How Leading Marketers Get Ahead in Today’s Data-Driven World - SPONSOR CONTENT FROM GOOGLE

May 7, 2018

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With so much information and technology at their fingertips, today’s consumers expect to get things done quickly and have their questions answered in an instant. The same could be said for modern marketers — expectations for their technology stack are on the rise too.

Bain & Company, in partnership with Google, surveyed nearly 1,700 global marketing and media decision makers to learn more about the value they’re gaining from investments in digital information and technology.

Google VP of Media Platforms Sean Downey sat down with Laura Beaudin, Bain partner and lead for the firm’s global marketing excellence work, to talk about what leading marketers do differently.

Downey: You surveyed marketers in North America, Europe, Australia and Japan. Was there any single trend that stood out?

Beaudin: The one thing that was consistent around the world was that the top priority for marketers was gaining a better understanding of their customers and an improved ability to reach them. Customer understanding was 1.3x more important than other priorities, as marketers continue to invest in providing their customers with relevant, timely and helpful information when and how they want it. That’s the starting point for marketers to ask questions like: What insights can we learn about our customers? How can we create relevant experiences while respecting their privacy? Do we have the right talent to analyze and act on that information? Have we built out our technology stack to deliver the right messages and creative?

Downey: Marketers have long been focused on knowing their audience, though. What do you see that’s different now as customer understanding becomes a top priority?

Beaudin: We are entering an era when you need to incorporate not only an audience profile based on demographic attributes or expected behaviors. But you need to start playing with the element of time — when you’re talking to consumers — in order to ensure your marketing is reaching them in the right moment. While timing has always been key to marketing, today’s technology helps marketers redefine time by being able to act on insights in real time.

That moment can either be a point in the customer journey, or a moment that consumers are ready for engagement and paying more attention to ads. For example, devices like home assistants and wearables provide new signals to help marketers better understand how and when people are looking for answers to questions or researching products. We’re on the cusp of where reaching the right audiences alone isn’t going to be enough. Knowing your audience is important, but so is knowing when your audience is most receptive to the message. The moments when you could really capture consumer attention and change their mind is the next frontier.

Downey: What do you see the best marketers doing differently — the ones achieving greater growth?

Beaudin: In our research, we look at leaders and laggards: the top and bottom 20 percent, respectively, based on a composite score of self-reported market share and revenue growth. The marketing leaders see their role as being stewards of a customer conversation for a much longer journey, as opposed to being responsible only for driving awareness or driving leads at the top of the funnel. Leaders are making strategic investments in data and technology, and they are 1.6x more likely to prioritize integrating technology. We also found that marketing leaders are 1.7x more likely to refresh critical marketing metrics and dashboards at least weekly.

Because they’re making investments in a long-term customer relationship, the leaders have become especially good at finding that right timing: not just knowing only who the customer is, but also when you can reach them to create a positive brand outcome and also get the cash register to ring.

In our study, we highlight a great example of how Keurig analyzed purchase patterns based on two years of historical data to identify four customer segments. Based on this analysis, Keurig moved from daily customer emails with price-based promotions for coffee pods to testing different messages and email cadences tailored for its four segments.

And that’s where we see technology playing a bigger role: helping marketers identify patterns in customer behavior that they can apply directly to their messaging and media buys. Our research shows that the leading marketers place greater priority on tech integrations, and they are more advanced users of their technology. We’re also seeing that the leaders are more likely to manage marketing technology within the marketing organization.

Downey: Are you seeing any big shifts in the ways that marketing organizations work or organize themselves given these priorities?

Beaudin: What we see is that not only are brand and direct response teams converging, but traditional media and digital groups are coming together too. The marketing leaders we speak to very much think of it as marketing, and not necessarily “digital” or “traditional.”

One good example is the way that some companies are now using digital marketing to test out key messaging before making their TV buys. They use digital display or YouTube ads to test out the market and ask themselves, “Which consumers clicked through most?” or “Who actually watched the video fully?” Then they use that knowledge to make the right TV buys at the right times and reach the consumers that it resonated with most.

Downey: Have you seen any trends that indicate larger companies have more of an advantage?

Beaudin: No. Size doesn’t matter. Whether it’s a larger enterprise or a new brand, our research found that being agile and working across business silos is key for marketers to find and engage the right audience and motivate them to action.

The new playbook is about innovation, and it’s being written both by smaller, digital native brands as well as more incumbent companies. It revolves around the idea that those parts of the organization that typically function as different teams or business units — such as digital and brand, for instance — shouldn’t be separate and working against each other. Rather, they need to work in concert in order to be able to have a really good conversation with their prospective customers.

Downey: If company size doesn’t appear to give some marketers an edge, are there any common traits you see as critical to putting a brand in a leadership position?

Beaudin: One thing that we’ve seen help brands of all sizes is an openness to change and experimentation — whether that means experimenting with new tools, new approaches or new ways of reaching your customer in a digital-first world. This test-for-results culture tends to start small, where teams talk about piloting a few things in order to build a case that something new is working. Then they educate other parts of the organization on what they’re up to, and that often opens doors or unlocks new sources of insight from parts of the organization outside the marketing and media teams.

The key in all of that is to start with the data you have, prove what works and keep moving. Because with stories of results, you’re able to continue to do better and reach for more.

For more on what separates marketing leaders from laggards, read the full Bain & Company report.

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