Author: Matt Zilli
The marketing organization has been in a renaissance, moving from a model where every type of marketing is handled in a silo toward a more holistic model that’s structured around the customer lifecycle. It’s about time.
Traditionally, customers have come to us with marketing departments organized in every which way. In the long run, the model that’s proves itself time after time is a marketing department structured around the customer experience, one that makes sure that customers get consistent and progressive messaging from their first touch all the way through their entire journey—no matter where that journey takes them.
In other words, marketing organizations have to be nimble enough to allow for a panoply of customer experiences—sort of like those “make your own ending” storybooks where every choice reveals a new plotline, which is essentially what each buyer experiences with your brand. Making this a reality involves ensuring that you have the right strategy in place and dollars to back it up.
Point-to-Point Engagement? Or One Hub to Rule Them All?
The hub-and-spoke system used by many airlines today was one of the greatest innovations in the airline industry. However, when airlines like Southwest successfully implemented point-to-point systems at lower costs, it put pressure on hub-and-spoke airlines to adapt. A similar story is unfolding in how marketing organizations handle the rapid explosion of marketing channels.
If you’re in marketing, you know how overwhelming the sheer number of channel choices can be these days. The pressure to have an effective, dynamic presence on every single digital platform can be crippling to busy marketers who can barely keep up with just social media posts. And let’s not get started on the responsive, personalized website you need to have if you want to appeal to your audience.
According to Content Marketing Institute’s annual B2C Content Marketing: 2016 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America report, of the 12 tactics consumer marketers consider most effective, a healthy nine of them are digital marketing approaches: email newsletters, social media, mobile apps, videos, online presentations, microsites, website articles, webinars and webcasts, and blogs—with the rest being in-person events and creatives (photos/illustrations and infographics). And their B2B report echoes similar results, with the most effective digital marketing tactics being webinars/webcasts, email newsletters, blogs, videos, and online presentations. Their other tactics, aside from in-person events, involve different forms of content that can be hosted online: case studies, whitepapers, research reports, and infographic.
Unfortunately, a lot of traditional organizations are stuck in hub-and-spoke mode, with email marketing, social media marketing and mobile marketing arms simply tacked onto their traditional core marketing department—which is often most adept at legacy mass marketing that’s becoming ever less relevant. Some organizations with this old-school approach refuse to see the marketing experience through the modern customer’s eyes.
What Exactly Is Your Customer Looking For?
Customers don’t think of themselves as “email customers” or “Facebook customers” or “mobile customers.” They expect and deserve open access to the same information on any platform, a unified, omni-channel experience that unfolds organically wherever they are. If they see a post on Facebook about a great deal on a product, but didn’t have time to click “buy” before they walked out the door, they want to be able to go right to your website from their smartphone while they’re standing in line at the post office and get the same deal without having to go back and scroll through their Facebook timeline (in fact, this happened to me recently).
But when marketing organizations are siloed, the customer experience becomes disjointed. The social media department can’t always coordinate with the website department to ensure that your customer sees the same information on every channel. Customers are apt to receive duplicate or even conflicting messages, and once they’re stuck in the quagmire of your duplicate marketing messages, they quickly lose faith.
To give your entire team insight into the whole customer experience, you need a marketing organization devoted to that experience—and you need the tools to support it. Both your internal organization and your technology must allow you to read/listen and respond to customer behavior in the moment.
Why You Need to Spend Even More on Digital Marketing
Of course, to reorganize your marketing team, you need the budget. Less dollars are going into traditional offline marketing channels, and are instead going into digital marketing. And unless your company has been hiding under a rock for most of the last decade, you’ve probably already increased your digital marketing budget pretty substantially to accommodate the need for a website, social media presence, and email marketing campaigns (at the very least). In fact, Gartner’s CMO Spend Survey 2015-2016: Digital Marketing Comes of Age, published November 2015, reports that digital marketing budgets increased 10% from 2014 to 2015, and this amount will continue to increase this year, primarily going to social marketing, digital commerce, marketing analytics, customer experience, and advertising operations.
These days, digital marketing is marketing. In fact, 98% of marketers acknowledge that the online and offline channels are merging and a third of marketers already have their digital techniques fully incorporated into their marketing operations, according to Gartner. And here’s why:
- Your customers are online, so that’s the natural place to talk to them. Pew Research Center reports that 84% of American adults use the internet, with adoption increasing over the years across all age groups, and a fifth of Americans go online almost constantly.
- Digital marketing is faster than offline channels. In a world where buyers demand immediate, relevant information, it’s infinitely easier to fulfill those demands via digital channels because we can listen to the requests and automatically respond. Even the best direct mail piece still takes a few days to arrive.
- Besides putting money where it counts, spending on digital marketing makes for better tracking of marketing ROI. Finally, marketers can justify where, how, and why they are spending their money.
The bottom line? Even companies that don’t think of themselves as “digital businesses” are taking their marketing efforts online. You have to meet your customers where they are. Digital is no longer a marketing niche—in fact, the phrase “digital marketing” will soon be considered redundant. We’ll all just say “marketing,” and that will be that.
If your organization hasn’t gone digital, you can lobby for change and be the marketing hero. Begin your campaign for change by defining what customer engagement means to you. Is it all about customer retention? Repeat purchases? Social advocacy? Perhaps it’s all, which for many it should be. Next, hone in on a set of customers you can identify as a prime engagement target and then engage them with that content, while measuring how their response is impacting your goal.
Just think—it will be dawn of a new day for your marketing organization.