Has marketing ever been more difficult than it is today?
Most of us would argue not. I should know – I’ve been in marketing and eCommerce for more than 15 years. In my view, the biggest challenge marketers face today is connecting the tactical work they’re doing with high-level business objectives or KPIs set up by the C-Suite.
The problem is that today, measurable KPIs for ecommerce marketing are in the hundreds, commonly including impressions, clicks, delivered, opened, and more. While these are telling, business leaders only care about revenue, retention, customer lifetime value, basket value, and profit.
Too many marketers struggle to produce reports and have conversations with executives because all they can discuss is these granular marketing metrics they’re spending their time on, but can’t really tie it to tangible business value.
In tandem with juggling all their other tasks, marketers need a common framework (where they can speak the same language) to connect performance metrics in a way that shows senior stakeholders how they impact objectives.
At a high level, common denominators that all e-com and digital marketing organizations are aiming to accomplish include:
- Driving revenue and ROI
- Boosting retention rates
How? Almost across the board, by:
- Reaching new customers – and retargeting known ones – to drive web traffic to your online store.
- Then encouraging visitors to join your club (subscribe), become more inclined to engage/purchase (conversion rate), spend more (AOV), and buy more often (purchase frequency).
With escalating pressure to perform and produce, expectations continue rising and to-do lists grow to overflow. Pretty quickly, you’re left throwing your hands in the air in a heap of frustration. What’s the answer?
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What kind of mind-shift is actually needed?
eCommerce marketing needs some retuning. In our self-induced rat race to sell more, sell faster, and buy more tech to fill the gaps, many brands have lost sight of the “Marketing 101” ideals they once knew and practiced.
With a re-commitment to an “Objectives first, Strategy second, and Tactics (and tech) third” mindset, you can ultimately restore that which you need most: more time for creativity, hard evidence of success, and a better experience for each of your customers as well as, mainly, for yourself.
This “Objectives-Strategy-Tactics” approach is less about changing what you’re doing now and more about reverse-engineering and optimizing the process to ensure desired results are met.
But first, where did we diverge from our course? When did things go awry? And why?
Exposing the illusion: Reverse how you think about martech
The influx of point solutions has flooded the martech space with a flurry of diverse tools. You can find a piece of software for pretty much any task you could possibly want to accomplish. Scott Brinker just released the annual MarTech 7,000, which illustrates this fantastically.
To put it plainly, since 2011, the martech market has grown 47x in terms of new entries or companies. That’s an increase of 4,593%.
Image Source: Chief MarTech
The massive spike in software correlates, interestingly, with the increase in just about everything else alluded to above (internal demands, customer expectations, channel options, content, touchpoints, etc.).
And most of these brands are playing on your need for more, for better, quicker, easier – whatever it may be. They want you to start with their tech as the first step in your strategy. This underscores the focus on features and functionality you see in demos, on websites, in fliers, pamphlets, promos, webinars, and marketing material.
Here’s how you’ve been conditioned to accept the martech adoption process:
- Technology (what can the tech do?) ➤ Tactics (what cool stuff can I do with the tech?) ➤ Strategy (how can this tech align with our strategy?) ➤ Goals (can this be a bridge to help me reach my goals?)
To get back to a place where you can satisfy the demands flying your way, you’ll need to be bold enough to break away and counter the mainstream mode of thinking.
That martech adoption process is all backward… and goes against the foundational knowledge we were once taught and have since forgotten in the face of mass tech distraction. Here’s how we should all think about our marketing strategies:
- Start with Goals (what do we need to achieve?) ➤ Move to Strategy (How are we going to get there?) ➤ Consider Tactics (what actions/activities will get us there?) ➤ Look at Technology (what software can help us achieve these?)
In this pattern of thinking, you’re not limited by what software can do. Instead, you’re free to find software that propels you toward the things you need to get done. Once you land on the solution to your goals, that particular software should ideally tell you how to achieve your goals with strategies and tactics that have worked before.
I’m NOT clamoring for a complete overhaul of everything you’re doing – just a reorganization of it. So, instead of starting with the tactic you think will yield some airy result, develop a framework guaranteed to deliver results that is aligned with your goals. In this way, proving ROI becomes a lot easier.
Use case: Driving retention with win-back campaigns
For the sake of argument, let’s say your objective is to achieve a customer retention rate of 35%. You’ll need the right strategy and accompanying tactics to get you there. Let’s outline how this process might play out.
What leadership gives you:
- A high-level objective
► “Get 35% of active customers to continue to do business with us within the next year.”
What you need:
If your objective is to drive retention, then you need a plan and steps to get there.
- A well-defined strategy to guide the way
► “Target churning customers to get them buying again.”
In this example, you might choose to focus on churning customers as one strategy to bridge between the objective and tactic(s) because it’s a measurable, attainable goal.
- Easy-to-implement tactics tailored to your business and for your customers
► “Initiate win-back campaigns to high-value lifetime customers”
For you then, the majority of your energy can, should, and will be restored to the execution of the tactic – strategizing, conceptualizing, creating, writing, illustrating, organizing, planning, making, and doing. What might this tactic look like?
Reactivation of inactive contacts with win-back emails
Using historical patterns of engagement and past-purchase data, you can marry your expertise with the machine to predict when a customer is most likely to move from the defecting to the inactive stage of the life cycle.
This allows intervention with timely, automated campaigns at that critical point in between. The ultimate goal, in this scenario, is to reactivate customers and prevent churn.
Here are several win-back email campaigns to help you understand how you may consider crafting yours.
These brand examples – including an airline, a gym, a not-for-profit blood center, a travel company, and a high-end men’s retailer – offer an array of creative angles to consider within the actual win-back tactic. Ideally, these communications are omnichannel or “channel-agnostic.” In other words, the content can take the shape and form of whatever device the customer is viewing it on, when, where, and how they prefer to engage.
Marketing automation technology can allow busy digital marketing teams to connect these dots with the push of a button. When the machine can absorb the brunt of the “heavy work,” you’re suddenly freed up to spend more time on content and creative, as showcased above.
Digital marketing is hard enough as-is, and a lot of variables are making it even more challenging – pressure to deliver on customer expectations of personalization, increasing internal demands for return, and balancing priorities to make it all happen.
But if we can adopt a new “Objectives-Strategies-Tactics” model, we can more easily, more effectively align high-level demands like driving retention with strategies and tangible tactics that will bring that objective to fruition.
It’s all about programming the compass so you can be sure you’re headed in the right direction. It’s about making a mindshift… that of turning away from a tech-first mentality to an objectives-first strategy where every campaign is aligned with your company-wide goals, be it increasing revenue or retaining more customer. This is precisely how digital marketing teams will regain their sanity and simultaneously start doing truly personalized marketing in the not-so-distant future.
Guest author: Alex Timlin is VP of Retail and e-Commerce Vertical at Emarsys where he helps drive adoption and growth across 2,000+ clients in more than 100 countries. Alex is a long time member of the Direct Marketing Association’s Customer Engagement Council, Marketing Intelligence Hub, and is a regular industry speaker on marketing, customer success and SaaS technology. Connect with Alex: LinkedIn • @ARTimlin • Emarsys.com