Marketing organizations today are struggling to adapt to and thrive in a world where the customer is Wilshere after his very early goalking and competition for share of mind- and share of wallet- is fiercer than ever. Research has shown that customers are completing as much as 60% of their purchase decisions before connecting with vendors (source: Corporate Executive Board), a trend that has challenged marketers to think beyond their standard tactics and enlist modern marketing strategies including digital, content marketing, and social media. Traditional campaign-based programs are no longer sufficient as they tend to be inside-out, focused only on the agenda driven by the supplier and won’t be considered relevant or meaningful to customers. Not unlike the winning teams in the recent World Cup tournament, marketing teams need to be agile, creative, and collaborative to rise above the noise and score with customers.

In the past, the marketing organization was fairly straightforward and primarily consisted of branding, communications, and demand generation with a linear process and straightforward goal of filling the pipeline full of qualified prospects. There was a clean hand-off to sales and that was the end of the story. Today, those one-off sales are largely insignificant to both customers and suppliers and the customer experience is cyclical, not linear. Brands strive to engage customers in long-term relationships and it is critical that marketing is aligned with sales and customer service functions to deliver a stellar customer experience in a complex omni-channel marketplace. Having the right team in place is key in order to win customers’ share of mind- and share of wallet.

Today, marketers are expected to engage customers and deliver on metrics far beyond registrations and clicks. The modern marketer targets metrics indicative of commitment to the brand- such as subscribers, followers, comments, community members, and social shares to name a few. Reach and influence are crucial to organizations today and the entire marketing team needs to be primed and ready to take on the challenge.

So, what does it take for a modern marketing team to be a winner today?

Relevance and insights: Perhaps the ultimate challenge to marketers today is to deliver the combination of insight and relevance- inserting a brand ‘voice’ into an existing event or trending conversation of the targeted audience and disrupting the status quo with a new perspective. When done successfully, as we saw recently with Oreo’s Tweet during the Superbowl black-out or Nike + Google at the World Cup, real-time marketing is powerful in both reach and influence. When combined with commercial insights that lead to the supplier, this tactic yields measurable results as demonstrated by SAP’s stats zone and broader sponsorship of the Superbowl in 2014.

Creative and analytical: Creativity continues to be highly valued within marketing teams as the advent of new media formats such as slideshares, mobile apps, soundclouds, videos, interactive content bring new possibilities to a previously vanilla toolbox of tactics. The marketing teams that stand out from the crowd will combine creativity with analytics to offer their audience meaningful insights, inciting a change in their mental model and perhaps their behavior as well. Insights can be derived from customer interaction with your brand, products, services and even their peers via social media. The opportunities are infinite and savvy marketers will monitor analytics and deliver a more personalized experience. The creative talent is crucial in thinking outside the box and delivering the “wow factor” to customers. A recent article in the NY Times, In Modern Marketing, a Big Dose of Data in the Creative Juices, offers several examples of personalized, data-driven customer experiences.

Digital acumen and content strategy: Far too often, we see digital strategy siloed from content strategy and that is likely due to few individual marketers having deep expertise in both areas. However, the modern marketing team will ensure that these critical strategies are aligned and that, at minimum, collaborating to ensure that the customer experience accounts for both. The ability to understand the possibilities of digital and marketing technology will enable the content strategist to deliver an innovative and engaging program and ensure that the customer is able to personalize their experience- be it by device, channel, or stage of the buying journey. One success story in this area is Airbnb,who recently redesigned their entire digital footprint– including content and imagery- to reflect a renewed focus on people, not places.

Agility and execution: Today, every marketer needs to demonstrate these two traits. They need to be capable of being both the visionaries and the executors of their ideas- and they need to move fast or risk a competitor beating them to market. Ongoing reliance on extensive planning cycles and third party vendors to execute marketing programs results in delayed time to market and often weakens the meaningful and personal connection to the the content. Modern marketing teams will initiate rapid, iterative planning cycles in order to be responsive and relevant to customers’ needs.

Product expertise and storytelling: In an era where brands are rapidly becoming publishers, marketers are adopting skills traditionally associated with journalists such as the ability to convey a point of view and tell a compelling story. However, the storytellers who also have product expertise will rise to the top as this combination will differentiate true content marketing from worthless link bait. Savvy content marketers are looking at the existing gap between thought leadership content and solution content and capitalizing on the opportunity to support buyers with diagnostic tools and content.

This article was originally posted on a new webzine for leaders in commerce, sales, and marketing: The Customer Edge.

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