The following article was originally published as “Mixing Media” in Outcomes Magazine.
By Kimberlee Morrison
When Rebecca Lieb was hired on to help a mid-sized company optimize its digital media campaigns, the client was focused on developing “best practices” and a “cutting edge” strategy. They had marketing automation, CRM and web analytics software, so it seemed like they were on the right track—until Lieb asked to see the data to start her analysis work. The client said they had lost access to their CRM and marketing automation accounts when their analytics specialist left the company about a year prior. All of that data wasn’t accessible and no one thought to do anything about it.
This may seem like an extreme example but according to Lieb, a digital marketing industry analyst, it’s not that uncommon. In fact, many brands and marketers have lots of technology but fail to take care of important fundamentals in this modern marketing era.
“I’m looking at companies that want to really evolve digitally but aren’t doing the most basic things,” she says.
Indeed, these are exciting times in media and marketing. Although companies have invested in various technologies that collect data, many marketers say that accessing and analyzing it is one of the biggest challenges they face, which is why they might bring on an analyst like Lieb to help them sift through the mess. However, with the continued proliferation of media and marketing technology, it’s not enough to invest in analytics platforms and forget about them. Marketers must use the data to optimize their campaigns and develop smart media-mix models that identify the best tactics to achieve strategic objectives and generate the biggest return on investment.
Media and Tech Proliferation
With more channels than ever before, the media, devices and interfaces used by both marketers and consumers are all evolving. Marketers have more options to reach and communicate with their target audience; although this is technically a positive aspect of the evolved media landscape, it also creates a lot more noise for consumers. And none of this is going away anytime soon. In fact, it’s likely to grow even more. The future promises the rise of the Internet of Things, beacons and sensors—all compounding the challenges marketers face in terms of media proliferation, data collection and analysis.
“We’re looking at many more devices that are connected, many more devices consumers interact with in the course of their customer journey,” Lieb says. “And as a result, attribution—or connecting the consumer to their action across all media—keeps getting more complex.”
But it’s the ability to connect user actions to specific touch points or events that makes for better marketing strategy and smart media-mix modeling. Lieb says the most fundamental way to address this problem is to take a look at what technology investments you’ve already made before investing in anything new. From e-commerce and sales enablement to marketing and advertising and even customer service, every piece of technology has to build on one another and talk to each other.
“No part of the marketing stack can work in isolation anymore,” she says. “I’m seeing a lot of disconnect in attribution because the technology decisions are being made by siloed departments.”
Indeed, while businesses are embracing big data, many still say the data is “messy,” making access and analysis a major challenge. According to Context, Commerce and Customer: Best Practices to Exceed Expectations, a report produced by CMO.com in partnership with SAP Hybris, only 25-50 percent of data is being used for actionable insights. What’s more, 21 percent of the survey respondents said organizational silos were hindering the use of data for customer success.
Pulling data out of the silos is essential for getting reliable results quickly and being able to make agile decisions about media placement, according to Alice Sylvester, a partner at Sequent Partners, an advertising and marketing research firm. Sylvester evaluates results and methodologies to help marketers improve business outcomes and, similar to Lieb, noted that infrastructure is still one of the biggest impediments modern marketers face.
“The investment that people have had to make in technology and data sources has been considerable,” she says, “and they’re still working out the mechanics of how to integrate all of the disparate data sources in order to get clear return on investment analysis.”
A Healthy Mix: Always Return to Strategy
“Right now, we’re still experimenting, learning, investing and stress-testing all of the ad tech and different data sources, but we aren’t moving fast enough.” Alice Sylvester, Sequent Partners
With all of the new media, channels, platforms and resulting big data, developing a healthy and effective media mix is becoming more of a science. The setit- and-forget-it mentality won’t work in the modern media environment; marketers need to be agile in their analysis of consumer behavior and media performance, make predictions about what might work in the future, and move on quickly when things just aren’t going the right way.
According to Gloria Rosenberg, president of Market Fusion Analytics, an agency that does consumer behavior modeling for big brands, if you’re not seeing positive results from your digital efforts within three to four weeks, it’s time to move on. With legacy media like television, measurement takes much longer, but that’s changing with the consumer shift toward in-home video options like Hulu and Netflix as well as digital video deployment capabilities. But everything is faster in digital media, and this accelerated pace is part of the challenge for marketers. Rosenberg advocates meeting these challenges with experimentation—but with a caveat.
