There’s always risk in the unknown. But today, marketers can’t afford to wait for something to break before they fix it. The old way of thinking — “Everything is fine, why would I change it?” — is obsolete. The best marketers now say, “Everything is working. What should I change?”
Today, that likely involves changing your marketing technology, which is evolving—along with potential partners, strategies and tactics—almost as quickly as buyers’ behavior. The more devices people have, the more devices you need to include. The more those devices connect, the more you need to follow those connections.
Many marketing professionals are playing catch-up as they try to understand the complexity of digital campaign management, the new nimbleness of direct mail, the new way to precisely target an audience with TV advertising, and, of course, the impact of AI. It’s a lot to know. But if you don’t get up to speed, you may miss the window of opportunity.
So marketers need to act — but not in haste. If you’re not sure what should change, always go back to the buyer’s journey and their touchpoints. Of course, to do this, you will need a clear online view of the multichannel attribution blueprint along the entire customer journey. Seeing the path to purchase this way can quickly help inform both online and offline marketing strategies.
Although digital marketing is perhaps the most measurable, effective tool that CMOs have, many are hesitating to embrace the latest digital trends and technology. At first, this may seem surprising, because it goes against what marketers instinctively know is the right thing to do. Change is in our blood. We’re always trying to outperform our last effort, to test against a control and refine our tactics.
In my experience as a CMO for large corporations, there are three variables preventing CMOs from fully utilizing new technology.
- The sheer volume of data now available to marketers. “Decision data” turns into “indecision data.” Little time is spent interpreting the results of the data, and more time is spent gathering and organizing Excel spreadsheets. As a result, marketers may know the performance of each individual tactic. Unfortunately, they often haven’t been able to attribute the data and build a buyer’s journey storyline connecting the touchpoints from inception to sale (aka revenue/ROI).
- Many new stakeholders. Because marketing decisions affect every facet of a company, from stakeholders to finance to IT, the marketing decisions are usually made by large groups that include representatives from each department. (An average of 5.4 people are involved in a B2B buying decision, according to Gartner.) The good news is that companies are engaged in how marketing dollars are spent; the bad news is, this may slow you down.
- Short job timelines for CMOs. The median time in the position is 27 months, according to one recent study. In large part, this short timeline reflects the way companies have begun to rely more on marketing as a major differentiator. Short-term or quarterly results can either cause the CMO to be moved out, or provide the opportunity for him or her to move on. That means for much of his or her tenure, the CMO may tend to be risk-averse.
Nonetheless, the fundamental rule applies: As a CMO, whether you’re brand new or you’ve been there forever, you need to carve out a place to take a risk. Your plans should always include some element of attempting to outdo what was done before by trying something new, whether that means changing a word on a page or changing your promotions and offers.
Your vendor-partners should be willing and able to connect the dots and define the data points that truly tell your customer story. That level of attribution equips the CMO and team with data that demonstrate to their peers how customers are getting in the door and purchasing products.
Learn to poke holes in your own strategies and tactics, even if they seem bulletproof. What’s working really well… that could be even better?
Stephanie Anderson is chief marketing and strategy officer at Ai Media Group, a New York City-based media company that specializes in defining, managing and executing online marketing strategies.