Marketing planning has changed little in the past century. It's essentially a linear process built on the development of rigid 12-month plans built around brand and channel metrics. This approach is coming increasingly under strain as the combined effects of the growth of digital marketing platforms and a volatile economy demand marketing plans that deliver clear business outcomes and can adapt and improve to meet evolving market dynamics.
Over the past 12-18 months, we have come across several marketing organizations that have decided to do something about this situation and look for new ways to improve their approach to marketing planning by adopting some principles borrowed from a relatively new methodology originally conceived for software development efforts: agile development.
From the interviews that we did with marketers that are experimenting with this new approach, several of the key principles of "agile" development looked particularly relevant to innovating their approach to marketing planning:
A clear definition of business outcomes and associated business metrics
With the increasing richness and complexity that digital channels and social media bring to the marketing equation, senior marketers increasingly realize that, to be relevant in shaping their brands’ interaction with customers, their teams need to embrace new technologies with the help of the IT group.
In my latest joint research effort with my fellow analyst Nigel Fenwick from Forrester’s CIO role, I explore how marketing and IT can successfully work together in enabling organizations to master the customer data flow.
Our early findings were not very promising . . . What clearly emerged from our interviews with CMOs and CIOs was how deeply ingrained the stereotypes about the two teams are. We heard that:
IT is the department of “no” and does not care about customers or what’s happening in the market.
Marketing is having all of the fun and spending money without rhyme or reason.
From the interviews with more than 50 marketing leaders, we have learned that more than 40% of chief marketing officers (CMOs) admit that their brand loyalty programs underperform or produce erratic results, or they simply do not know how the programs are performing. The survey also shows that for most CMOs, loyalty marketing is often seen as a means to an end, not a strategy, and that their approach, while necessary, has unclear objectives and focuses too much on short-term financial goals.
Other key findings from the report:
Marketers are primarily focused on customer acquisition (65%), increased brand awareness (40%), and marketing return on investment (39%), as opposed to initiatives addressing customer loyalty, such as increasing customer retention (31%) and customer lifetime value.
The majority of respondents indicate that customer retention (79%) and revenue growth (53%) are the key metrics used by senior management to evaluate loyalty marketing initiatives, as opposed to Net Promoter Score (24%) and customer satisfaction (24%).
Lack of differentiation (91%) and promotional clutter (73%) are seen as the main reasons why loyalty initiatives are often not delivering the goods. For more than half of the respondents, loyalty marketing initiatives are not aligned with the brand they are promoting.
Loyalty currently is at the top of my research agenda. Why? I think that marketing organizations have been approaching loyalty with uneven success by adopting established approaches mainly based on points or rewards. Maybe we should look at loyalty from a wider perspective and try to embed it in our efforts to build a better brand experience for all customers. I’d really like to know what you think about this topic.
If you're a senior marketer, I'd appreciate it if you'd take the time to answer here .
What can you expect when you click on that link?
Your answers will help me get a better understanding of how marketers see loyalty initiatives as a component of their plans, if they are happy with their loyalty programs and if there are common pains that marketing organizations share around loyalty. Why? Well, we think that loyalty needs to become a higher priority for marketers to get the best returns in the future, and we think that to do so, we maybe need to rethink our overall approach to loyalty, moving the focus from rewards to a consistently satisfying brand experience.
At least, that’s what I’m thinking right now . . . you tell me. I look forward to your responses.
Last week, The New York Times broke the news that Google is launching a new eCommerce platform targeting fashion brands: Boutiques.com: http://nyti.ms/9DlCu. (Disclaimer: I worked for four and a half years at Google, but I was not involved in this project.)
The launch pushes the envelope of how technology can help consumers navigate and discover fashion products and trends by:
Taking vertical search accuracy to the next level.
Using social as a centerpiece of the experience, giving celebrities, fashion bloggers, and ultimately everybody the capability to create a "personal boutique" with the fashion items they love for all to have a peek.
Taking advantage of the latest visual search technology that helps users in mixing and matching colors, patterns, and trends.
I think that the approach to product discovery of Boutiques.com is a very interesting development in eCommerce as well as for brand marketers. Why?
Boutiques.com offers a much richer way for consumers to explore brands online by shifting the focus from product to the context in which the product will be ultimately used. I would expect Google to target notoriously difficult categories to contextualize like furniture and cars.
Data, data, data . . . retail aggregators like Boutiques.com have the opportunity to develop unique insights on demand trends that many brands will be happy to pay for.
As cross-brand navigation becomes an easier and rewarding experience, the current cornerstone of today’s brand digital presence — the Web site — will face increasing competition from innovative retail formats, and as a result, brands will need to develop a syndication strategy for their branded content across platforms.
No, I’m not Australian . . . at Forrester, "boomerangs" are analysts that, after leaving the research team for a stint in the "real world," have decided to re-join. Clients and fellow analysts value the experience we "boomerangs" have built as marketers and the pragmatic outlook we always bring to the table. As for me, I am a bit of an anomaly, as this is the second time that I am back at Forrester. My 20-year career as a marketer can be roughly split in two phases: first, the CPG marketing and strategy roles for brands like Ferrero, L’Oreal, and Johnson&Johnson; then, my digital marketing phase, which recently closed with more than four years at Google.
I would like to think that I am now entering a new phase by helping organizations understand the key role that marketing can play in shaping the way they navigate markets and customers that are constantly affected by the adoption of new technologies. Quite an ambitious scope, so to make sure that I stay relevant and deliver actionable research and advice, I have decided to launch this blog to start a dialogue with CMOs and Marketing Leaders on what’s keeping them up at night and how we can help them.
Coverage areas and topics I’m interested in.
As I type this, I am in the process of writing research on the following areas (please note that links are to reports that are only accessible by clients):
I’ll primarily focus on helping marketers redefine brand loyalty and the role that it plays in the Customer Life Cycle.