10 Marketing Trends to act on in 2018 (Author: Dave Chaffey)

Source: https://www.smartinsights.com/digital-marketing-strategy/10-marketing-trends/

I feel fortunate to have followed some of the amazing major changes in digital marketing and technology over the last 15 or 20 years. I’m sure you will have enjoyed living through, following and acting on these changes too. Looking back, we’ve seen a phenomenal growth in the importance of organic, then paid search, then social media and more recently, incredible worldwide growth in mobile and particularly smartphone usage.

As well as this article, to help Smart Insights members, we also have a more detailed free download of the marketing megatrends, which are 9 digital marketing and martech megatrends that will help give you an edge in 2017.

Looking forward, in this article, I’m going to review 10 new trends which I believe, based on my experience consulting and training, are relevant for marketers across businesses of a range of sizes. But, first, I’m interested to know what you think will be important to you and your business in 2018.

Which marketing trend will be most important to you and your business in 2018?

We have asked this question over the past few years and it’s been really interesting to see what ‘rocks your digital world’ since there are some common themes amongst the top 3 and some activities surprisingly low. The question we asked was around the most important commercial trends. We had around 850 votes from marketers in different types of business from around the world. Thank you if you voted! Here’s what you thought:

By asking for just one technique from many, this helps shows the top 3, 5 or 10 top-level trends. There are a clear top three techniques, each over 10%, but with a long tail of many other techniques showing the potential for optimising different areas of digital marketing. Let’s take a look at the top three…

It’s no surprise to see content marketing ‘top of the pile’ since this has been in the top three for each of the years we have run this poll. We see content marketing as the ‘engagement’ fuel that powers all digital communications from search to social to email marketing to creating website experiences which convert. Our content marketing toolkit is popular since members want to learn a more planned approach to mapping content against personas across the customer journey.

More of a surprise is that Big Data is in second position. I think this is because marketers are aware of the potential of using data as what we call ‘actionable insight’. To help the decision on which technique to choose, we expanded upon the short labels you see in some polls to help scope the response more carefully. ‘Big Data’ is a nebulous term, but when we expanded the definition to include insight and predictive analytics, it shows the value of the specific marketing techniques for Big Data and this help explains why this is in position number two.

In third position is Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. We added this to the poll this year with the interest in it and it’s ‘straight in at number three’! It’s good to see the interest in these techniques which we have been covering a lot on the blog and in our member resources this year. In trend 8 we show how different AI techniques can be mapped against the customer lifecycle.

Here is the full listing of digital marketing techniques:

The ten marketing trends to act on in 2018

If you look at the 14 themes that we covered last year, none of these top-level marketing techniques are especially new, so it’s difficult to describe them as new trends or innovations. However, techniques like Big Data and analytics, Content Marketing and Email/Marketing Automation have continued to grow in importance and will be used by many businesses.

So in my look at the trends this year, I’ll be looking at integration as the theme. In our research on managing digital marketing (another free member download) you can see that only 6% of companies thought their integration process was completely optimised, yet many are actively working on integration.

Integrated marketing communications or IMC isn’t a concept you see written about much on blogs or social media since it’s high-level with everyone getting excited at the latest minor innovations from the frightful 5 – at the time of writing we’re getting excited about the Animojis in iPhone X for example. Fun, but they’re not going to help deliver the most relevant message and offer for an individual, which is the aim of IMC.

So, let’s take a look at the 10 trends. You’ll notice that in a lot of these predictions, I’ll refer to Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. It’s what I see as the biggest trend to consider in the year ahead. There has been a lot of hype around it in 2017 and we’re starting to understand the opportunities. In 2018 it will become more about selecting solutions and implementation.

Trend 1. Integrating Marketing Activities Into the Customer Lifecycle

Given the way the complexity of marketing and digital marketing has increased, techniques like customer journey mapping for different personas are increasing in importance to help define the most relevant communications and experiences for different touchpoints in the customer journey.

To support this, the way I like to think about how to improve the effectiveness of digital marketing is to think from the customers’ viewpoint of the communications opportunity available through the customer lifecycle for different types of business.

We define lifecycle marketing as:

Creating a managed communications or contact strategy to prioritise and integrate the full range of marketing communications channels and experiences to support prospects and customers on their path-to-purchase using techniques such as persuasive personalised messaging and re-targeting.

