The Five Words That Make Marketers’ Brains Hurt

By Lisa Arthur


The marketing industry is in the midst of transformational change –both internally and externally –and at times, it may seem like it’s impossible to keep pace. Take a minute to clear your head. Here are five words I know give CMOs headaches, along with my advice to help ease the pain.

1. Big Data

Large data sets – aka, “big data” –are here to stay. As McKinsey explains in its report from earlier this year, each second of high-definition video generates more than 2,000 times as many bytes as required to store a single page of text. Video is only one example. Intelligent chips, tags, text, Tweets … they all leave digital information trails about how we communicate, what is important and how we are interacting with our world.  “In a digitized world, consumers going about their day –communicating, browsing, buying, sharing, searching –create their own enormous trails of data,” the report says.

Getting your arms around all that information is a challenge, but once you do, it’s incredibly empowering. Because of the data generated by today’s digital strategies, marketers now can apply the same scientific discipline and metrics to marketing that are applied to all other areas of business. Marketers can automate, analyze and measure marketing processes to ensure maximum business value. Clearly, marketing isn’t just art; it’s science, too. And there’s no doubt that going forward, harnessing and mastering big data will lead to competitive advantage and growth.

2. Integration

Channels have multiplied, and consumers now can access more touchpoints with your brand than ever before. But, don’t let all these new possibilities overwhelm you. Instead, simplify your approach by focusing on integration. Zero in on your message, and make sure it’s consistent across channels. Then, test, measure and analyze to determine where you should concentrate your efforts for optimal ROI.

Integration helps you simplify, and it also helps you drive revenue. At most companies, marketing represents the single largest variable spend, but unless you’re using an integrated marketing management (IMM) approach, you can’t measure where the value really is, and you can’t keep marketing activities properly aligned with organizational strategy. One-off point solutions and data silos only add to the confusion and slow you down. Today’s forward-thinking marketers realize that integration is not just the key to success; these days, it’s the key to survival.

3. Engagement

I’ll agree: The word is overused. But, that’s only because “engagement” is so critically important. Marketers today have to let go. These days, customers have control, and they belong at the center of each marketing initiative. Communicate with your prospects and customers with information that is relevant –that’s the only way your message will be heard above all the noise.  Make it a priority to be strategic about engagement, and base your efforts on the answers to these fundamental questions:

  • Who and where are your customers?
  • What do they want?
  • How can you understand their needs?
  • How can you customize our product or service to suit them best?
  • How can you establish a continuous, multi-level conversation that benefits customers and your organization?

4. Nurturing

Now that marketing campaigns are spread across so many channels, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to gauge which particular initiatives are succeeding and when/where you need to step in to nudge prospects through the pipeline. For instance, it’s no longer enough for B2B marketers to look just at first and last touch. Instead, you need to incorporate analytics across all touchpoints to get visibility into the process and a clear view of the customer. These advanced analytics will provide valuable insights to guide your nurturing activities. What’s more, your efforts shouldn’t stop after a prospect converts. Use fresh content and promotions directed specifically to buyers to cultivate those relationships and strengthen brand loyalty.

5. Viral

We’ve all heard the success stories –a video campaign that reached millions of viewers over the course of three days or some other project that created enormous buzz seemingly overnight. How can you create a marketing initiative that will get those kinds of results? While the proportion of ads that go viral is small, you can take steps to increase the odds in your favor. But perhaps the most important point is to stop aiming for viral. Aim for pleasing your audience instead. Give your customers information they want and need. Make it compelling. And, be sure they can easily share your message.

Remember: Long-term success today won’t come from one “Big Win” on a social media channel. In order to drive revenue, you need to blend online messages with offline messages and learn how to aggregate and analyze data so you can understand trends and apply those insights to your go-to-market campaigns. It may not be as “sexy,” but cross-functional collaboration and a plan that incorporates integration both internally and externally will drive results long after the thrill of a viral video has passed.

Those are my five hot-button words (technically six, if you count “big data” as two).  What did I miss? Is there another term that’s making your head hurt? How are you handling the changing marketing landscape?

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