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Putting Meaning Back Into Marketing


Everyone in an organization is (hopefully) aware that marketing is essential to a company’s success. However, when asked to define what the marketing team does and how it impacts business, answers tend to come up short.

Responses such as “social media, graphic design, advertising, emails and brochures,” are going to be most common – but chances are, if someone isn’t on the marketing team or doesn’t deal directly with the department, there’s probably some mystery to what’s being done there.

What Do Other Departments Think Marketing Does?

In fact, a recent survey revealed that only 13% of non-marketing employees think marketing drives business strategy, with 53% saying marketers are responsible for advertising and promotion and 43% saying its brand management. Marketing was noted as the least important department within the organization. As marketers, we know this simply isn’t true.

While all departments have their individual functions, without marketing, a company would be an anonymous entity operating with a limited customer base. The purpose of marketing is to bring in more customers, encourage and cultivate growth and discover how to better serve customers.

To do that effectively, marketers must make the rest of the organization aware of their jobs, their importance and their function in conjunction with each separate department.

Marketers have undoubtedly mastered their field and are constantly evolving it to be more insightful and efficient. Now it’s time to put the same amount of energy into informing the company about what marketing does well – and how they can collaborate as a team to increase the role the department plays in driving strategic change.

Data Analysis and Insight

One of the most crucial shifts in marketing has been the advent of data analysis to gain customer insight. It is also one of the lesser-known activities of marketers – with only 18% of non-marketers identifying it as a marketing function.

Within a business, 48% of data analytics are used to gain a better understanding of the customer. Much of that usage falls to the marketing department, who then becomes responsible for collecting and mining the data for better insights into how customers are responding to the company’s offering and what they are looking for from the industry.

Non-marketers are aware that customer insight is critical to achieving competitive advantage, but what they don’t realize is that the marketing department is the one that puts it in action. 

Analytics help improve the overall view of a company’s performance and are used to develop content and strategies that resonate with customers to generate leads and increase revenue.

For 58% of CMOs, analytics are important for SEO and email marketing research. Another vital area that benefits from data is customer segmentation, with 49% of CMOs citing this as a key marketing function. Knowing which customers are relevant to which areas of the business can make a huge difference in reaching them effectively.

If a company wants to know what their customers are feeling, thinking and saying about their products and services, marketing analytics serve as the direct line between an organization and its customers. Marketers need to bring this to the forefront of their responsibilities to prove to the company that the department is invaluable to overarching success.

Marketing the Marketing Department

To say it’s only the fault of the non-marketers for not knowing why marketing is essential is a false sentiment. It is a shared failure between marketers and their colleagues alike.

Just as a company shares customer-facing mistakes, they should also own up to their internal ones. Members of the company are only familiar with website copy, email marketing and social media because these are the most visible aspect of marketing.

Likewise, marketing is probably only familiar with R&D’s end product because it’s what they interact with most. With this logic in mind, marketing must do more to share their ways of working, their successes and their failures with the rest of the company. That takes increased dedication to internal communications.

It’s acceptable to be narrowly focused on customer-facing material, but it shouldn’t be the sole focus of marketing. Outlets like intranets, forums and internal newsletters help spread the word about all on goings of an organization. Even better than those options, marketers should be participating in presentations or discussions.

To improve internal communication, marketing needs to start small, think creatively and lead the organization with innovation and approachable subject matter. Instead of presenting those important analytics in detail, simply give the bullet points and summarize the resulting benefits.

Once you’ve gained the attention of the company, you can tailor the communications to their interests and  avoid useless weekly reports by taking a step back and looking at the big picture scale.

Driving Strategic Change

Once you’ve acquired the attention of the other departments and have effectively communicated the results created by the marketing team, you can drive strategic change.

Strategy is very much a collaborative process that takes into account all the diverse aspects of a company’s performance and needs.

Marketing is positioned to have the most influential effect on the strategy. Armed with insight about customers gained from data analysis and a general understanding of the other departments, marketing can inform the strategy to be grounded by analytics, customer demands and operational efficiencies.

Marketing holds the cards for both analytical insight and creative power. Approaching strategy with these two ways of thinking can lead an organization to more innovative and effective solutions for serving customers and increasing the bottom line.

It’s also a strong way to make decisions and help other departments develop their own strategic plans. But to leverage that power, marketing must establish themselves as a go-to entity and a critical piece of organizational change.

Marketers excel at making the unknown not only known, but also popular. They must start thinking of themselves as a product that needs launching across the company.

Using the foundation of data and insight, strengthening internal communications and playing an active role in developing company strategy, marketers can deliver lasting results and become the most well known group within the company.

Customer service, sales, finance and R&D will no longer wonder what’s behind the graphics and catchy copy. They’ll understand that marketing is in the game to help the company achieve its fullest potential.

Penguin Strategies




Keeping Up With The Joneses: 8 Ways to Stay on the Cutting Edge of Your Industry


‘Keeping up with the Joneses’ has long been an idiom relating to the need to keep up with the latest and greatest gadgets, trends, innovations and benchmarks (mainly so as not to be shown up by your trendy neighbours). For marketing professionals, ‘the Joneses’ are everyone and everything from your customers, to your industry, to your competitors, to the latest developments in the marketing and media industries. What’s more, the lightning-fast evolution of technology and the always-changing behaviour of modern consumers make keeping up with the Joneses a pretty tall order for the average marketer.

