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How a digital-first approach makes the difference for marketers

How a digital-first approach makes the difference for marketers Max Kalehoff

Properly allocating a marketing budget is a daily challenge. Spend too much in the wrong place, and you won't have enough left over for the right places. So how do you determine the right places to spend, and the right creative to use there?

The rapid and voluminous data that digital advertising campaigns return offers an answer. Lean and fast, digital testing of creative and audiences makes marketers smarter. Continuous learnings make subsequent campaigns more relevant and less wasteful, and achieve a greater impact.

Despite these advantages, surprisingly few marketing leaders use this approach. SocialCode and the CMO Club recently interviewed and surveyed 80 big-brand chief marketing officers, including from 3M, Belkin, Sprint, Clorox, Patron, and TD Ameritrade. Shockingly, only 34 percent of CMOs reported that they test creative and audience combinations digitally in order to make better use of them in conventional channels such as print and TV. Only 39 percent reported using digital testing to identify new customer segments.

That means that a lot of CMOs are missing an opportunity -- so that opportunity remains a serious competitive advantage.

In addition to that insight, our research prescribes five recommendations to marketers who want to make the most of today's tools.

Establish a digital-first vision

All channels -- from TV to print to radio, as well as CRM and commerce -- can benefit from digital and social advertising insights that surface around audience and creative combinations, as well as message sequencing, timing and frequency. Some of the greatest insights today come from advertising platforms with known audiences, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. Identify testing opportunities in your organization, with paths to scale as you demonstrate success and identify best practices.

Map a learning agenda for each campaign

Digital advertising campaigns aren't just opportunities to build brands and acquire customers. They're also opportunities to answer business questions. They provide environments in which a marketer can learn rapidly about existing and prospective audiences, especially when that marketer articulates clear, testable hypotheses before launch.

Take control of your data

Data are transformational byproducts of sophisticated digital campaigns. While agencies, suppliers and tech partners will always be valuable for guiding strategy and introducing new tools and products, brand marketers should take control of their own data and set a direction for mastering them over time. No one else should know as much about your data as you do.

Be agile

To unlock the full value of digital advertising and learning, marketers need the autonomy and authority to make quick decisions based on what they learn about their customers, and how those customers want to be engaged. They also need to report insights to other parts of the organization in a timely manner in order to inform their companies' overall strategies.

Adopt a storytelling framework

Marketing to known audiences provides a key competitive advantage: precision. This includes precision over who sees a series of messages, as well as the order in which those messages are served and their frequency. The result? Marketers can move from message transmission to cohesive storytelling with little waste. Marketers who take advantage of this precision to amplify their narratives will gain a competitive advantage, especially as all media become digital and addressable.

A digital-first approach enables marketers to use all six of these insights to get the message out to the right people, at the right time, in the right way. There's no other way to be sure.

Download the full report from SocialCode and The CMO Club.

Max Kalehoff is the Chief Marketing Officer at SocialCode, where he oversees corporate marketing, product marketing, thought leadership and public relations. Max is a renowned expert, evangelist and student of interactive marketing, with an...

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