Presentation slides for the weekly meeting with sales. Putting the finishing touches on your next ad campaign. Brainstorming ideas for your social media pipeline. Getting the best output possible out of your agencies. Nagging the finance guys to release your vendors’ payments on time. Work never stops in a marketer’s calendar. The sheer quantum and variety of tasks that most marketers get around to doing every week puts the hardest working bean counter to shame.
With the world going digital and mobile and connected 24x7x365, the need for people like us to be on our toes around the clock has exploded exponentially.
Trouble is, with the number of tasks that we end up doing each day, there’s very little time left for personal growth or looking beyond the ‘urgent and immediate’ pile on any given day. However the fact of the matter is, to be a true star performer, marketers need to get their heads out of the chaos every now and then and get a fresh perspective that will revitalize their work and recharge their professional skills.
We at E2M are heading towards completing our second year of existence. It’s been a crazy year of growth, as was the year before it. And I have absolutely no doubt that the piles of work in my inbox and Basecamp aren’t going away anytime soon. So we took a time-out, asked all our marketing people to STOP (not that it worked), look, listen and consider for themselves where they’re coming from and where they’re going.
And from their aspirations, beliefs, and values, we attempted to see if there were any general, short-to-medium term goals for all marketers to pursue.
As a result, here’s a roll call of four major objectives every one of us must aim for, in order to become better marketers, more valuable assets to our organization, and more successful professionals on our own career paths.
1. Increase Collaboration – Across the Board
Collaboration – with users, partners and even competitors – is the name of the game on social media, content marketing and interactive marketing initiatives. It has been proven to provide a more deeply engaged user base while simultaneously improving product quality by encouraging diverse ideas and methods of working to flourish.
Collaboration comes in many avatars.
The marketing function is unique in that it depends on a number of other teams for its day-to-day functioning. From needing the IT department to keep our technology in ship shape, to needing programmers to custom-make apps or tools for us to getting customer service, to understanding production and promotion features and responding to customer queries more effectively, to getting our bills cleared on time – it’s a constant balancing act.
As an effective marketer, don’t be afraid to jump into the fray and understand each piece of inter-departmental interaction and dependency. Use the thousands of free (and paid) apps and tools out there to make collaboration simpler. Set up regular meetings with the IT and programming team to brief them on new projects where you’ll be needing their inputs. Basecamp is a great idea for collaborating on interdepartmental projects. Use tools such as Freshbooks or Xero to remind you about when payments become overdue and hit up accounts with your reminders in turn. Try out integrated CRM systems like ZohoCRM to keep your customer care teams abreast of your latest marketing offers, promotions and product details.
While co-ordinating with external teams can be a challenge, the upside of interdepartmental collaboration is reduced friction between different teams, a better understanding of other teams’ limitations, which helps you plan your marketing around these, and innovative marketing due to cross-pollination of ideas between teams.
Cross Channel Marketing
In the multimedia world that our users live in, there’s absolutely no excuse to create walls between different promotion channels. The traditional method of keeping your TV buys completely independent of your outdoor buys, which in turn had nothing to do with your digital campaigns are a thing of the past.
Today’s marketing campaigns are increasingly cross-channel dependent. The TV campaign that you run will likely carry a hashtag that you are promoting on Twitter, while on Instagram you’ll tell users to upload pictures of your latest billboards put up in your users’ cities, and your print ads will probably carry a scan-able QR code with a free coupon that works only on mobile purchases. The social media networks that you’re active on typically feed off each other – pins by users on your boards can be fodder for your next Facebook post. Similarly a sneak peek of your last post on your corporate blog is a great way to add fresh content to your email marketing.
Embrace this multi-channel opportunity that technology has opened up. Instead of using channel specific buyers for media, look at multi-channel media buying agencies that understand the synergies between channels that you use and get you the right combination of channels at the right price.
Cross channel marketing makes sure that your brand is omnipresent (on the relevant channels) and enjoys top of mind recall among your target audience. This sort of a cross channel collaboration cuts down duplication of reach by targeting the same customer twice with the same message on multiple media – ensuring more efficient spends of your marketing budgets. It also helps in understanding the number of times a user is exposed to your communication and lets you manage your messaging frequency with more accuracy.
Collaboration does not end within the four walls of the modern organization. With the success of our vendors, agencies and channel partners equally intertwined with our own, co-operation is common sense.
