Tim Parkin, Author at MarTech Marketing Strategy, Marketing Technology, Marketing Transformation Tue, 12 Jul 2022 13:40:38 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.9.3 Most marketing fails before it starts — here’s how to fix it https://martech.org/most-marketing-fails-before-it-starts-heres-how-to-fix-it/ Tue, 12 Jul 2022 13:40:32 +0000 https://martech.org/?p=353276 The pitfalls to avoid and the higher roads to take for marketing success.

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Most marketing fails, and often before it even starts.

Marketing is pivotal to the success of every business. If your marketing fails, the business will follow suit. Ensuring the success of your marketing must be the absolute highest priority of any business. Far too often, however, it’s disregarded and completely overlooked.

When marketing fails

Given that marketing organizations have notoriously limited resources, both restrictive budgets and small teams, there is no room for failure. Marketing is a mission-critical function. Forget fluffy KPIs, witty taglines and artistic imagery. Delivering revenue and results is all that matters. 

Not surprisingly, there are a handful of consistent reasons why most marketing is doomed for failure even before it starts. Understanding these root causes will help you become a better marketer, prevent fighting a losing battle, and guarantee the success of your marketing.

Top 5 reasons marketing fails before it starts

Here are some of the top reasons marketing fails from the beginning. You most likely will recognize one or more of these from your past experience or present situation.

Unrealistic expectations

Despite a lack of budget, time, skills, or experience, most marketers overestimate the success of any campaign and believe that it will generate record-breaking results, even if it’s something they’ve never done before.

Forecasting and projecting are both areas where marketers notoriously struggle, either in ignoring to consider them or creating them with no basis in reality, account of past performance, or consideration of potential risks.

Unrealistic expectations don’t exist solely within the four walls of the marketing organization, however. Management and other functions, like sales, often have assumptions about the effectiveness of marketing. Understanding these expectations — and setting realistic ones — is key to success in marketing.

Lack of focus

The biggest reason that marketing efforts fail is a lack of focus. Most marketing teams are either far too ambitious or fail to push back when being pulled in many directions. Trying to do too much, especially with too few resources, is a recipe for disaster. Jerry Weinberg refers to this as the “Law of Raspberry Jam”: the more you spread it, the thinner it gets.

Doing less creates more results. It’s imperative that every marketing initiative has full support to maximize its impact and chance of success. I’ve written before about the need for ruthless prioritization in marketing and there are so many benefits accrued from a narrow focus. Not only is it easier to get results, it’s also easier to measure and manage.

Weak support

Marketing can’t succeed without the requisite support. Great marketing requires a skilled team, sufficient budget, and a realistic timeframe, among other needs. 

Many marketing teams are underfunded and lack budget to execute on the demands placed before them. Other marketing teams are stretched too thin given the limited headcount.

Regardless of the reasons — and there are a multitude — marketing can’t operate in isolation. 

Focused on the 2%

Results often don’t happen immediately, a fact that makes marketing hard to quantify. Typical conversion rates for most marketing fall around 2%, which means that 98% of prospects won’t convert right away. That’s fine as long as you’re expecting this and can nurture those prospects accordingly. However, despite this universal truth, most marketers fail to plan or develop the nurturing required to realize the true results of their efforts and investments.

Additionally, measuring only the immediate impact fails to account for the true impact that marketing generates. Success in marketing isn’t just about instant gratification, it’s also about long-term growth.

Excessive or nonexistent planning

There are two camps marketing teams fall into when it comes to planning: excessive planning and nonexistent planning. The former maps out too many details and restricts the ability to iterate and optimize in flight, an essential ingredient of successful marketing. The latter is more common, where teams simply figure it out as they go and bet on serendipity and hope for success.

Neither approach is a tenet of successful marketing. Planning must be done and plans should outline the what, but not the how, in order to provide room for optimizing, adjusting and iterating, to maximize the chances of success.

5 rules for successful marketing

Now that you know some of the main reasons why marketing fails before it starts, let’s address these issues head on. Here are five principles to ensure your marketing succeeds every time.

Define success

It’s been said that if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there. If you want to be successful it helps to first define what success looks like. 

How will we be better off at the completion of this campaign or initiative? 

How will the organization be closer to achieving their goals as a result?

Work backwards from your answer to identify the critical elements and ignore everything else. The more clearly you can define success the easier it will be to separate the essential from the nonessential.

Do less

The key to more results is doing less. Focus is one of the most powerful elements of marketing, and the more focused you can be the easier it will be to execute, manage and measure your impact. 

Focus requires prioritization, which is a challenge for most marketing organizations. I’ve written about the need for marketing teams to prioritize ruthlessly which in today’s increasingly complex landscape is more important than ever before.

