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Any marketing professional will tell you creativity is an indispensable ingredient of a great campaign or a memorable ad. When work is truly creative, it engages consumers in unique and emotive ways, which is how brands secure mindshare and convert new customers. But creativity is a means to an end – not an end in and of itself.

All brands are ultimately trying to drive ROI and get as much penetration as possible with their marketing strategies, and this means creativity has to be guided by a rigorous analysis of outcomes. Even the most creative ad in the world won’t be worth much to a company if it doesn’t drive exposure and sales.

With the increasing availability of data on everything from online attribution to consumer behavior, the pressure on marketers to demonstrate the effectiveness of their campaigns has never been stronger. That’s why all marketers should remember a few key strategies for developing a strong business-minded marketing culture and getting brands as much as possible for their money.

Starting with the “why” and the “how”

There are plenty of people in the world who do creative work for its own sake – we call them artists. While there’s certainly no shortage of artistic talent involved in many successful marketing campaigns, the “why” that underpins a marketer’s work is very different from the “why” behind a work of art.

For example, let’s say you’re trying to launch a digital advertising campaign that will require a substantial proportion of a company’s budget. If you don’t have a detailed explanation for why management should agree to such a large spend, don’t expect to get very far.

Perhaps the company’s share of voice is unacceptably low among its top competitors. Maybe it has high conversion rates but limited reach at the top of the funnel (which would indicate that the product is solid but general awareness is subpar – a frustrating problem that marketers should be particularly well-positioned to solve). The company might be off track to hit its sales goals by the end of the year.

Whatever the problem, marketers should be able to demonstrate why a campaign deserves the investment they’re asking for and how the campaign will deliver tangible results. Outcomes matter more than anything, and it’s a marketer’s responsibility to deliver them.

Developing customer-centric campaigns

Marketing professionals can’t do their jobs if they don’t understand what specific challenges companies face (as well as the unique advantages that will help them address these challenges). Companies have never had more data about consumers, market trends, and the return on their advertising dollars and marketers need access to all of this information. That’s why transparency and open communication are vital to the development of powerful marketing campaigns.

Just as marketers have to be well-acquainted with the unique circumstances of the brands they represent, the brands themselves should have a comprehensive understanding of the customers they’re trying to reach.

Account-based marketing (ABM) is one of the best ways to ensure that you’re building campaigns around the individual needs of companies and the customers they serve. Instead of marketing to a wide range of potential leads, companies that use ABM target specific accounts and provide them with highly personalized services. In essence, it makes the experience more “human.” This gives marketers an opportunity to develop highly focused messaging that concentrates on the markets most likely to yield the best outcomes. Why waste time marketing to people who aren’t receptive to your brand’s message?

According to a 2017 study conducted by SiriusDecisions, ABM leads to more closed deals, larger average deal sizes, and greater C-level engagement than other forms of marketing. Moreover, 57 percent of companies that use ABM also reported “greater or significantly greater sourced pipeline and sourced revenue.” If you’re a marketer, it’s difficult to think of a more promising indicator than that.

Setting goals and tracking outcomes

Companies are increasingly conscious of how they’re spending their advertising dollars, which is why marketers should set measurable goals and expect to be held responsible for whether they’re achieved. As the 2017 Gartner CMO Spend Survey noted: “It’s time to assume accountability for business performance and show that marketing can grow the business while making hard choices.”

According to the survey, marketing budgets fell from 12.1 percent of revenue in 2016 to 11.3 percent last year ‒ a sign that companies expect marketers to deliver on projections they’ve already made before receiving another influx of cash. But instead of regarding this as a threat, marketers should use it as an opportunity to focus on outcomes that will improve the bottom line and demonstrate the value of what they do. Without clearly-defined goals and a way to meticulously track whether they’re met, how will you know which elements of your strategy are working? How will you know which ones need to be adjusted?

The establishment and pursuit of precise goals aren’t just good for the company as a whole – it’s also healthy for the morale of your marketing team. When you have a clear definition of success, you have something concrete to work toward, and you can take pride in achieving what you set out to achieve. Yes, goals allow companies to hold marketers accountable, but they also serve as inducements that can make employees more productive.

The Gartner survey reports that analytics received the largest share of companies’ marketing budgets in 2017-2018 (9.2 percent), despite the fact that it was in fourth place the year prior. It’s clear that companies have made improved outcomes a top priority, and marketers need to do the same. I have one simple rule when it comes to the work I do for my clients: I treat their money as if it’s my own. With that rule as a guide, it’s clear that business-minded marketing is the only way to go.

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