It takes a village to do marketing these days. With everyone from marketers to salespeople to executives to customers to even competitors sending out information about your brand, long gone are the days when marketers were totally in control of the communication stream. Yet, marketers are still responsible for lead generation, prospecting, and revenue, so there is increasing demand for automation and transparency across the entire spectrum of customer engagement.
In a strategy session with a marketing team recently, we outlined the multitude of channels and touch points that factor into a customer lifecycle. We were trying to identify cross-channel opportunities, and also to set some priorities around focus for the limited marketing team. To give you an idea of how diverse it is, here are just two of the phases we mapped:
- Research phase channels: Company website, search engines, comparison sites, editorial publications and email newsletters, social networks (at least three of them), company-owned blogs and email newsletters, industry blogs, journalist blogs, competitor websites, and analysts.
- Post-purchase phase channels: Triggered email promotion series, ongoing email newsletter (opt in), comparison sites, product reviews (outside the company site), SMS texts (opt in), social networks, customer service/online help, company-owned forum, and outside communities.
Clearly, not all of that is under the control of the marketer, but it all contributes to customer experience, which drives repeat purchase, satisfaction, word of mouth, and average order size. All those elements add up to the ROI on which the marketing department success is judged.
So the question becomes where to focus precious resources – on the aspects that are completely under control of the marketer, or on those which the marketing department does not control? I’m sure you can understand the nature of the debate on that question. Ideally, all these channels and touch points would be managed (by someone, not necessarily the marketing team) under one organizing theme – where the marketing maestro directs various types of instruments into an alluring, cohesive symphonic set of experiences for each customer.
“Yeah, right,” I can hear you say. But why not? Why couldn’t marketing select the three to four channels and programs where the department can succeed, and provide guidelines to everyone else who touches customers along the way. Be assured, any sort of internal training or collaboration is another real project. You can’t just set it and forget it. In theory, empowering the organization to participate fully in marketing should be the number one objective of the marketing department. None of us, B2B or B2C, operate in a command and control environment. Marketers are shepherds. We guide the flock of employees, current customers, and prospects into and around conversations that move people through the lifecycle.
Technology is the friend of marketers everywhere who aim to accept this new mantle of organizational marketing. “Tech-arketer” is what one of the participants in our strategy session called himself. He meant to convey that marketing is so data-driven that it can be automated more effectively than ever before. No technology replaces empathy, however, which is the key ingredient in actually connecting with people and endearing them to the brand. The essential qualities of a good marketer – domain knowledge, good judgment, ability to analyze and act on behavioral data, and creativity – are hard to automate fully. Water and sunlight in the form of analysis, testing, and optimization are essential to automation success.
This combination of human brainwave and data bytes is quickly evident in the areas where automation enables a distributed marketing approach:
- Workflow and approvals.
- Segmentation. Customer files are not static, and with data from web analytics and social networks increasingly adding to the digital behavior profile, marketers can manage more and more attributes for each audience member.
- Drip marketing and dialogue, or conversation marketing. This includes everything from post-purchase-triggered emails to a series of digital and offline communications for event attendees. How many touches, saying what to whom is an ongoing optimization challenge – particularly as marketers start to profile and distinguish segments.
- Spend management. Which budgets are optimizing ROI and where do budgets get out of sync with forecasts?
- Distributed blogging. Add in multiple authors to your blog and you increase value and quantity of content. Technology now encourages everyone to stay on point with keywords and tracking the readership and comment quality of each author.
Where is your organization in the spectrum of organizational marketing vs. just managing marketing by committee? How are you and your team embracing automation in your quest for a data-driven marketing approach? Please tell us in the comments area below.