Focus and prioritization are fundamental at the strategic level. On the tactical level, testing and validating are the most efficient and effective ways to maximize results with the minimum resources. Testing is a marketer’s most powerful tool, and it enables you to get more results by doing less.

Read next: Why testing is a marketer’s most powerful tool

Reuse & recycle

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel and yet marketers love to do just that. Stop creating the new, and reuse — or repurpose — existing content, assets, plans and more. Too often we chase innovation for the sake of something new when repeating what worked in the past is easier and more certain. New is the enemy of good.

One of the biggest mistakes in marketing is achieving great success and then moving onto something new and different instead of repeating what has already been proven to work.

Before launching any marketing initiative, take an inventory of what existing materials and assets you have that can be reused or repurposed to save time, money, and effort. 

Align & synergize

Success in marketing is a team effort that requires alignment, synchronization and synergy. You must help your team get on the same page to understand the mission and row in the same direction. Imagine chaperoning a tour group and having stragglers who keep getting stuck behind, get lost and confused, or go down their own path. It’s your job to keep everyone on the team charging full-speed ahead towards the destination in lockstep. Keeping everyone aligned and moving together requires a clear mission, shared goals, and continuous accountability.

The same is true organizationally, outside of your team. Marketing must communicate and collaborate with sales and senior leadership to express the needs, direction, and gain support. The success of the marketing function is directly correlated with how connected and aligned it is within the organization.

Have a process

Marketing is neither an art or a science; it’s a process. Treating marketing as an event that happens and then is over is the wrong way to think about marketing. The process of marketing never ends and therefore we must design and execute marketing with this in mind. 

Every marketing initiative must consider what happens both during and after: optimization and nurturing. Any effort that doesn’t allow for both of these will always produce a subpar result.

The key to marketing success

Marketing is filled with challenges, some of which cause it to fail before it even starts. Fortunately, these causes are known and preventable. If we want marketing to deliver revenue and results then it’s imperative that each of these causes be taken seriously. Raise these issues internally and create conversation to acknowledge and address them. Accepting the status quo is not an option. 

Likewise, remember and apply these principles to significantly increase the likelihood of success for your marketing initiatives. These principles are timeless and universally applicable no matter the type of marketing activities involved. Even embracing just one of these principles can have a positive impact on your team, your effectiveness, and the success of your marketing.


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Measuring the invisible: The truth about marketing attribution https://martech.org/measuring-the-invisible-the-truth-about-marketing-attribution/ Mon, 13 Jun 2022 12:35:00 +0000 https://martech.org/?p=352861 Is marketing attribution a myth or reality? Here are three tips for doing attribution as well as it can be done.

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Is marketing attribution a mythical unicorn? Or is it possible to measure the performance of your marketing, including the parts you can’t see?

The fog of marketing

Marketing attribution is the “fog of marketing” that all marketers wrestle with in attempt to square the circle and make sense of the customer’s decision journey. It’s essential for understanding how your marketing is performing and how much each channel is contributing. Proper attribution enables you to maximize your results and your return on investment. But it’s complicated…to say the least.

Attributing success to any initiative or channel is often difficult due to the complexity of customer journeys and the ever-changing landscape of digital media and data privacy. As marketing attribution becomes increasingly difficult, how will marketers decide where — and how much — to invest?

There are many attribution models and high-tech attribution platforms that promise to make it crystal clear where customers came from and how each touchpoint contributed along the way. Unfortunately, none of them are a panacea for the challenges of modern marketing.

The futility of attribution

One of the allures of digital marketing was that much, if not all, activity could be tracked and measured. If that dream was ever realized, it was short lived. Digital certainly makes measurement easier, but there are still dozens of challenges that make accurate attribution near impossible.

Here are just a few to consider:

Data privacy and cookies

Users are fighting to protect their data privacy and the tech giants like Apple and Google are responding accordingly. Marketers are no longer able to rely on these providers for data and insights. Legislation like GDPR continue to create more obstacles towards the transparency and tracking required for attribution to succeed.

Attribution is based on customer behavior, which means it fluctuates with the seasons in line with changes in buying behavior. Attribution can also be significantly skewed by trends. For example, a viral TikTok could make the channel seem like a valuable source to invest in when in reality the value is short lived.

Multiple streams

Companies with multiple product categories or simultaneous campaigns will face the challenge of untangling their attribution data. The customer journey becomes muddy quickly when there is the potential for overlapping or conflicting paths, especially when they can become intertwined and impact one another.

Constant change

Customers and culture keep changing. As technology and trends change, so does customer behavior. There will be new channels tomorrow that didn’t exist today. How your attribution looks today is only a snapshot in time and therefore must be continually revisited and updated.