We designed this mind-tool to help members think through all the potential touchpoints across paid, owned and earned media. Then you can perform a ‘gap analysis’ of the use and effectiveness of lifecycle comms you are using against those you could be using to increase the relevance and response of communications.

Trend 2. Integrating personalization into the user journey / customer experience

To increase relevance and response of comms, website personalization has been widely used within transactional ecommerce sectors like retail, travel and financial services for a long time now.

More recently, lower cost options have become available with different types of solutions. There are many forms of web personalization varying from those integrated into content or commerce management systems; those integrated into analytics solutions or standalone Software as a Service (SaaS) personalization options that integrate with your CMS and analytics. A useful method to review your use of personalization at the top-level is this experience personalization pyramid:

the Personalization Pyramid

The three levels shown in the chart are:

  • 1. Optimization. Structured experiments. AKA AB Testing or Multivariate testing. Google Optimize is an example of one of these services that launched in 2017.
  • 2. Segmentation. Target site visitor groups, each one with specialized content to increase relevance and conversion.
    Each one still requires separate manual rules and creative to be set up. So returns for this approach eventually diminish after the maximum sustainable number of audience segments has been reached.
  • 3. 1-to-1 Personalization. Using Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology to deliver an individualized experience to each customer. 1-to-1 employs some of the same principles as optimization and segmentation, but by offering a solution to their two greatest limitations-delayed results and inability to scale-it represents a fundamentally different approach.

So, the main trend within personalization is increased use of artificial intelligence rather than manual rules. Plus, we can also expect to see Website personalization services being adopted across more sectors than the transactional sectors it has become popular within.

Trend 3. Integrating machine learning into marketing automation

Personalization can also be applied across the lifecycle in email comms.  Yet, our research on email marketing shows that despite the widespread use of email and marketing automation systems, many companies don’t manage to put in place a full lifecycle contact system like that shown in the lifecycle visual above.

We assessed segmentation and targeting of emails based on the number of criteria that are used from none at all up to dynamic content.

The findings from our State of Email marketing report are shocking: Half (50%) don’t use any targeting whatsoever, less than a third (29%) use basic segmentation for targeting and less than 15% use segmentation and personalization rules to reach specific audiences within their database. This means that they may be missing out on opportunities for automated emails with dynamic content for welcome and nurture of prospects and customers.

Although email marketing automation is another technique where artificial intelligence and machine learning is being applied more often. Using machine learning offers opportunities to automate targeting as it does for web personalization. However, personalization is potentially more difficult since emails, by their nature, have more complex creative. This data suggests to me that many businesses aren’t ready for AI and machine learning within email marketing and they need to deploy fundamental triggered automation features first.

Trend 4. Integrating social messaging apps into communications

The increasing use of messaging apps is a trend we have mentioned in previous trends round-ups. According to the latest Ofcom Communications Market research more than half of the total mobile audience used Facebook Messenger (61%) and half used WhatsApp (50%). Both properties are owned by Facebook. The Snapchat mobile app had a reach of 28%, with 10.1 million unique visitors.

We’ve been looking at some early adopters of marketing applications of these social messaging apps on Smart Insights. Examples include using Pizza Hut using Messenger for booking tables and IKEA for customer research.

Trend 5. Integrating video into the customer journey

Video is also increasing in popularity fuelled by social . This breakdown of Google popularity shows the dominance of YouTube. We used to say that YouTube was the second biggest search engine, but this data shows that it is now more popular than Google Search based on number of users in a given month (this research also from the comScore panel via Ofcom).

This visual reminds us of the opportunities to use video marketing through the customer lifecycle from pre-roll ads in YouTube (just one option, Google has 10 Video ad options), explainer ads on site and retargeting through video.

Augmented and Virtual Reality are closely related to video engagement, but although we’ve been tracking these, we have seen fewer examples and case studies this year. So, do let us know of any examples.

Trend 6. Integrating content marketing into the customer journey using a customer engagement strategy

Video is just one type of content, albeit important. In previous polls about the technique that will give the biggest uplift in future, content marketing has been popular, in the top one or two in the list.

