In four words: we are not prepared.
The past few months have probably been all about planning for the next year (and, for some, even beyond this coming year). We look at product launches, holiday seasons, brand requirements, sales goals and beyond to figure out the marketing mix, align the agencies and get our collective ducks in a row. Once the budgets get confirmed, it's all systems go... or is it?
Let the data decide.
For the past few decades, marketers have been leveraging the power of data to remove more and more of the guess work that comes from our marketing initiatives. Direct Marketing (and its subsequent growth) played an integral part in helping marketers to understand the power of data, analytics, outcomes and predictive modeling. Loyalty programs helped marketers truly understand who their customers are (and what they are doing). Web analytics pushed this even further, helping marketers to deep dive into the customer sales funnel and by providing amazing insights that could be turned into actionable outcomes (as my friend, Avinash Kaushik, says). Now, comes the real-time Web.
We are able to see a lot more information (from usage to customer service issues to innovation opportunities to advertising performance) and it's happening live and in the moment. It's now. It's not data today from usage over the past week. It's right at this very moment.
How are we dealing with it?
Not very well. Even the most sophisticated marketers don't have the right tools and dashboards to do more than know and see that something is happening. The truth is that most marketers, are still planning on a quarterly basis and - if they're really good - only looking at performance on a weekly (sometimes monthly) basis. Marketing optimization is still not a huge priority for most brands and their infrastructure is not set-up to react and engage with this real-time Web. The raw truth is that marketers can finally react on a moment's notice to an opportunity or to something that isn't performing at the anticipated pace. Sadly, brands are too busy looking at Excel charts and reports that lie in an inbox or are stacked up on the CMO's desk. The world of the real-time Web and the CMO's desk full of reports have collided and they are diametrically opposed in terms of efficacy. The real-time Web is leaving lots of marketing opportunities in the dust for the majority of brands.
Moving this forward.
Agencies need to foster, nurture and create better dashboards and reporting for this real-time world. Along with that, they need to restructure how they perform and output their work to better serve the client's needs and to act as a true agent of marketing on their behalf. Brands need to completely overhaul how they set-up and measure performance. This includes a quicker pace and desire to get things right on an iterative process in lieu of the post-performance analysis and trying to get it right the next time around. At a more macro level, the only way to really improve is for both agencies and brands to become better and closer partners in the work. A true marketing partnership over a provider or supplier mindset is what will, ultimately, really move the needle. Yes, the creatives and the strategists now need to make the data and math folks their best friends. At the Google Zeitgeist conference that I attended last month, Google Chairman, Dr. Eric Schmidt said, "In God we trust... everyone else must bring data." Word to the wise Marketer.
What's do you think it's going to take?