One thing is for certain: marketing attribution is going to get more complicated, complex, and confusing.

Fortunately, there are three simple parts that, when combined, will help you measure and maximize even the invisible aspects of your marketing.

Part 1: The customer is always right

It’s hard to talk about measuring the customer journey without talking about the customer themselves. If you want to understand how a customer navigates and experiences your marketing, it’s best to start by understanding the customer and taking a walk in their shoes. 

Customer proximity is paramount: Whoever is closest to the customer wins.

Success in marketing comes from an intimate understanding and alignment with your customer, not from meticulous measurement of the ensuing activities.

The better you can truly understand the customer, the more clarity you’ll have around what channels and activities they experience and care about; and you’ll know which channels matter (and how much). Attribution becomes less mysterious the more you know about the customer and what their experience is really like.

There are many ways you can — and should — be understanding your customers, including:

Customer interviews

When is the last time you talked to your customers? Interviewing prospective, current, or past customers is essential, and an easy way to gain insights about what matters to customers and which touchpoints are critical. It’s remarkable the insights that can be generated with a well-prepared set of questions, a skilled interviewer, and a handful of willing customers.

Joining the community

Show up and hang out where your customers congregate. Facebook groups, Discord communities, online forums, YouTube channels, and other social watering holes. Although they might not be talking about your brand or products incessantly, you will discover unique insights and begin to understand your customer’s thinking and decision making process on a new level.

Mystery shopping

Adopt a “beginner’s mind” and act as if you were an average customer of your products or services. What would you do to learn more about the industry, discover your options, and compare alternatives? How would you go about making a purchase decision? You’ll experience firsthand which channels have a bigger impact on your decision making process and most certainly find opportunities for improvement along the way.

Read next: What marketing attribution is and how it identifies vital customer touchpoints

Part 2: Measure in broad strokes

Does data help with measuring attribution? Absolutely. Even partial data is better than nothing. Marketers who disregard the usefulness of imperfect data in attribution fail to realize that marketing is equal parts art and science.

On the other hand, marketers love to dwell and debate over attribution models. First touch? Last touch? Choose any and make the best of it because none of them are right or reliable. 

And don’t fall for the trap that an attribution platform will answer all of your questions, either. All of these — limited data, attribution models, and attribution platforms — are helpful pieces of the puzzle. But it’s far too complicated and time consuming to build a puzzle without stepping back and looking at the big picture.

Attribution is a means to an end, not the end itself. Measure outcomes instead of activities.

Collecting data, analyzing it, and trying to make sense of it is admirable but often wasted effort. When marketers emphasize data too much, they can’t see the forest for the trees. The point of marketing is to generate results. Focus on business outcomes and on the net impact of your marketing efforts instead of scrutinizing the source of attribution.

Instead of trying to measure how the water got in the ocean, pay attention to whether or not the tide is rising or falling.

Part 3: Optimization before attribution

The inherent assumption of attribution is that every channel or activity is performing at an acceptable level (or near optimal) and therefore the only question remaining is how to reallocate resources to maximize return.

In practice, that’s hardly ever the case.

Across all of my clients, I’ve yet to find a channel, initiative, or activity that isn’t rife with opportunities for optimization. In these instances, shifting away resources cuts off the oxygen to profitable growth since optimization is often the fastest and most cost-effective way to increase results, revenue, and profitability. 

Investing in optimization is essential, delivers an immediate ROI, and can often quell any need or appetite for full-scale attribution. Before investing the massive time, effort, and resources into attempting to solve attribution in a major way, focus first on identifying opportunities and optimizing your marketing activities. Optimization before attribution.


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Conclusion: Know and understand your customer

Marketing attribution is complicated and complex and it’s only going to become more so. Instead of exhausting yourself trying to hit a moving target, focus on knowing and understanding your customer, consider the data available to you, and optimize every initiative to its fullest.

The closer you can get to your customers, the more insight you’ll have into their journey and their decision making process, and the more confidence you’ll have about where and how to invest to deliver a remarkable experience and a positive return on your investment.

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Ruthless prioritization: The key to marketing momentum https://martech.org/ruthless-prioritization-the-key-to-marketing-momentum/ Tue, 17 May 2022 14:08:46 +0000 https://martech.org/?p=352407 In order to do our best work we have to stop spreading ourselves, our budget, and our team too thin.

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Most marketing fails to deliver its maximum potential. And the reason is simple: lack of prioritization. 

“If we just had more time and resources then we could produce a better result.”

This might sound familiar. In fact, most marketing teams are drowning in work, overwhelmed with requests, and unable to keep track of everything that’s happening.


