Five steps to agile digital marketing

By Rachel Alt-Simmons, Principal Management Consultant, SAS Best Practices

For marketers trying to compete in the digital marketplace, it’s incredibly hard to surface your message above all the noise. You need to create messaging that speaks to each audience segment differently. Agile marketing gives you the ability to create that level of precision. If you're ready to go agile, start with these five steps excerpted from the white paper Digital Marketing: Are You Ready to Go Agile?

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Gartner estimates that a brand's failure to respond via social channels leads to a 15 percent increase in customer churn.
  • Listen
    Social listening, the ability to monitor social media channels in real time, is an important consumer observation tool. Social listening technologies provide the capability to observe trends, monitor brand and reputation, and even find inspiration from consumers. Social media analysis helps marketers hear the conversation, understand what it means, and drive insights to action against.

    Social media also gives customers another channel to engage with a brand or a company, blurring the lines between customer service, sales and marketing functions. Social media has become the new customer complaint desk. Gartner estimates that a brand’s failure to respond via social channels leads to a 15 percent increase in customer churn.

    Your competitors are taking advantage of that. For example, in the telecom industry, wireless providers are monitoring customer complaints for their competitors and using that insight to offer alternatives and steal customers away.
  • Respond
    It’s not just about eavesdropping on the conversation; it’s about doing something with the information.

    Clothing and shoe e-tailer strives for industry-leading customer service. At the heart of their customer-centric strategy is social media, using channels like Twitter and Facebook to engage with their customers. Their social team responds to all kinds of questions – from customer inquiries and complaints, to customer shout-outs (“Nice kicks!” they responded to one happy customer) and brand sharing. A recent Twitter exchange illustrates why their customer satisfaction rates are so high.

Zappos’ goal is to respond to every social media post within minutes. During an all-company meeting, a customer complained on social media about a problem they were having. Since all employees were at the meeting, no one was available to respond (they did put an “out of office” note on Twitter and Facebook). Even before the Zappos team could react to the problem, another customer responded to the negative comment, telling the unhappy customer that Zappos would take care of her as soon as possible. That’s enviable brand advocacy.

  • Adapt
    Digital channel fails abound. A large e-tailer belatedly apologized for a Halloween costume section on their website – “Fat Girl Costumes” – after it drew intense social media criticism. Pizza maker DiGiorno inadvertently used a hashtag associated with domestic violence (#whyistayed) in a recent Twitter marketing campaign, creating a firestorm of bad publicity. Social media amplifies your message at extremes.

    If you get it wrong, you need to respond even faster. In our e-tailer example, the offensive costume page was left on the website for most of the day. An upset shopper took them to task on Twitter and received the following robotic response: “Your comments and suggestions are important to us and help make us even better.” The company eventually took the offending page down and publically apologized – so much for listening and adapting.
  • Measure
    As engaging as your marketing campaigns and social engagement strategies may be, data and measurement need to underlie every decision you make. Treat innovation as a discipline, not a free-for-all. And just because you innovate, that doesn’t mean you’re going to get it right every time. Digital leaders aggressively use test-and-learn approaches to shape their go-to-market strategies. Marketing agility allows them to execute quickly, and a culture of innovation encourages risk taking.

    With all of the data available to marketers today, you no longer have to stab in the dark to find out what your customers will respond to and know if your action was effective. A recent survey by highlighted that more than 25 percent of online direct-to-consumer marketers aren’t doing any testing of their site or campaigns. In B2B organizations, more than 50 percent of marketers are not testing. With web and mobile becoming an important and integrated component of many organizations’ channel strategies, you can’t afford to not continually (and quickly) evaluate those strategies.
  • Anticipate
    The nirvana state for any customer experience and marketing professional is being able to anticipate customer needs. One CPG company tapped into its vast stores of first- and third-party data to build out consumer microsegments and drive more relevant engagement with consumers. It is currently managing 500 proprietary target segments that help it facilitate a one-to-one conversation with the consumer. The company’s ability to mine that customer data allows it to anticipate what consumers will respond to – in fact, if the data predicts you won’t use a certain product, you won’t see an ad for that product.

    No agile marketing infrastructure would be complete without robust analytic capabilities. This includes the tools and talent needed to analyze the data, create market segments and response models. Many organizations are struggling to hire the analytic talent they need to drive customer listening and personalization strategies: Ad agencies and other marketing providers are stepping up to include data strategy, data management and analytics services. “[Many marketers] are afraid to dive into [big data], worried that they will not be able to understand which pieces … have value,” says Miles Young, Chairman and CEO of Ogilvy and Mather. Partners can help bridge that gap.

Software companies are also doing more to make the analytics process less painful and more transparent for marketers by embedding analytics (the ability to rapidly create segments and build response models) into digital intelligence applications. The good news is that marketers have a lot of choices, including in-house, partner or outsourced models, to advance their analytic programs and increase their agility.

Social Listening Inforgraphic

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