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The practice of marketing

Marketing just seemed to be easier before the days of the internet -- you booked adverts, did some PR and partook in the occasional exhibition, measuring the success by the incremental growth of your business. Sure, some of it didn't work but some did and that grew the business. You had budgets and pretty much repeated the same activity year on year. I can see the tears of nostalgia forming!

Now your boss wants to know what widgets your company has, how are you are exploiting social networking, what are you doing about checkout optimisation, what your organic search optimisation strategy is and many more similar activities that are forming part of the ever expanding role of the marketing executive. With all of this come bigger budgets, new job roles and a complexity that seems to require a combined PhD in psychology, mathematics and computer science, on top of marketing prowess. Luckily, your objectives are easy to come by -- increase market share, boost revenue, improve ROI and improve customer loyalty -- but the implementation of these tends to be driven by gut feeling rather than a formulated method approach. There has to be a better way.

To counteract this complexity the key is to use an approach that is both simple and easy to implement. As any marketer will attest, you really need to understand your customers. With today's data warehousing and analytic tools this has become even easier. However, taking this data and making it usable for decision making has become harder. Creating a persona, which is a fictional character that represents each one of your key customer segments, enables you to start validating all your marketing campaigns to your key customers. Typically you will have a manageable number of three to seven personas and each one will be fleshed out with additional behavioural and attitudinal data from surveys.

Avoiding stereotypes and creating a persona that resonates with your internal team is a difficult process and requires a level of experience, but it delivers exceptional results as it enables thinking from the customer's perspective. It is so much easier to say, 'Will this work for the target persona of Jill, who is 35 and a journalist?’, rather than use generic customer demographics. These personas should become ingrained within your organisation and all activity should be targeted to them.

The next issue is to understand the marketing opportunities available and how you allocate resources between them. There is a continual evolution in consumers' behaviour, with social changes such as more people using the internet while watching TV and using social networking sites. This requires a dynamic yet simple methodology.

Considering each persona, a single metric can be generated for each potential marketing activity, which indicates how successful this activity is at influencing a consumer's behaviour through their buying cycle. This methodology, rather than measuring pure direct response, results in an approach that adequately considers awareness advertising. Otherwise you would end up over-weighting direct response marketing options like search and direct mail. The behavioural influence metric can be generated for every possible marketing opportunity and can be used to decide the best allocation of budget. These metrics need to be evaluated using computer models and user surveys.

Over the coming years this level of planning will become even more useful as large research organisations develop and launch their own behavioural influence metrics. They will form part of every marketing person's vocabulary. For example, a TV campaign might have a behavioural influence metric of 4 per cent to reflect the fact that consumers who see the advert are 4 per cent more likely to change their behaviour and move through your buying cycle. The key advantage is that the behavioural influence metric can be used on standard advertising campaigns as well as on web configurator tools and in call centre optimisation.

All the marketing opportunities can be mapped to create persona pathways. Some activities like radio and TV are great at creating awareness, but ultimately the actual fulfilment of the service often only happens at a few key points, like the e-commerce checkout, retail store or a call centre. It is apparent that the energy spent in these key bottlenecks will give the maximum return, however if you aren't driving enough people to these points then you are not optimising your resource allocation. By looking at this kind of mapping in detail it starts to become clear where energy should be spent in the marketing mix. It allows the ability to take advantage of new technologies quickly, because the paths easily fit into the diagram.

Using the persona approach to deliver customer centric design, behavioural influence metrics to evaluate opportunities and persona pathways to optimise marketing mix, will deliver exceptional results and provide greater clarity. It will also make you look smart when your boss asks how social networking fits into your marketing mix.

Ravi Damani is CEO, Imano.

Ravi is CEO of Imano, a digital agency based in London, New York and Mumbai and he is CEO of CommerceNow a software as a service ecommerce platform. He is also co-founder of TVGuide.co.uk, the UKs No.1 TV entertainment site. Ravi is the author of...

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