Month: April 2015

Ask and You Shall Perceive: How the 5 “Ws” Applies To Marketing Strategy

Who, What, When, Where, Why and How

How can the 5 Ws inform marketing strategists to formulate a winning plan? If you’ve ever taken a journalism class, this concept is very familiar to you. Gathering information for a news story requires answering these questions:

Who is it about?
What happened?
When did it happen?
Where did it happen?
Why did it happen?
How did it happen?

Taking this concept and applying it to acquisition marketing allows the strategist to gain a 360-degree overarching view of the entire marketing challenge. However, the marketing questions are slightly different:

Who is the target? The 40-40-20 rule of marketing states that 40% of marketing success is dependent upon the list or targeting, 40% is dependent upon the offer and 20% is dependent upon the creative. Understanding who the target is requires understanding the buyer and how the buyer thinks during his or her journey.
What is the offer? Again, this question accounts for 40% of marketing success, so it’s important for the strategist to understand what the offer is. And the offer doesn’t necessarily have to be a promotional or discount offer. The offer, in basic terms, is what the product or service offers the buyer. What does the product or service provide to the buyer that he or she will find valuable, desirable or necessary?

When is the best time to communicate with the buyer? This question informs the strategist about when the buyer is most likely to be receptive to a message from the marketer. The “when” question can be applied to media, email communications, social content or any communication that is directed at the buyer. Increasingly, the advent and evolution of the empowered buyer requires marketers to provide content to the buyer on the buyer’s own terms and timetable. To always have relevant content available for this new consumer, the “when” means “always on.”

Where is the best place to communicate our message to the buyer? With all the channels available to the modern buyer, answering the “where” question has become much more complex. “Where” can be anywhere within the paid, earned and owned media of a marketer. There are entire marketing organizations that specialize in the “where” question.

Why does the product or service prove meaningful, helpful, desirable or necessary to the buyer? Why will the buyer be moved by the marketing communications? Why does the product or service solve a problem, issue or challenge for the buyer? Why are the products or services better than those of a competitor? The “why” question is answered during the brand- or product-positioning and messaging phase of the marketing strategy, to provide the best possible platform for the service or product.

I’ve added “how” to the five Ws. “How will the marketing strategist use all of the information and insight gained from answering the five Ws to build a marketing campaign that will accomplish the goals and objectives of the organization? How will the strategy be translated into actionable tactics? How will the plan be carried out logistically? How will the success of these efforts be measured? How will the KPIs be determined? How will this all work together? As you can see, there are a lot of questions associated with “how.”

Using the 5 Ws allows marketing strategists to consider, contemplate and ultimately design a program or campaign that is well-thought-out and provides a robust solution to the marketing challenge or issue. There’s one more “W” though that marketing organizations need to be cognizant of: the word “well.” As Ben Franklin once noted, “Well done is better than well said.” All of the above needs to be done well in order to achieve marketing success.

Tribute to Attribution: The Quest for the Holy Grail of Marketing

Marketing attribution has been deemed the holy grail of marketing by many top-level marketers. The ability, or more realistically, the lack of ability to attribute a sale to a specific marketing effort is, at best, an elusive concept.

Salespeople believe that their efforts contribute to the sale. Brand marketers believe that their branding efforts contribute to the sale. Direct marketers also believe that their efforts contribute directly to the sale. Media buyers also believe that the sale can be tracked back to the media. So who is correct and who isn’t? And if they are all correct, meaning that all of these marketing efforts contribute to the sale, who gets the credit for converting the lead?

There are several schools of thought on how to attribute marketing efforts against the sale, the most popular of which is a time-related process, awarding the greatest level of attribution to the touch-point that is closest in time to the actual sale and awarding each touch-point varying levels of attribution depending on their proximity to the sale.

The real issue regarding the theory of marketing attribution is that attribution is a mathematical problem. And as with any math problem, increasing the variables causes the solution to be more complex.

Let’s take a day in the life of a fictional target named Fred. Fred wakes up at 6:00 a.m. daily by having his alarm clock play the radio. Fred hears a radio commercial about XYZ Pest Control. Last week, Fred’s pantry was invaded by ants, so Fred is interested in the solution that XYZ Pest Control provides.
Fred walks outside and picks up his daily newspaper. While leafing through it, he notices a print ad by the XYZ Pest Control. Fred is now both aware of and interested in the pest control service. Fred heads off to work, and because Fred lives in an urban area, he takes public transportation to work. As he walks along the boulevard on his way to the bus station, he notices a billboard for XYZ Pest Control. “Wow,” Fred thinks to himself as he walks, “XYZ Pest Control is a large company. They are advertising everywhere.”

