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Participants in the marketing strategy roundtable at the Marketo offices in San Mateo, California
Participants in the marketing strategy roundtable at the Marketo offices in San Mateo, California

Marketers are tasked with defining the best strategies and programs to drive marketing success and identifying the role of media channels in order to do so. Then they must track those efforts to divine what works best and which tactics to abandon.

Direct Marketing News convened a select group of senior marketing leaders in a closed-door roundtable discussion, sponsored by Marketo, in San Mateo in February, to get at the heart of some of these challenges. Participants discussed topics including the structure of their own marketing programs; the role of content; challenges in integrating messaging across channels; and how marketers are using digital efforts — particularly mobile, social and video — separately and collectively to nurture engagement and further loyalty with customers.

Direct Marketing News: What is your marketing strategy and how are your marketing programs structured?

Elizabeth Rector (Cisco Systems): Part of what we are doing is looking at how we can be more strategic in and of the channels, so we've integrated. We had a lot of segmented groups [in the past], but now we have an integrated marketing team whose sole focus is to understand the marketing mix.

One of the things that we have been doing … is really aligning around key campaigns instead of one-off, siloed product announcements. We've been working with Forrester and a tool called Tech Marketing Navigator. It's a starting roadmap and then we can fine tune from there, but it surveys about 20,000 tech suppliers, and it asks across about 35 marketing vehicles which are most influential in awareness, consideration and purchase.

We can get a sense of, ‘okay, tech print is big, search is big, your website is big' and develop our budgets around that. Then we're going to retroactively optimize and understand our ROI for that. We're trying to get a little more integrated and thoughtful about the mix and very detailed on the ROI.

Dave Smith (Mediasmith): We start, with all of our clients, with a target audience. Every client that we work with knows who their target audience is, they're absolutely sure who their target audience is, and for half the clients we take on, we change who their target audience is.

For Napster, when they became a paid service, they came to us and said it is 16-to-22 year old males. And we [initially] said yep. That's the target audience for people who are downloading music. We came back ten days later and said 25-to-44 year old adults.

There's this whole thing about who's the target and getting agreement on the target, and then mapping that to their media patterns, paid, owned and earned.

A lot of clients don't think about their owned media. They say, ‘I'm not in the media business.' But they have a website. They have LinkedIn discussions going on that they're not even controlling. They have Twitter feeds that they're not controlling. They have Facebook pages and if they are controlling [them], it's probably outside of marketing. They have all these owned assets. When they think about communication, they think about paid media. It starts with a target audience and then it goes to 'where are they?' Then talk about message deployment, rather than buying media.

Paul Albright (Marketo): There's a lot of discussion on growth and marketing seeing themselves as a growth engine. It's also thinking about this persona, the audiences that Dave talked about, then putting that in perspective. I work backwards from that and think ‘what are the campaigns' or ‘what are the investments that I need to make in order to maximize growth?'

Then we categorize them into four buckets: inbound interests, outbound marketing, sales contributions (how much reps are contributing to the pipeline), and referral.

You start with those four buckets of pipeline contribution … then figure out per segment. Is it an enterprise segment? Is it a vertical segment? What's the right mix across those four buckets, and then how do you start to spend your dollars in order to maximize growth?

Marketing is seen as more of an engine for growth, not just a cost center, and must play a deeper role going forward. The buyer no longer buys from a sales rep. The buyer's buying through search and social. It's marketing's job to throw the net over those people at the time they're starting to do their research.

Vivek Palan (Acxiom Corp.): One of the things that we've been seeing is there's an interesting dichotomy between the time that is scheduled, socially designated, the use of social media, and the way that marketers have been budgeting against that. A recent study by Nielsen [indicated] that people are spending over 22% of their time online on social media versus, around 7% to 8% of their time on email. When you look at how marketing budgets are allocated, it's not proportional or anywhere near what those numbers represent.

Laura Ramos (Xerox Corp.): A lot of our spending mix and our attention gets spent towards the brand. Interbrands looked at our brand and told us it's a $6.5 billion asset. You take that and you unite it with the fact that we purchased a services company called ACS, which now counts with the traditional Xerox services for about half the revenue. We're no longer the copier company. How do you convey that Xerox is now ... something else? That's where a huge amount of our attention is being spent.

Greg Johnson (HP): You face some very similar challenges to what we face. If you go around to all ... customer segments and go around to different countries, everybody thinks of us as a printing company.

We haven't been a printing company as a dominant aspect of our business in years. Social media tends to extend people's existing knowledge. Your job right now is actually to establish new knowledge. In doing so, you have very little choice but to begin with places where the narrative is one that you tell the world … [and] bring to light through examples. Then you can activate social media. [Social] is not terribly successful. There's not really a good case study out there to date as a means of establishing a new story.

Brett Billick (Virgin America): When it comes to media or marketing strategy, and then media as a part of that, it has evolved. It depends on our resources internally, our budget, and where the fish are. When we talk about who the target customer is, that's a big part for us. Sixty percent of our base is California. We definitely have very high tech, design and fashion. Those are the industries that a lot of our guests are involved in. But we're the challenger brand and our issue is … brand awareness.

We use PR quite a bit. We then try to, with a very small budget, amplify the message with social media. We use digital much more than we use out-of-home. We hardly ever use print, and certainly focusing on our email channel as well and really building that core base.

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