What Should Marketers Do Differently in 2016?

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Complacency is not an option in today's marketplace. Changeable buying behavior, channel and technology proliferation, data profusion—these are just a few of the realities marketers face today that necessitate transformation.  Whether it's improving on marketing strategies that work or taking an entirely new approach, marketers must shake up their practices in 2016.

Knowing where to start or what's most essential to improve on can seem overwhelming with so many possibilities. So, DMN asked 15 marketing leaders to provide insight into what they think should marketers do differently in 2016 to attract, convert, and retain more customers. Here, their advice. Scroll to read their opinions, or click the image above to download the full PDF.

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Raju Malhotra, SVP Products, Conversant
As we move into 2016, marketers need to shift their thinking around five key areas:

1. From channel-centric to consumer-centric. Instead of collecting unactionable cookies or device IDs, focus on how your company can be consumer-centric. You likely have troves of CRM data on your consumers already. Onboarding, matching, and reaching those consumers, while respecting and maintaining their privacy, is a prerequisite for driving results.

2. From all conversions to incremental. Stop zeroing in on all touched conversions and instead look at incremental results. Your brand equity is driving conversions; isn't it time you know how many? Question any partner who does not provide you incremental results to ensure you're getting the most out of your ad spend.

3. From theory to practice. Nothing beats firsthand experience. Get hands-on with new media channels like Snapchat or Pinterest yourself. Doing so will allow you to better engage in conversation with your consumers.

4. From a fragmented to integrated approach. Adopt a few, but integrated, solutions versus cobbling together your own fragmented solutions. This will help you maintain a tight chain of custody of your data and let you focus on your core competency.

5. And finally, from valuing the “first names” to “last names” of marketing. Whether it's socialdigital, or search, don't forget that marketing is still about three fundamentals: acquisition, engagement, and monetization. These basics don't change despite the new labels. Maintaining a singular focus on those basics leads to better long-term performance. 

Scott Vaughan, CMO, Integrate
Stop chasing the next big thing in marketing all the time—be it a new technology, a new “game-changing” process, or the latest marketing fad. Instead, we marketers should prioritize and focus on investments that provide business and customer value. This is not an “anti-new” or “pro-luddite” statement. Quite the contrary. Part of being strategic with marketing investments—especially technology—means going back to basics and measuring value. This includes focusing on business-driving initiatives such as customer experience and relevant, differentiating communications, and putting all that data to work. Then look for the difference-making strategy or technology to drive these core initiatives. Enough of rolling out new marketing or tech stuff simply to accumulate trophies.

Bill Sussman, CEO, Collective Bias
Marketers should do two things differently in 2016. First, they should take a hard look at their organization's media mix and evaluate how effectively their push marketing vehicles are generating the amount of engagement needed. This means that marketers must reassess what they're measuring, and shift to using only engagement metrics that help to build consumer relationships and loyalty that ultimately impact sales.

Second, marketers must provide unique, relevant brand content that consumers can turn to whenever they're in the midst of product research or in-store shopping. Recent findings from Forrester Research tell us that the average consumer engages with 11.4 pieces of content prior to making a purchase, and Nielsen found consumers are five times more dependent on content today than they were five years ago. But it's not enough to just push out marketing materials; instead, marketers should engage with social influencers and bloggers, as they create content that is not only creative and useful, but also shareable. This kind of evergreen content, whether it's video or text, can help drive sales year-round.

Joanna O'Connell, CMO, MediaMath
Consumers like advertising when it's good. What does good mean? Relevant and unobtrusive to their digital experience. But consumers also express concern at the use of data in ad targeting. This sets up a false dichotomy: It suggests that consumers must sacrifice privacy for advertising. By being transparent regarding privacy policies and highlighting exactly how data is being used, consumers will understand that data isn't being used for nefarious purposes; it's meant to help marketers serve relevant advertising. This conversation is getting more attention lately and it will be even more significant than ever in 2016.

