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Becoming an agile marketer

Marketing needs to re-focus. In recent years, audiences have fragmented, brands have ossified, and channels have proliferated wildly. Chief marketing officers everywhere have noticed the impact these changes have on consumer behaviour. Customers have embraced alternative shopping channels, discovered new voices for themselves, and opened up powerful online information sources.

These changes occurred quickly, and many marketers are struggling to keep up. Organisations are still trying to attract customers with traditional promotion and sales methods, which cost billions of dollars in lost sales and unnecessary service costs. At a time when customer value is paramount, this approach could spell disaster for some companies.

But for some organisations, the change is welcome. A handful of marketers are winning in this new environment, and they are re-shaping their industries. The most successful companies are adopting a more flexible and nimble approach to customer management, which we call 'agile marketing'.

Becoming an agile marketing organisation requires a new model of customer engagement -- a model that acknowledges changes in behaviour. High performance requires organisations to successfully integrate technical capabilities, apply better marketing governance principles, and enhance approaches to customer communication. The best marketers are also addressing the following issues:

  1. Traditional silos divide promotion, sales, and service channels. 

  2. Legacy in-channel marketing operations are unable to track and manage customers when they move across channels.

  3. The impact of advertising, previously well understood and poorly measured, is now measured with almost infinite precision but with little understanding of its impact.

To compete effectively, organisations need to address these issues and orient company resources on a new bearing by aligning marketing, learning, channels, and brand.

Marketing needs to become the bellwether of the enterprise's interface with customers. While this objective has long been the aim of marketing, few organisations have succeeded at it. Smart companies listen and react to consumer feedback. Instead of just introducing a new system that will affect customer satisfaction, they look directly to customer interaction to drive the process.

For instance, an ecommerce organisation developed multiple web pages and tested them across various points along the customer journey in 10 countries. Pragmatic segments were identified on the basis of customer IP addresses, search terms used and other factors that drove delivery of an ideal page for each audience. Using that information enabled the organisation to increase performance by 60 percent.

The highest performing companies are building accelerated test programs that help marketing executives 'fail fast and learn quickly'. The process establishes centralised test and learn principles, and it includes a core process for evaluation and improvement. Through these programs, companies can test thousands of innovations against actual customer behaviour in a few weeks. In Australia, this approach is yielding results with key performance indicators increasing as much as 20 to 80 percent.

With a systematic approach and a focus on behavioural data, channels can be choreographed to deliver seamless customer engagement. The most sophisticated marketers now decry in-channel optimisation in favour of cross-channel optimisation because they recognise the consumer propensity to move between channels throughout the buying process. The benefits of cross-channel optimisation include a dramatic sales uplift, reductions in the cost of acquiring and retaining customers, and enabling companies to maintain appropriate service levels.

Companies that adopt these approaches are able to manage brands through an increasingly open dialogue with customers. The information collected in these interactions enables marketers to design better experiences across channels, and customers receive more relevant brand communications. As a result, customers' needs are met, deeper and more engaging customer relationships are created, which leads to a more mutually beneficial value-exchange between the company and its customers.

Jason Juma-Ross is managing director for Accenture Marketing Sciences in Australia and New Zealand.

Jason leads Accenture’s Marketing Sciences practice in Australia and New Zealand. He has more than 12 years' experience in marketing and strategy development across manufacturing, consumer products, and high-technology industries. Jason has worked...

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