Once aboard the bus, Fred checks his emails on his smartphone. He’s curious about XYZ Pest Control, so he searches online using his mobile device and clicks on a mobile search ad that appeared when he entered the search term. He clicks on the pay-per-click link and is redirected to XYZ Pest Control’s website, where he researches their services and finds their location.

As soon as Fred gets to work, he is swept up into the day’s workload and quickly forgets about XYZ Pest Control. He rides home on the bus with a coworker that lives near him, and their conversation causes Fred to once again forget that he was interested in the pest control service.

Fred says goodbye to his pal from work and starts walking down the same boulevard, although this time he misses the billboard because it is facing in the opposite direction. Fred gets home and checks his mail. Surprisingly, there is a letter from XYZ Pest Control offering him a free home inspection. Fred calls the number on the direct mail piece and schedules an appointment with XYZ Pest Control to come to his home for an inspection.

In this case, Fred was receptive to several different types of marketing channels and even responded to two of those channels. Yet, Fred’s sale would most likely be attributed to the direct mail piece that he responded to because he read the mail code from the piece to the operator at XYZ Pest Control.

Now, the telemarketer who received the call might think that his or her sales ability caused Fred to buy and would therefore think that the sale should be attributed to the salesperson. The direct mail marketing director firmly believes that their mail piece was the attributable marketing piece because the code was verbally given to the telemarketer. The digital marketing director received a click-through on their search marketing term and might consider this sale to be attributable to the digital channel. The Out of Home (OOH) marketing director sees a swing upward in sales and is quick to attribute the billboards and the public transportation advertisements as meaningful in raising sales. The media team who placed the radio commercial will also see an upswing in sales and will want credit for their marketing efforts.

In this fictional account, all of the marketing channels contributed to Fred buying the service. If Fred didn’t become so busy at work, he may have ordered or called directly from the XYZ Pest Control mobile website. If he had heard the radio spot on a weekend, that may have caused him to call. However, the daily circumstances and the many channels that XYZ Pest Control used for marketing communications makes it nearly impossible to correctly point the sale toward the correct attributable marketing channel. Add in social media, peer validation and recommendations of friends and associates to complicate the subject even more, and you can easily see why marketing attribution remains the holy grail.

Conversely, if the variables are limited, marketing attribution is much easier to map. If there was no radio spot, no OOH advertising, no search marketing and no mobile website, and if the direct mail piece was the only marketing communication, then, obviously, the attribution goes completely to direct mail.

Marketers have gone to great lengths in the quest for marketing attribution, and some believe that the right concoction of collecting data, modeling the data, optimizing the data analytics and better engagement of the customer can lead to accurate marketing attribution. And while it may narrow down the possibilities of a specific channel or campaign driving the sale, there is still a great amount of conjecture and assumption in the current process, even with the great strides that have been made in data analytics.

Marketing attribution is important to the marketing executive stakeholders who are anxious to put a positive ROI figure on their efforts. Understanding vital information is even more important to the company that is paying for the marketing, such as: What channels are working best? Where is the best return on investment? Why is one channel working and another not working? What can be done to optimize the channels that aren’t working?

As technology evolves, marketers will inch closer in the quest for the holy grail of accurate strategic marketing attribution.

Data Mining for Hidden Treasures (Part 1)

Today, if we substitute the word “data” for the word “gold,” the statement still rings true.

Like a gold mine, a data mine contains valuable nuggets that need to be extracted from the dross that surrounds it. And techniques for excavating these treasures are  constantly evolving.

What we now call data collection and database creation was made possible in the 1960s by computers the size of small buildings. During the 1970s and 1980s, database management systems led to hierarchical database systems, and later, to relational database systems.

With the ability to index databases, database technology increased geometrically, and new theories and practices quickly spread around the world. Query languages, user interfaces, pre-fabricated forms and reports, transaction management, data recovery, and online transactional processing (OLTP) all came into play.  And by the time the Internet emerged in the early 1990s, database technology was a booming industry.

Web-based systems thrived, and data and web mining became sophisticated disciplines. Relational technology made efficient storage, retrieval and management of large amounts of data possible. And advanced data models—including  extended-relational, object-oriented, object-relational, and deductive—enabled spatial, temporal, multi-media, active, scientific, knowledge, and office information databases to flourish.

