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How Your Marketing Smarts Can Solve Company Problems

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by: Loren McDonald (@LorenMcDonald)
09 June 2016

Solving Marketing ProblemsOver the years, in strategy sessions with hundreds of clients and digital marketers in cities around the world, I've noticed the teams that achieve the greatest success share a key trait.

They think big – beyond the boundaries of their own departments – and recognize that marketing can play a bigger role in solving fundamental issues that limit company success. They apply their marketing know-how to help solve challenges or achieve goals in other departments with their own organizations.

Move Beyond the Marketing-Centric Mindset

This "marketing out of the box" concept seems revolutionary only because marketers use their capabilities to achieve marketing goals, like acquiring more profitable customers without sacrificing profit margins, driving more conversions or persuading customers to buy more and stay loyal longer.

Achieving these goals is like riding a bike. We just do it without thinking strategically about the process.

Too often we don't develop a wider company-centric view that encompasses all the challenges and opportunities throughout our companies that we could tackle with our digital marketing smarts.

Marketing teams are usually so stressed about meeting their own challenges that there's no time left to help out anybody else. But that's also what sets superstar teams apart – they've won their management teams' respect and support, which often brings extra budget resources.

How to Create Your Problem-Solving Framework

Once you commit to a strategy to expand your digital marketing program into problem solving, any or all of the steps below will help you set up the framework that will deliver the greatest value in your organization:

Map the customer journey: Journey mapping identifies all of the touch points where your customers encounter your brands and departments, the channels you use to send messages and detect customer intent and action and, at times, reveal opportunities for new messaging programs.

Identify the fulcrum points: Think about where digital marketing could drive necessary actions that are key to company goals. Do you need conversions at crucial points, such as moving "freemium" customers to a paid service, increasing renewals for a subscription program in one department or reducing communication costs in another?

Talk to other departments: What are the pain points in finance, sales, HR or logistics? If you're a customer of your own company, you might be able to identify your own pain points on the whole customer-experience spectrum.

Talk to people on the customer front lines: Your customer-service and support teams are likely a gold mine of data because they have to log and track customer complaints, questions and other issues.

Ask them if they can share their numbers so you can learn which issues occur most often. What small annoyances might you might be able to relieve? What are the biggest hurdles where marketing could make an impact?

Review your company's customer satisfaction surveys: Use these to identify where the company falls short of customer expectations and how digital messaging via triggered emails, texts, or mobile app push notifications could reduce friction or increase satisfaction.

Examine Management by Objective (MBO) goals in other departments: If key are shared among management, look for places where digital marketing could solve a problem or enable success such as retention or increasing the share of wallet.

Look for content to repurpose: You'll need content for your problem-solving messaging but you've probably created much of what you need already, such as videos, email and Web content (your own and other departments' efforts), catalog copy and images, company blogs and press releases, in-store materials and webinar recordings.

Seek out quick wins and situations where you can build on your success: Maybe there are some hard to find or little-known high-value features of your online service that a well-timed automated email series could address while the UI team fixes the issue in a future update. Pursue problems that don't require revamping products or retraining associates, or where you could build a process model others could use.

Set up goals and metrics: Marketers know that if you can't measure something, it might as well not have happened. Set goals and choose metrics that others will buy into, such as reducing returns or increasing renewals that reflect high-priority, companywide issues.

4 Vexing Problems Digital Marketing Can Solve

Need some examples of what's possible when you use marketing to solve problems? Here's how four companies tackled tough issues:

  • Low renewals of program memberships: A retailer uses an automated email series to persuade more members of its free-shipping program to renew their memberships. It's an urgent need because those customers buy more often and depend less on discounts, thus delivering most of the company’s sales.  
  • Increasing direct mail costs: An insurance company saves millions of dollars annually by replacing direct mail with email, SMS and mobile push notifications to communicate with customers about their accounts.
  • Excessive product returns: Two sports retailers use website content and videos linked to from triggered emails to reduce returns of hard-to-fit clothing such as ski boots and leather riding boots.   
  • Unmet expectations: A financial site uses mobile app push notifications and email to show its new mobile app users the additional functionality available via the Web application.

Why Try to Solve Another Department's Problem?

In a landmark 1991 Harvard Business Review article, "Marketing is Everything," Regis McKenna wrote, "The critical dimensions of the company — including all of the attributes that together define how the company does business — are ultimately the functions of marketing.

"That is why marketing is everyone’s job, why marketing is everything and everything is marketing."

Marketing isn't just about selling. It also incorporates service. While McKenna was talking about the traditional marketer-customer relationship, we also should consider our co-workers as potential customers.

This service-oriented thinking makes us think not just about our own success but also our company's achievements.

By following this mindset, you can tackle these and other vexing problems and become a hero to the very people in your own company who might not even realize you're there.

Solve Some Problems:

1) Neglecting customers after the sale? Read this: “15 Post-Purchase Emails That Build Loyalty and Drive Revenue

2) Saying nothing except “buy, buy, buy”? Watch this: “Beyond ‘Buy This’: Tips for Creating Engaging Emails

3) Mobile experience lacking? Read this: “The Marketer’s Guide to Mobile Engagement


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