Marketers can be respectful, forthright, and privacy-friendly while delivering relevant advertising. While most marketers are already engaging in advertising that's both privacy-aware and appropriate, customers aren't aware about marketers' intentions. In 2016 marketers need to make it a priority to change the conversations they have to make it clear they're using data to create relevant, versus irrelevant, advertising. They should focus on the fact that advertising is a basic reality at this point, and that valuing relevancy and customers' privacy are not mutually exclusive. This will allow marketers to have a much more fruitful dialog with their current and future customers in 2016.

Brian Cleary, Chief Strategy Officer, bigtincan
If marketers want to be successful in 2016 they need to be smarter about content. Today's mobile enterprise can no longer support the content-overload approach that it historically has taken. To be smarter about content, marketers must have access to actionable content analytics—such as what specific slides are being used with prospects throughout the sales lifecycle or which pieces of content are regularly used in deals that don't convert. With this type of knowledge, marketers can be smarter about content relevancy, including creating content that will help sales teams be more successful at each stage of the selling cycle, eliminating content that's not resonating with customers and prospects, and streamlining the content creation process to help sales reps close more deals and demonstrate ROI to executives.

Marketers also need to change the way content finds its way to the sales team. Instead of asking salespeople to search through files and folders, what if the right content was always at their fingertips, when and how they needed it? When marketers can deliver the right content at the right time to sales teams, reps are able to make the most out of every customer interaction, increasing conversion rates and market share. With so much existing marketing content going unused, it's time for marketers to take a hard look at how their materials are being used across the entire organization.

Tim Barker, CEO, DataSift
Marketers should shift their focus from large data sets to small data sets when analyzing for insights. The value of data is lost when it lacks structure and readability. With large data sets, it becomes more difficult to find and integrate actionable data into planning marketing campaigns, and in today's data-driven world, data is too valuable of an asset to risk information being hidden by large data sets. Smaller data sets make it easier to ask questions and derive insights from, as opposed to trying to find a needle in a giant haystack of unstructured data. Small data projects will become more beneficial to marketers because they're easier to set up, easier to prove a win with, and easier to manage overall. Data analyzed in smaller data sets can also help marketers develop more focused and tailor-made campaigns.

Darren (Daz) McColl, Global Chief Brand Strategy Officer, SapientNitro
It's time that marketers (and their partners) started to connect the dots. And I don't mean in theory, like knowing all your marketing has an association to the brand or has the same URL or, worse, hashtag. I mean really connecting the dots, so consumers experience a seamless journey across channels, enabled by technology, inspired by relevant stories, and optimized through planned and attributed data. People don't really behave like the marketing funnel suggests.

As consumers, we have control over how we interact and what we interact with. We decide if we want to participate, share, or ignore a brand, ad, or communication. So, having a set of matching creative, a new app feature, or sharp retargeting won't cut it. Brands today have to be relevant, useful, and engaging to each individual. After all, the only story a consumer really cares about is the story of ‘me.' It's time to step back from creating a new ad, a new website, a new device and think about the world that a consumer lives in and how the brand can help enhance it. And, it's up to us as marketers to create such a connected world where every experience, every story ends with a comma and not a full stop.

Ben Kaplan, President and CEO, CashStar
In 2016 marketers should prioritize optimizing loyalty programs for mobile. We all know mobile commerce is growing at top speed, and customers are increasingly using mobile devices for browsing, researching products, shopping, and payments. Taking your loyalty program mobile provides added convenience for members, while offering you another method of collecting data on customer activity. Adding value for the customer should be your top priority, which means gift cards and loyalty rewards must seamlessly integrate with mobile, and be available for easy access and redemption. You can also tie digital offers to specific behaviors in a way that is immediately actionable for the customer. For example, geo-fencing can track a smartphone's location, know when a loyal customer is in proximity to a store, and then alert him to stop in to redeem points.

