Marketing's Biggest Challenges: 1. Cutting Through the Clutter
Breaking through the wall of noise that clients and prospects are staring at each day has become one of the top challenges for marketers, according to a recent Marketing Leadership roundtable of top marketers and industry experts hosted by Target Marketing and sponsored by Reach Marketing in June in New York.
The roundtable was an invitation-only, private breakfast at The Union League in New York, and many of the 14 marketers who attended found they faced similar issues, even though they came from a diverse field of industries and company sizes. Today, we'll look at their discussion of "Breaking Through the Clutter," but keep an eye out for more articles from the roundtable in coming weeks, including recaps of the discussions on "Attribution" and "The Marketing-IT Divide."
"I think the biggest issue everyone faces—regardless of the industry—are customers suffering from information overload and cutting through that clutter," says Pam Nochlin, Marketing Creative Manager for Citi Cards, the credit card division of banking and financial services provider Citi. "I'm fascinated as to how, when and why certain products or companies do manage to break through."
The problem the roundtable identified was not just in the proliferation of media messages (which have increased exponentially, all the way back to the '80s) but in actual marketing content. Oftentimes, that's due to the excesses of content marketing. In that flood, the marketing leaders in attendance say it's harder to be recognized and heard.
According to Greg Grdodian, CEO of integrated marketing and data solutions provider Reach Marketing, "There is so much content out there, and your audience is researching and making the decision based on feedback and analysis. If you don't invest in your brand equity, you are never really going to see that return."
"I think you hit it right on the head that there is so much more content out there that wasn't there five years ago, 10 years ago, that everybody is kind of on this information overload," says Kirsten Bjork-Jones, director of global marketing communications at Barrington, N.J.-based industrial manufacturer Edmund Optics, one of the B-to-B marketers on the panel.
"By nature, we want to be on that information overload, because we want to make sure that we're making the best decisions," explains Bjork-Jones. "This additional content is changing the sales cycle and process, making our job, as marketers, more difficult. It's also making it more critical that we have that good communication with the sales team so that they're understanding everything that we're doing and putting in the market at the same time."
This has had a major impact on marketing programs, forcing many of the marketers at the roundtable to make their messaging more personal, targeted and relevant.
"Using data and having the right system so you can send messages that are relevant to your audience is key," says Nochlin, "because it seems as if everybody is sending everything to everyone. When you think about a campaign or product, you should be using data to manage the message—so it's really targeted to that customer."
Derek Martin, director of customer relationship management at MetLife, says that at MetLife, their strategy has been to make that connection with customers using tactics that, in many ways, get back to older principles of direct marketing.
"It's permission-based marketing," that MetLife is really doing, explains Martin, "and it allows you to drill into the areas that you are interested in. … This approach has been very helpful in understanding the topics that customers want to hear about. If you want to hear about stopping smoking, great. If you don't want to hear about it, I want to know that, too. You don't sell more products and retain customers by being a nag."
Sharon Palermo, senior program marketing manager at Manchester N.H.-based data integration company Scribe Software, has been applying some of those same tactics to Scribe's own marketing.
"What was happening before [she joined Scribe], was we were just sending the emails to our customers," says Palermo. Her response was to ask, " 'Well, wait a minute: You're sending something that's really technical to your marketing person. So they'll [click] 'Unsubscribe!,' right? You just lost that person.' The team didn't understand those dynamics and the ramifications of not marketing smarter to their customer base, never mind the prospects."
It's not necessarily an easy task to get more targeted and relevant to your customers, though. Marketers need to have the IT infrastructure, marketing systems and data in place to make that leap. The most important step to becoming more relevant is making sure you have the correct data on the people you're trying to reach. That makes data quality a spotlight issue.
"Hygiene your postal and email data," Grdodian explains, "and do a contact append. I want as many contact points as possible. So we'll conduct an email, phone or postal append where we don't have those contact elements. The type of data we are appending on an individual level is job title, their authority. And on a site level, it's primarily industry and company size."
If you'd like to be included in an upcoming Target Marketing roundtable, please send your name, company, title and contact information to Thorin McGee at firstname.lastname@example.org. Spaces are limited, and admittance is sometimes constrained by the topics and market being discussed, but we'll do our best to get you in the room with other great marketing minds to talk about the topics that are most interesting to you.