Five Tips For Marketers In 2015

December 4, 2014 | Forbes

By Kimberly A. Whitler

To come up with advice for marketers as we move from 2014 to 2015, I turned to an executive recruiter, a couple of CEOs, The CMO Council, a political campaign insider, and a leadership expert. Below is their perspective on how to make the most of the new year!

Tip #1: Career Management – “Don’t let your current role manage your future career options.”

Christine DeYoung, Executive Vice President Consumer, Private Equity, Sports Practices with DHR International, suggests managing and creating your CMO role in such a way that you prepare for your next one. “Too often when we speak to candidates they are ‘ready and interested’ in another CMO or General Management role, but they really don’t yet have or haven’t recently exercised the skills to be considered as a relevant candidate. For instance, if you want to be a CMO in a primarily omni-channel or online business, you have to ensure you are on the cutting edge of thought leadership and technologies. If you aren’t and aspire to be, take action–go to digital and ecommerce conferences and workshops, meet with agencies that a CMO wouldn’t typically go to and dive deep into the subject matter. Or, if you want to be in more of a President/GM role but haven’t managed the P&L in the past 10 years, discuss managing more of the P&L with your leadership and become involved in cross functional meetings to stay current on areas that you otherwise may not be involved in. Although it may be difficult to morph your current role to be exactly what you want in your next one, if you pause, think carefully, and take action to truly develop the skills in order to be considered for your next ‘dream job’, it is surprising how much can be integrated today to prepare for tomorrow.

Tip #2: Customer Engagement – “Be Interesting!”

Suzanne Fanning, the President of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA), indicates that 2015 is an incredible time to be a marketer. The cloud gives you elasticity and new channels of distribution. You have more analytical tools to help you understand sentiment on the brand than ever before, and you even have machine learning algorithms that can help reduce your targeting to a near exact science. But with all of THAT at your fingertips, you’ll ONLY win in 2015 if you remember this one basic fact—happy, interested customers will say good things about you. Be interesting and make people happy. Yes, you will use those tools and all the shiny new tools that 2015 will bring, but at the core, your job is to start, support and simplify the sharing—wherever and however your fans choose to do it.

Tip #3: Technology – “Create a Technology Strategy”

According to the CMO Council’s recent report on technology trends for CMOs, 56% of marketing organizations do not yet have a formal marketing technology strategy. This is especially important because of the proliferation of products, platforms, and point solutions companies have been purchasing to meet technology-based needs. 2015 must be the year that CMOs develop a strategy plan to consolidate technology solutions to make better use of information to drive decision making.

Tip #4: Measuring Marketing – “Make Dashboard Metrics Meaningful”

Jim Lenskold, President of ROI & measurement consulting firm Lenskold Group, suggests that 2015 will see a move from big data and dashboard reporting to meaningful metrics that become central to marketing decision-making. This starts with aligning metrics to sales, revenue and profits. From there, analytics of rich data will forecast performance to guide strategies and re-prioritize marketing initiatives needed to reach financial goals.

Tip #5: Leadership – “Audit your Function to Assess Operational Performance”

Dr. Kristin Behfar, Associate Professor at the Darden School of Business (University of Virginia), an expert in understanding team dynamics, suggests that if you see conflict or have a disappointing result, consider this: “Every organization is perfectly designed to get the results it is producing” (a quote from the late Edward Deming). Conflicts or missed targets are a clue about where to do some fact-finding in places where your organization might be misaligned by design: where employees’ rewards, motives, or resources incentivize behaviors/decisions that are not in the best interest of the company. If you experience challenges to your goals and strategies for 2015, it may be worth doing an audit of how your function is operating—many times this leads to discovery of how small changes in your systems can create more value for everyone.

Bonus Tip: Customer Centricity – “2015 is the Year of the Customer Experience”

According to Jay Henderson, Director of Strategy, IBM ExperienceOne, 2015 won’t be about marketing at all, but instead will be about the customer experience. Ultimately, every interaction a customer has with your company impacts their perception of the brand, whether that’s customer service or sales. Marketing has the opportunity to play a leadership role in helping the entire organization deliver on the brand promise. The key is for marketing to be the tether between departments, ensuring each interaction with the customer is relevant, consistent, and engaging. By recognizing the impact these outside-marketing departments have on the brand, marketing can more easily coordinate a tailored campaign to meet the needs of the customer at every interaction.

Bonus Tip: Brand Image Management – “Political parties and candidates running in the next cycle need to proactively manage their image early and often”

Stephen Reiff, former Director of Donor and Raiser Programs for Mitt Romney’s Presidential Campaign, indicates that while midterm elections just ended, the 2016 Presidential election is already right around the corner. Potential candidates are starting to lay the groundwork for a run, organizations are conducting polls, and pundits are speculating daily on potential match-ups. As a result, both political parties need to not only develop their branding strategy for 2016, but also start implementing it sooner rather than later. Like trust, a candidate’s brand takes years to build, but can be destroyed in seconds. And the biggest mistake of all is letting your competitor define your brand.

In 2012, the Obama campaign took a gamble by shifting half of their budget for the fall into the summer months in hopes of preemptively, negatively defining Governor Romney. Obama’s big bet to attack early paid off as Romney was unable to “fix” his image once the fall hit. As we move get closer to 2016, watch for other candidates to take a piece out of the Obama playbook and attack their potential opponent very early in the process. As evidence of this trend, one Republican opposition research firm is already labelling a Hilary 2016 bid as “Obama’s third term.”

The learning for 2016 is to start building a positive brand now. The stronger the product (i.e., policy positions) and the more consistent the implementation, the harder it will be for your opponent to attack and dislodge your brand. Campaigns must heed the advice to start building their image early and be diligent in continuing to build it often – especially in the face of attacks.

Click here to read the Forbes article.