Work closely with your shipping agency to ensure timely deliveries to customers. Many ecommerce businesses in developing markets like India and China offer users the option of payment on delivery or ‘Cash on Delivery’ as it is called. They partner with shipping agencies that undertake the responsibility of delivering merchandise to users AND collecting payments in cash for the said merchandise on their behalf. Cash on Delivery accounts for about 50-80% of all ecommerce transactions in India today.
Other areas where external collaborations are a possibility include, cross brand marketing promotions – partner with a bank to offer a special scheme on your products for their bank customers which can be co-funded by both parties, integrate suppliers’ technology chops into your final product (similar to what Intel and PC manufacturers worldwide did), collaborate with distribution partners to create branding opportunities for your business at the last mile of the consumption cycle (like in-store product demos at Walmart or The Home Depot).
2. Reach Out to Customers to Deepen Your Market Insights
Marketing is all about fulfilling a customer’s need with your product at the lowest cost to both you and the customer. In order to fulfil someone’s needs, a marketer has to firs know what those needs are.
The most effective marketers are those who know their users inside out, understand the motivations for their behaviour, and can apply this deep knowledge to crafting products and promotions that succeed.
Trouble is, not too many marketers seem to acknowledge this fundamental fact that makes them tick. According to research by Janrain, 74% of users get frustrated with websites when content, offers, ads, promotions, etc. appear that have nothing to do with their interests.
The last few years has seen the rise and growth of big data as a source of user information. Big digital data – clicks, views, hovers, user paths across your website and more – can tell you a vivid and colourful tale about HOW your users behave on your site, what actions of theirs results in real dollars for your brand.
What big data cannot tell you is WHY users behave the way they do.
To understand the motivations behind users’ actions and become a stimulant for specific types of behaviour, a one-on-one connection works best. Here are some tools to reach out and get those insights for yourself.
Employ technology to get users’ views and reviews about your marketing actions or your product in a jiffy. Have a lightbox on the sign off page of your site (if you are an ecommerce player) that requests 2 minutes of your users’ time to answer a few simple questions. Tools like SurveyMonkey and Qualtrics help reach out to a closely targeted cross section of users in a short period of time. A survey link can be sent out via email or even posted on your social media platforms to invite users to participate and share their thoughts with you.
Social media brings users face to face with the brand. As a marketer, this puts you in the enviable position of having direct one on one conversations with users. Use the direct messaging feature on Facebook, Twitter or even Pinterest to get personalised responses from fans and followers. Studying the data available about users on social media – profile data, likes, interests and activities – also offers insights into their psyches and motivations.
Interviews and Focus Groups
Meeting up with users face to face either individually or as a group and bouncing off questions with them is a great way to understand their feelings towards your brand, their shopping habits and more. Unfortunately, these two methods have a built-in handicap. People tend to be nicer to others when interacting face to face than when interacting online, where there is a certain degree of anonymity. These personal interactions though great to pick up non-verbal cues, tend to be biased and may not offer the most usable information.
This is a tried and tested model of assessing shoppers’ behaviour “in the wild.” Just spend a day at your physical outlets and observe your users and clients if possible. Observers check their responses to specific stimuli – marketing-driven as well as environmental, to test how they behave when they don’t know they’re being watched. It’s a little like dropping cookies and collecting big data online.
A variant of mystery shopping is ethnographic research. In these cases, you take permission from the users to shadow them around all day long to observe their behaviour and take notes from it. This method has the issue of the data not being totally unbiased as the user is constantly aware of the observer’s presence.
Real-time Experience Tracking (RET)
RET is a recently developed technique that uses mobile technology to track user behaviour to real time stimuli. The good news is it’s cheaper than having real people follow a bunch of shoppers around all day. It also offers immediate, self-reported data from the users about the ads they saw, how many times they saw them, where they saw them, how they felt about the ads, how likely they would be to buy the brand based on the ads and so on. While offering a world of information, the small flaw in this method is that you’re completely dependent on the user’s motivation to record all these feelings and send them across multiple times during a day.
3. Upgrade Your Role, and with it, Your Responsibilities
Marketing is the face of the organization to the outside world. Working through reams of customer data, creating communication models, building a strong brand image, and chasing every last customer is what most marketers excel in. With newer platforms and deeper customer understanding coming into the fray, marketing has become more and more specialized as time passes by.
Every individual has their core competency and they seldom have the luxury of time to look beyond their core area of work, be it marketing communications, media planning and buying, SEO, SEM, Email Marketing or Content Marketing.