The trend I’m seeing here is that businesses are getting serious about treating content as a strategic resource, that means developing a customer engagement strategy using different media as shown in the lifecycle diagrams above, and at a practical level, developing content for different audiences using techniques like Personas and Content mapping. Our research shows that these customer-centric analysis techniques are growing in importance, which has to be a good thing for consumers and businesses!

Recommended resourceContent Marketing Strategy guide

Trend 7. Integrating search marketing into your content marketing activities

If we look at the top digital sales channels, search marketing is dominant. Social media is far behind in most sectors, despite its ongoing popularity with consumers. We now know that in many sectors social media can be a great tool for engaging audiences with a brand and improving favourability and awareness, but it typically doesn’t drive lead volume or sales. So I haven’t given social media it’s own section, although integrating it with other channels like web, search and email marketing remains relevant. See our recap of SMW London for the latest social media trends.

However, within search marketing there is today relatively little innovation that we get to hear about compared to the past. Looking at natural search shows that the Moz algorithm change history has no entries since the non-specific ‘Fred’ update in March, whereas in previous years it would have had 5+ with new updates to Panda and Penguin. This is partly down to Google sharing less, with Matt Cutts no longer actively evangelising, although updates are available from John Mueller in their Search team.

Within organic search, one trend I think marketers should be aware of is the changing face of the SERPs as shown by the Mozcast SERPs features update which shows the types of links within a bundle of top 10k keywords they monitor.

It shows the importance of techniques such as Knowledge Panels (important for brands and local businesses); Related questions; featured / rich snippets / quick answers and reviews. We have found that the way these vary across the top 3 to 5 positions can make a big difference in the volume of visits from informational searches.

Within AdWords, referencing Google’s list of new features shows more innovation. Much of it is around reporting compared to new ad features for mobile in previous years, but there are some new options like with Enhanced CPC (ECPC) bidding and Smart Display campaigns. This is an example of Google deploying different types of machine learning including Automated bidding Using Target CPA as a basis; Automated targeting which means your ads increasingly show where they’ll get you the most business and automated ad creation from the building blocks you provide, like headlines, descriptions, logos and images.

Trend 8. Integrating marketing technology

If you follow applications of marketing technology you have almost certainly seen Scott Brinker’s Martech landscape which has grown to over 5,000 vendors this year.

Our own digital marketing tools wheel seeks to simplify this, but has over 30 categories of insights and automation tools which shows the challenge of integrating marketing technology. The trend here is that there is no let up in tools offering innovative methods to analyse or automate. Our final two categories highlights some of these.

Given the plethora of martech, the most apt definition seems:

‘very large amount of something, especially a larger amount than you need, want, or can deal with

You might expect there would be a trend to increasing use of marketing clouds, but our research suggests there isn’t widespread adoption of these.

As we have mentioned throughout this article, machine learning and AI is one of the biggest trends here, see this article and infographic for AI marketing applications across the lifecycle.

Trend 9. Integrating different data sources

This challenge was highlighted to use recently in our members’ Facebook group where a member asked about tools for integrating insights from different paid media ad serving tools which can give the best results if managed separately, for example, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn ads and Google AdWords. Rivery.io is a new option that has launched recently, that should do well. The trend here is new integrated media insights tools other than Google or Adobe, which can help you compare performance of different media.

These services are surprisingly expensive, particularly since they are additional analysis tools. They’re not martech that directly increases leads or sales to the business. For example, I was recently recommended this service (Funnel.io ) that costs a minimum of $200 / month, even if it’s solely used to integrate data from multiple sources into Google Sheets. It’s a lot when to get the value from these tools you have to ringfence time so that the analytics are reviewed and acted on sufficiently.

Trend 10. Integrating digital marketing insights sources

Our digital marketing tools wheel contains many free and paid sources of insight about your digital marketing. Here, I’m talking specifically about services which help you stay up-to-date. We’re avid users of these services since they help us keep readers up-to-date via our own blog, twice weekly newsletters and monthly What’s Hot feature.

In a recent article on keeping marketing teams up-to-date, Mark Kelly explains that we recommend using Feedlyas a way of aggregating primary marketing news sources via RSS. Plus, I recommend taking a look at Zestwhich is a Google Chrome extension, new in 2017, which I and the team at Smart Insights use and is well worth checking out. Its curated content is specifically designed for and updated by marketers. Like Feedly, you can use it to review the most useful content recommended by ‘the crowd’, in this case ‘your tribe’ of marketers.

