Marketing teams are increasingly under pressure to stand out from their peers at a time where the proliferation of consumer platforms is complicating outreach efforts. With the pace of technology evolving rapidly, many digital marketing pros are advocating for a more progressive and experimental approach.
That’s the perspective of Karen Naves, vice president of global demand generation for marketing technology specialist Tealium, who said when she hears the phrase “progressive digital marketing” she thinks about how the world — and the preferences of consumers — are ever changing. “That’s whether it is a new gadget, social media platform, or the way consumers want to consume information,” she said.
What Is a Progressive Digital Marketer
A progressive digital marketer is one who strives to anticipate their customers needs in a trusted way and is positioned to quickly pivot when new industry trends emerge. They are also constantly thinking about their go-to-market strategies, with a focus on making their target audience feel like the content they’re being presented with is relevant. “Progressive marketers are always thinking about how they build trusted customer digital experiences with their brand and how they take their customers on a journey — and this involves both their messaging and the martech stack that supports their digital programs,” she said.
Shachar Orren chief marketing officers and co-founder of EX.CO, an online publishing platform, said building support for an experimental marketing push starts with finding budgetary support. “It starts with chatting to your finance team and understanding how to make a marketing budget with room for experimentation and room for error,” she said. “Leave 20% of the budget for trying new things like testing new platforms, messaging and ideas the team comes up with.”
According to Orren, the most progressive thing you can do is to acknowledge the fact you can only plan so much in advance, and always be ready for changes and to listen to what’s going on around you. “Going into 2021, the death of the third-party cookie was going to be a big topic, but then google pushed back the deadline, and all the sudden it became low priority, and we had to shift our messaging accordingly — being ready for that in our mindset really helped,” she said.
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The Shift to Content Consumption
Anthony Gallo, chief product officer at Tenovos, a digital asset management company, said digital marketers need to understand the use of the Web has shifted from basics like the utility of websites to consumption of content. “We have to be more progressive in how we think about that digital storytelling content, because it’s contributing more to the customer journey,” he said. “Look at Instagram and TikTok — we’re seeing the consumption of content as the main use of these devices.”
He championed the use of big data analytics tools and artificial intelligence (AI) as tools for marketing teams to help them recommend the right content at the right time: The key is to gather as much data as possible. “If you only have a little bit of data, you’re going to get an AI tool that’s not as effective,” Gallo said. “The more data you can get, the more effective your algorithm will be at the end of the day, and that means you need to experiment at scale.”
Get Started By Finding a Problem to Solve
Naves’ advice for digital marketers who want to test something new is to first figure out what challenge you’re trying to solve for, because to be successful you need to prioritize and focus. “Next, you have to understand industry KPIs,” Naves explained. “Different industries have different environments and contexts, so having a frame of reference as you build out your company’s baseline metrics and KPIs is essential. Tap into your agency and software partners for case studies to get new insights here.”
Once you target the issue you’re trying to solve and the hypotheses you want to test, you create audience segments to target. This means thinking about how your customer data and marketing technology tools can maximize support for the test, for example website bots, a CDP, or website personalization tools.
“The big take-away is figure out the issue, determine what you want to test, understand your data, and know your tools and platforms and bring in more minds to make the most of testing opportunities,” Naves said.
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Up Your Automation Strategy
Gallo pointed to automation as another key tool to enable progressive marketing strategies, allowing marketing teams to test assumptions, try different approaches and validate their effectiveness. “Testing those scenarios is not done very often, and the experimentation isn’t there, because when you think about managing the data from all the data and imagery, it goes well beyond classic web pages and applications,” he said. “Automation is key to all of this working.”
Look Outside the Box
Naves highlighted the importance of tapping into multiple resources to find new inspiration for digital programs, for example joining a peer-to-peer group focused on new digital strategies. “Network and follow digital marketers you respect, read books and articles on brand storytelling via digital channels, join associations, or sign up for Google alerts on certain topics,” she said. “Overall, get involved in the digital community, whether virtual or in-person.”
Embrace First-Party Data
If digital marketers or CMOs have not started exploring third-party cookies loss, Naves said they should start thinking about it and how to prepare. “If you want to drive trusted customer experiences, you will need a first-party data approach going into the future in order to power your experimental digital programs as well as report on your attribution and ROAS,” Naves added. “And don’t get me wrong, it is not all doom and gloom — with proper planning any company can overcome third-party cookie loss with a first-party data strategy.”
Experimentation Means Failing Fast and Learning
Creating a place where experimentation and learning happens means being OK with failure, as long you are gleaning whatever you can and applying those lessons learned to your strategy. As for her own personal learnings from progressive digital marketing strategies, Naves admitted there were times she felt she was going to knock a digital experiment out of the park. “It did not always happen and that was OK,” Naves said. “As long as you have your foundational digital programs humming along, trying new things whether they are an outstanding success or epic failure is OK. You are always learning from both and improving your craft.”
Orren agreed there’s always going to be room for error but reaching out to your audience directly and listening to customers and clients is crucial. “Marketers make so many assumptions based on research and articles and data when we can just ask our audience directly and get the data right from the source,” she said. “There is no replacement for that first party data companies are always after. It’s there to teach you with what content your audience is engaging.”