Be a Jack of All Trades and Master of One
As an effective marketer, you need to develop at least a rudimentary understanding of every aspect of marketing. Even though chances are you’ll never personally have to design a webpage or shoot out the next batch of email newsletters, you need to know what the key performance indicators for each role are. You also need to get a grip on how each of these roles relates to your specialty and how you can improve overall process efficiencies by understanding these interdependences more clearly.
The ideal that you need to work towards is a T-shaped competency matrix. All that needs you to do is, develop a good understanding of the various horizontal functions that together make up marketing AND ensure that you have an extremely high level of proficiency in any one specific function.
Handle the Money
Branding, punchlines and ad campaigns are all aspirational and fun to do for any marketer. However, the real power in an organization rests with people who manage the money. Individuals who control expenses and those that bring in revenue are typically the two kinds of people who end up rising up the ranks and eventually move into CXO positions.
Any ambitious marketer who dreams of a corner office someday, has got to jump in and get his hands into the money.
As a marketer, you already contribute towards bringing in the revenues for the organization. Go deeper into the actual bottom-line and top-line numbers that the marketing and sales teams are responsible for. Work with the sales teams to understand ways in which you and your team can contribute more efficiently towards revenue goals. Make sure that your marketing decisions are all geared towards maximizing revenue for the organization. The C-suite may not appreciate a great ad campaign you pulled off; they’ll remember a series of years that your team brought in the moolah, beyond organizational expectations.
On the expenses side, the marketing team itself is an expense centre (unlike sales, which is considered a revenue centre). Help create and manage the departmental budgets. Look into each marketing activity you undertake for your brand and see how you can optimize the expenses on it. Whittle away expenses that offer minimal or no real returns. Plan and develop forecasts for the future that have a grounding in your current marketing strategies.
4. Expand Your Authority beyond Your Organization
You may be superb at your job, well recognized and respected among your colleagues, but your career does not end with your current organization. To build a solid foundation for your career in the years ahead of you, it is imperative that the people who matter in your industry are aware of who you are and what you bring to the table.
In other words, spreading your influence beyond your company and its partners is essential for trailblazing career success.
Assuming that you have already established yourself as a force to reckon with within the organization, there are many ways to achieve this level of recognition outside it too, including:
Speaking and networking at local conferences
Every industry has its associations and trade bodies that bring the best minds in the business together under one roof. Become a member of these bodies either by yourself or through your organization. Participate in the events and activities at these organizations.
Share your knowledge through speaking assignments, by publishing studies and whitepapers at industry events and gatherings. The idea is to mingle with like-minded people who help you broaden your perspectives and help you become a better marketer. Build those bonds now, as these could be the very same people who may someday help you with a leg up in your career.
Writing for regional publications
Having knowledge and not sharing it with others is a bad idea in two ways. Firstly, it prevents others from learning something new and expanding their horizons. Secondly, it limits your circle of influence and prevents you from achieving recognition as an authority in your line of work.
Don’t let that happen to you. Publish your ideas and thoughts in blog posts or articles on the internet. Approach local publications – online or offline – to feature your work. Most of them will be happy to receive and publish good work, giving you your fifteen minutes of fame every time your name appears on the byline to a great article. What’s more, you might get paid for your work, while earning a reputation as a thought leader in your field.
Helping out / doing free workshops for institutes or non-profit organizations
Not everything needs to be done for monetary gain. You can always offer your services gratis to non-profits that could do with the help. Create a marketing campaign for them, help them set up their website, help them with email marketing and fund raising – all the various skills that you apply at work are extremely valuable in such setups as well.
Another alternative to gain a positive reputation is by offering guest lectures or free workshops at local educational institutes. This way you do your two bits for society and in the bargain you become the local ‘pro’ that everyone talks about.
Seek an honorary position outside the organization
There are many bodies that are set up with the aim of helping members out in their areas of work, volunteering to help the needy, and so on. Organizations like the Rotary Club, the Lions Club, Little League sports teams, the Salvation Army, a local startup incubator and the like come to mind.
Most of these organizations could do with some managerial help. There are always positions open in administrative, financial or fund raising capacities. Check out how you can hold an administrative position in such organizations alongside your regular job. These positions put you in the spotlight, offer you a chance to apply your leadership and marketing skills, and most importantly, bring you in close contact with the type of people who could be instrumental in furthering your career in the future.
Remember, your job is not your career. It is a stepping stone to much bigger and greater things that you can achieve if only you set your mind to it.
There are umpteen ways a dedicated marketer like you can rise and shine beyond his calling. As long as there is a clear will, you can always make your way towards fame and success in your career. Here’s to splendid, inspirational careers all around!