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The big debate: Are the ‘4Ps of marketing’ still relevant? (Source: Marketing Week)

The relevance of the ‘4Ps of marketing’ in today’s digital world is a topic that continues to cause much discussion. Should marketers relinquish responsibility or retake control?

source: https://www.marketingweek.com/2017/02/09/big-debate-4ps-marketing-still-relevant/?cmpid=em~onboarding~activate_newsletters~n~n&utm_medium=em&utm_source=onboarding&utm_campaign=activate_newsletters

The famous ‘4Ps of marketing’ are revered by some members of the profession, and scoffed at by others. Some see these fundamental tenets of classical marketing theory – referring to product, price, promotion and place – as the foundations upon which all sound marketing strategies are built. For others, they represent dusty old concepts that have failed to update to the modern, digital age.

Marketing Week was drawn to reconsider the 4Ps recently when analysing the impact of post-Brexit inflationary pressures in the UK and the role that marketers should play in setting prices. With inflation forecast to hit nearly 3% this year, marketers need to display leadership on pricing strategy and work collaboratively with other business stakeholders to offset the effects of price hikes on customers. Marketers who have bypassed more formal routes to training may lack this essential skill.

If anything, the attributes required of marketers are growing all the time. In 2015, the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) published a report on the ‘7Ps’, adding people, process and physical evidence to the list. But at a time when marketing channels and consumer behaviours are changing at speed, should brands continue to pay heed to these formal concepts, or instead rewrite the rules of marketing for themselves?

No ‘one size fits all’ approach

Startup brands are often less likely to stick rigidly to the 4Ps. As they attempt to build an audience in a new or emerging consumer market, these companies may prefer improvisation and experimentation over carefully defined marketing theories.

Louise Pegg, head of marketing at peer-to-peer mortgage lender Landbay, says she is mindful of the 4Ps, but also keen to “follow what we believe to be the right thing for the right stage in our business development”. The company, founded in 2014, is conscious that it is operating in a relatively new industry and wants to evolve and adapt as the market does.

“This means that there is not necessarily a tried and tested method for what we are looking to achieve,” explains Pegg. “Every business is different and so strategies should be aligned with business goals, rather than a ‘one size fits all’ approach.”

It is increasingly hard to separate price and promotion. It is more appropriate to talk about value.

Matt Barwell, Britvic

She adds that while the fundamental principles of marketing have not necessarily changed, the way that marketers perform their jobs has altered drastically as a result of technological change. “These evolutions allow the customer to have a voice and a platform to share it,” she says.

“Marketing is no longer about what businesses want to tell their customers, it is about businesses listening to their customers and responding in a way that offers a meaningful solution to them.”

But it is not just small businesses that are reimagining the fundamentals of marketing. Matt Barwell, CMO at drinks group Britvic, which owns brands such as Robinsons, J2O and Tango, says the 4Ps have “evolved” and are “only relevant within an over-arching marketing strategy”. As a result, Britvic is redefining how it talks about the 4Ps by combining some with others and by adding new principles of its own.

“It is increasingly hard to separate price and promotion. It is more appropriate to talk about value, asking ourselves how we deliver amazing value to consumers through product, through experience and through a combination of price and promotion,” says Barwell.

“We have also added a ‘C’ for communication as we feel that the communications lever is critical to unlocking growth and developing mental availability.”

Britvic has also added two of its own ‘Ps’ in the form of purpose and penetration. The former helps the company ensure that all its activities are consistent, Barwell says, while the latter helps it to reach new customers. “Penetration is at the heart of all our strategies for growing our brands,” he adds.

Ultimately, Barwell argues that a brand must determine its own aims and strategy before turning its attention to broader marketing principles. “Only then do we look at the whether the traditional 4Ps can be used as levers for growth.”

Dangers of dismissing the 4Ps

Pete Markey, brand communications and marketing director at Aviva, is wary of attempts to dismiss the 4Ps or cast them as “unfashionable” in the digital age. He believes they remain “hugely relevant” because they show the extent to which marketing impacts on a business’s performance.

