Imagine you’re at the starting line, about to run a marathon. You have your new running shoes, your heart-rate monitor, and iPod ready to go. One oversight: You haven’t spent a moment actually preparing to run the race.
Anyone who has competed in a marathon can tell you a runner has little chance of succeeding without a good deal of physical training and planning. That same foresight is required of businesses wanting to launch a large-scale marketing initiative. It’s impossible to succeed in the long run without optimizing your marketing resources, processes, and technologies.
Rather than interval workouts and tempo runs, a business needs to get itself in shape with the right supporting processes and technologies before executing against a marketing effort. Just as marathon training enables the runner to do more than was previously possible, so do tools such as social monitoring and analytics, which allow businesses to more deeply understand and personalize their customer relationships. The key is anticipating the marketing solutions that will enable the business to scale to whatever scope and size its initiatives might be.
Know Your Reason For Running
Marathoners put time and energy into training and nutrition plans because they care deeply about their performance and are running to reach a goal. For the same reasons, a business is motivated by real marketing results–customer engagement, loyalty, and conversion, for example–so it’s imperative they strengthen their internal processes and infrastructure before launching a marketing campaign.
The concept for a marketing initiative is only as impactful as the muscle behind it. Businesses need to identify how they’re going to tackle the non-negotiable processes of planning, execution, and initiative management before taking that concept to market and scaling it to meet their objectives. Even though most marketers didn’t enter the field to compare apps or crunch numbers, a modern reality is they need to also wear the hats of technologist and analyst (or find those who do) to lay the proper foundation for their vision.
Asking yourself and your team lots of questions–and having focused discussions–about each internal process is the first step toward nailing which tools are needed to move an initiative forward:
- Planning: How big is your customer base, and where are they located? Is your database robust, or do you need to purchase supplemental lists? Are you capturing data from all of your interactions–social, Web, and service? What measurable objectives do you hope to achieve with this initiative? What is your campaign strategy?
- Execution: What channels, techniques, and messaging will best reach your customers? What are you scaled to handle in-house? Do you need to invest in technology to achieve the scope and impact you’re after? What creative will resonate with your audience, and how will it translate across multiple channels?
- Management: How quickly can you get a campaign to market? Are you equipped to report, track, and analyze results? How do we attribute results? When does an initiative require modification or a course correction?
The answers to questions like these should lead you to a better understanding of how technology infrastructure can, and cannot, increase or ensure the success of a marketing initiative. By association, these answers also help a business identify what processes can be conducted in-house and which should be outsourced.
For example, do you have a special offer that you want to deliver to your Facebook friends, with contacts who generally respond to your social offers and are accustomed to receiving them from you? Or is your objective to expand into a new market and execute a large-scale awareness campaign to currently unidentified prospects who meet a combination of unique criteria? The former is possibly an effort that could be managed in-house with existing technology and, of course, adequate planning and staffing. It’s very difficult, however, to scale a drip campaign to the size of the latter example without enlisting sophisticated automation tools and, possibly, a sophisticated digital marketing partner.
At the same time, there’s an increased expectation by customers for not just personalized, but relevant information. They’re looking for a streamlined experience with a brand, where the business appears to anticipate where they are in the engagement funnel and effortlessly provides them the right messaging at the right time. The challenge, then, becomes: How do businesses scale marketing efforts while maintaining a sense of intimacy with each customer?
With the right marketing technology, few objectives are so grand that smart infrastructure cannot help meet them. Businesses of all sizes should explore whether the following marketing technology essentials can help them fulfill their objectives:
1. Customer relationship management (CRM): A means to managing business engagement with customers and prospects--to nurture customers through your marketing and sales funnels--this technology can organize and automate sales, marketing, and customer service functions.
2. Social media: Generally free, social networks can be powerful channels for sharing content, encouraging third-party distribution of content, driving Web site traffic, and forming deeper relationships with customers through interactive, one-to-one dialogue and exclusive programs.
3. Mobile applications: Downloadable apps or mobile-rendered Web sites can be used not only to broadly market, but also to customize and geoposition communications with customers. Texting, delivering rich media, and displaying mobile banner ads within an app or on a relevant site can also drive click-throughs to a business’ site.
4. Reputation management: Many tools and services are available to monitor for complaints, negative reviews, and incorrect information on others’ digital and social channels and report findings back to the business. Businesses can use these reports to pursue corrections and deletions, respond to a customer issue, inform product development, or simply use the opportunity to delight your customer.
5. Marketing automation: These software platforms can automate the marketing department’s repetitive tasks, including building test emails, microsites, and Web forms; sending thousands of emails in a drip campaign; monitoring leads through the sales cycle; recalibrating campaigns to sustain lead generation; and almost limitless other tasks.
6. Web optimization tools: More of a service than a technology investment, a marketing technology consultant with expertise in SEO and SEM can provide critical guidance regarding Web site development, content development, keyword research, and online business development campaigns. Web retargeting tools are also available to assist with delivering your ads to your target constituents as they interact on other Web sites.
7. Customer analytics: A complete system will serve up comprehensive reports that provide valuable insight into overall marketing performance. Spanning your Web, social, and other digital and nondigital presence, this system will open up a treasure trove of data and hopefully more relevant targeting opportunities. A business can make serious gains in engagement and ROI by capitalizing on integrated metrics from CRM and other connected systems and data sources.
The bottom line? Before you set your eyes on the finish line at the end of your marketing campaign, make sure you’re on sure footing to begin with. Questions asked before effecting internal planning, execution, and management processes will reveal what a marketing department or lead needs to work toward. Savvy marketing technology investments and outsourcing options will help that business run smarter, faster, and longer than it would have without external support. And, in the end, the marketer will have run a race that he or she can be proud of.