Here’s a trivia question for you: What was George Harrison’s last released single? The answer, as it turns out, is Any Road, a song that reminds us, "if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there." This poignant parting gift from the youngest Beatle is worth singing right about now as we plot our annual resolutions for our brands, if not our lives.
Of course, singing is one thing, and resolving to do things is quite another. To get us all on the right track, I first consulted with trailblazing marketers at Cablevision, Eloqua, Fandango, IBM, PetCo, SAP, and the Grammys. Their insights, based on longer separate interviews, form the basis for these 8 "must do" resolutions for marketers seeking a clear direction on the road ahead.
1. I will have a systematic means of measuring marketing effectiveness.
The need for meaningful metrics has never been greater yet seemingly more elusive to marketers. Many CMOs still don’t have the data they need to make informed decisions and demonstrate ROI. Explains Yuchun Lee, General Manager of IBM’s Enterprise Marketing Management business, "Measuring ROI is an inexact, statistically based science that, until recently, was too hard to tackle." But now that the task is more manageable, Lee touts ROI data as "the highest level scorecard."
Brian Kardon, CMO at Eloqua, echoes Lee’s call for hard marketing data, arguing that traditional measures like "awareness, usage, and perceptions" are meaningless to CEOs. Instead, he prescribes a real-time dashboard that monitors "how marketing is contributing to closed business." Even if you think calculating marketing ROI is beyond your reach next year, identifying and tracking "which marketing activities influence buying behavior," is essential, advises Lee.
2. I won’t pay lip service to being a "good" company.
Lots of brands talk the talk of doing well by doing good. Many put their values front and center on their "About Us" page and provide links to their charitable activities. But it is the rare company that actually walks the walk, recognizing that its belief system and marketing behavior are just as significant to its customers and business partners as what it is selling.
One "good" example is Patagonia, which shocked newspaper readers this past Black Friday with a counterintuitive ad that said, "Don’t Buy This Jacket." This ad announced their Common Threads Initiative, in which Patagonia vows, "to build useful things that last, to repair what breaks and recycle what comes to the end of its useful life" and, just as important, asks the reader to pledge not to be such a voracoius consumer. So much for just wearing your values on your sleeve!
3. I will seek power partnerships.
Marketing partnerships are a long-established means of stretching dollars, reaching new targets, and transforming brand images. Recently, a new kind of group effort has emerged in which several brands coalesce around an idea that is bigger than any one of the brands and that acts more like a movement than an ad campaign. The most notable recent example of this trend is Small Business Saturday.
Promoted first by American Express in 2010, the program expanded in 2011 to embrace other marketers that elected to participate. Stephanie Anderson, VP of Marketing for Cablevision’s Optimum Business group that supported Small Business Saturday in 2011, summarizes, "The best part about multi-brand programs is that you can align with not only the lead brand but also other companies and create new opportunities, offers, and messages."
4. I will aggregate high-quality content from and for my constituents.
In 2011, content became "the new black." Everyone from mom and pop stores to Fortune 1000 behemoths flooded the social web with posts, pictures, and videos while asking consumers to do the same. Not surprisingly, most of this content was a washout, languishing either unread or unwatched and certainly not shared. To rise above this tide of mediocrity in 2012, marketers need both a strong organizing idea for their content and clear standards for the content they share.
One brand that has had extraordinary success aggregating user-generated content around a big idea is the Grammys. Their "We’re All Fans" campaign "captured lightning in a bottle—it was the first campaign to be 100% constructed out of user-generated social media components," said Evan Greene, CMO of The Recording Academy and The Grammys. While "We’re All Fans" embraced a broad range of content, Greene notes, "we had to make sure it didn’t cross the line in terms of being vulgar, obscene, or illegal."
5. I will carefully cultivate my customer community.
The idea of building a community of like-minded consumers is hardly new, but making the jump from gathering consumers on a platform to actually cultivating an interactive community can be daunting for some companies. As Mark Yolton, SVP of marketing and the lead for SAP’s vibrant Community Network, acknowledges, "It’s clear than not everyone who starts [a customer community] is expecting, anticipating, or willing to put in the time and effort to make them work."
There are many potential perks, however, for the company that goes to the trouble of really engaging with their customers, Yolton says. "As a company we gain speed, agility, better decision making and reduce our risk because we gain rich insights into what our customers really want and value," he says, all of which benefit the company, its partners, and of course, its customers. "I would advise any other CMO to lean forward and start building their community without delay, because the value far outweighs the cost," Yolton said.
6. I will think of social media as more than an advertising channel.
By now more than half of all companies, big and small, have jumped into social media in one form or another. Corporate Facebook pages are a dime a dozen and carefully sanitized content falls mainly on deaf ears. The challenge for brands is to stop thinking of social media as an advertising channel and instead use it for research, customer service, pro-social activities, and anything else their customers would find of genuine value.
If you think I’m barking up the wrong tree, look no further than Petco and how social media fits into their extensive goodwill activities. "We actively use social media to engage our fans (over 600k on Facebook) to support our charitable causes," says Petco CMO Elizabeth Charles. "Positive campaigns with an altruistic call-to-action perform remarkably better (up to 100 percent more feedback) than promotional campaigns or transactional posts."
7. I will make exceptional customer service an everyday practice.
Walk into any Apple store and there is a pretty good chance that the person who greets you can not only help you find what you’re looking for but also tell you how to use it, ring it up, and have you out the door before you can say, "Thanks, Steve." When exceptional service becomes an everyday practice, the entire math of a business changes. Loyalty goes up, acquisition costs go down, and employees stay longer—all of which contributes to a bountiful bottom line.
But why talk about service in a marketing resolutions article? First, no amount of marketing can overcome poor service. In fact, the worse the service, the higher the acquisition costs due to negative word-of-mouth. Second, great customer service stories make interesting content—something that’s increasingly valuable in social marketing (see #4 and #6 above). Third, great marketing today is a form of service. Just think back to the SAP Community Network I mentioned earlier—it’s marketing with a clear service-oriented mission: "To help developers achieve success."
8. I won’t be the last one in my category to build a mobile site.
You and everyone you know have smartphones, right? So why haven’t you at least made your website friendly for these devices? Amazingly, only 1 in 8 small businesses has a mobile-friendly site, and the numbers aren’t that much better for bigger companies. So, if you only do one new thing in 2012, how about building a mobile-friendly site that supports the on-the-go needs of both prospects and customers?
For evidence of the growing impact of mobile you need only look at movie ticket hub Fandango. Forty percent of Fandango's overall traffic and more than 20% of ticket sales now come from mobile devices, said Fandango CMO Ted Hong. "Mobile has fundamentally changed our value proposition," he says. On top of its mobile site and apps, Fandango is now rolling out a paperless Mobile Ticket that is scanned at the theater. Lest there be any doubt about my advice here—in 2012, it’s "go mobile or go home."
A final note: Harrison’s song "Any Road" also includes the lyrics "sometimes you’re cool, sometimes you’re lame," which is exactly how I felt trying to cram the wisdom gleaned from so many smart people into these short paragraphs. For a deeper dive into each of these topics, be sure to see my full interviews with Yuchun Lee, Brian Kardon, Ted Hong, Evan Greene, Mark Yolton, Elisabeth Charles and Stephanie Anderson now (or soon to be) on TheDrewBlog.com.
[Image: Flickr marcovdz]