At the start of every year, CMOs and their teams can be besieged by proclamations of the three, four, five, or six things that they must do to succeed in marketing. Each of these proclamations can come with dire warnings that if you do not heed this advice, then you are bound to fail. While others portray that if you just do these few things, then there will be a proverbial pot of gold, at the end of the year filled with overflowing coins of new leads and customers.
If it were only that simple….
As many CMOs are finding, the complexity of the new global digital economy brings on many challenges. With some challenges easy to define and some not so easy to clarify. One thing that is clear is the dynamics of markets, customers, and sellers continue to unfold in new ways. Bringing forth new behaviors related to choices and decisions.
Because these dynamics are unfolding at a rapid pace, it is getting harder for CMOs and their teams to resist the many cliché expressions that will suffice such as “grabbing the shiny object” or “jumping on the bandwagon”. The temptation being great to go “all in” on the latest hot topic or trend and hope for the best.
For example, one shiny object has been content marketing. For some who have gone “all in” with content marketing, they may just be discovering the constricting of their marketing to such has not been fruitful. And, in some cases, has been a detriment to revenues and the bottom-line for other more rewarding (in hindsight) marketing tactics or strategies were abandoned. While others, were able to achieve significant growth via content marketing – whether by chance or by knowledgeable strategizing.
What Should Guide Marketing?
This is just a hunch but it may be close to being on the mark. Most survey results in the past two to three years related to content marketing effectiveness has shown that only approximately a third of business marketers considered their content marketing efforts to be effective to very effective. Thus, as mentioned above, it leaves approximately two-thirds who have either experienced no growth or may have actually seen a decreased in revenues.
The point being made here is if marketing is being guided by going “all in” on a perceived new hot trend, then the odds of succeeding can be fairly low.
If this is the case, then what should guide marketing?
For marketers today, guidance should be derived from an overarching framework using deep customer understanding as its foundation. One of the primary goals of such a framework is to engage in identifying what customers want to achieve (their goals) and then orchestrating organizational resources towards help customers to achieve their goals.
While this may sound like common sense, it is very hard to attain. Most often, there is an inertia to marketing being guided by projects, campaigns, and initiatives. Without deep customer understanding, marketing is left to brainstorm a list of potential projects and initiatives.
When it comes to informed choices on what will guide marketing, most processes will lack in assessing how well projects, campaigns, or initiatives meet the test of helping customers to achieve their goals. What we do see is the resorting to and relying on what tends to be the latest trend or fad in marketing. Amounting to, in reality, a series of best guesses.
This can cause a repeated cycle occurring every year or two. A cycle of plans or projects put on hold, very little support or enthusiasm from other departments, and a cycle of campaigns or initiatives that quickly run out of steam and ultimately fail.
In order for CMOs to choose wisely in this rapidly evolving digital economy, a guiding framework based on deep customer understanding can be of help. The thrust of the framework centered on linking marketing planning to deep customer understanding, as well as, how well plans contribute towards helping customers achieve their goals.
CMOs can incorporate a guiding framework sound in qualitative research to reach the deepest level of customer understanding possible. Making use of relevant insights to help guide marketing planning. Using user and buyer personas to help communicate a common view of customers to the organization.
Such a guiding framework based on buyer research and a communications platform consisting of personas can help ensure the organization is working in concert towards helping customers to achieve their goals. Whereby the linkage of planning and initiatives to this greater purpose is evident to not only marketing but also to the enterprise.
Without this guiding framework based on deeper customer understanding, links between plans, projects, campaigns, and initiative to customers will be forever broken.
(The following is a brief video, which serves as a reminder. It highlights an exercise a Harvard class underwent to incorporate search, systematic data, and qualitative research into informed decision-making. Often, most marketing teams are using the first two and often forget the third. A healthy reminder on how to achieve an integrated approach towards informed deep customer understanding, which can guide marketing.)