Plan now, don’t pay later

Marketing is stuck in a phony war. It is not just next week’s General Election that is causing a freeze on plans and spending. Many companies have a year end of 30th June – just what sort of market do you plan for in the 12 months after that?

Uncertainty over the political regime, economic climate, tax conditions and consumer confidence have all combined to stall strategic thinking. Budget forecasting is particularly difficult for marketers right now since rising inflation could continue to push costs up just as further cut backs are required.

The only thing to do is look at those remnants of this year’s budget that can still be spent and work out where to get the best return on them. Here are three suggestions:

1) Review your marketing metrics – marketing departments are awash with data about their activities, especially in digital channels. Every single action creates a lengthy clickstream which gives the impression that digital marketing is transparent and accountable.

The problem is that each media owner in this space has its own standard and reporting format. What gets noted is usually self-justifying for that medium, ie, traffic, clickthroughs, etc. Just pulling all of that data together into a volumetric report that indicates the overall efficiency of how budget has been spent can feel like completing the task of marketing measurement. It isn’t.

Unless each of those data streams is aligned with the business objective of the marketing it supports, you will only find out how efficient your campaign is, not how effective. Time now to look at how to create top-down measures and where you need to get the data from to support them.

Don’t just accept what the systems and their owners want to give you – bully them until they provide what you want. Call it £50,000 and put a couple of analysts onto it for the month of May and you will have spent wisely.

2) Check your data capture processes – contact data is critical and capturing it accurately during any interaction with a prospect or customer lays the bedrock for building a relationship. Yet many of the basic processes are flawed and feed errors straight into the database that can lead to wastage or even an inability to maintain customer contact in a key channel.

Take email addresses. When was the last time you reviewed how these are captured online and in the call centre? Your form design may be building in errors – asking someone to enter their email address twice does not prove the data is right if they just cut and paste a mistake.

Time now to talk to web operations and call centre managers about supporting this part of the form with pop-ups and prompts. Using a web-based service, email addresses can not only be verified, but a welcome email sent during the course of registration and transaction. The extra few pence per contact this costs may be offset by efficiency savings either in shortening a call or by avoiding data hygiene costs down the line.

3) Review your permissioning strategy – is the way you ask customers for permission to contact them leading to high levels of opt-out or non opted-in data? If so, it’s time to rewrite that privacy statement and provide some persuasive marketing reasons for them to give you permission. Relatively little cost involved, but a lot of return.

Everybody is going to be facing cutbacks and efficiency drives in the second half of the year. A few simple tweaks to the data strategy, however, could position marketing well ahead of the curve to meet these revised goals.

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