Marketing Strategy for the 2015 Customer

Any good player or coach knows that to win you need a game plan—a solid strategy.

And the cornerstone for any good marketing strategy—according to IBM’s Jay Henderson—is understanding your customers. “The challenge for marketers is doing the things that they know customers want and that will cause [shoppers] to perceive marketing as a service,” said Henderson, the company’s director of strategy for IBM ExperienceOne. “Then marketers have to balance [those customer wants] with the business needs.”

In fact, in a one-on-one conversation with Direct Marketing News at IBM Amplify in San Diego, Henderson said that there tends to be this underlying tension as companies craft their marketing strategies because there’s an inherent desire to address company needs—which may not perfectly align with customer needs.

“Think about it; there’s often inventory that’s perishable, like airplane seats or hotel rooms, that need to get sold,” he explained. “But there’s always the customer needs too. What do they want and require. Often it’s about balancing that tension between the two. Good strategy is understanding your customers [and] delivering the experiences that they’ll cherish and want. Balance that with the needs of the business and being profitable.”

Effective strategy, he said, is also about knowing which trends to pursue, how to drive innovation, and knowing when to invest—and when to move on. “The rate for the adoption of all of these different [trends and tech tools] has dramatically accelerated. But not all of the things that everyone gets excited about sticks around or is successful,” Henderson said. “The challenge is to know when not to overinvest or underinvest. I think marketers need to be thinking more about how they can strategically nurture some of these new channels. If it works out, promote it into a standard part of their marketing mix. If not, kill it.”

He warned that marketers should have long-term goals that may not produce the most desirable results right away. But how can marketers determine what’s working and what’s not?

“Both analytics and gut instinct are important to determine when you have a winning strategy,” he stressed. “The best marketing analysts who I know have great instincts. Reports and analytics don’t just pop out answers. Oftentimes the real insights that you get are driven by a smart analyst who’s following her instinct.” From that, Henderson said that marketers can pinpoint what’s causing issues or, conversely, what might be profitable. Bottom line: You need good instincts and good data to make a good strategy.

“Blend the art and creativity with the data and the tech,” he said on a final note. “That will be the challenge of the future. The right mix will produce a successful strategy.”

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