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  • Kuba Tymula

10 red flags that your marketing has badly fallen behind

Updated: May 11, 2018



Digital transformation has swept across the globe like a tsunami. Whole industries have transformed at a pace never seen before. The impact is most visible from the customer's perspective, and this is the lens that most C-level executives like using when talking about digital transformation.

What is missing from this view is the impact that digital transformation has - or should have! - on the internal workings of departments responsible for shaping customer engagement, normally marketing and customer experience.

Most C-level executives do not know what they do not know, though. How can you ask questions of a CMO if they are the only people in the room with the expertise?  We think that the red flags are normally very obvious. Here are the top 10 signs that your marketing is outdated by at least 20 years.


#1: You do most of your customer messaging in a spray-and-pray manner

You are spending most of your marketing budget on TV and radio spots and outdoor and print media, and while you use web and email channels, you treat them just like the mass-media channels, serving the same messages to all of your customers. You think that providing “the right message to the right customer at the right time” is a lovely aspiration for the future, rather than something you can act on today.


#2: You don’t know how many tests you ran yesterday

You haven’t realized yet that 21st century marketing is based on high velocity optimization. Your teams continue to work for weeks or months to deliver a big campaign that they leave untouched in the market for a while before moving on to the next big campaign, rather than starting a large number of pilot deliveries and ruthlessly optimizing through test runs and analyzing results. You don’t know how many tests you ran, because testing is not part of your organization’s DNA.


#3: Most of your tests succeed

You do run tests, and you have a very high success rate, instead of 70%+ of the tests failing. You don't realize that the highest ROI commercial gains will come from a small number of tests that are hits “out-of-the-park”, and that in order to deliver those, you will have to fail a large number of times. You haven’t figured out that failing is absolutely ok, because in the world of digital marketing failing is cheap. It's how you find where the successes are hiding. The mantra of “fail early, fail fast, fail often” seems like a blasphemy to your risk-averse team that is doing what it has always been doing and is not encouraged to try new things.


#4: Your marketing team spends more time in PowerPoint and Word than in Excel

When planning campaigns, your teams spend 80% of their time discussing creative decisions (colors, font sizes, choosing the very best picture of a model or product) rather than 80% of their time analyzing data - granular trends that reveal threats and opportunities. You may present the results of campaigns to everyone, but only if they are successful, and with a delay of weeks and months. You don't see yet that you need to present how customers are responding to all your tests and campaigns, as close to real-time as possible. The person who told an executive that “without data, you’re just another person with an opinion” no longer works for your company.


 #5: “You know 50% of your marketing money is wasted, but you don’t know which half”

You do not connect your marketing activities to commercial outcomes (profitability). As a result, you can't show ROI of your marketing, let alone start analyzing its drivers or optimizing the levels of expenditure in a scientific way. Your CMO and CFO don’t really have much to talk about.


#6. You don’t use behavioral segmentation based on granular data

Your analytical capabilities don't go deeper than broad analysis of campaign trends. Your teams are happy with the customer segmentation done either by demographics (age, geographical location, gender), or by product ownership, and have not grasped the opportunity presented by the age of Big Data to collect customer data at an unprecedented level of granularity. You are not using algorithms to deliver insights into drivers of customer behavior, and this costs your company customer satisfaction and lost revenue.


#7: You don’t know LTV of your customers or you’re not acting on it to differentiate experiences

You know that some customers are better than others, but you are not quite sure how much better. You don't know exactly which customers are the valuable ones. The concepts of lifetime value of a customer (a keystone metric of customer lifecycle management) is not something that enters consideration when you discuss the cost of customer acquisition.

Or (even worse) you do know which customers are your valuable ones, but you are not using that knowledge to improve their experiences and decrease their probability of attrition.


#8: Your marketing department is project-managing a series of agencies

Your immediate response to any new ask (new website, new app, new concept) is to throw it to your creative agency, rather than creating capability in-house. As a result, you are helping your agency to build their capabilities, but you end up managing a series of disjointed marketing assets, each one without a passionate sponsor on your team pushing forward a clear and thought-through strategy.


#9: You don't do any digital media buying in-house

Your reliance on agencies is so large that they even purchase your digital media for you – at wholesale prices, which they pass right along to you. You do not trust your media agency with your granular (customer-level) data, so they have to run digital media buys in a same way as the mass media do. As a result, your ROI on digital media is not impressive, and you have not built capacity to personalize and target your advertising on your own website, social-media, and email channels.


#10: Your marketing technology projects start with seven-figure budgets

You start your marketing technology projects by talking to software providers who push months-long projects, rather than trying to figure out within weeks what the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) might look like in a string-and-tape manner. As a result, if the big investments turn out not to be delivering expected results, your team has invested too much to be able to admit failures, and you end up with a team operating a solution that they hate, with any future changes being “change requests” that the software supplier charges extortionate rates for.


If this list rings any alarm bells, try using our Digital Audit tool. It covers these and other issues in more detail, and can provide a useful benchmark of what your organization compares to best practices.


And remember - digital transformations are simple. Hard, but simple. Share your digital transformation stories below, or comment with a problem you are facing to get a response from our team. We are here to help!

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