It’s funny how sometimes the most random conversations lead to to new ways of approaching things. Case in point, last night while sitting in a coffee shop on a ship floating somewhere in the Caribbean (yes, it’s true) I ended up chatting with a fellow I met who works in finance for a pharmaceutical company in the US. I was a funny conversation because if you work in marketing, finance is one of those departments that while we rely on heavily, cause us a lot of grief. Well, grief might be a harsh word, but let’s say we have a funny relationship.
Here’s a typical scenario. As many IT folks might not know, when it comes to deciding the direction of an organization, often it is us marketing folks behind the wheel. We are the ones who pull out the crystal ball and predict what kinds of products and services will make the company the most money. Often it is based on years of industry experience, and often it is really based on a hunch.
You see, finance often asks us to predict a year ahead how we expect the market to behave, what solutions our customers are going to be asking for, and more specifically, how much money we expect to make for the company. Throw in variables like industry advancements (new technologies), sales performance (since we don’t actually sell), and most importantly, our predictions.
Sometimes this is easy, with sales going through the roof, and often we hit a brick wall, which leaves us on the hook for the grumpy shareholders when the target we agreed to is missed. Put this in the context of the tech industry and you can see how even more complicated it gets when the learning curve for both sales and customers gets sharper.
Luckily, marketing does get a few little tricks to help them succeed. The bad news is that these tricks, in this case as they relate to the tech industry, means a little heavy lifting to get it up and rolling. The secret weapon? Analytics.
Years ago, we (marketing folks) relied on our sales reps to tell us how the customer landscape and overall market was doing. Sales would tell us our prices were too high, that we didn’t have competitive products, or that they didn’t have the marketing support to sell. Trust me, marketing and sales generally had a love/hate relationship. When reps sell loads, it’s because they are great salespeople, when they don’t, it’s because marketing didn’t provide the air cover they needed.
But the tide did turn. For the first time in our marketing history, we now finally have the tools to really understand the market. From social media to digital marketing, the amount of information available to marketers now is staggering. The problem is that it’s actually causing information overload both for organizations and for customers. The messaging is becoming lost in the sea of information and it’s getting harder to ensure that customers are receiving the right information to make sound business decisions. So how do marketing folks tackle this problem? With analytics.
Analytics, as much as it sounds like extra work, actually can provide significant benefits, not just to marketing, but to the organization in general. Thanks to new solutions including collaboration tools and social media dashboards, we now have the ability to see how our messages are communicated and acted upon by the market. Tag onto this the ability to plug in back end systems that look at how customers are interacting with departments like customer support and sales. You can now see the whole customer life cycle on a single screen and ensure that the messaging that fits that specific customer profile is being communicated in the most effective way possible.
For example, let’s say you sell a drug that treats a specific symptom. Studies online show that a certain symptom usually is a precursor to the illness that your drug treats. What if you could talk to doctors and say “Hey, there is a 89% likelihood that if your patient shows symptom A, that it could lead to illness B (which conveniently your drug treats)”. You’ve ensured that your messaging has not only provided value in that it shares information to make the doctor more effective (they can now correlate a symptom as a possible precursor to a disease), but you have the ability to understand more about the real rate of potential adoption, not just the market size currently affected by the disease your drug treats.
Sounds simple right? Let’s take it a step further now.
What if we now had all patients connected on a national health system and we could see that the symptoms show higher rates in certain demographics? We can now proactively target messaging to those folks who are deemed to be at higher risk due to the likelihood of them showing symptom A. We can target doctors who work in those demographic areas, and now your sales folks have an indirectly pre-qualified lead system. Less random cold calling and more efficiency. Less cost per sale when you think of the marketing and sales efforts required.
Let’s take it even further, lets plug in statistics from the health industry around side effects, success rates, alternative options etc. Now we have even more analytics which can provide increasingly accurate information around patients demographics. You can now pinpoint exactly who and how to target to maximize your sales and satisfaction rates. Less side affects thanks to more detailed info about potential red flags that could increase negative affects, which means higher customer satisfaction and more sales or in this case, healthier patients and more positive associations to your brand.
I could go on about how critical this movement into proactive marketing is to the future of marketing in general, but I think it speaks for itself. It’s the analytics back end that makes this all possible. The ability to pull relevant information in a more coherent and automated fashion means your marketing folks can spend more time mastering the messaging instead of trying to guess where and whom to target. It also means better forecasting and a more realistic understanding of the market instead of the current crystal ball method.
This is how cloud is powering marketing. It’s also a perfect example of why the conversation about business transformation isn’t just about the back end IT systems and increasing their efficiency. This is why cloud is so important to every part of the organization. After all, if marketing is steering the organization, the more tools and insight we have, the better the result is going to be.