As marketers, we are keenly aware of the increased demands on our time and the expectations the organization has of marketing. And, it’s true: never have organizations had higher expectations for what integrated marketing can drive in leads, conversions, and ultimately revenue.
But, there’s good news too.
Last week, we hosted a breakfast panel at the Harvard Club in Boston. The panel focused on how marketers can reduce risk and drive massive growth with confidence. Panelists included Diane Hessan, CEO, Salient Ventures; Simeen Mohnsen, Managing Director, Marketing & Product Management at HBX, Harvard Business School; Damien Cabral, Partner & Co-Founder, TribalVision; and Jennifer Halloran, Head of Marketing & Brand, Mass Mutual. Nitzan Shaer and I moderated what was a lively panel – with some encouraging takeaways. Here are three of them:
- We’re still spending too much time selling to internal stakeholders. The boss is not the only senior-most executive – it’s a whole host of other stakeholders along the way that can provide great feedback … and sometimes are a roadblock to efficiency. While it can be time-consuming and frustrating, proof points help marketers win over those stakeholders. As you would with your customer, understand each stakeholders’ pain points and what makes them tick.
As Simeen noted, “when we show actual customer data, it turns, even in the hardest people to turn.” Finessing internal stakeholders and winning them over is often time consuming, but still a necessary part of the marketer’s job.
- Throw away the year-long marketing plan. Our customers are evolving too rapidly and the markets we work in are shifting too quickly to marry yourself to a spreadsheet that is more than 30-to-90 days out. We need to know where we are going – i.e. it’s still important to have a two-year vision – but we have to be flexible in how we get there and that means throwing away the big, honking marketing plans we have become accustomed to (I’m sure you’re all weeping with me).
Diane pointed out that the CEOs she speaks with have a marketing slush fund that’s 30% of more of their marketing budgets and the panelists agreed that between 30-50% of actual dollars allocated to marketing are more flexible. If we harken back to the good old days – just 20 years ago – 95% of budgets were accounted for and marketers had very little flexibility. However, there is good news: organizations are starting to recognize that the nature of our activities is fluid based on new insights from data, what’s happening in the market, and the needs of our audiences.
- We are too reliant on the iterative processes that have driven marketing. We may be doing all the right stuff on meaty strategic projects – like Jen did in rebranding Mass Mutual or Simeen with breathing new life into HBS’s online programs – but oftentimes, we take smaller campaigns for granted because we believe we can fix them later. But don’t be fooled: there is an opportunity cost in not getting it done “better” the first time around.
Many marketers – because of the challenges on our time noted earlier – have become reliant on the same tried and true practices when there’s mounting evidence that they don’t work:
- Launch campaign
- Monitor results
- Collect data
- Rinse and repeat
The trouble with this process is it fails to incorporate understanding of the customer. There are tools and technologies in the market now that help digital marketers make the right decisions and get the information they need – before they launch their campaigns. We need to get back to basics and really understand our customers – not just whether they click or don’t click.
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