The way prospects buy is changing. This truth has been identified by a number of studies. Even without such studies, each of us intuitively understands that our shopping habits have changed and continue to do so. Today, if we are in need of household items, we turn to Amazon. If we want to be entertained, we turn to Netflix. If we want to plan an amazing vacation, we turn to Tripadvisor or Google.
Empirically speaking, buyers research between 1 to 4 hours online before making any purchasing decisions. This was not the case a decade ago when Android did not exist and when the iPhone was just launched. Similarly, in a few years, the buying preferences of your target audience will undoubtedly have changed again.
This article is designed to help marketers prepare their marketing organizations for change. Even though we may not know what those trends will be, there are seven steps that any marketing leader can take to position their organizations for future success.
1. Embrace Data Science
Some of the world’s most successful organizations use a combination of data scientists and marketers to acquire more customers, improve customer retention, and reduce acquisition costs. The term “data science” can be applied to many different aspects of business, from software development to business operations, Marketing teams that embrace the principles of data science will be more successful because of it.
The Google Trends chart above highlights the growing interest among all searchers in regards to data science. When it comes to marketing and data science, mining datasets for customer insights can help organizations find the right answer much faster than by relying on traditional techniques.
Businesses like MailChimp, Uber and Amazon (among countless others) have all embraced data science as a way of uncovering hidden opportunities for many different business units, including marketing. As the VP of Product Management (and previously the Chief Data Science), John Foreman says, “The data science team at MailChimp leads from the back in this way — constantly finding ways to serve other teams and our customers using analytics and data-driven products.”
2. Create a Growth Team
Marketing teams responsible for fueling demand are essentially helping to grow the business. As a result of this focus, Growth Marketing has become a popular new trend used by companies like Hubspot, Dropbox, and Warby Parker.
Growth marketing teams are usually comprised of an eclectic mix of data-driven professionals. It is typical for growth teams to include a lead marketer who is supported by an engineer, product manager and data scientist.
When thinking about what skills a growth marketer should have, consider the “T” example shown here. The visual shows a “T” shaped skillset where growth marketers are knowledgeable about many different aspects of marketing, while also having deep knowledge about a few key areas related to growth. In this case, search engine optimization and pay per click advertising are key skills for the growth marketer represented by the diagram above.
Creating a growth marketing team will help your marketing organization to drive growth in a scalable and sustainable way, by incorporating growth strategies into many different areas of your business.
3. Measure Every Marketing Channel
The famous management consultant, Peter Drucker coined the phrase, “what gets measured gets managed.” It was true when his book The Effective Executive was published in 1967, and it is true today.
For marketing teams to be successful both today and in the future, it is important that key metrics are measured, tracked, and incorporated into company culture. Team updates should be centered around performance related to KPIs, as should individual performance evaluations.
Unfortunately, some areas of marketing—such as PPC performance or email marketing—are often over-measured while other areas are under-measured. Measurement of new social media platforms is the one facet that marketing teams should focus on, for example. After all, investing in an Instagram analytics platform like Owlmetrics can help your team get the most out of one of the fastest growing social media networks in the world.
4. Successfully Forecast Performance within a Few Percent
Being able to successfully forecast marketing performance is key when working in a data driven organization. Marketing teams that reliably forecast performance will gain trust within the organization, while also helping other teams understand what they should reasonably expect from marketing performance results.
This skill goes hand-in-hand with the idea that business will become increasingly data driven as analytics become more accessible. A great way to begin forecasting is by learning a simple exponential, or a double exponential smoothing model. This analysis takes past performance into account when predicting future performance. A double exponential model is a bit more sophisticated, as it weighs recent performance more heavily, making it perfect for organizations that are scaling quickly.
5. Set Skill Benchmarks for Your Team
The company that created telegraph infrastructure in the United States, now needs talent that is comfortable with computer programming and business intelligence. AT&T developed an expansive employee training program to bring current AT&T employees up to speed. This move allows the company to forgo costly recruiting expenses, while retaining people loyal to the company.
In a recent Harvard Business Review profiling this strategy, “AT&T estimates that, all told, 140,000 employees are actively engaged in acquiring skills for newly created roles.”
It is impossible to know exactly how marketing will change in the coming years. The only thing that is certain is that changes are coming. Businesses can prepare employees for these changes by investing in employee development. In doing so, businesses can avoid expensive recruiting costs, while retaining hard-earned on the job knowledge that can take marketing teams to new heights.
6. Experiment With Chatbots
Over 2 billion people use at least one messaging platform a minimum of once a month. The rise of social messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Kik (among others) is changing the way people communicate with one another and with brands. While in some cases, messaging platforms create marketing challenges because accessing analytics is difficult (which is why messaging platforms are called “dark social”), a few companies are already capitalizing on these new platforms.
Chatbots use either machine learning, or pre-programmed conversation trees that allow users to interact with brands through the messaging platform of their choice. Brands like Sephora and Lyft make it incredibly easy for customers to make purchases from most messaging platforms.
Sephora’s chatbot provides Facebook Messenger users with a free beauty consultation. Depending on how a user interacts with the chatbot, Sephora will recommend specific items based on that user’s needs.
Lyft also created a chatbot that works with Facebook Messenger and Slack. In just a few sentences, anyone can order a ride without even opening their Lyft app. In addition to text based messaging platforms, Lyft also integrates with Amazon Echo, so users can request a ride by voice as well.
Marketing teams of all sizes can get started with chatbots by working with a third-party software like ChattyPeople or Chatleap. Alternatively, they can outsource the work to developers that specialize in building chatbots. Marketing teams that are interested in providing a chatbot experience but would prefer doing so on a company website, can use a tool like Drift to get started.
7. Create an International Marketing Plan
Guess which country had the most people using the Internet last year. If you guessed China, take a moment to congratulate yourself. If you didn’t guess China, take a minute to educate yourself.
Over 700 million Chinese residents, which is 2.5 times more than the number of people in the United States, used the Internet last year. Similarly, over 400 million people in India used the internet last year, which is 1.5 times more than US internet users.
Marketing teams interested in scaling products to become billion dollar companies should realize that a great deal of opportunity exists internationally (regardless of where you are working as you read this article). Localization marketing can help brands access less competitive or more profitable markets while scaling customers.
Trello provides marketers with compelling evidence that highlights the effectiveness of localization marketing. Before being acquired by Atlassian for $425 million, Trello created a team of talented international marketers. These marketers helped the brand to acquire new users in markets like Brazil, Germany, and Spain by tweaking Trello’s strategy to suit local preferences.
Research whether or not a localization strategy can help your business scale more efficiently. If you find that it might be useful, consider building a team of international marketers with knowledge in the region you hope to target.
Marketing is sure to continue evolving as prospects change buying habits and uncover new pinpoints. For marketing teams to be prepared, it is important to focus on hiring individuals with data-driven expertise.
Businesses should invest in analytics platforms, and should ensure that marketing teams are capable of successfully forecasting performance. In order to truly prepare for the future, it is also a good idea to create some sort of training program to update current employees on the latest best practices.
What else should your business be investing in to empower the marketing team? Download the Marketer's Backpack to find out what questions and insights marketers should be pursuing in order to make the most of your marketing strategy.