Marketing is confronted with a stark choice. To avoid losing its place on the business ladder, it must either step up and become an integrated hub of insight and innovation or fall down to the rung of catchy tunes and pretty pictures. Marketing risks are being replaced at executive level by disciplines with a real ability to move the business needle - those departments with measurable intelligence and predictable or tangible business case delivery. Today customers are informed, connected and powerful. They will not accept irrelevant messaging or mediocre products; they will not be hoodwinked by vague or veiled promises. People generate data wherever they go, through their purchasing behaviour, online search history and their conversations - and they expect that business will use the information they give knowingly to provide products and services that they want, when they want them. Marketing is faced with a world of opportunity and its next move will decide whether it climbs or slips on the ladder of influence.
Marketing now, more than ever, is about real intelligence. It is about making smart choices in the moment, investing in the right places to understand your customers better, structuring your departments to facilitate the free flow of insight and directing innovation across the organisation through embedded process and intelligence gathering. Ensuring your marketing people have the analytical skills and are therefore asking the right questions is the first step to successful marketing strategy. Questions like 'why do customers feel this way?' or 'what kind of experiences do they love?' or 'how can this brand innovate to make their lives easier?' It's the difference between information and insight - which is ultimately the difference between stagnation and growth.
There are five key things that marketing needs to get right this year:
- Relevance. Marketing's core function is to be the customer insight champion. Businesses that understand their customers will flourish. And we mean real understanding - from needs and desires to passions, hobbies and political points of view. Marketers that 'really get their customers' build brands that resonate, connect emotionally and generate growth.
Practical tip: If you're still using a segmentation model based purely on demographics then try and create a more multi-layered view using overlays like behaviour, attitude, needs, previous buying patterns and others.
- Purpose. The crises across our economy, political arena and environment have left consumers disillusioned and untrusting. It's time for business to re-think its role in society and formulate strategies that are built on shared value. Well-defined strategic platforms that tightly knit into the core purpose of a business, help align marketing with people behaviour and at the same time deliver tangible societal value or improvement.will win consumer trust.
Practical tip: Try and re-write your business Purpose, Vision and Values (PVV) as simple, tangible, easy to deliver constructs that simultaneously deliver profit and social good.
- Intelligence. Yes, this is the age of Big Data, but we need humans to make sense of it all. We need marketers that are as empathetic, insightful and compassionate as they are comfortable with vast quantities of real-time unstructured data .
Practical tip: If you don't have a planning meeting set up with the CIO to discuss the integration of marketing and IT initiatives then make one tomorrow.
- Relationships. Successful marketers realise that the power of real relationships change business fortunes. To increase advocacy and word of mouth, businesses must ensure increased relevant participation with their customers and must ensure that every interaction with their consumers meets or exceeds their expectations.
Practical tip: Undertake a simple qualitiative internal audit to check the extent to which the business builds real relationships at every customer touch-point. The results will tell you what to do next.
- Innovation. Emerging markets used to play the 'first to follow' strategy really well but all of that has now changed. With markets changing faster than ever before, no one can afford to rest on their laurels. Disrupt or be disrupted: there are enormous business opportunities for those who innovate in emerging markets for emerging markets. But innovation for innovation's sake will fail - be guided by real insight into your market and a clear business case on how to fulfil their unmet needs.
Practical tip: Review your brand or product / service portfolio and question whether there is any opportunity to extend or create new propositions that deliver against unmet category needs.
The stakes are high and the pressure is on. Now is the time for marketers to focus their energy and cut through the complexity by building real human relationships with consumers. Those who invest their time, resources and skills into getting these five key things right will add enormous incremental and tangible value to their businesses. They will prove that marketing effectiveness and powerful brands can grow revenue in existing markets, create new ones and perhaps even define a new industry. With smarter consumers the world needs smarter marketers.
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