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I’ve worked with marketing teams of all sizes across a wide range of industries and it’s often the same scenario — complete chaos. You’re not alone.

If marketing organizations hope to deliver on the promise of marketing then we must address and fix this fundamental problem. Marketers have a responsibility to recognize and accept that this problem is within their control. 

It’s time for ruthless prioritization.

Accepting limitations

Capacity is arguably the biggest challenge facing marketing teams. In today’s environment there are so many options and avenues to explore in order to pursue the goals of marketing.

There are dozens of ways to reach your ideal customers with new channels and distribution methods popping up constantly. Change is the only constant of marketing. It’s nearly impossible to keep up with the persistent barrage of updates and algorithms. And new tools and technologies lure us in with their bold promises of better, faster, and easier results.

On top of it all, the marketing organization is inundated with innumerable requests that pile up and create a massive logjam. 

When will we get all of this work done? And how will we ever achieve our goals?

If we are to be successful as marketers we must first accept our limitations. After all, we have finite time, resources, and energy. 

There is an important difference between the limit of what we can do and the limit of what we can do exceptionally. The most successful marketing teams are the ones that focus on the latter and not the former, which happens to be the lower limit.

I’m fond of the analogy from Jerry Weinberg who calls it the “Law of Raspberry Jam”. The more you spread it, the thinner it gets.

For our marketing efforts to be impactful we must stop spreading ourselves, our budget, and our team too thin.

Prioritizing ruthlessly

As marketers, we like to think that great marketing should be complicated or complex. After all, doesn’t more effort and involvement imply, and justify, an increased outcome?

There isn’t enough capacity, time, or budget to waste on marketing that doesn’t work. We must be critical of every initiative from the beginning before embarking down a road destined for disappointment.

For every initiative we undertake, we must understand how big of an impact it will have on our results and how confident we are in our ability to achieve that impact.

In short, we must prioritize ruthlessly.

Prioritizing ruthlessly is a simple process that:

  1. Applies an objective and consistent evaluation filter to every initiative and commitment
  2. Rigorously focuses on ensuring confidence and consensus among decisions
  3. Allows the marketing organization to evolve and make smarter bets over time

In other words, every initiative must pass a trial by fire. And every decision is revisited, reviewed, and used to tweak the prioritization process. 

The obvious outcome is that only a few priorities emerge as worth executing. But the secondary outcome is just as valuable, if not more-so.


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Stop turning around

Imagine taking a road trip and making a few wrong turns. No big deal, right?

Now imagine making wrong turns so often, and needing to turn around time and again, that you run out of gas before you reach your destination.

That’s exactly how most marketing teams approach their marketing. Taken off course time and again from internal requests, the promise of a new channel, or adopting new technologies.

Prioritizing ruthlessly helps prevent your team from wasting time, money, and effort on useless activities, assets, and endeavors that wouldn’t have a major impact anyway. In other words, it stops your team from having to turn around more than necessary.

Marketing strategy is what sets the final destination. Ruthless prioritization is the GPS system to keep your team on the fastest and most direct route.

How to prioritize ruthlessly

There are four steps to prioritizing ruthlessly and the entire process is collaborative, fosters useful discussion, and takes little time.

Here are the steps, demonstrated via example of a marketing team considering which marketing events to pursue and invest in.

Step 1: List out all of the potential activities, efforts, or decisions

Write down every event and the high-level details (name, date, brief description). Share the list with the team who will help evaluate the potential alternatives to select from. Everyone will have their own opinions and biases of which events are best, which should be chosen, and which are a waste of time. These opinions aren’t bad (they might actually be right), but they can’t be accepted blindly.

Step 2: Map the list of items onto the prioritization matrix

One at a time, place each event onto the map based on the two axes:

  • Potential: How much will this move us towards our goal and produce the desired result?
  • Confidence: How certain are we that we can realize the expected impact?

For instance, one event may have a huge attendance of ideal customers (a high potential) but it may be our first time attending that event (low confidence).

The team — as a group — decides where to place the item on the map. This is where the discussion and debate enter the picture. Go back and forth until the team comes to a consensus on a reasonable place for the item.

During this mapping process, the team can discuss ways to mitigate risks, improve odds, and thereby move the placement of items on the map. For example, attending a big event for the first time is a risk and constitutes low confidence, but perhaps there are partners you could work with to increase the confidence of being able to successfully participate or sponsor the event. If so, that would raise the confidence of attending the event.

Step 3: Identify the Top Choices

Items located in the top right quadrant of the map will reflect those that have a high potential of success and that the team has a high degree of confidence in achieving. These are the top choices, but we’re not done yet. It’s time to be even more ruthless in our prioritization by passing each of these items through a series of filtering questions.

