago an industry executive told me their research found that for every $92 a company spends to acquire a new leads/site visitor, they only spend $1 on converting those visitors.
While the acquisition/conversion ratio is not as lopsided now as it was then, it is still heavily skewed toward lead generation. But some leads with great potential will continue to go overlooked and ignored, never realizing that potential, if they’re not nurtured and cared for enough. So, although it’s not anything earth shattering or revolutionary, I think allocating more resources (automation, data science, etc) to understanding what content, activities and experiences can help move leads through the lifecycle efficiently is more critical today than ever before. And while you may not ever get to a 50/50 mix between acquisition and conversion, there’s no point in spending all that time and money on generating leads if you don’t have the processes in place to effectively convert them into loyal customers. At least spend more than $1 on it…
In b-to-b demand creation, I would banish the word “lead.” This tiny little word has so much historical baggage in every organization and its semantics perpetuate a variety of common problems that we often seen in b-to-b marketing organizations.
- The great sales and marketing divide. Far too often, right around QBR time, marketing reports a “lead” number. Then, sales reports a “lead” number. When the numbers aren’t the same – someone is to blame and it is often marketing. The reality is the numbers are often apples and oranges and the two different functions have defined “lead” in siloed context. The longer this scenario plays out within an organization, the harder it becomes for marketing to earn credibility as an enabler of sales productivity. Replace “lead” with “revenue” – teams are quickly aligned to a common and shared objective. It becomes easier for the two functions to reverse engineer the process to get to revenue jointly and define the roles each function plays within that process.
- Role confusion. When marketers focus on delivering “leads” to sales as their only mission, they zero in on hand-raisers and names and want to drip communications like a leaky faucet. “Lead” turns everyday people into a number and strips out the context of their buying motivations, their decision-making needs, and their interaction preferences. Replace “lead” with “buyer” – marketers begin to think about building relationships and creating compelling buying experiences throughout all stages of the buying process.
- Systems v. business process. Unfortunately, SFA and MAP tools have adopted the language of “lead” to reference objects that simply store data. When designing a “lead” management process, often stakeholders often start with the systems and their perceived limitations using the various named objects to define stages in their process. When we replace “lead” with “buyer” and “revenue”, we reorient the conversation to define the business process requirements first. Once those have been agreed upon, then the systems can be set up in a way to support the business need.
So at Act-On, we tend to conceptualize “rethink marketing” as having two parts:
- Marketing is more than demand generation; successful marketers spend time and resources maintaining their brand and fostering brand awareness, and on customer stewardship and retention.
- Marketers already have an investment in marketing automation, but tend to use it mostly for demand generation. We strongly recommend scaling it for brand awareness (tracking influencers, etc.) and customer retention and upsell (onboarding, newsletters, surveys, drip marketing, etc.).
Which means how you rethink marketing … depends entirely on your business and your business goals.
Want to learn how marketing automation might help? Read our new eBook, Rethink Marketing [Automation].