As 2018 draws to a close, we begin to set personal and professional resolutions — eat better, listen more carefully in meetings, leave work with a clear inbox. But in marketing departments, planning for a new year begins before the calendar reads December. The time for making wish lists — read: budget asks — and checking them twice is now.
The past few years have been a whirlwind of change in marketing. Spray and pray has fallen by the wayside as personalization has become a must, and artificial intelligence has made it possible to discover the language and emotions that best resonate with consumers. Look out for these major advancements to take hold in 2019, creating a better customer journey while allowing brands to stay true to themselves — all with the right data, of course.
1. End-to-End Personalized Customer Journeys
Artificial intelligence has allowed marketers to personalize individual channels to customers' preferences — an email subject line with words, phrases, and emotions so precise, it reads like a message from a trusted friend rather than a brand. The email body may give a customer a similar experience. But what happens next often makes the journey disjointed — the customer clicks to a generic web page with status-quo copy not personalized for them.
Customers have bought into this end-to-end orchestration of personalized journeys for years, but the results have been mixed at best. 2019 will be the year that these investments finally deliver a truly personalized customer journey. Customers will get a consistent experience from email subject to email body and the web, or from a Facebook ad to a landing page. People will feel brands truly get them, which will build loyalty and trust.
2. Brand Voice, Everywhere
The focus of martech vendors has often been “Let us show you results.” But brand voice is important, especially to larger companies. It was difficult to maintain a consistent voice over multiple channels and millions of messages. In the coming year, brands can have their cake and eat it too. Advancements in AI will allow marketers to have language that is consistent, engaging, and on-brand that also resonates with customers across all channels. Terms like narrative intelligence define this breakthrough in technology.
3. Data-Driven Creativity
Marketers tend to be creative types. For some, it’s why they get into the business. But as marketing budgets shrink — as they did for the first time in three years in 2017, according to Gartner research – it has become increasingly important to let data drive decisions, including creative ones.
This doesn’t mean humans need to become robots or save creativity for adult coloring books. Keep the ideas coming. AI and machine learning are ways to expand creative power and use insights to make the best decisions for customers and brands. It is not possible to expect a human, even one with an incredibly imaginative mind, to come up with unique creative each day for each person across multiple channels, all based on data provided by that person. Consider these tools an opportunity to gain peace of mind, determine where to focus all that creative energy, and to sustain growth with accountability.
How Do You Prepare?
Typically, brands spend 15% to 20% of their yearly marketing budget on martech, but it’s not about having every shiny tool in the box. And companies do not necessarily budget for AI separately, but rather solutions that will drive greater demand more efficiently and generate more revenue. As marketing budgets shrink and remain under intense scrutiny, it’s important to get the right mix of products that can work efficiently together.
The CMO and CEO need to have end-to-end visibility into what programs are working, how they are aligned, and how they support go-to-market plans, sales initiatives, brand awareness, driving engagement, and generating leads and revenue for the company. Every decision a CMO makes needs to be with driving revenue in mind, and the right technology can provide this data. A 360-degree dashboard that reflects these metrics is required. If you cannot measure the results of marketing, then you cannot manage it and it is not worth the money.
To be clear, one size does not fit all, as each brand has different goals and metrics. But direct-to-consumer businesses with access to data have a leg up. This is why emerging brands, which are using smart marketing and technology to get to know their customers through previous engagement, are beginning to trump legacy brands that spend millions on TV and sell products through retail stores.
Bottom Line: When planning for 2019, take a hard look at your current technology stack to see what’s working and which tools are not needed. Research options that will give you the best data and insights into how marketing programs are driving KPIs for the business, especially sales.
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