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By RICHARD COOK, Director of Champion Communications
Marketing is undergoing a revolution of sorts. Earlier this year, McKinsey heralded the ‘golden age of marketing’, reporting that up to one trillion USD is being spent on marketing globally.
Technologies including analytics, big data and new marketing platforms have empowered marketers to reach wider audiences, with more precision and speed than ever before. Fundamentally, tech-marketing departments can now tell more engaging stories, and achieve better results.
That said, the efficacy of in-house marketing spending remains under the corporate microscope, particularly from CEOs. In a survey of 600 CEOs and decision-makers, the Fournaise Marketing Group found that almost 75 per cent of respondents believe marketers always ask for more money, but can rarely explain how much incremental business this money will generate.
The efficacy of in-house marketing spending remains under the corporate microscope, particularly from CEOs.
This “marketing as a cost centre” perception presents significant challenges for marketing directors, particularly those looking to unlock additional budget. And surely, for those of us that recognise the potential of marketing to generate qualified sales leads, we can’t simply accept or ignore this view!
McKinsey argues that five key elements define marketing these days: Science, Substance, Story, Speed and Simplicity.
Where focus groups and intuition would have previously guided marketing and PR planning, automated analysis now enables more refined ways of targeting buyers and audiences. From a lead-generation perspective, big data and big research can help marketers map out buyer journeys with unprecedented levels of speed and precision.
And as marketing technologies continue to proliferate, the potential for marketers to use their insight to drive business growth also increases. Data generated by and held within marketing departments can, and should, be used to inform product and service development – particularly within tech companies.
Data generated by and held within marketing departments can, and should, be used to inform product and service development – particularly within tech companies.
From a brand storytelling perspective, which is traditionally where marketing and PR strategy has focused, there have never been more distribution channels available. The continuing uptake in digital platforms means that marketers have to constantly deploy new and creative ways to engage target audiences across multiple channels.
The competition to engage decision-makers has never been fiercer, and yet the degree of control that marketers have over brand stories has significantly diminished. One negative tweet from a disgruntled customer can cost a brand millions.
And of course, all of this is happening at a rapid rate. Digital environments are instant, analytics are available in real-time, and marketing decisions need to be made fluidly and quickly. In an industry that has long been dominated by strict approvals, processes and protocols, marketing departments can be severely stifled if they don’t have the freedom to operate at the same pace as the decision-makers they’re targeting.
So the brief that in-house marketing departments have to follow has drastically changed. The question is: has the marketing department responded accordingly? Many marketing directors understand that that their department needs to evolve, but they don’t have the necessary resources or executive support needed to adapt.
McKinsey outlines five questions that should be asked when assessing whether a marketing department is optimised for success. These are paraphrased below:
- Does the department tap into the science of data and research, or is it working off yesterday’s facts and methods?
- Does the department fully exploit the potential of marketing to enhance the substance (products, services and experiences) that their organisation offers customers? Or are they just hard-selling?
- Is the department communicating a clear brand story that echoes through cyberspace? And is it capturing the hearts and minds of its target decision-makers?
- Has the department created simplifiers within its organisation, or is it stifled by complex structures and bottlenecks?
- Is the department faster or slower to market than its competitors?
These questions are essentially getting at the notion of permission. In my experience, the tech marketing teams that do the best work are those that have permission from their executive team. That is, permission to be creative, to deploy new tactics, and to input into their business’ strategy. They have the data, insight and understanding needed to gain a competitive advantage for their business, and they aren’t held back by bureaucracy and gridlock processes.
McKinsey is right; the dawn of marketing’s new golden age is upon us. But marketing teams and the boards that they report to need to adapt. Successful adaption in this context hinges very much on marketing directors communicating clearly and regularly with the CEO, and giving them the information they want – in the way that they want.
Many CEOs come from sales and finance backgrounds and, as such, it’s often wise to communicate with them using hard data and fact-based evaluations of outcomes. The focus should predominately be on bottom-line results and impact on commercial programs. By bringing a degree of science into the reporting process, marketing directors can effectively boost their chances of excelling, rather than falling behind, in the golden age of marketing.
Richard Cook is director of Champion Communications, a London-based B2B inbound marketing and PR consultancy for digital, media and technology businesses.
Why the ‘golden age of marketing’ hinges on permission and science