Digital marketing transformation continues to be a hot topic, and its acceleration has continued to increase exponentially. Businesses are implementing systems to better market to their customers; enable sales to understand, prioritize and react to leads that fuel opportunity; to manage the lifecycle of customer engagement; and at the end of the day, to hopefully tell a value story for marketing impact on sales opportunity and ultimately, revenue.
So why do so many organizations struggle to get to that state of nirvana? There are certainly a lot of factors that contribute, but here are 3 guide rails to rally around that can lead to success.
1. Always Start with Your Customers
To be successful, everything you do must be keenly aligned to your customers. Who are they? What do they care about? How are you meeting their needs along the entire journey of becoming a customer? Who are decision-makers and influencers? What are the customer touchpoints along that journey that will not only allow you to win that business but to maintain that relationship long term?
Start with Definition
As marketers, everything we do serves and supports the customer experience. UX exercises such as empathy mapping and persona development can help define customer demographics and psychographics to better understand their needs, mindset, and behaviors. These simple exercises put you in the mindset of the customer and help you understand who your customers are, what they need, and even how your product or service can alleviate their specific pain points. When combined with supplemental primary and secondary research and analytics, organizations can sharpen their focus on defining customers which should in turn refine marketing strategies.
Focus on Customer Experience and the Journey
Having defined your customer, start thinking about what content and touchpoints are relevant to them at each step in their journey. Keep in mind, this isn’t just about awareness. It’s about a 360–degree view of customer experience. From awareness and conversion to loyalty, the goal is to engage, win, and retain.
Starting with simple activities such as journey maps can help sharpen your marketing and content strategy and develop relevant messaging across the customer lifecycle. There will be multiple touchpoints along the way, with different organizations within the business involved. Make sure to not only identify marketing and content strategy but other touchpoints along the customer lifecycle that should be considered. Those areas may include sales enablement, customer support, procurement, and even brick and mortar experience. It’s inasmuch about your marketing/sales experience as it is about your overall Brand experience!
There are plenty of frameworks out there to leverage; but start simple, test and learn, and evolve quickly. The beauty of digital is that it allows us to do just that as marketers. Where you start with your strategy can and will evolve – and should be a natural progression of continuing to refine your customer strategy. And to better know, and serve, your customers.
2. Focus on Your Data Model Early
Data is often overlooked, and it’s a critical key to success—both at the system and customer level. Knowing that your business will more than likely have multiple systems in place that focus on customer data can add to that complexity. Not just for maintaining a single master record of the customer, but also how to standardize key pieces of information across systems. It can be a tough challenge, but one that can be realized. Here are some key considerations to think about along the way…
Define and Standardize Your Marketing Data Model
Your marketing data model will typically consist of 2 types of information: demographic and behavioral.
Both will have significance in how you develop and drive your content strategy, your ability to test and learn, and how you empower your Sales organization to assist with the sales process.
Demographic data will help with your segmentation strategies, while Behavioral data will give insight into interaction (or lack thereof). Both will play a key role in how you continue to Market to your customers and how a qualified lead is defined through marketing activities (lead scoring models). Thinking about the different types of information you’ll be collecting and standardizing within your marketing and sales systems is essential for success.
Your Demographic data can include simple things like Title, Industry, Role, and even things we take for granted like State and Country. These tend to be very structured types of data and help to define who a customer is. As a marketer it’s important to identify that type of information; to tightly define it (including data types); share it with key stakeholders in the business for alignment (sales, customer support); and to develop a cross-system integration strategy. And don’t forget to develop your business rules around data management – this includes how data enters your systems; whether through website/3rd party integrations, imports, or manual entry. It’s important to define those rules to maintain data integrity – that, at the end of the day, will allow you to report on marketing’s impact on Opportunity more easily and empower your marketing efforts along the way.
You can apply the same definitions exercise for your Behavioral data. Most, if not all, Marketing Automation and CRM systems will come with out-of-the-box fields you can leverage with the ability to define custom fields and to omit fields you don’t want. While the behavioral model may seem daunting, there are simple things to think about that can help. Establishing a strong UTM model across ALL your marketing channels can be a starting point. Don’t overlook things that sit outside of digital marketing where UTM’s are traditionally considered; remember, data can enter your system in many ways and your UTM model can be a gateway to first/last touch attribution and reporting. And one that you can easily roll out across all your marketing channels and be captured at the system level. Finally, think about measurable touchpoints that might be gathered outside of your UTM strategy; understand where that information is stored at the system level, what that data looks like (don’t forget to work on standardization!), and how that might play into your Behavioral model.
Once you have both established, think about systems standardization and engage key stakeholders. That may include Marketing Automation, CRM, ERP and other systems. Remember, it’ll be important to make sure key stakeholders outside of the marketing organization are involved to understand and agree upon data definitions that extend beyond marketing. And to also give those organizations insights into other types of customer data that may not have had prior visibility.
3. Operational Readiness
The last area to consider, and one that may actually be the most challenging, is operational readiness. It’s important to ensure cross-organization alignment as you start to implement your marketing strategies. Here are some general questions to consider that can help gain organizational alignment and streamline efforts for both short-term implementation and long-term business value.
- How defined is your customer data model across the organization? Do all groups understand what types of information are being collected? Where and how is that information stored? What is the structure of the data? And how it can be leveraged to support the customer experience?
- Are the right team structures in place to support modern marketing and customer experience needs?
- Have you defined and selected systems that focus on empowering the business to meet the need of the customer vs. and inward-focused strategy?
- Have key stakeholders agreed upon the value of data and marketing efforts? And how that equates to empowering sales efforts and ROI?
- What governance rules have been established for systems usage and integration; including data management, access, automated workflows, and how systems interact with one another?
There is a lot to think about as a modern marketer, especially as systems become more advanced and businesses continue to evolve and drive demand for better customer experience (and ROI reporting!).
Remember – start simple, test, and learn, and continue to refine your overall strategies. These three guide rails don’t work independently of one another, either. But when they start to align, they can be a powerful gateway to drive modern marketing and sales success.