To succeed, start with customer-first goals and strategies

Let's start with the obvious: The digital landscape is rapidly evolving as increasingly more advanced technology comes into play. In an era where there's so much available technology, how do we as marketers know when and how to use it effectively to drive real results for our business? There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question because every business has different goals and is on a different point of their own digital marketing journey.

In this environment, it is critical to first take a step back and refine or define your marketing strategy -- ensuring that it is tied back to your business goals and grounded in the needs of your customer. Every marketer has unique objectives related to the customer journey, from nurturing programs to ongoing customer loyalty. In today’s technology-first world, it can be difficult to keep up with the pace of consumer behavior and the digital breadcrumbs they leave behind. And for marketers, that means it can be even more challenging to track ROI.

Smart businesses have come to realize that marketers bring a lot more to the table than tactics and vanity metrics. These same businesses are celebrating and leveraging marketing organizations’ more strategic roles as demand generation, growth and profit drivers.

While every business is unique, the following steps apply to all marketers who are looking to deliver maximum results for their business and value to their customers:

Properly define your goals in support of a foundation

Well-defined goals and objectives that support them are the best investment you can make to set your marketing team up for success. Goals should be worked backward from corporate goals and mapped to customer expectations with a solid marketing strategy.

In the absence of a good strategy and data to support it, tools are just tools. You can have the most advanced technology and tools available on the market, but without a strategy and goals, you won’t achieve results and growth. It’s important to establish tools and automation in support of your efforts, to address customer expectations and business goals and to get clean data that gives you an accurate picture of what’s actually working. In doing so, you’ll enhance your marketing practices and move from strategy to delivery and back again quite easily.

Collect data in support of a strategy

As the next generation of marketing tools is set to lean heavily on artificial intelligence, predictive intelligence and machine learning, marketers will have data lakes of information available at their fingertips. Yet, there is only value in the data if it informs your strategy, helping to answer, “What is working and what is not?”

GIGO -- garbage in, garbage out -- is an old computer adage that applies well here. While there are many different tools that can help drive action based on the data that comes into your business, they are ultimately only helpful if the data serves to break through the clutter and help you identify steps that will help grow the business.

Ask yourself: Are your data pipes feeding you the information you need? Can you analyze and report on your existing data in a way that helps you refine and improve strategy? Can you use it to adequately test email, website and other tactics in support of overarching goals? Can you really use it to measure if, how and where marketing is moving the needle?

Making sense of information isn’t always easy. In today’s complex marketing landscape,  customers leave so many digital breadcrumbs that it’s hard to cut through the clutter. This is ultimately where technology and strategy meet, using analytics and reporting with clean data that illustrates both progress to business goals and progress in meeting customer expectations. In this way, you’ll advance in your practices and your team’s overall marketing maturity. We’re all on marketing journeys and as individuals, we’re all at different stages, but with these back-to-basics steps and probing questions we’ll be able to create a virtuous cycle of delivering the highest value to both our business and our customers.

Nina Church-Adams is Senior Vice President of Marketing at Act-On, and is responsible for managing the company’s global marketing function. Nina brings more than 15 years of marketing leadership experience building teams, products, and brands at industry leading companies such as American Express and Nike. Prior to Act-On, Nina held multiple senior marketing roles at Finastra (merger of D+H and Misys), the third largest financial technology company in the world. Prior to Finastra, Nina helped launch the Nike Foundation’s Girl Effect University -- a global learning platform designed to help experts in international development unleash the potential of 250 million adolescent girls living in poverty.

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