Four things marketers should not do in 2018 - and one they should

Barb Mosher Zinck Profile picture for user barb.mosher December 17, 2017
Marketers can expect plenty of shiny new toys to play with in 2018. But that's not going to get us there. Here's four things NOT to do in 2018, and one unsexy - but important - thing marketers must get right.

Everyone is talking trends and predictions for what’s to come in 2018. What is the next greatest technology or marketing tactic that marketers should embrace?

Everyone wants to play with new tech; try new things that they hope will gain the affection of customers. Maybe we need to look at things differently though and ask ourselves - what should marketers not do in 2018?

Joe Hyland, CMO of ON24, has been in the tech industry for a few years, so he has a good idea of what’s working and what’s not. He offered up these four things that he believes marketers need to not do in 2018. The one thing they should? Well, it ties the package of should nots together in a nice little bundle.

1. Don’t embrace every new technology

When you are a marketer struggling to gain awareness and drive conversions, it’s easy to get excited about the latest great technology that someone says is going to help you win customers or improve relationships or make your customer happier. It’s so easy to get caught up in the whirlwind and buy; especially when most tech today is subscription based.

Hyland said you need to stop being enamored. He said you need to focus on what works. What are you doing today that engaging people? If you focus on demand generation - what are you doing that is converting customers? The technology that is supporting those efforts - that’s what you should need - using that more or improving your use of it.

2 ABM is not a one-size fit all strategy

Everyone wants in on the account based marketing (ABM) game. But Hyland said it’s not a one-size-fits-all strategy. Its value depends a lot on the market you serve. If you are selling to the masses - it’s not the right approach. If you are dealing with high dollar/high-value products and services, it makes more sense.

One of Hyland's first projects, when he started in the business, was to write individual letters to accounts his company wanted to sell in to - this is targeted marketing - what we call ABM. That was a long time ago - the notion of a laser-focused message to a particular account is not new, as Hyland (and others) point out.

To do ABM well, marketers need two things: clean data and a lot of content (I will qualify that to add a lot of great content). These are two things marketers struggle with today, but without these in place, your ABM strategy isn’t going to work the way you expect regardless of how many good ABM vendors are available to help (see point 1).

3. Technology is replacing tactics is replacing strategy

Ten years ago marketers were warned not to let tactics become their strategy. Today, Hyland said, we see tactics replaced with technology.

There is an explosion of martech in companies. Everyone thinks they need dozens of marketing technologies to be successful. They are spending a lot of money on technologies that run in silos. The result is often a data integration nightmare and an IT exercise to fix the problems.

Today, we need warn marketers not to let technology become their strategy.

Hyland suggests thinking of the core pieces needed and how they integrate together. For him, CRM and marketing automation are foundational technologies. Everything else extends off of these technologies, and he believes the integration and data flowing between the tech you put in place is incredibly important. So before you add a new technology ask yourself:

  • Do we really need this?
  • How will the data integrate?

Can you have disconnected technology in place? Sure, but Hyland says you are only setting yourself up for frustration - especially if your focus is demand generation.

The point here is you need a strategy in place that maps out what you are trying to achieve. Once you have that, you will know what technology you need and how it must integrate. Don’t start with the technology and figure out your strategy from there (or ignore the strategy altogether).

4. Marketing automation has made marketers lazy

Email is not dead. Not by a long shot. The mass adoption of marketing automation has seen to ensure that. It’s not a bad thing. But thanks to MA, the ease of sending tons emails out to mass amounts of people, means marketers aren’t thinking things through. Hyland said MA has made marketers focus on quantity over quality and they too easily confuse reach with scale:

With the click of a button, you can reach a lot of people. Bad marketing fatigues your database and people will start opting out, or worse, stop paying attention. It’s better to have a hundred highly engaged discussions.

How do you shift your mindset and think about scale? Hyland said to start with a delivering a more targeted message. Segment out your database to group people with like characteristics and perform small batch marketing with a specific message:

It takes diligence and reserve to build relationships.

One thing marketers must do in 2018

It’s not sexy. It’s not the coolest thing in a marketer’s toolbox. But it’s the most important thing a marketer can do. Build a clean database. Your data is your ultimate foundation. Everything you do in marketing requires data - clean data. But it’s the biggest challenge marketers face today.

So I said to do this in 2018, but even before the year turns over before you head out for some holiday cheer, take a few hours and look at how your database is set up. It’s probably going to require more than a few hours, but taking that first initial look is going to give you perspective.

Your database is what Hyland said is the most important thing you need to work on. My agreement is wholehearted. Good email marketing needs good data. Good ABM needs clean data.

How you obtained your data is important to look at. Are you collecting lists through a third-party tool and dumping them into your MA or CRM? How well are your lists working for you? What kind of engagement are you getting? What kind of conversion? Are you creating huge lists and hoping that even just one or two will convert? Is that the best strategy?

I am not a fan of throwing something at the wall and seeing what sticks. I don’t agree on emailing hundreds or thousands of people from a list you pulled off a third-party data source, or using a list you haven’t managed over the years and crossing your fingers that someone is paying attention. You need a better strategy than that. And that is really hard to figure out.

Every issue you face as a marketer almost always leads back to the quality of your data and if you are using it properly. But too often, it’s the challenge we ignore because it is so hard to deal with.

Final thoughts - time to fix the foundation

I like new technology. I like playing with new things and seeing what works. But I don’t want to do this at the expense of ensuring a solid foundation from which my marketing strategy should build from.

I know data is an incredible challenge. But if you continue to just build on what you have without spending time figuring out if it’s the right data and it’s clean data, then every great email you send, every account you target and every personalized message you write has a higher potential to fail. A waste of time for you, and the customer you might have won if your data was right.

Nobody is interested in looking at the foundation of their house. They want to see the kitchen, the living room, the master bath with the claw-foot tub and the sound system that blasts Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer through the entire house. But if that foundation gets a crack, and water seeps in, or the first floor starts sagging - you aren’t going to be happy. And the amount of money you have to spend to fix it so you can stay there isn’t going to be small.

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