So, what's the first step? It's important to ask what customer needs you're meeting with mobile before you get started with mobile loyalty integration. How frequently customers come to the store—and their average spend amount—should impact your mobile optimization strategy. Take, for example, Starbucks, which has had great success in adding value for its My Starbucks Rewards members by integrating digital prepaid commerce into its branded app via the Starbucks card. But not all retailers have the same business model as Starbucks, and may find mobile-wallet integration, or syncing loyalty rewards cards and gift cards with a mobile payments provider like Apple Pay or Android Pay, more advantageous.

Pete Gracey, CEO and Cofounder, QuotaFactory
2015 was an incredible year of change and adaptation in the B2B marketing world. I can't remember a year more packed with innovative, useful, and meaningful new technologies being launched to help marketers do their jobs more effectively. I love it. However, there's a downside to having so many options: You may just over-buy because everything looks so great.

In our office we call this WTF: wasted technology funds. WTF is an organizational disorder where companies fall in love and purchase everything shiny and new because they just “have to have it.” In 2016 we're going to see marketing teams come to terms with their own WTF and put some measures into place to avoid it. Here are two questions to ask yourself before you sign on that dotted line.

1. How will this new technology specifically impact my overall marketing ROI? The vendor in question must be able to show you hard numbers around its ability to impact your ROI. Establish your organization's requirement in ROI (10x the investment), but don't tell the vendor what it is. If the vendor can't get there, don't do it.

2. What pains will this new technology actually solve for you? If you don't want to go down the ROI path, you can focus on how a new tool will make your life better. Don't get caught up in the features and functionality. Trust me, everybody's stuff looks great. Map out your top 10 pains. If the vendor can't eliminate at least three, then send ‘em packing.   

We were bombarded with some exciting new toys in 2015; 2016 will be the year we figure out which ones will actually work for us.

Lara Albert, VP of Marketing, Globys
In 2016 CMOs will stop spraying and praying. Sophisticated marketers will turn to AI-based systems to completely change how they market to and engage their customers through digital channels. Batch campaigns will become irrelevant. Traditional rules-based approaches to personalization will diminish. Segmentation will become obsolete. Machine learning will enable an entirely new and scalable approach to one-to-one personalization, paving the way for intelligent marketing that truly deepens relationships between brands and consumers. 

Marketers will thrive in roles where human creativity is appreciated and at the same time complemented by the power of machine-based marketing platforms that have the potential to personalize and optimize every customer experience for each customer across the entire customer journey. By using machine learning, marketers will achieve targeting granularity and scale that have never been possible with a human-led approach. This means that marketers will have the ability to systematically decide and execute what's optimal for any individual in any given context across a base of millions of customers, even as their behavior continually changes, even as market dynamics continually change, and even as the marketer's mix of products and offers continually change.  

With the application of machines, we will see marketing get much smarter, much more relevant, and much more effective—and much more interesting—as marketers are able to experiment, learn, and optimize at record speed.

Natalie Bush, VP of Customer Experience Enablement, Harte Hanks
In 2016 and beyond, hyper-personalized marketing will win the day. Marketers must no longer think of audiences in terms of macro-level demographics (think: “males ages 18 to 35”), and instead switch to a truly personalized approach to attract and engage customers, and win their loyalty. With the evolution of big data and technology tools to make sense of it, marketers have the ability to make personal connections with thousands of potential customers.

As big data grows, platforms and solutions with the ability to corral, vet, compartmentalize, and, ultimately, make sense of all that data will evolve, easing the burden of analytical effort on marketers. Programs like predictive analytics will become more robust as the amount—and quality—of customer data becomes increasingly available to marketers, enabling them to accelerate the development of diverse mid-funnel assets cleverly tailored to different vertical contexts and scenarios. Marketing automation will become more strategically integrated with the enhanced mid-funnel process, for better alignment with lead qualification and telemarketing resources. Tried-and-tested educational content such as case studies, interactive benchmarks, and surveys will continue to play an important role. And as content becomes more personal and relevant, and the customer experience more immersive, marketers can help guide prospects along the customer journey. In 2016 it's time for marketers to make more “friends.”