Luckily, there’s more than one way to make sure you’re not falling behind your competitors or losing touch with your customers. Here are eight ways marketers can keep up with the proverbial Joneses:

1) Carry Out Customer Research

Keeping up with the times means making sure you understand what your clients really want from your brand; as well as what their current perceptions are. Good old customer research is an important part of making sure you stay educated on the subject. The research methods that are likely to be most effective will depend on your particular industry, but there are a whole host of options to choose from:

Without even having to leave your desk, simple email surveys are a good place to start. An email survey can be short and simple – simply asking customers to rate their last service transaction, for example – or take the form of a detailed questionnaire aimed at unearthing customer insights into the state of the industry.

Online polls likewise provide an easy way to gather customer data without setting foot outside of your office. Polls can be hosted on your website or on a customer extranet and allow you to gain quick insights into customer opinion and sentiment. Social monitoring – listening in on conversations relating to your brand, products and industry on social media networks – can likewise be a goldmine of useful insight and data.

Alternatively, you could go the route of focus groups, which involve gathering a targeted group of customers or potential customers and asking them a set of questions in a group setting. The interesting thing about focus groups is that you’re able to see not only how each group member answers each question, but also how members engage with and differ from each other.

2) Read… All the Time

If you’re a marketer and you’re not a voracious reader already, you better get ready to become one. The best way to stay abreast of the latest marketing trends and developments is to regularly scour the media for relevant content. Personally, I’m a devout reader of blogs like the Moz Blog, the Content Marketing Institute blog and the Kissmetrics blog. I also enjoy news websites like eMarketer, Business Insider, Mashable and research papers put out by institutions like Gartner and Forrester.

To save time, pinpoint a few really informative, on-trend websites as your go-to sources and open an account with a news aggregator like Feedly. Another good option is to follow relevant social media accounts and use HubSpot’s Social Inbox to aggregate your updates.

3) Pick your Battles, Outsource the Rest

For an in-house marketer, it can be tricky to stay on top of the latest developments in every corner. Sometimes, the smart move is to ease the pressure by outsourcing key elements of your digital marketing strategy to an agency. Outsourcing your digital marketing – or just parts of it – to an agency means you don’t have to worry about missing a beat on the latest developments in marketing technology. It’s the agency’s job to let you know which tech advancements are worth taking notice of and how best to implement them.

The benefits of outsourcing are obvious: you don’t break a sweat while a specialist team does all the hard work for you. The downside? An external party may never understand the industry you’re in or the clients you serve as well as someone within your business.

4) Leverage Sales Team Insights

Your sales team is a source of amazing insight – so make use of them. Remember, they’re at the coalface of your company. They know exactly who they’re competing against, why they’re winning or losing deals and what your customers really think. They’re industry experts. The idea behind the ‘smarketing’ movement is that when sales and marketing teams work together, aiming for the same set of goals, the entire process becomes more streamlined and effective. The sentiment shouldn’t end there, however; marketing and sales teams should collaborate and brainstorm around campaigns, products and industry trends too.

5) Share the Burden

Attempting to single-handedly track all the elements of your marketing equates to taking on a huge amount of work. Make the task more manageable by assigning specific team members to specific functions. For example, the team member assigned to demand generation just needs to keep up with trends and information around demand generation. A team member in charge of product development could manage your products, track developments in competitors’ products and deal with the implementation of new features your customers ask for. Your assigned marketing technologist would keep up to date with new marketing technology and help the team implement it.

6) Merge, Acquire and Conquer

Many large companies find innovation difficult. When you take into consideration the red tape and approval processes that need to be navigated before a single Tweet can be posted, for example, it’s not hard to understand why big companies tend to be slow-moving. The slow corporate machine often results in these brands becoming outdated and losing relevance in the minds of their consumers. In the meantime, start-ups with little capital start grabbing market share with their cool products and on-point evolved messaging. That’s why the Mergers and Acquisitions teams in big corporate companies are always on the look-out for these smaller, ‘cool’ companies because one way to keep up with the Joneses is to acquire them.

It’s worth noting that even highly innovative companies know that it’s a smart move to acquire smaller, way-ahead-of-the-curve companies, as was evidenced by Apple’s acquisition of Beats Music and Beats Electronics for $3 billion in August last year.

7) Adopt an Agile Approach to Marketing

In the past, marketers could develop their annual marketing plan in the final quarter of the year, then spend the rest of the year activating it. These days, industry trends and consumer behaviour change far too quickly for this kind of approach to work. In the world of software development, the agile methodology means that smaller, bite-sized chunks of code are developed and deployed so that solutions are delivered incrementally, tested along the way and even change direction as they are delivered.

This approach can – and should – be applied to modern marketing. On the agile model, your annual marketing plan is more of a guideline than a set-in-stone plan. As you deploy each strategy and action, test how the market responds to it and adapt it as you go. This way, you’re always poised to tweak your marketing strategy according to the ongoing evolution of your industry, competitors and customers.

8) Stay True to Your Mission

Keeping up with the latest marketing trends and developments is important if you hope to stay relevant to your ever-evolving customers. However, that doesn’t mean you need to force your brand or product into whichever mould is hot right now. In his keynote speech at INBOUND 2015, Seth Godin spoke about standing by your positioning and differentiation. Godin says that too many brands shave off their edges to appeal to a larger market, thereby alienating their primary market in the process. Sometimes – despite what everyone else in the industry might be saying and doing – it pays to stick with your original idea.

It might be a time-consuming (and sometimes mind-boggling) task, but keeping up with the latest developments in marketing technology, industry norms and consumer trends is non-negotiable. Today’s well-informed and web-savvy consumers expect nothing less.


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A 3-Step Framework to Connect the Dots Between Marketing & Sales

connect_the_dots_sales_marketingThis post originally appeared on the Sales section of Inbound Hub. To read more content like this, subscribe to Sales.

Smart sales and marketing leaders know how important it is to collaborate with cross-functional teams. In a perfect world, the two teams would be working in tandem and complete harmony with one another. (more…)