If there are too many items in the top right quadrant, take only those items that fall within the extreme top right corner of the map and continue on.

Step 4: Evaluate & Reject Options

The last step is to take each item and ask the following questions, keeping in mind that eliminating options is desirable. If too many options pass through your filtering questions then the team’s assumptions or objectivity may be faulty.

Here are the questions to answer for each option:

  • Why now? Justify the immediate need and identify dependencies.
  • What’s better? Compare the alternatives to this option and ensure it is the superior choice.
  • What if we don’t? Uncover the risks of not choosing this option, or if it is chosen and fails.
  • Are we ready? The final question to ensure that the team accepts this as a priority.

After answering each of these questions for the remaining items, the decision will become clear. The items that have survived this quick yet rigorous process are worthy of becoming full fledged priorities—and nothing else.

These are a starting set of filtering questions you can use. As your team embraces the process and revisits the outcomes of their choices, they will develop more filtering questions that will help in further tightening the selection criteria.

Read next: 6 steps to help you prioritize tasks when everything is a priority

Building marketing momentum

Prioritizing ruthlessly doesn’t end once you decide and commit to the finite set of actions you and your team will pursue. Having a retrospective at the conclusion of every effort is a vital part of reflecting on whether or not it was a valuable priority to have selected. 

Whenever an initiative is completed and it was deemed a successful and worthwhile priority, celebrate with your team. And if it wasn’t successful or worthwhile, reevaluate the assumptions and data points used to accept it as a priority, then tweak the prioritization filter accordingly. This often takes the form of notes, guidelines, and additional questions you and your team develop over time.

Marketing isn’t going to slow down. In fact, it’s only going to keep accelerating. Things will continue to change because that’s what marketing does best.

The most successful marketing teams are those who can embrace the volatility, maintain the requisite speed, and prioritize ruthlessly.

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Why testing is a marketer’s most powerful tool https://martech.org/why-testing-is-strategic-experimentation-for-sustainable-growth/ Mon, 04 Apr 2022 14:43:02 +0000 https://martech.org/?p=350803 Testing is much more complex than it seems, but focus on the insights and not the results.

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Are you running tests in your marketing?

If not, you should be. If you are, you’re probably not getting the full value from your testing.

Testing is the single most powerful tool in a marketer’s toolkit. For too long, testing has been misunderstood and underutilized by marketers. 

If you want to determine which approach works better, testing is the obvious approach. Through experimentation, we can statistically prove which messaging, creative or page generates a better response and increased sales.

The power of testing isn’t limited to the tactical level. Understanding and applying testing at a strategic level will transform how you approach your marketing and can unlock the ability to drive consistent and predictable growth.

Design by Matt Kornhaas for MarTech.

Testing is misunderstood

There’s a testing gap in marketing. The reality is most marketers have zero experience with testing and experimentation. And the few who know something about testing have learned about it second-hand, from blogs and videos.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with educational content that’s freely available online, but there is, unfortunately, a plethora of misinformation about testing. A quick Google search about testing will lead you to advice suggesting that a “good test” could be as easy as comparing a red button versus a blue button. 

Don’t fall for the trap. Testing is much more complex.

There are two big challenges with testing: deciding what to test and interpreting the results correctly. Both are essential, and many experienced marketers still incorrectly do one (or both).

Every test you run takes effort, resources and time. That means every test has both a tangible cost and an opportunity cost. In short, testing is expensive. 

To maximize the impact of testing, you must prioritize your tests, focusing on the experiments that will produce the greatest result in the shortest time. This is where deciding what to test matters—a lot.

Red or blue won’t do

Which is why testing random things or minutiae (like a red or blue button) won’t get you very far. Many marketing teams spend months “doing testing,” but all they’ve really done is waste time and money with little to no demonstrable results or insights.

In addition, understanding whether or not your test results are valid isn’t always cut and dry. Many factors can influence or affect the performance of a test, including other campaigns, messaging, seasonality and so much more.

Running tests is best practice in marketing. However, success with testing requires a strategic and scalable approach. Embracing test-driven marketing is the future.


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Don’t judge a test by its results

If you’re judging the effectiveness of your testing program based on results, you’re missing the point of testing.

The goal of testing, contrary to popular belief, is not to get better results; that’s a byproduct of good execution. The true purpose is gaining new insights into what works (and what doesn’t). 

These insights are far more valuable than results. They can be applied across all of your marketing efforts—current and future—to drive improvements. And they can shape and direct your marketing strategy.