Lucinda Duncalfe, CEO, Monetate
Mobile came into its own over the 2015 holiday season. At the close of 2014 we predicted that in 2015 mobile behaviors would shift from browsing to buying, and that's exactly what happened. Customers are increasingly expecting one-click, Amazon-like payment experiences and super-personalized mobile sites, and we anticipate that marketers will make this a priority in 2016.

Furthermore, personalization is growing globally, and unique market needs are growing with it. We fully expect growth to accelerate in the year ahead. This consumer shift increases pressure on brands to develop omnichannel retail strategies that meet consumer expectations everywhere they choose to shop. The key is creating utility and value for customers whether they're on their mobile or desktop, or in a physical store.

Steve Kerho, Chief Strategy Officer, MXM
It's that time of year where we all reflect on the past and resolve to do things differently in the future. As content marketers, we've spent the past year or two realizing that publisher-inspired content is critical to success. In 2016 it's time for marketers to organize themselves to deliver such content. With 40% of marketing budgets being spent on content, things need to be done a bit differently.

During the ascension of the digital age, marketers organized specifically around channels, creating discrete, fiefdom-like groups responsible for areas such as CRM, search, websites, apps, print, and numerous social platforms. While such structures lead to channel expertise, they lack a holistic view of the complete consumer communication stream. With each channel team focusing on their own needs and wanting to create their own content, content duplication and parts of the consumer journey becoming bereft of quality content is inevitable. This siloed approach leads to a content ecosystem by default and not by design—one that is deeply flawed, given the increasingly large budgets clients are allocating to content creation.

So, what should marketers do differently in 2016? Don't abandon channel expertise; rather, create a balanced organization—one with an empowered and centralized team responsible for a holistic content strategy. Building such a team will ensure that brands effectively cover all parts of the consumer journey, that content meets both rational and emotional needs, gets delivered in the right channels, and, ultimately, ladders up to business KPIs.

Lisa Henderson, Managing Director, Client Services, Epsilon
In 2016 marketers need to break down the channel and online/offline silos that exist and focus on the customer journey. Consumers have integrated digital and social into every aspect of their daily lives—threading digital, social, and physical interactions together seamlessly. A click on an email via a mobile phone during the morning commute triggers a visit to a retailer during lunch break, which results in some online research and a purchase later that night on a laptop. Companies that embrace and support this new reality will succeed; those that don't will find it increasingly difficult to acquire and retain customers.

Marketing is not generally set up to support integrated digital, social, and offline engagements with customers because many marketing departments are broken into separate teams that each support marketing activities for a specific channel. And the technologies and data that support marketing also tend to be organized in silos to support a single channel or select set of channels. 

Now is the time to integrate offline and online data to provide insight into customers and their decision pathways and journeys. It's time to let this data drive marketing strategies and tactics.  It's time to change the structure within the marketing function—from channels and products to customer segments and journeys. It's time to cultivate marketing professionals who can develop, implement, and measure the effectiveness of customer experiences. And it's time to fully harness the capability of marketing automation software.

Duncan McCall, CEO, PlaceIQ
In 2016 marketers should address consumer behavior differently, by leveraging insights gathered from location data. Location data defines the consumer journey, from start to finish. Because of its ability to shine a spotlight on how consumers interact between channels and medium, in 2016 we'll see location continue to evolve as a horizontal enabler of marketing and business decisions. We'll see location data align with newer marketing tactics like addressable TV to prove that these highly targeted TV campaigns have a definitive, measured lift on foot traffic. We'll see advances in the way retailers do site-selection planning and out-of-home advertising strategy, using location as the basis.

Location will, of course, continue to be a strong asset for brands to make sound decisions about media strategy and activation and audience analytics, as well. Marketers should focus on looking beyond traditional applications for location to drive customers to buy and to build competitive advantage. 

This is Part 3 of a three-part series. Part 1 is, "What Change in Customer Behavior Will Impact Marketing Most in 2016?" And Part 2 is, "What Skills Should Marketers Master in 2016?"

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