READ MORE: Russell Parsons – Marketers should take control of all ‘4Ps’

“In effect they say marketing isn’t just the job of the marketing department,” he notes. “You can have the best communications in the world but if your price or product is wrong, it’s not going to work. Too often I see marketing teams that are asked to take something rubbish to market with a good advert. That’s why the 4Ps are so relevant now, because they remind us that marketing is so much more than just advertising.”

Markey argues that many brands are struggling because they have ignored the 4Ps in favour of chasing digital audiences. “It becomes about trying to make something go viral but you have to ask yourself why you are doing that. Who needs it? What’s the point?” he says.

You have got to look at a lot of the really terrible marketing out there to see how much we have lost the plot on the 4Ps.

Pete Markey, Aviva

“I read an article recently about the fact that a lot of content that’s distributed online is just garbage, so you have got to look at a lot of the really terrible marketing out there to see how much we have lost the plot on the 4Ps – we’ve forgotten them.”

Despite his attachment to the 4Ps , Markey does not see much need to extend the list to seven, preferring instead the simplicity of a shorter set of principles. He argues that when all of the classical theory is stripped away, the 4Ps are essentially about understanding the wants and needs of customers, and how to extract value from that.

As a senior marketer with over 20 years of experience, Markey is concerned by what he sees as a lack of sufficient training in the 4Ps among the new generation of young marketers coming into the profession.

“I don’t think it’s their fault,” he says. “I see a lot of brands hiring now on a skill set – be it programmatic or [their knowledge of] Adobe systems. Tech and digital are more important than ever but you can’t forget the basics of marketing. We need to do more to raise the bar of marketing excellence and get the 4Ps back where they belong.”

READ MORE: Mark Ritson – Maybe it’s just me, but shouldn’t an ‘expert’ in marketing be trained in marketing?

Preparing for the future

So where do we go from here? Will the 4Ps endure as marketing leaders reassert these principles, or are they destined to disappear from boardroom conversations as ‘digital natives’ take over? A recent Marketing Week poll revealed that only 44% count one of the 4Ps – price – as part of their job mix. Meanwhile, 27% don’t have control but believe they should, and nearly a third (29%) don’t have primary responsibility for pricing and don’t want it.

Does marketing have primary responsibility for pricing in your organisation – and do you think it should?

37%Yes & I think it should
7%Yes but it should not
27%No but I think it should
29%No & it should not

Sarah Lawrence, marketing director at gym and private hospital operator Nuffield Health, is respectful of the 4Ps, but also keen to reframe the way that marketers think about customer engagement. “We have to think much more about how we influence consumers through communities rather than the traditional approach of ‘target audiences’,” she says.

“Consumers now interact and engage with products and services through multichannel, multi-platform searches and ‘real’ influencers such as ‘insta-influencers’.

By being transparent she says bloggers have the ability to expose the good and bad in brands and their products and services. “This creates real challenges but also massive opportunity as technology such as AI and customer engagement platforms become more able to engage with consumers in a meaningful way,” she adds.

READ MORE: 60% of content created by brands is ‘just clutter’

Lawrence argues that this new approach will help to ensure that marketing remains vital and relevant to businesses. “I do believe we have more influence and certainly a voice at the table that is heard [but only for] for those marketers that understand the complex nature of bringing companies and brands to the front of consumers’ mind in a relevant and meaningful way,” she says.

Similarly, wireless charging startup Chargifi – one of Marketing Week’s 100 Disruptive Brands – is mindful of the need to closely track new technology, while staying true to marketing best practice. Founded in 2013, the business provides technology that allows people to charge their phones in public places over wireless internet connections.

CEO and co-founder Dan Bladen says the business was recently encouraged by the launch of Dell’s first laptop incorporating wireless power, and is planning certain strategies on the basis that Apple may include wireless charging as a feature in the next iPhone. “Being responsive is one of our fundamental marketing principles,” he explains. “If we’re not up to date with advances in the industry and the wider news agenda, we can’t recognise opportunities for expansion or promotion.”

Despite this technology-oriented approach, Bladen believes the 4Ps “still offer a strong backbone to a marketing strategy”. Combining responsive activity with an ongoing attachment to the fundamentals of marketing is likely to be a strategy that many brands will pursue as they seek to balance innovation with profitability and growth in the years ahead.