From this perspective, every test generates value in the form of insights, even if it fails to produce a performance improvement. This should be reassuring because it reduces the risk and increases the return on investment (or “return on testing”).

The insights you gain from testing are most valuable when they can be applied to the widest areas of your marketing. Therefore, you must be testing areas that will generate insights that have the most significant use case based on your marketing. 

In other words, you need to figure out the strategic assumptions and questions that your marketing is facing and build a testing plan that will find the answers you need.

Set your themes

This inherently prevents you from testing small details and allows you to have the biggest impact in the shortest amount of time. Instead of running many unrelated tests, you can choose a set of “themes” aligned to your marketing strategy. Then your tests can support one or more themes which will help you validate and direct your strategy and implementation.

This is what test-driven marketing is all about, and it’s the foundation for agility in marketing. Where marketing strategy and experimentation intersect, you can rapidly and efficiently discover the right path forward, much like electricity following the path of least resistance.

It sounds great in theory, but it requires the support of leadership and a culture that can embrace a “test-first” mentality. This is a deviation from the traditional approach to marketing, where you would normally plan, execute and test. Testing must be a focus from the very beginning.

Developing internal best practices

If testing is about insights instead of results, you must capture them.

Document every experiment, including your idea, hypothesis and results, in a central repository which I call the “Book of Knowledge.” This is a shared destination for the marketing organization to collect, document and learn from the successes and failures of our experimentation efforts.

As a starting point, it helps to provide visibility into the tests being done and the insights learned. Making this visible to everyone, even outside of marketing, is the easiest way to spawn new ideas for tests that have the highest chances of success. 

It also serves as a capture point for new ideas which will form your backlog for testing. For example, the customer service department can contribute excellent ideas for tests based on their experience of interacting with customers daily.

Most importantly, over time the Book of Knowledge becomes a source of truth and insights—your internal best practices. The next time you launch a campaign, produce creative assets or write a headline, you can refer to the Book of Knowledge to see what has worked and what hasn’t. And you’ll know exactly what to do to have the highest chance of success.

Accelerating learning to drive rapid growth

Testing isn’t just about optimizing; it’s also about accelerating learning to drive rapid growth.

The key to growth in marketing is testing at scale. The faster you test, the quicker you learn. The quicker you learn, the faster you can invest in the right things to drive growth.

Testing at scale has been difficult, slow and expensive in the past. But not anymore, with new platforms like TikTok providing massive organic reach, it can take minimal production time and effort to get unlimited chances to find what works.

TikTok brand safety and suitability

TikTok is a test-driven marketer’s dream come true. You can test rapidly and at scale to discover hooks, headlines, messaging, creative, campaign concepts, sounds, etc. There’s no cost, no penalty for uploading multiple times a day and no limit for seeing how a massive audience responds.

In 2021, TikTok surpassed Google for traffic. If you’re not producing content on TikTok, now is the time. 

Navigating the maze of marketing growth

Today, marketers are captivated by the promise that artificial intelligence and algorithms will be an easy route to success. Alas, they are not the utopia we want to believe they are. 

Let’s be honest. In marketing, no one knows what will work. 

Achieving growth in marketing is like navigating a maze wearing a blindfold. It takes a careful and methodical approach to stumble down many wrong paths to find your desired destination and escape the disorientating array of potential options.

Success in marketing requires a consistent, thoughtful, and systematic approach to testing. We must experiment to find the path that works for us instead of trying to follow in the footsteps of competitors. And it’s imperative that we focus on insights—not results—that are documented, disseminated, and applied universally.

Growth will always be elusive until you embrace testing at a strategic level and use it to discover what works for your brand, solutions and audience.

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The lost art of talking to customers https://martech.org/the-lost-art-of-talking-to-customers/ Mon, 07 Mar 2022 15:44:09 +0000 https://martech.org/?p=349721 The more you involve your customers in the marketing process, the more successful you will be.

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When was the last time you talked to your customers?

I’m talking about real conversations with customers, where you actually listen — not just slapping a chatbot on your website with some predefined responses, or sending out an NPS survey via email.

If you’re like most companies, it probably wasn’t recently enough. That’s because talking to customers has become a lost art.

Marketers forget that marketing is about people. We hide behind our demographics, psychographics, segmentation analysis, and other tactics to distance ourselves from the very people we aim to serve.

It’s time to surrender the tactics, forgo our excuses, and begin authentic conversations with customers so that we can serve them better, create meaningful connections, and drive tangible business results.

Your customers are waiting

Since no one is talking to their customers as often as they should be, your customers are waiting to hear from you. They want your help, and they want to be helpful to you.

Is that surprising? It shouldn’t be. People love to share their opinions and give feedback; all it takes is asking them for it. 

