Prioritizing Marketers’ Top Priorities

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This morning I got a research brief from Mediapost summarizing the findings from the Marketing Effectiveness Networking Group (MENG) and Anderson Aanlytics study. This study surveyed marketing executives to identify key trends and strategies of effective marketing. The subject line of the email said: "Marketing Execs Say Basics Are Most Important in 2008".

By "basics" I thought they meant strategies such as becoming measurement-oriented, shifting ad portfolio, investing in email infrastructure, build operational data warehouse, and improve web site.

However the ‘basics’ by definition from this study were more customer-centric and more concepts and objectives rather than strategies. And unfortunately for most companies, they’re not all that ‘basic’ in achieving success.

60% of marketing executives said the following ‘marketing basics’ were important:

  • Customer satisfaction
  • Customer retention
  • Segmentation
  • Brand loyalty
  • ROI

I have a copy of the study. To be clear, the study asked marketing executives to choose from over 60 concepts or buzzwords (such as the 5 above) which were then categorized. Other categories, in order of votes, included:

  • SEO (by itself)
  • Personalization: concepts include Data mining, CRM, Lead Generation, Personalization, Ecommerce, Competitive Intelligence
  • Green Marketing:
  • Multicultural / Ethic issues.
  • Breakdown of old media
  • Innovative Branding
  • Viral / WOM: concepts include viral, WOM, blogging
  • New Media: concepts include Web 2.0, Mobile, CGM, Long Tail, Social Networking
  • Macro Economics
  • Tech Strategy
  • Outsourcing
  • Social Issues
  • Other

Now, as a marketer, if I participated in this study I may have answered the same way. After all, the ‘marketing basics’ are overarching objectives. What can beat those? And in fact, many of the other concepts feed into driving satisfaction, retention, and ROI. It’s not a fair comparison to put customer satisfaction next to "SEO" or "Data Mining". Yet for many marketers, SEO and data mining may take up the majority of their resources.

Some of the concepts above are objectives, some are strategies, and some are just concepts. Some strategies drive the results of other strategies. For example, many concepts under the Viral, Innovative Branding, and New Media categories are becoming THE biggest strategies to drive customer satisfaction, the way to reach new segments, and the biggest strategy to achieve ROI. Why? Because of "Breakdown of old media", ironically. Product reviews, for example, are driving 50% higher conversion on many web sites. Social networks and green marketing are two strategies key to reaching Gen Y crowds. And Web 2.0 and social networking actually drive a lot of SEO (the #2 concept above).

In a recent Internet Retailer article, Walmart.com CMO Cathy Halligan reported that the top three initiatives last year for them were:

  • Pick up in store capability
  • Product ratings and reviews
  • "Find a Store" functionality

Granted, all of these are within an ecommerce business (one of the concepts above), but Walmart.com is a $1B business, ad their top marketing initiatives last year were Web 2.0 and multi-channel capability (not on the study above).Yet, I  bet Cathy would answer this survey the same way. Customer satisfaction and retention are paramount for them, as she stated in the Internet Retailer article, "Our secret sauce is customer focus."

In our company (Bazaarvoice, a B2B software as a service provider), customer satisfaction and retention are also top objectives. If I took this study I’d vote them to the top, because if we achieve these we garner "word of mouth" which BECOMES "lead generation" (two concepts voted lower) which results in "ROI". Therefore, word of mouth is our #1 strategy.  But, it gets more complicated. The four pillars to achieving customer satisfaction and retention, and driving word of mouth, are not even on this list: Customer service, support, innovation, and reliability. Data mining, personalization, and breakdown of old media have nothing to do with my B2B strategy; yet these were my top priorities when I was at Dell.

What would be very helpful is a study that separates objectives from strategies, and surveys the effectiveness of the strategies towards the objectives, preferably by B2B vs. B2C, and perhaps by industry.

In the end though, I think that this study got it right in highlighting that the end goal for marketers are the marketing basics of satisfaction, retention, loyalty and ROI. But the absolute numbers and comparisons of concepts to each other may not be as relevant, other than to gauge top of mind awareness of marketing concepts and buzzwords. Each industry, company and marketing strategy is different.

3 Responses

  1. Wow, that’s great news. It means these experts realize that sticking with the basics will be best rather than venturing the unchartered paths which is not yet tested and proven. I personally think that customer satisfaction should be on top of these priorities. It’s the lifeblood of this industry, without which all of these will not thrive.

  2. John Calkins says:

    The last two decades I have been a small business owner in the service industry. And basic is our greatest marketing tool. Advertisement may bring them into the door, but basic is what develops a loyal customer. I am novice on marketing on the web and learning by reading as much material I can gather. I understand presentation and quality and hopefully I relay that to my customers on http://hotcookies.net; my web site. The web site allows a customer to upload photos and word documents. We will create a magazine, brochure or postcard and print bake, package and mail. We are having success with our local customers, but need help reaching customers across the country.

  3. Forgive me for just having found this Blog. Nice writing Mr. Decker and congratulations on the new addition!
    This post got my attention because it simultaneously threatens/supports our work in the Semantic Marketing space (at least in the near term). Our technology, Semanticator – http://www.semanticator.com, enables marketers to increase conversion by being more relevant to their key market segments literally upon arrival to their websites. This is new, cutting edge technology. In fact, our oldest implementation launched in August of 2007. It is experiencing a 41% increase in session duration, a 30% decrease in bounce rate and a 26% increase in conversion.
    Your post might discourage marketers from experimenting with our new technology.
    At the same time, you fortify the argument for our technology by promoting a return to the basics. Our goal has always been to make the transactional Web operate in a way that is consistent with time tested human business methods. The fabled examples of sales people that listened to wants and needs before making suggestions. Marketers that found ways to be relevant to their target markets. That is what our technology provides – a way for a website to “listen and learn” before making a suggestion (in the form of content on the home page).
    So, I hope you will encourage marketers and sales people to consider emerging technology that makes a return to the basics possible in the new world of the Web!

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