The Challenges of Modern Marketing

Having recently attended and presented at the PM Forum annual conference in London I’ve come to realise that most of the problems facing marketers and businesses are the same, regardless of whether they work for small businesses or multinational legal and accountancy firms.

The event featured presentations by industry leaders and the theme was “You haven’t heard it all before – a day of new thinking for old problems, fostering creativity and bursting the bubble of conventional wisdom.”

The laws of marketing – JP Hanson, CEO, Rouser

Rouser is an international marketing strategic consultancy; JP works with some of the largest businesses in the world and his session covered some of the laws of marketing. His presentation was fully evidenced and backed up with major studies performed by the likes of the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute.

This included clearing up misconceptions around customer loyalty, particularly the idea that brands grow through acquiring more customers and how reach, not frequency, is critical to success in marketing communications.

The key takeaway for me was that marketing needs to be evidenced, through independent, unbiased third-party research. We mustn’t rely on what we think we know. The reason is that we don’t know what we don’t know so the onus is on us as marketers to ensure we are constantly learning and remaining objective. Marketing is not a science but that doesn’t mean personal experience or opinion trumps informed evidence.

Bursting the bubble of innovation – Christie Guimond, She Breaks The Law

Technology is not innovation; innovation is about people. Christie works with large corporations across the world to help them on their path to innovation. She made valid points that many believe innovation and technology to be the same thing but that isn’t true. Innovation is about improving services and products to benefit customers in a way that really works for them.

What I took from Christie is that marketers need to stop obsessing over technology; they should instead focus on the needs of customers and that is what will direct decisions to be innovative.

Say what? It ain’t what you don’t know, it’s what you know that ain’t so – Panel, Moderator, Lee Grunnell, Director of Marketing and Business Development, Langleys

The panel made it clear that marketers must be able to demonstrate the value of initiatives; there is no point creating widespread cultural change in an organisation if it will incur losses for two straight quarters. No one will sign that off. We must get better at communicating to others to ensure that we are making decisions that are good for the business.

It’s not all on marketers however: points were made about the partnership structure of many practices and how often it is not conducive to effective marketing. If talent leaves it often damages the brand because the individual partners often act within their own silo.

There were also comments about the push to modernise and offer flexible working and other perks to ensure talent is retained and acquired by giving staff what they really want, rather than what people think they want.

Measuring What Matters – Sam Clarke, Shooting Star

My session covered marketing measurement. I can’t judge my own work, but feedback afterwards made it very clear that it is all too common to rely on data to make decisions, using it not as information to be interpreted in a business context but as fact.

There is also an overabundance of metrics and KPIs that are simply unmanageable, creating the illusion of control. I was told that my session had helped simplify the process of focusing on what matters most, by keeping strategic focus in mind and constantly asking “Why should we measure this?” and actively discarding what doesn’t contribute to business goals.

In summary the event was an enlightening experience for me. The great thing was that everyone was there to learn and share and that’s incredibly helpful for me as an agency-side marketer. Having the opportunity to present and mingle with senior marketing professionals at some of the biggest professional services firms was a brilliant insight into the problems that some of our clients are facing as well.

It’s clear that success comes about by listening to clients, and not just talking at them –otherwise marketers simply end up as hammers looking for nails. The goal is to find the problem, build the objectives and focus on delivering results that meet those goals.

Marketing has not changed as much as we think it has; what has changed are some of the tactics that marketing uses but the fundamentals will always be solid, and it will always require sifting through noise to get there.