Including users in creating your marketing is the fastest way to guarantee success. Whether you’re launching a campaign or optimizing the performance of an existing experience, make your customers a part of the process.

Not only will it increase your clarity and improve your performance, but it also increases customer loyalty and makes your customers feel like a VIP who gets to see behind the scenes.

The soft side of marketing: look at the big picture

As marketers, we love to measure tangible, quantitative metrics. It’s why we love our KPIs and dashboards so much. But real insights come from understanding, and quantitative measures don’t often answer the question of “why.”

Disciplined marketers should always be asking “why?” but experienced marketers are the ones who have the tools to answer the question.

Analytics tools like Google Analytics, heatmaps, eye-tracking, and NPS surveys are insufficient. They often raise more questions than they answer and fail to deliver fundamental insights.

It’s not that these tools aren’t useful — they’re essential. But they’re only half of the insights equation. Talking to your customers and using qualitative analysis is the missing link to transform analytics into actionable insights.

Measuring the intangible

As data privacy becomes more prevalent and important, marketing attribution becomes more complex and ambiguous. Instead of investing in expensive and complex solutions, start by going to the only source that matters — your customers.

This six-word question and its variations are perhaps the most powerful, yet often underutilized, in all of marketing: “How did you hear about us?”

The answers to this question provide tremendous insight into the customer journey and their perception of the discovery process. And it’s another source of truth that can be used to validate or influence your marketing investments.

Despite the simplicity and ease of effort required, few companies ask customers this powerful question. Yet asking it can lead to some profound observations and insights.

Reading your customer’s mind

If you want the power to read your customer’s mind, usability testing is the simplest and most effective way. And — no surprise — it requires talking to your customers.

Usability testing involves recruiting a handful of users and giving them a series of tasks to complete. They are observed as they navigate the experience and “think out loud” to explain their thought process and the rationale behind their actions.

The usability testing process is fairly straightforward, extremely inexpensive, and yields ground-breaking insights in record time. It’s an ideal way to talk to customers and learn how to improve perception and performance.

It doesn’t require many users, either. Often interviewing fewer than ten users is sufficient to gain an abundance of valuable insights that can be prioritized and addressed. And then you can repeat the process, ideally at least every quarter.


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Fueling insights with technology

Gathering insights at scale is a challenge that grows with the size of the company and the number of customers. Fortunately, technology advancements have given us tools to engage and capture insights in large quantities with relative ease.

Tools like UsabilityHub and dscout are great examples of usability testing and customer research tools that leverage a massive audience of eager participants who can provide valuable insights. In addition, these platforms, and others, allow you to BYOA (bring your own audience) by inviting customers of your choice to participate.

Extracting and surfacing insights is another challenge that technology, particularly artificial intelligence, can help marketers solve. GoBright.ai is another research platform that uses AI-powered virtual assistants who engage with customers conversationally. Artificial intelligence allows for natural language processing which can be used to enrich customer data and identify trends among the insights captured.

Although the landscape of tools is constantly evolving, as is the technology itself, marketers must embrace both to communicate with customers effectively and at scale.

The customer isn’t always right

Henry Ford allegedly said that if he had asked customers what they wanted, they would’ve asked for a faster horse.

When you talk and listen to customers, you will certainly hear lots of crazy things. The marketing idiom that “the customer is always right” isn’t true. But don’t let that deter you from talking—and listening—to them.

The more you engage your customers, and the more you make them a part of the marketing process, the more successful your marketing will be.

It’s undeniable that your customers are talking. The only question that really matters is: are they talking to you?

The post The lost art of talking to customers appeared first on MarTech.

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The marketing black box: Why radical transparency is key https://martech.org/the-marketing-black-box-why-radical-transparency-is-key/ Thu, 03 Feb 2022 14:39:39 +0000 https://martech.org/?p=347879 Marketing teams must operate more transparently, both internally and externally, to realize their full potential.

The post The marketing black box: Why radical transparency is key appeared first on MarTech.

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Why does marketing not get the focus and support it truly requires? And how can we earn more respect for marketing as a function while delivering outstanding results at the same time?

Marketing is often treated as an ancillary activity of the organization when it should be the primary activity. The lack of proper emphasis on marketing—and the incorrect precedence placed upon it—leads to unreliable growth and shortened CMO tenure.

The key to solving this problem is transparency. Marketing teams must operate more transparently, both internally and externally, to realize their full potential.

As Peter Drucker famously said, “the aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous.” Achieving this aim requires transforming marketing from a mysterious black box into a radically transparent organizational function.

It might seem like a buzzword or an HR initiative, but transparency is the missing link to sustainable growth.

