Image by Jeff Bergman under CC license.
Today’s modern marketers realize that the opportunity to connect with their customers is transparent and exciting. However, they also understand that they face several challenges on the pathway to engagement with their audience. There’s no doubt that digital is a disruptor, but how brands plan to utilize this opportunity could present a make or break situation with each campaign.
I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Julie Ogilvie, Research Director at SiriusDecisions, to talk about all things data, persona marketing, omni-channel strategies and what marketing may like over the next few years in the age of digital engagement. Enjoy the read and let me know how we can open up similar conversations addressing today’s 21st century marketer @markcnardone or email@example.com.
A: I’m a research director for the strategic communications service. In a typical day, I’m talking to our clients (mostly VPs and Directors of Communications or marketing at medium to large B-to-B companies) about topics like content marketing, influencers, social media, brand and internal communications. Based on what we hear in these interactions (and other research we conduct independently), we create models and frameworks to help our clients create more effective programs and align better with other parts of their organizations.
A: Pretty obvious – but marketing has continued to become more and more digital. It’s allowed us to have greater visibility into our audiences, a higher level of engagement with audiences and also more capability to measure outcomes. What interests me is how specialized marketing roles have become – and how deep the knowledge goes in many areas. Sometimes this leads to communications problems among the various marketing ‘tribes.’ There are also some areas (such as the more traditional communications functions) that have lagged behind the digital/tech revolution – and now they’re under the gun to catch up and report results in the same way.
A: One thing that may surprise people is that with all of the new technology and digital capability – the thing that is missing from many marketing campaigns is the most basic element: audience insights. Understanding of the audience on a deep level is still what drives effective marketing and, conversely, lack thereof leads to a lot of wasted effort and money. So the first thing I would recommend is learning the skills associated with audience segmentation, personas and messaging. This is what we teach a lot of our clients how to do – and it makes a huge difference in the results of all programs.
A: Again – start with the audience. Sometimes marketers are overly focused on a small set of influencers (usually industry analysts). This can be very costly and often not well integrated into marketing campaigns. Others make the mistake of looking at things like a “Klout” score as a way to develop a list of influencers, but general social media measures are not effective in B-to-B marketing. You need to understand who the influencers are for your audience. There are lots of interesting new tools on the market to help with this like Littlebird, Traacker and Appinions. They look at influencers in relation to keywords and your followers’ networks, how often they talk about relevant topics, the impact their comments have, etc. Influencer identification should also be a part of persona research – ask buyers who they trust and where they go for information on buying decisions. Also talk to your product marketing and sales teams.
A: There’s a huge schism between data and insights. I see marketers swimming in data, yet having difficulty identifying true insights that can help them make actual improvements. Start by structuring data into meaningful categories based on what it is and what the goal is. Create boundaries around data so that you are measuring specific audiences, specific issues or parts of the process. Then seek to identify the measures that are most meaningful (this will take time) and represent these in dashboards that tell a story – but aren’t cluttered up with a million different metrics. More is not always better.
A: I’ll start to sound like a broken record here – but when marketing teams are all building their programs around a unified view of the customer (ideally a persona), execution across multiple channels should not be a problem. Persona research should include gathering an understanding of the audience’s preferences for content, tactics and watering holes, in addition to understanding their challenges and initiatives. In B-to-B, it’s less about demographic characteristics than attributes of the job role and buying process. Millennials may have somewhat different preferences in the channels they use, but in B-to-B it is probably less of an issue. Brand, demand and sales should all be unified by a single view of the buyer’s needs.
A: Marketing is generally focused on external audiences. But now we’re seeing a huge wave of interest in marketing to (and through) employees. There’s a growing awareness that employees are also influencers. Buyers look at a range of sources for information, including sites like Glassdoor.com. If these employee review sites reflect negatively on your company, this is a problem. Beyond this – there is huge value in developing stronger employee engagement. There are also a lot of new products on the market to support/drive social advocacy by employees, but there needs to be a focus on employee engagement first.
My view is that digital is an important part of all marketing functions and all require some level of technology digital support. However – I don’t believe this means that all functions will be subsumed into one big digital function. I see it more as a marketing operations function supporting the functions with an integrated suite of technologies and services. Today there are a lot of different technologies in use by different groups – and they’re often disconnected or overlapping. A long way to go!
Julie Ogilvie is a Research Director for SiriusDecisions who has helped organizations of all sizes build successful marketing teams and helped to grow revenue through a combination of strategy and execution. Her expertise lies in message development, thought leadership and integrated marketing programs that drive business results. Find her on Twitter at @JulieOgilvie.