8 Ways to Succeed in Today's Marketing Environment

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Marketing in 2014 is almost an entirely different business than it was just five years ago, let alone 10 or 20 years ago. The Internet has all but completely disrupted conventional marketing practices, as more and more marketers shift their budgets in favor of strategies more conducive to the digital channels consumers use day-to-day.

“Those big, splashy ad campaigns are now one part of a portfolio that must include blogging and social media content,” says Emily Riley, chief operating officer, Ghostery, and a winner of Marketing EDGE's Rising Star award.

Then, of course, there's the massive influx of customer data—something marketers have dreamed of for decades. Between Big Data, and the many privacy issues that come with it, what should be a boon often manifests as a significant challenge to marketers. All of this without even mentioning the ever-increasing array of marketing technology.

Despite the challenges that come with these advancements, marketers that understand the true nature of the business have much to gain in today's data- and tech-driven environment. Here, Ghostery's Riley and the other winners of Marketing EDGE's 2014 Rising Star award offer advice to novice and veteran marketers alike on how to succeed in 2014 and beyond.

Listen well

For many marketers, staying ahead of the consumer is paramount. But  attempting to do so can seem like sheer folly. Consumers are simply too fast, too agile for some marketers to keep up with. Fear not; as we slip further into the age of listening to customers, marketers who do, in fact, listen to them will see their business soar. “We are listeners now,” says Chris Paradysz, co-CEO at Paradysz. “There's no way to keep up with consumers. They can travel up and down channels so fast. We need to make sure we're a part of the conversations they're having.”

Invest in storytelling

If the content marketing craze tells us anything, it's that customers consume content on their terms. This content must deliver value to said consumers, lest marketers risk losing their attention. Compelling stories have proven essential in today's marketing world. Savvy marketers must assume that storytelling and delivering valuable content will remain one of the best investments marketing budgets can buy. “In the 1980s there was a concept of adver-tainment. This is becoming relevant again,” says Guillermo Novillo, head of global acquisition marketing for Microsoft. “People like and understand stories. You can say you have the best product, but if you say so through a story, it'll stick.”

Focus on the customer

Data and technology are awesome marketing tools. However, when internal meetings center solely on data and technology something gets lost: the customer. “We have all of these different features and channels. Part of what gets lost in all that technology is the basic focusing of marketing messaging to the right customer. You have to focus on the customer,” says Yvette Lui, director of global data and audience partnerships at Facebook.

Embrace the science behind marketing

“Marketers have to be experts on a variety of topics these days. Math is a bigger part [of marketing] now,” Ghostery's Riley says. “It's important to embrace the science behind what we do. The creative is important, but it must be supported by rigorous stats.” Indeed, marketing has evolved to the point that science and data are as essential as creative. Marketers today must have a firm understanding of the role data plays in their business, or risk their creative efforts on an audience that's potentially uninterested in their brand.

Stay inquisitive

Even with the ease of access to data, it's simply impossible to know everything about the many intricacies of marketing. So marketers should strive to always be learning. “Always assume you only know 70% of what you're supposed to know,” Paradysz says. “You cannot possibly know everything. You're should be in this constant state of learning. It forces you to be open to thinking and ideas from everywhere.”

Be mindful of overextension

Marketers often attempt to chase their customers across channels—especially new ones that manage to capture people's wandering attention. “New mediums come up all the time. Each year there's a new flavor of the month. Understanding which ones are relevant is tough and the learning curve is steep for some mediums. A lot of math is pointing to a decline in Facebook advertising for instance. You have to be careful,” says Alex Wasserman, co-founder and CEO, TapFwd.

Cultivate writing skills

There's no denying the ubiquity of the Internet and, though visuals certainly have their place, the written word still holds the lion's share of digital content. “Marketers need the ability to craft great stories. Story telling is so important today,” says Carrie Parker, director, American Express OPEN Forum. “Successful marketers need great writing skills.” Marketers who struggle in written communication will also struggle with narrative. After all, it's hard to write a great story with bad writing.

Have keen business sense

“Accountability got a big push during the recession. Being able to prove what the business contribution is is very important now,” says Dimitri Maex, president, OgilvyOne New York. “Marketing is being scrutinized more and more and has had to grow up from a business perspective.” Marketers must be sure their efforts translate to more and better business for their companies. Given the expansive nature of contemporary multichannel campaigns, and the pressure to show a return on marketing investment, wasting money is not an option.

DMNotes is DMN's around-the-clock blog. Yes, a blog in 2016.

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