The marketing black box

Marketing has a reputation problem. Most people outside of marketing see it like a slot machine in a Vegas casino. You sit down with a bucket of quarters, feeding the machine and pulling the arm repeatedly, hoping to win big. As your budget dwindles, you become frustrated that there hasn’t been a payout in what feels like forever.

Unfortunately, this is the general view of marketing: a black box that eats money and haphazardly spits out lackluster results on an unpredictable schedule.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Marketing operations is responsible for opening the box and showing everyone what’s behind the curtains. Doing this is the only way to earn the trust and support necessary for sustainable, predictable growth.


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The benefits of transparency

When marketing organizations become more transparent, they can better articulate the effort and investment required to achieve the objectives and results set before them. But transparency can also help marketing teams operate more effectively and produce better results.

Here are five of the most impactful benefits of marketing operations adopting radical transparency:

1. Motivation and engagement

It may surprise you that most teams don’t know how the business performs. One study found that 75% of employees truly cared about the business performance but did not have sufficient insights to generate increased motivation and engagement. 

Marketing teams are no exception, primarily because of how often they operate in silos. Breaking down those walls and building a shared understanding of overall performance and trajectory can dramatically boost employee motivation and engagement. Creating deep engagement and aligning the teams is integral for encouraging cross-collaboration.

2. Cross-collaboration

Marketing is an interdisciplinary function that requires the coordination and collaboration of many different people who each have unique skillsets. Including everyone in the process and sharing information openly is one of the easiest ways to facilitate cross-collaboration. A great example of transparency leading to cross-collaboration is pair programming, a practice common in the software industry.

With pair programming, two programmers with different areas of expertise share one computer and work on a single task together. There is no greater transparency than letting someone see exactly what you’re working on and how you approach it from start to finish.

Having two people do one person’s job may sound counterproductive, but it’s genius. The task gets completed faster and with fewer mistakes, thanks to the oversight of the second person. And the second person learns someone else’s area of expertise while developing a more holistic understanding of what their team is doing.

Creating radical transparency in this way can open the doors to more opportunities to cross-pollinate skills and provide a holistic perspective for your team. As marketing continues to evolve and grow with more platforms, technologies, and channels, effective collaboration among your team will be a byproduct of greater transparency.

3. Improved decision making

When everyone can see and participate in decisions, the result is a better decision. Not everyone should have an equal say, or any say at all times. But making decisions clear to the team, explaining the rationale, and listening to feedback are easy ways to raise awareness and the quality of decisions.

For example, marketing teams that embrace experimentation and testing often neglect to include others in the brainstorming process of what to test. Involving other marketers, even if they lack experience with testing, can lead to better ideas and more successful tests. Additionally, leveraging insights from people outside of marketing, namely customer service or sales, can also produce significantly more powerful results.

Transparency is the gateway to better observations, insights, and decisions. Marketing teams who accept this truth and build it into their way of working will make higher quality and more profitable decisions.

4. Less ‘failure work’

One of the biggest wastes in marketing is duplication of efforts, rework, or missing opportunities. These can be classified as failure work — work that didn’t happen as it should have. There’s no excuse for this to happen at all, let alone regularly, and yet it continues to occur in virtually all marketing organizations. 

The cure for failure work is transparency, because as the saying goes, “sunlight is the best disinfectant.” The more we can expose problems and reveal the areas where things didn’t go as they should, the more successful we can install processes to address them.

Many costly and unproductive things are happening in the dark corners of your marketing operations. Before you can fix them, you first have to find them.

5. More efficient spend

How much budget do you think most marketing teams waste on any given day? Without proper checks and balances—and visibility—I can guarantee you it’s a lot. 

Creating an “open startup” dashboard is a smart move if you’re serious about improving spending and increasing performance. Companies like the email marketing platform ConvertKit have a public dashboard where you can view all of their key metrics, including their number of active customers.

This holds the team accountable and allows anyone within the organization or externally to view their real-time performance. How much closer do you think your team would pay attention to every dollar spent if their metrics were on public display for all to see? Now everyone can identify areas of waste or opportunities for improvement, and those conversations can now happen in an open environment.

This type of radical transparency can fuel the focus and accountability required for sustainable growth.


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The clear path to growth

Too many marketing teams are operating as the epitome of “the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing,” and continuing in this way is unacceptable. More importantly, too much of our marketing operations happen in the dark corners where time, budget, and effort are being wasted in various ways.

Radical transparency is a requirement for marketing operations to become more effective and reduce waste. But transparency in marketing goes beyond finding and resolving problems; it’s a requisite for reliable and sustainable growth.

The post The marketing black box: Why radical transparency is key appeared first on MarTech.

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