“The two ‘Ps’ we focus on most are product and placement – both are vitally important to the service we provide,” says Bladen. “Chargifi spots bring free, convenient power to people where and when they need it most, so it’s important they are available in venues with high footfall like coffee shops and restaurants. Promotion and price ensure we compete effectively.”

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Five steps to bring marketing operations into the digital era (McKinsey & Company)

How digital marketing operations can transform business | McKinsey & Company.

Full version: http://goo.gl/nsaecQ

5McK

Digital marketing operations involves the application of capabilities, processes, structures, and technologies to cost-effectively exploit and scale the interactivity, targeting, personalization, and optimization of digital channels. As the example of the consumer-products company shows, marketing operations has a critical role in driving bottom-line growth. That capability directly enables the speed, agility, iterative development, experimentation, and responsiveness that successful companies need to react to and shape the marketplace.

Marketers are aware of what needs to be done, and many are taking action. But that often boils down to implementing new technology platforms, adding head count, or increasing digital allocations within the marketing-spending mix. While these are important steps, they won’t solve the challenge. Fundamentally, modern marketing operations calls for the thoughtful, deliberate development of new processes, coordination, and governance. We’ve identified five attributes of effective marketing operations (exhibit).

1. Truly understanding customers

Like any meaningful relationship, getting to know your customers well is a commitment. Tracking, analyzing, and interpreting customer behavior and attitudes should be an ongoing, often moment-to-moment undertaking that is critical not only to targeting and shaping relevant content and experiences but also to optimizing how they’re delivered—an important capability, given that during the buying process consumers add an average of 1.7 brands to those they are considering.2 This requires a wide range of data and sophisticated tools to analyze specific customer segments and their behavior to spot opportunities and predict future actions. Companies should map detailed customer decision journeys for their most valuable segments, using technologies such as ClickFox,3 which track customers across channels to not only determine their cross-channel behavior but also isolate those moments where companies can influence the journey.

Feeding these insights into marketing operations requires processes and teams that focus on collecting and making sense of the data, as well as quickly delivering the analysis in a digestible form to the right decision makers—often continuously. Scaling this capability means organizations need to automate processes that don’t require human intervention, for example, personalizing web pages, delivering e-mail, or generating dashboards for managers to track customer behavior.

Most companies are only at the beginning of creating comprehensive customer-insights programs. While establishing “war rooms” to monitor and react to social-media conversations is a good example of how companies are moving in that direction, what’s needed are organizations that integrate and make sense of all sources of customer insights. One global hotel chain, for example, has combined its customer-research group and marketing-analytics group in an effort to better understand its customers—specifically, those who engage with their marketing, stay in their different hotels, and spend their money once there. These two groups have been combined into one insights team that reports directly to the chief marketing officer.

2. Delivering a superior experience

What happens when customers have a bad experience? They stop doing business with a company. And a souring of the customer experience can take place at any point, which is why getting the consumer journey right requires getting everything right. Meeting customer expectations calls for mapping out each of the steps that define the entire customer experience, highlighting not only the technologies and processes needed to enable a smooth journey but also the various functions across the organization that must coordinate to deliver it.

Marketing, sales, support, service, and operations play key roles in many customer journeys, of course. But there are other functions that are critical as well, such as order management and fulfillment. Those are not typically top of mind for marketers, but the experiences enabled by these back-end systems are instrumental to the way a customer perceives a brand’s ability to deliver on expectations.

Consider the technology and operations required for L’Oreal’s Makeup Genius app, which uses webcams to enable customers to virtually try on different shades and styles of makeup. To the customer, it is an easy, seamless, and enjoyable experience. But it is enabled by complex technology that involves coding dozens of makeup shades, matching them to a near infinite variety of skin tones, and collecting data on which types of customers try on which shades, then tracking their satisfaction levels after purchase—all of which are analyzed to further refine the matching process and improve the customer experience.

This two-way flow of information is an important aspect of modern marketing operations. As an experience is delivered to the customer, there needs to be a system to capture how that shopper responds and feeds that information back into the organization, which then adjusts its offer or message accordingly. And this feedback loop is not just about optimizing the customer experience. It also helps decision makers adjust campaign spending based on trends and opportunities, for example, or direct salespeople to stores where product inventory is low. We’ve found that best-in-class companies reallocate up to 80 percent of digital-campaign budgets during a campaign.4

3. Selecting the right marketing technology

Delivering on omnichannel customer experiences requires marketing technology that can automate processes, personalize interactions, and coordinate actions. Marketing technologists, in particular, have a critical role in navigating the ecosystem of more than 2,000 marketing-technology providers to create solutions that deliver the most effective customer experiences.5 They effectively act as a bridge between the customer experience and marketing operations.

