By Nicole Coons
Marketing Vanguard/Principal Consultant,
Integrated Marketing Solutions
Frost & Sullivan
Marketing leaders from companies large and small convened at the Boston, MA Copley Plaza for the 16th annual MARKETING WORLD 2015 Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange, eager to share their day-to-day challenges, solutions and strategies for staying relevant to customers and advancing marketing’s role in creating and sustaining value for the business.
Participants at MARKETING WORLD 2015 captured their top takeaways, ranging from how to run more successful programs, to how to better manage relationships and elevate the role of marketing for greater visibility and career success.
- To be successful at integrated marketing in the future, all-inclusive planning and insight-filled strategies are paramount. While metrics and consistency remain important parts of the integrated marketing puzzle, advice to gain buy-in from the top and to work closely with sales was echoed in numerous sessions. Marketers felt that any integrated marketing program designed with insights from the business and buy-in from sales about the lead criteria performed best. Hint: a lead is whatever sales says it is, but get sales’ definition before launching your program.
- Flexibility is also key to integrated marketing success. Gone are the days of developing the perfect campaign from start to finish down to the last period and then sending it off to sail and hoping for the best. Now marketers are experiencing the most success when plans include the ability to “test early and often”, as one participant explained. This implies that marketers build in to the timeline and budget opportunities to tweak, test, revise, and repeat to ensure messages and strategies are having the greatest impact.
- When building messages for your target audiences—think 360 degrees. To develop a full picture of your customer and his or her decision journey, consider the experience from all perspectives—from influencers, across touch-points, interactions with your sales and service people and beyond.
- Let your customer see himself first in your marketing before he sees your brand. Participants shared that they were reminded of the importance of building messages for your target audiences by asking about them, versus asking them what they think about you. Trust that you’ll have the opportunity to tell them about your company once you’ve established that you understand your customer’s challenges and have an interest in them solving their solution.
- Technology alone cannot solve gaps in communication between marketing and sales. One takeaway that was reiterated time and again throughout the Executive MindXchange was that innovative technologies and tools to connect marketing and sales are useful, but not without first having established relationships the good old-fashioned way—engaging in face-to-face, real-time, in-field interactions between marketing and sales.
- Balance analytics with people for optimized performance. Session leaders shared approaches for managing results, including several discussions of ROMI (Return on Marketing Investment) and an example of how to leverage the RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Informed) matrix for mapping responsibility to the marketing and sales functions as a lead flows through the funnel. The key insight, however, is to develop the ability to balance the relative importance of analytics and people, and you’ll win far more support than a program that favors one over the other.
- Deal with the digital transformation by a combination of in-house resources and consultants. Marketers suggest that today we must design our teams with intention and flexibility. Be clear about the business goals, and be open to multiple ways of arriving at the solution. Whether to leverage in-house or out-sourced talent for new digital or progressive ideas, the verdict from participants is that a combination is best—use internal as well as external resources, depending on the talent and timeline of your initiative. Some companies recommend using interns to start new initiatives.
- Omni-channel marketing is here to stay. When the options seem too broad, marketers suggest we must simply prioritize our goals, select our audiences, refine our messages and innovate in our outreach to harness the power of omni-channel marketing.
- Be a business leader first; marketer second. For marketing executives looking to step up their game, the key takeaway is to speak business language to leadership, not marketing language. Have the confidence to say “no”—one participant quipped, “Just say no to the holiday party!” Prove the value of marketing by quantifying it and including business leadership early and often in decisions as they are made. Resist the urge for the “big reveal” and build trust daily.
- Take time out to build your connections and get inspired by others. One participant’s key takeaway was “No matter the company's size, we all have similar marketing challenges. It’s good to know there are many solutions available.” Numerous marketers at MARKETING WORLD 2015 chimed in with the takeaway that spending some time outside the office listening, sharing, and asking questions of their peers in other industries was more valuable than just reading about these same topics or thinking about them independently. Invest in building your marketing network and you’ll be enriched both personally and professionally.
Nicole Coons is Marketing Vanguard for Frost & Sullivan’s Integrated Marketing Solutions Practice. Her work over the last decade has focused on helping companies connect more meaningfully –and more profitably—with their communities and customers through strong message alignment and end-to-end integrated marketing programs.