By Adam Mertz
Marketers who want move at the speed of today’s customers need to be adaptive to the infinite buying journeys that digital creates. This is a massive change for most marketers. Being adaptive requires connecting to, learning from, measuring, and adapting to the digital breadcrumbs that customers leave.
The challenge many marketers face is that the digital marketing engines they use haven’t kept pace with marketers’ changing needs. As a result, these marketers feel stuck. They’re unable to advance past their current level of marketing maturity.
It’s possible for marketers to get around this issue and make the changes needed to adapt to digital marketing journeys. They can do this by being honest about and truly understanding their current level of marketing maturity to identify opportunities for growth, and then create a plan to move further along the maturity curve.
Three common stages of digital marketing maturity are email marketers, multichannel campaigners, and adaptive marketing pros. The most mature group, adaptive marketing pros, are able to tailor their marketing activities based on customers’ behaviours, interests, and preferences. Once you see where you fit, you’ll be better able to determine the steps you’ll need to take to advance to the next level.
Level 1: Email Marketers
As a fairly inexpensive yet often highly effective marketing tool, email is the workhorse of digital marketing. Despite the many other digital options available today, for many marketers, email is still their central digital channel. Those who live this challenge of relying primarily on email marketing instead of taking full advantage of other digital options, as well, fall into the category of email marketer.
Organisations at this level of maturity focus their digital efforts primarily on email, with a strategy that is usually facilitated by an email service provider with relatively simple and limited functionality. To determine if you are an email marketer, ask yourself:
- Are we doing too much of the work of scoring, data management, GDPR compliance, and more with manual, heavy lifting?
- Do we lack the integration that supports a data flow between our digital marketing and CRM tools?
- Is our KPI reporting minimal and lacking robustness?
If you answered yes to these questions, you’re likely an email master who could benefit from more advanced digital marketing strategies and tools to support them. You’re likely used to doing most of the heavy lifting yourself.
The best first step toward being a multichannel campaigner is to add more automation to your processes, which will allow you to focus on strategy and spend less time on tactical execution. Doing so creates a virtuous cycle that will allow you to begin spreading your wings to embrace other digital channels, enhance your reporting, and more.
Take Tower Federal Credit Union as an example. Last year the firm made a strategic decision to add automation and enhance reporting to support its email marketing efforts. The goal was to increase member uptake of products such as auto loans and mortgages. The credit union added automation that enabled its marketers to track which emails were opened (and which were not) and tailor follow-up communications accordingly. This automated nurturing allows the credit union’s marketers to determine the best content to send to members depending on actions they take in the sales funnel. The results? Follow-up email open rates have increased up to 50 percent.
Level Two: Multichannel Campaigners
The defining characteristic of organisations at this level of maturity is their growth beyond an email-centric marketing strategy to a multichannel digital marketing approach. Many companies are actively moving in this direction to better compete and to better respond to customers’ multichannel expectations. To determine if you’re a multichannel campaigner, ask yourself:
- Do we have a segmented campaign strategy? Do we segment via behaviour and profile data?
- Have we automated scoring, data management, and data enrichment activities?
- Is our key contact information synchronised with our CRM?
- Do we have a defined funnel supported by specific campaigns with correlated attribution reports?
Marketing organisations at this level do more advanced segmentation and have implemented marketing technologies that facilitate key process automations. Most of these organisations filled out their marketing stack over time by finding areas where they could steadily move forward with specific marketing use cases for greater productivity and effectiveness.
GBG, a company that makes technology to help fight fraud and cybercrime, is an example of this. GBG was generating leads from myriad channels. The marketing team needed to mature its lead scoring and nurturing activities to better support the sales team. They started by measuring how prospects interacted with content to determine where they were in the sales funnel and when the ideal time would be for a sales rep to engage with them. They started tracking website visitors and email campaigns and then synched the data with their CRM, allowing them to turn digital breadcrumbs into automatic nurturing campaigns. This gave GBG a detailed account of its buyer activity and a closed-loop view of how prospects were moving through the sales funnel and becoming customers.
Level 3: Adaptive Marketing Pros
According to Kea Company Research Director Peter O’Neill, approximately one third of marketers are looking to replace their current digital marketing automation solution to further individualise their digital marketing efforts, support ABM efforts, and more. Adaptive marketing pros are the ones who have already adopted technology that enables them to add personalisation to their multichannel marketing activities – and they’re eliminating “random acts of marketing” in the process.
You are an adaptive marketing pro if you can answer yes to these statements:
- We have an individualised personalisation strategy versus personalising for segments or personas.
- We use ABM strategies and segment customers at both the contact and account level.
- We use machine learning or AI-driven learning adapted from behaviour data, including information gleaned from third parties.
- We have automation that supports multiple scoring rules, GDPR compliance, and more.
- Our CRM is synchronised with our marketing stack to enable our sales and marketing teams to better adapt to opportunities.
- We use custom data fields in our CRM that are synched with sales and support sales reps with tools such as email templates they can personalise.
- Our analytics are easily shared across teams, with integration between our digital marketing and BI tools, so our reports give true guidance on next best steps.
At this stage, your challenge is to remain at the forefront of the digital marketing evolution, updating your strategies as new technologies emerge to support them.
As an industry, we’re at the beginning of a very long game – one that will be transformative. But there’s no need to wait to see where the journey takes us. There are many aspects of marketing where adaptive marketing pros can apply transformative technologies today, making incremental changes that are small but impactful. For example, predictive scoring, look-alike modeling, adaptive sending, and content recommendations such as subject line optimisation can all foster small yet significant improvements that add up over time. Consider Indigo, whose experiments with adaptive email sending resulted in 20 percent increases in open rate and 30 percent increases in click-through rates.
Move at your own speed, just keep moving
Some marketers have moved faster than others to embrace change. Wherever you are in your journey, know that marketing organisations exist at every level of digital marketing maturity. And while it can be helpful to benchmark yourself against the competition, it’s more important to understand where your organisation falls on the digital marketing maturity journey to set goals for advancement and improvement.
Once you’ve set your goals, don’t underestimate how much work it will take to move your marketing organisation along the digital marketing maturing curve. Finding use cases that make most sense for your business will be important drivers that will enable you to show the measurable improvements that will keep your team moving forward.
Remember, the digital journey is one that marketers, customers, technology vendors are all taking together. Evolve with them or find yourself watching from the distance as they get further and further ahead.
About the Author
As VP, Marketing and Strategy, Adam Mertz defines and drives the strategy, positioning, and thought leadership for Act-On Software’s marketing automation platform. With more than 20 years experience leading product and marketing teams for high-growth B2B technology companies, Adam has been at the epicentre of the digital marketing revolution.
Prior to Act-On, Adam spent more than eight years in the social media martech space harnessing the potential of social media marketing applications to engage target audiences. As with Act-On, Adam worked with marketers, martech industry pundits, analysts, and influencers to help shape marketing strategies and tactics for maximising success in this fast-changing digital marketing world.