In today’s revolutionary new marketing landscape, consumers have become more confident, capable and impatient. They know what they want, based on the fabulous wealth of data in search, and the trusted reviews of their peers in social networks. Even while traditional marketing continues to over-saturate every aspect of their lives, consumers are increasingly enlightened to aggressive modern marketing tactics: they know when a Facebook campaign reeks of shameless self-promotion, or when promotional Tweets sound like spam. As social media adoption reaches a level previously inconceivable – and growing still – it seems as if marketing power has finally returned to the people.
As Chief Marketing Officers struggle to shift gears, stubborn or inflexible brands are the ones likely to be left behind. According to a recent study by IBM, the four biggest challenges facing CMOs today are an enormous increase of data, the growing importance of social media, ever-expanding channels and devices, and shifts in consumer demographics.
A cynical brand might just give up—they have—and you could hardly blame them. According to the same study, 79 percent of CMOs anticipate an increased level of complexity over the next five years, though just 48 percent of them think they can handle it. But there are plenty of brands succeeding where others have failed.
The key is in relationship-management, not transaction-management. The old philosophy used to be, Let’s identify a market and deliver something it needs. The new philosophy is increasingly, Let’s listen to Sally and ask Sally what she needs. Most organizations struggle because they still focus on reaching markets rather than reaching individuals. But you’re a marketer: how can you measure such a thing?
Engagement is the new king of all metrics. CMOs must begin measuring their marketing successes in terms of the individual people with whom they connect. Let the people do the talking. (They will anyway.) Listen to their needs, respond to them with humility and honesty, and adjust your strategies accordingly. According to an earlier IBM study, 95% of CEOs heading the most successful organizations said that getting closer to their customers was their top priority over the next five years. Great. Unless these efforts are met with proper marketing analysis, how do you know if your social media strategy is getting anywhere?
For example, only 26 percent of CMOs are tracking blogs, according to the study, and only 48 percent are tracking consumer reviews. Yet blogs and reviews are two indispensable sources of consumer information. The value of social media marketing is uncontested in today’s marketing departments, but only 56 percent of CMOs plan to focus on social media engagement, responding and reacting to consumers, reaching out to fringe as well as mainline users.
Those CMOs who had previously relied on tools like Google Analytics or Webtrends to tell the whole story of these efforts are missing essential segments of consumer activity. It’s not for lack of data. “We’re drowning in data,” a Swiss CMO commented to IBM. “What we lack are true insights.” The tools of their trade, now archaic and rusted, need to be replaced.
CMOs must develop a social interaction policy for how to respond to positive feedback on Facebook, how to diffuse a bad user review on Yelp, how to make right with a disgruntled blogger, how to retweet a Twitter follower’s beaming product endorsement. Innovative brands relax their boundaries and allow consumers to find ways to integrate with the brands they love. Standardize this process and set benchmarks for engagement.
CMOs must change the way they measure ROI. Your ROI calculations must now include all the off-page sources which consumers use for brand information. It’s possible—and more likely than ever—that your customers may never even visit your website. Do yourself and your brand a service by adjusting your metrics to include social engagement, or else you’ll see your outdated ROI model droop.
Finally, CMOs must engage both their brand champions and detractors with honesty. Remember that with the democratization of marketing comes the reality of changing consumer habits: quality brands will rise to the top, and poor brands will not. If you have a solid product, you have nothing to fear. Proudly take part in consumer conversations, and find innovative ways to trumpet your successes. For the first time in years, brand quality can truly speak for itself again. Adjust the ways you analyze your efforts to include engagement, and begin an honest conversation with your consumers—and yourself.