For many marketers, the end of 2017 involved in-depth planning sessions and haggling over budgets, as their 2018 strategies were finalised and signed off.
In January, then, the hard work begins in delivering against the goals and targets that are enshrined in the strategy.
But even though the strategies are already in place, the process of kicking the tyres on existing plans, and sense-checking that the knowledge and resources are in place to deliver the strategy, should be ongoing.
With this in mind, here are the four key questions that marketing leaders should be asking their teams and themselves throughout the year, as nominated by experts. Do these questions surface any shortcomings in your organisation?
1. Does our brand have a purpose? Is our whole team aware of our brand purpose?
“Consumers today want to buy into more than just a product - they want to buy into a personal affinity with a brand,” says Miro Walker, CEO and co-founder of Cognifide.
“2017 saw the rise of purpose led marketing, 2018 could be the year when brands start to put purpose more firmly behind the entire business, aligning business strategy with marketing strategy. Brands will be looking to articulate that purpose more and more.
“Airbnb famously transformed itself from a platform that connects travellers with accommodation, to a global hospitality brand through its brand purpose, clearly stated in its strapline: to make people around world feel like they ‘belong anywhere’. 2018 will see brands looking to articulate purpose through their customer experience. Purpose + digital experience = brand experience. The brands that manage this transformation successfully will be set to be the brands of choice in the future.”
2. Do we really understand AI and its applications?
Much has been written and spoken about artificial intelligence (AI) in the last 18 months – but if your organisation is one of the many that has decided to embrace AI in 2018 it needs to be sure that it isn’t just jumping on the bandwagon.
“Don’t let artificial intelligence take your eye off the ball: AI is the buzzword plaguing the martech industry, and rightly so,” says Robin Collyer, marketing & decisioning specialist at Pegasystems.
“Its capabilities are truly transforming the world of marketing as we know it. However, companies must not lose sight of how appropriate this technology is for each business case. Do businesses really know what their AI is doing? Setting the level of transparency (as opposed to opaqueness) allows marketers to have full visibility of how AI is producing results.”
3. Is our company and its data ready for GDPR?
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into effect in May 2018, less than six months away, and sets new standards for the storage, collection, distribution and usage of all personal information and data pertaining to a company's customers. But while the threats of fines alone should be enough to encourage organisations to double efforts to ensure compliance, there are also solid competitive reasons too.
“Whilst the thought of GDPR continues to send shivers down the spines of marketers across the land, it should be viewed as a positive step-forward for the industry and a chance for brands to strengthen their customer relationships and totally rethink their attitudes to customer data,” suggests Christopher Baldwin, head of marketing for Northern Europe at Selligent.
“Marketers have been lazy with data for far too long and this may serve as a timely and much needed wake up call. Focusing on accumulating and processing important, useful, and legally compliant information is a necessity – and if the GDPR provides some incentive for that, then marketers and the relationships with their customers will benefit.”
4. Can we measure customer emotion?
The quality of customer experience is waning, with Forrester's 2017 CX Index revealing that there were twice as many organisations with declining scores, than there were organisations with improving scores. In the wake of this, Cliff Condon, chief research and product officer at Forrester, had the following advice: "If brands want to break away from the pack and become CX leaders, they must focus on emotion."
He added: “Best-in-class brands average 17 emotionally positive experiences for every negative experience, while the lowest-performing brands provided only two emotionally positive experiences for each negative one."
The suggestion is that emotion is critical to a brand's bottom line. But many organisations have little understanding of their customers' emotions.
“Burdened by CX, technology budget allocation, and the reevaluation of digital ad spending, CMOs in 2018 will be desperate to understand their customers to a level they never have before, using data that was previously unthinkable. That includes a precise emotional understanding that wasn’t possible until recently,” Forrester predicts in its paper ‘The CMO Bar Rises With More Pressure For Growth’.
“That includes a precise emotional understanding that wasn’t possible until recently. Emotion is everywhere, embedded in every customer action. Anytime a customer directs his attention somewhere, gives something emphasis, or remembers something, it is because emotion told him to do so. Recognizing this, more marketers will seek to rationalize emotion — following in the path of marketers at a snack foods brand who are investing in measuring the emotional precursors of the choice to eat a salty treat.”
About Neil Davey
Neil Davey is the managing editor of MyCustomer. An experienced business journalist and editor, Neil has worked on a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites over the past 15 years, including Internet Works, CXO magazine and Business Management. He joined Sift Media in 2007.