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I’ve been pretty heads-down over the past few weeks, analyzing the data and results from my graduate research and also working on my upcoming book.  As I’ve dug into the data, there clearly are some self-evident themes emerging around marketers’ opportunities and challenges with adopting strategic marketing systems and technologies (which I will be covering on this blog in more depth over the coming weeks).  One of the clearest themes is the great chasm that exists between aspiration and reality for marketers when it comes to marketing measurement and the analysis of marketing return on investment (ROI).

My research found that these topics are top of mind for marketers, and many state their organizations are already beginning to engage with analytics software.  When asked about tactical/operational objectives for new technology deployments, measurement and ROI analysis are at the top.  This is consistent with a new Lenskold Group / MarketSphere report, released this week.  “Current economic conditions are putting pressures on marketers to better understand their marketing effectiveness as 8 in 10 marketers (79%) report that the need to measure, analyze and report marketing effectiveness is greater in 2009,” according to the press release for the report.

Yet my research found that the same marketers give their organizations low marks on analyzing performance and overwhelmingly comment that their organizations are ‘not aggressive’ when it comes to marketing technology investments.  Aspirations are high, but the reality of investment in systems and technologies to deliver on the aspiration is low.  This also was echoed by Lenskold/MarketSphere, which further commented in their release, “[B]udget pressures are evident with 6 out of 10 (59%) indicating that this higher demand for measuring marketing effectiveness is not budgeted for … .”

The reality is that marketers cannot get enough of systems and technology to tackle measurement and ROI analysis; they have barely scratched the surface.  Far from solved, this is an issue that has only become more important and yet more complicated over time.  Customer channels are exploding in number, and yet marketers are incapable of delivering measurement and ROI analysis that takes this new reality into consideration.  “Buyers are multichannel beings.  Buying cycles are cross-channel,” comments Akin Arikan in his recent book, Multichannel Marketing.  “Yet online and offline marketers still perform their measurements of success in isolation.”

So what are marketers’ aspirations; where is the disconnect; what are their challenges; and what are potential strategies for overcoming these challenges?

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Today I am extending an open invitation for marketers that read this blog to help participate, both in my upcoming book – tentatively titled Connected Marketing – and in my current graduate research project, by taking part in a survey of US marketers that I am currently conducting.

As I noted in a previous post, the focus of my current research is on analyzing and synthesizing ways that marketers could better leverage technology for more connected and more strategic marketing, as well as identifying the cultural, organizational and technological barriers marketers face in trying to adopt strategic marketing technology (versus the myriad of tactical technologies they rely upon today).  By presenting insights both into the ‘state of the art’ and into what is keeping marketers from getting there, I hope to provide marketers with new leverage in how they attack the problem.

A key component of this research is an original benchmark survey of marketers focused on garnering insights into marketing technology priorities and experiences.  This is where I need your help.

    

Participate in the Survey

If you are a US-based marketer, please take a few minutes this week to participate in this survey.

This is the last week of the survey, and I need the help of the regular readers of Propelling Brands to hit my target research sample size.  So if you can take a few minutes today to fill this out, I’d appreciate it.  It shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes, and as a thank-you for your participation, you will receive a summary of the survey results and will be entered into a drawing for an Amazon gift card.

Deadline for completing the survey is Midnight PT on Sunday, April 19, 2009.

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I’ve been doing a deep dive into the integrated marketing management segment over the past few months. My goal has been to unravel the complex vendor landscape; to help marketers discern the capabilities of distinct vendor segments; and to help figure out what is a ‘best fit’ for their marketing organizations. (While we’re on this topic, as an update for those following this series, I DO plan to publish the final installment of my three-part series on the ‘Top 20′ platform vendors in this segment – i.e., the final ‘list’ – at some point over the next few weeks. So stay tuned.)

I have primarily focused on three ‘camps’ – demand generation, marketing automation/enterprise marketing management (EMM) and advanced customer relationship management (CRM) in my research and writing to date. My hypothesis with these camps has been that despite “… different roots, aims, legacies and constituencies, [they] are both converging on and vying for this core integration and management layer,” as I wrote in February.

Source: iStockphoto

Source: iStockphoto

Enter the fourth camp – the ‘inbound marketing’/marketing content management crowd – examples of which include new inbound marketing pure plays such as Hubspot, Magicomm, Vazt and Video Army, as well as content management stalwarts such as Crown Peak, which are evolving toward inbound marketing.

