Proof Points For 2018 Priority-Setting

School is out, barbecues are on, and vacationers have hit the road. But for senior executives, summer is also the time to think about strategy and budgets for next year.

The natural questions to consider are:

  • “What is my most important strategic outcome for the next year?”
  • “What are my peers doing that I should be, too?”
  • “What can I do to stay ahead of my competition?”

Luckily, this is also the time of year when new studies start to come out with insights into the year that has past, as well as early predictions of how the current year will be remembered. When I am in the marketing hot seat, my focus at this point of the year is to look at what my team has achieved versus the achievements of those I compete against and those I aspire to emulate. From there I align activation, organizational, and technology decisions around achieving similar goals.

So what should you be thinking about now for 2018? Let’s start by first looking at 2017’s marketing and technology priorities.

>> Marketing actions prioritize the mandate to tie data to creative, conversion and confirmation. A recent study by Newbase (PDF), formerly known as Publictas International, struck a chord with me regarding both the technology and marketing priorities of over 1,000 marketing leaders the global consultancy surveyed. While content marketing still rated first among marketing priorities, it was a decline from the previous study from one year ago. More notably, the three priorities that are gaining ground are ROI and accountability, ad personalization, and accurate audience measurement.

All three have a common element: They require and are based on the extensive use of data in decision-making and marketing justification. Studies by Millward Brown and others also focus on ROI as marketers’ key metric.

If you are a marketer who has not prioritized data-driven marketing, you are not keeping up with your peers and competitors. This is no longer the domain of smart-start brands in Silicon Valley. The Newbase report is global, and the priorities are consistent across industry sectors and geographies.

>> Technology priorities vary widely by industry sector. In 2009, I decided to write a report on the state of digital marketing. My second research call was to the head of marketing at a midmarket hotel chain, and my first question was how she considered digital relative to traditional investment. Even back then her reply was, “We only do digital marketing, so I can’t answer your question.” My takeaway at the time: Industries evolved their use of new marketing options at different rates, depending on the prevailing marketing needs of the time and the competitive landscape.  

That still holds true. In 2017 another industry has been shifting to a largely digital universe: real estate. Surprisingly, for this sector Newbase reports that augmented and virtual reality hug the top spot for priorities (after, of course, mobile). Like travel and retail, real estate already has mastered the fundamentals of digital technology, and see these new interactive methods as a way to help them sell homes. Ironically, artificial intelligence and blockchain are much further down the list of priorities across most of these sectors, despite a lot of chatter in the press and at the Cannes Lion Festival. That indicates they are still not mission-critical and will be the shiny objects of the next three to five years.

Granted, every company is at a different stage of technology adoption and marketing maturity. But if you are a consumer finance company prioritizing augmented robotics over mobile app development, or a luxury goods maker putting chatbots ahead of influencer marketing, you are either heading down the wrong path or brilliant in a way your peers have not yet figured out.  

Building Your 2018 Strategy
As the early days of 2018 planning begin, having this year’s priorities on hand will be helpful for setting your new marketing agenda. Here are some suggestions for marketing leaders as to how to divvy their time, based on Newbase’s research:

  • Spend 70% of your time on data-driven business decisions: Clearly, the priority is to make sure you are comfortable with how data impacts decisions, both for development of marketing actions and measuring the impact. That 70% number should reflect time spent learning how to speak the language of data, hiring data scientists, and learning the “what is possible” from vendors and agencies.
  • Use another 20% to improving the creative process: Creativity is still every bit as important as data. But if you are a career marketer, that should be a natural activity. The 20% of time referred to here is understanding how to improve the creative process separate from data, so you don’t lose sight of the humanity of the creative process, but marry the two.
  • Let shiny, new objects light the other 10% of your time: Data rose quickly in these ranks, and content marketing was the “big thing” two to three years ago. Rather than get caught behind the times (yet again), keep 10% of your time free to explore new ideas, whether they be augmented reality, blockchain implications for ad impressions, or thinking through the chatbot persona. These may or may not become their own “big thing” but better to be prepared either way.

So while you are playing in the surf, cueing up the latest barbecue recipe, or out cycling and sailing, think about how to prioritize and implement the new tools and techniques that make marketing in today’s environment so challenging and rewarding. 

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