“Marketers are an excitable bunch,” Rosenberg says. “We need to be more logical and less excited.” She added that the key is to balance strategy with experimentation and use the right tactics to achieve various strategic objectives.
For instance, if the objective is leads and sales, search and inbound marketing tactics are important elements of the mix. However, the objective need not always be sales, which Lieb says is the obvious primary objective of any marketing or advertising plan. She added that there are other ROI measurable metrics that are not related to sales, but still affect the correlation:
- Brand favorability
- Solving customer service issues more efficiently
- Marketing optimization or your ability to streamline workflow, eliminate redundancy, etc.
- New product research, development and innovation
“All of these have monetary value to them,” Lieb says. “It’s not just volume metrics like clicks and likes.”
Balancing Strategy with Innovation
Nearly 90 percent of the US population uses the internet, almost 80 percent of the global population is connected by smartphone and 50 percent are connected via tablet. The ubiquity of the internet and online connectivity creates an incredibly interesting and innovative era for marketers. They have more tools, channels and data at their disposal than ever before. With all of these new channels come new opportunities, making marketers’ decisions about where to put their advertising spend much more complex and nuanced.
According to the 2015 McKinsey & Company Global Media Report, the investment in digital advertising increased 16 percent between 2009 and 2014. And while spending is expected to slow (and in some cases shrink) in many sectors including print, radio and television, digital advertising growth is expected to remain strong through 2019. In fact, the McKinsey report predicts that by 2019, digital media will account for more than half of global advertising budgets.
In recent years, visual media has exploded online. This is evidenced by the success of platforms like Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat, as well as the increasing demand for online video. According to the Cisco Visual Networking Index forecast, consumer video will account for 80 percent of all internet traffic by 2020, and eMarketer predicts that marketing budgets for video will grow to more than $28 billion by 2020, up from just over $4 billion in 2014.
It’s not hard to get caught up in the excitement of all the new tools, technology and tactics. The challenge for marketers is finding the right balance between utilizing established media, and testing out new and emerging channels. Even when looking to new possibilities, marketers must always return back to their strategy and ask themselves: How does this channel or tactic help me achieve my goals?
Some tactics such as search, email and word-of-mouth marketing on social have their place and are very effective for driving high-quality leads on the cheap. But marketers are most excited about the new opportunities with video. Sylvester points out that marketers are still discovering the real power behind digital media overall. When it comes to digital video advertising, marketers have traditionally relied on the medium to deliver branding objectives with less of a focus on sales goals, but new research from her firm shows that perception is changing. The research, Digital Video at the Inflection Point, found that 65 percent of marketers say digital video is growing in importance for driving offline sales. This changing view plus the new technologies and digital tools around video are making the medium far more accessible and useful for a variety of goals.
While marketers have their sights set on digital video, consumer spending on mobile apps and games is expected to grow at an accelerated rate over the next 3–5 years. All of these areas are ripe for experimentation. Still, the biggest challenge and opportunity for marketers when it comes to digital media is tracking data faster and using that data to optimize efforts and adapt on the fly.
In this way, innovation can become the strategy for marketers who learn how to use data in real time. But Sylvester says this kind of real-time tracking and response to data is still new for marketers. And they aren’t just experimenting with new media channels. Marketers are experimenting with the technologies they use to measure their efforts and working out the logistical hurdles associated with big data.
“We are still far away from what these systems will be able to help marketers do,” she says. “Right now, we’re still experimenting, learning, investing and stress-testing all of the ad tech and different data sources, but we aren’t moving fast enough.”
Toward a More Agile Future
Sylvester says that marketers are pretty good at putting together a plan, but what will become more important going forward is fast, “iterative” learning. Similar to the Lean Startup movement, wherein startups develop their product and business model based on real-time data and feedback, marketers need to evaluate their plans in real time and execute changes.
With the future of marketing and media indelibly connected to the continued expansion and growth of digital and mobile, marketers need to get a handle on their logistical issues quickly. This means taking a holistic look at the entire organization, using real- time data to optimize campaigns and allocating resources to activities that move them closer to their strategic objectives.
To accomplish this, Rosenberg says marketing needs to be a focal point for the entire business. “For marketing to be part of enterprise movement, it must be integrated into every aspect of the organization.”
And if that happens, marketers can easily avoid going years without access to their CRM and analytics tools.