An important element of managing a capable marketing-operations function is building a system that has the flexibility to work with large platforms that are becoming more dominant, such as Adobe or Oracle, as well as point solutions that are constantly introducing innovations. That requires developing a thoughtful application-programming-interface strategy to make sure your system has enough flexibility to hook into both current and emerging technologies, which will only become more important as the Internet of Things moves mainstream.

Yet the “best” marketing technology isn’t necessarily what’s best for an organization. For example, an overriding consideration may be how well a particular solution integrates with legacy systems or how well it meets specific requirements. One global technology original-equipment manufacturer, for instance, set out to create a personalized content-delivery system across all touchpoints. Beginning with a clear vision of its ideal customer-delivery needs, it defined key performance indicators, outputs, and levels of personalization, and then it set out to assemble the technology that could do it. But it also needed a solution that could play nicely with the company’s many legacy systems and would also be easy for a large group of global marketers to implement and manage day to day. The company wound up combining off-the-shelf data, content, and analytics platforms with a personalization engine.

4. Implementing processes and governance

Technology enables the customer experience, but it requires people, processes, and governance to ensure technology does what it’s supposed to do. The failure to establish guidelines for how business units might pilot new technologies, how data will be shared across the organization, or which capabilities will be managed in-house versus by external agencies and partners could result in a patchwork of efforts across the enterprise that sow confusion and hamper attempts to scale.

To address this challenge, one global consumer-packaged-goods company rethought its entire approach to bringing a new product to market, beginning with a complete overhaul of the marketing brief. The existing briefing process was not standardized, which resulted in varying levels of input, lack of clarity around the insights that were driving the campaign, loose definitions of the goals of the campaign, and inconsistencies regarding the specific role of each agency, as well as that of the internal team. As would be expected, much time was wasted as both the briefs and campaign development underwent multiple iterations.

The new approach required every agency involved in the product launch to participate in the creation of the briefs. Having everyone at the table formalized responsibilities, while aligning roles and resources ahead of time helped to mitigate the “land grabs” that can occur among competing agencies. In addition, bringing everyone together at the beginning made for stronger briefs, as it generated healthy debate on such key issues as which agencies would take the lead in the launch, which key performance indicators should be measured, and how and where to incorporate feedback loops that would allow teams to tweak and iterate after launch. The new approach paid off: the time spent writing a marketing brief and rolling out a new product dropped from four months to just one.

Establishing such clarity up front requires the client to be a strong orchestrator and the agencies to stick to their defined roles. Rather than being restrictive, this level of governance can enhance creativity, as it frees people to focus on their responsibilities instead of wasting time and energy jockeying for position with other agencies.

5. Using the best metrics to drive success

Technology is now catching up to the holy grail of marketing: the ability to monitor, track, and manage the effectiveness of marketing investments. Measures of marketing effectiveness need to move beyond what has often been limited to a narrow set of metrics. As companies become more customer-centric, for example, metrics should focus on customer activity rather than simply product or regional activity, as is often the case. Metrics should also reinforce new behaviors and processes, such as how fast a product is launched or how quickly lessons from the field can successfully be integrated into the next marketing offer.

To be most effective, however, metrics need to deliver insights quickly—often in real time—so the business can actually act. They need to be delivered in a way that is easy for decision makers to understand, and they need to be forward looking to identify future opportunities rather than focus on reporting what has already happened.

It’s sad but true: marketing operations has traditionally been overshadowed by sexier marketing tactics. Yet as consumers become increasingly empowered and sophisticated in the way they make purchasing decisions, it’s never been more important to use data to map customers’ DNA, understand exactly what they want, and then take those insights to develop and deliver a superior (and flawless) customer experience. As outcomes go, we think that’s pretty sexy indeed.

About the authors

David Edelman is a principal in McKinsey’s Boston office, and Jason Heller is a senior expert in the New York office.