I’ll admit that when I first heard the phrase, inbound marketing, I said, ‘I don’t get it.’ In fact, I thought, ‘Wow, more confusing buzzwords.’ But I wanted to get to the bottom of this phenomenon, so I dug in, did some research, sat down a few weeks ago with Hubspot marketing VP Mike Volpe and more recently had a call with Vazt co-founder Seamus Walsh.

Now I think I get it, but I’m not sure that the phenomenon around this fourth camp is purely about inbound marketing. Dynamic and search-optimized marketing content management is a critical component and key value-add in a broader, integrated marketing context and for companies that deploy both inbound and outbound marketing. That’s why I describe this space as a dual helix of inbound marketing and marketing content management that is bound to eventually intertwine with the other camps. In fact, my conversations with Hubspot and Vazt made me think of the evolution of Marketbright, which started as a marketing content management system but has evolved into a demand generation system.

So what is inbound marketing, how is it tied to marketing content management and what does this all mean for marketers? Moreover, is this a real ecosystem of solutions, or is it merely a Hubspot phenomenon?

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No member of the C-suite has a riskier or more-short-lived term than the chief marketing officer (CMO).  The average tenure of a CMO at the ‘100 most advertised’ US brands is 28.4 months, according to recruiting firm Spencer Stuart in a recent Advertising Age column by John Quelch.  In fact, as a marketer, few things are as much of a sure-fire, eventual career killer as being named CMO.  Strange … you’d think that getting to the top of marketing hierarchy would be the pinnacle of one’s career.

The challenges faced by the CMO speak to many of the fundamental strategic problems underlying marketing organizations and marketing science today and that are linked to a permanent shift in power from brand-company to customer and to a proliferation of communication channels and information sources.

For CMOs to succeed they must sit at the top of a newly-agile marketing organization, built from the ground up with sophisticated, financially-savvy and technology-empowered closed-loop systems and processes in place that can scale, that can manage increasingly complex and customer-centric communication execution and that can provide necessary transparency into multi-channel program performance.  And this transparency must provide other C-suite colleagues with the real-time status of key performance indicators (KPIs) and on the return on investment (ROI) of marketing programs in net present value (NPV) terms.  “[F]inancial accountability of marketing is here to stay,” argues Quelch in the Advertising Age column.  “[I]mproved accountability requires CMOs to be financially literate, to understand the balance sheet as well as the income-statement effects of marketing initiatives.”

Source: iStockphoto

Source: iStockphoto

Too often, though, such an organization does not exist.  “Although the marketplace has changed beyond all recognition due to Web 2.0 and the explosion in digital – marketing technology and process have not kept up with the changes,” commented Bob Barker, VP of corporate marketing at Alterian, in a recent post on DM News.

The imperative for the CMO, thus, is to drive change. 

And that change must be focused on building just such an organization.  It is not sufficient to manage execution of the existing organization or to believe that your company is already ‘getting it right’ today.  There is no room for complacency or incremental efforts.  Marketing is a dynamic practice that keeps an organization in check with the dynamic needs of its customers and of the marketplace.  CMOs must drive change because their organizations must constantly change to remain competitive – a fact that was validated in a recent CMO Council report, which noted “… 61% of respondents believe that marketing operational transformation will be an essential area of focus for them in the months ahead.”

So how do CMOs do this?  And where should they focus their efforts to transform the marketing organization?

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The Internet changed everything … especially for marketers.  Now more then ever, customers have a million tools and information sources at their disposal, and the power balance has forever shifted to the needs of the customer versus that of the brand-company and its products and services.

Customers are now driving the marketing process … in case you haven’t heard.

The consequence for us as marketers (and our role in demand generation) is that our fundamental posture must change.  Yes, it remains increasingly important to get the attention of your customers and to ‘rise above the noise,’ but it also is increasingly important to be a better listener and observer – catering to the needs, preferences and timing of your customers.  I liken our new role as marketers to being similar to the attentive and omnipresent, but unobtrusive, waiter at a five-star restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton or the Four Seasons – standing by and ready to cater to the customer’s every need and knowing exactly when (s)he wants something.  Fortunately, the same Internet domain that has made our job tougher as marketers can also be a source of new and valuable insights into customers’ ‘digital body language,’ as Steve Woods (Twiter: @stevewoods), CTO and co-founder of Eloqua, calls it in his new book, (not coincidentally titled) Digital Body Language – Deciphering  Customer Intentions in an Online World.