In some ways, technology outpaced practical application, and in many cases “data rich, information poor” companies had no idea what to do with the reams of data they had collected. These massive repositories of dormant data became known as “data tombs.”

Data mining—also known as Knowledge Discovery in Databases (KDD) —is how smart marketers extract meaningful data from these tombs. In order to convert facts into knowledge, analysts look for patterns within the data, then identify and categorize them. Using this information, they create a predictive model that flags people who resemble current customers  in key ways.  This is a simplified explanation of what is actually a very complex process, but you get the gist.

Several scientific organizations, most notably the Data Mining Group (DMG), have pooled resources in an effort to create a uniform method for data mining using the Predictive Model Markup Language, PMML.  IBM, Microsoft, SAP, Oracle, NCR, and most major computer and software companies are members of this group.

Advanced data mining can reveal insights about customers, former customers, prospects, and leads.  When combined with purchasing patterns and behavior, the data can be used to drive sales, reduce churn, and support cross-sell and up-sell initiatives.

There truly is gold in them there hills, if you know where and how to look.

In part two of this article, we’ll explore the seven steps in KDD:

  1. Data Cleaning
  2. Data Integration
  3. Data Selection
  4. Data Transformation
  5. Data Mining
  6. Pattern Evaluation
  7. Knowledge Presentation

See part 2 here

Making The Most of Modern Marketing Technology

By Scott Levine

“Marketing is purchasing significant marketing-related technology and services from their own capital and expense budgets – both outside the control of the internal IT organization and in conjunction with them” reports Gartner.

Technology plays a big part in modern day demand generation, as best in class organizations have the necessary “technology stack” in place to optimize programs and yield maximum return on investment through proper selection, and strategic use of technology.

Gartner also notes:

“Marketing is increasingly becoming technology-enabled

  • Marketing is a significant technology buying center, with various buyer roles
  • Shift underway from internally operated marketing technology to externally (SaaS & marketing business services)
  • Ratio of external to internal spending increasing as marketing sources more externally
  • Decision to be made about CIO/CMO synergies
  • Supplier situation will remain fluid”

How prepared is your organization to collect, analyze and provide insight to the enormous amount of data that current and future technologies can provide?

Is the culture of your marketing organization data driven?  Are your important strategic and tactical decisions informed by research data and analysis of the data?   How sophisticated is your organization in mining data?   Does KDD (Knowledge Discovery in Database,) predictive modeling, predictive lead scoring, and data driven creative all play a part in your strategic and tactical marketing decisions?  How well do you really know your customers or prospects?  Technology opens a window to important and critical data, however, only analysis can provide the insights needed to optimize marketing.

“Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War, Zhou Dynasty (Approximately 500BC)

The single most important thing an organization can do to compete in the age of big data, is to have a data strategy.

The marketing technology stack allows organizations to execute their data strategy, and although it is the other way around in many organizations, best practice dictates that a data strategy must be thought out and implemented prior to investing in technology.

What do you want to learn from the data?   What gold is obfuscated by tons of irrelevant big data, and how can we dig deep to find the gold?  What are we looking for?  Where do we find it?   These are some of the questions that data strategists consider while forming the data strategy.   It is important to keep in mind that a data strategy is perpetual, and will always be in a constant state of change based on both the needs of the organization, and the advent of new emerging technologies.

The recent development of technologies designed to enable marketers to better target, engage and convert prospects in the digital space are increasingly being offered through SaaS and Cloud computing vendors.   This “instant availability” of technology without having to engage or depend on IT departments, is extremely appealing to marketers, who have come to the conclusion that technology can dramatically increase the effectiveness of marketing departments, especially those that have limited financial resources.

Marketers who are wondering “Where do we start with our technology stack?” needn’t ask the question.  The only place to start, is to have a data strategy in place, and that usually begins with an assessment of the technology that is currently in place, and chances are good that some technology exists, even if that technology is simply a CRM or Sales CRM system such as Salesforce.com or more sophisticated CRM systems from SAP, Oracle or Microsoft.

The current best practice technology stack always starts with a data strategy in place and assessment of the current technology in place.  And the most common, or needed piece of technology is the CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system, which generally provides some type of sales automation, to which other pieces of technology integrate or bolt on.

Next month, I’ll review the categories of marketing technology, and discuss how they work together.