Source: New Year Publishing

Source: New Year Publishing

Steve Woods is a forward thinker who has spent the last decade of his career learning about and building systems to help marketers better leverage insights into customers’ digital body language.  His book is the culmination of his domain expertise and years of experience in software architecture, engineering and strategy for marketing systems, as well as his track record of client successes since Eloqua’s founding in 1999.  This expertise, experience and track record led to him being named one of Inside CRM’s Top CRM Influencers in 2007.

Prior to co-founding Eloqua, Woods worked in corporate strategy at Bain & Company and engineering at Celestica.  Woods holds a degree in Engineering Physics from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.

So what does it take to better understand digital body language, and how as marketers can we better leverage digital body language to improve our delivery to customers, our collaboration with our sales-team colleagues and our fundamental ability to drive demand generation?

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This is the second in a three-part series of posts on integrated marketing management platforms.  The first post identified the strategic need for integrated marketing management, mapped this to key marketing ‘pain points’ that these systems address and provided an overview of the disparate technology camps that are vying to deliver robust integrated marketing management platforms to marketing organizations.  Click here to view the first post, “Marketer’s Needs + Technology Landscape.”

Today’s post will present high-level thoughts for marketers on approaches to analyzing their needs and to selecting a platform that is the right ‘fit’ for their organization.  The final post in this series will present snapshots of the top 20 vendors I’m watching and that I believe are representative, forward-thinking leaders in this segment.

    

What should guide your decision to purchase an integrated marketing management platform? 

Let’s start with the basics:  What are your fundamental business goals?  And what marketing programs have you deployed to achieve these goals?  Ideally you want to invest in technology infrastructure that can help you achieve your business goals, that mirror your marketing programs and that (when all is said and done) can help you measure the impact that you made in reaching this goal.  Seems straightforward … except (and let’s not sugar coat this) … marketing processes and communication flows are complex and borderline ‘ugly’ when it comes to the level of complex, integrated execution and monitoring involved.  This means that your technology infrastructure must be able to handle this ‘ugliness.’ 

Source: iStockphoto

Source: iStockphoto

That brings us to the more advanced issue in evaluating the purchase of an integrated marketing management platform:  “How do I bring method to the madness?” as Market2Lead CEO Geoff Rego framed in a phone interview.  Whereas focus should rule the day in marketing strategy and planning, robust capability and the ‘kitchen sink’ factor should, in part, guide your technology decisions.  You want a platform that can give you real leverage.  In fact, you probably need more than you think you need.  And you can’t ‘wimp out’ when it comes to digging into this decision; this is a system that will become your lifeline; nor can you simply go with the marketing technology equivalent of ‘Big Blue’ (because no one got fired for buying Big Blue, right?).

“One thing not to do is to look at a generic list of the ‘top three’ products or ‘industry leaders’ and refuse to consider any others,” comments industry analyst David Raab in a white paper, titled “Three Differences that Matter in Demand Generation Systems.”  Raab continues, “On the other hand, few marketers have the time or inclination to perform an in‐depth technical analysis of several dozen demand generation systems, or even to document their own needs in detail.”

So then what is the middle ground, and how should marketing organizations approach finding the right ‘fit’ for their organization … without having to build CIO-level expertise and while staying true to their current, successful (but not fully leveraged) marketing processes?

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Today’s post is a bit different from the usual.  We won’t be diving into a key topic at the intersection of brands, marketing, innovation and technology, nor will we be presenting a Q&A with a forward thinker in the space; instead, I am asking for your help with a project.

iStockphoto

Source: iStockphoto

I am in the process of writing a book – tentatively titled Connected Marketing – that is for marketers, that covers the topic of marketing technology and that is meant to help marketers deploy and use technology in a substantially-different way than they do today.

This book has evolved from a convergence of 1.) my interests and blogging about this space, 2.) my past experiences as a marketing leader and consultant in the technology industry, 3.) my ongoing discussions and interactions with leaders in the marketing technology space and 4.) research I’m conducting as part of my current graduate program, which I will conclude in May 2009.

So what are the details, and how can you be a part of helping marketers to better leverage technology and, thus, to take the ‘connectedness’ of their marketing organizations to the next level?

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