If You Can’t Prove It, It Didn’t Happen


“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.” — John Wanamaker

There are two problems with this quote:

  1. It was said 96 years ago.
  2. People still use it as an excuse when they don’t get results.

Wake up everyone; it’s 2018! Last year had its challenges, but the world still spins and the band plays on. More technology exists, more people are online, and more opportunities abound to track prospects at various touch points than ever.

And that’s great for marketers. We can be effective, held accountable, and correlate opportunities for clients. But we have a problem. We are lazy.

Admit it. The current marketing landscape is daunting. We’re not talking about impressions and likes anymore. We’re talking about conversions. In Gartner’s 2017–2018 CMO Spend Survey, three main themes surfaced. It’s time to:

  • show marketing’s financial management credentials.
  • show that marketing can deal with financial constraints.
  • assume accountability for business performance and show that marketing can grow the business while making hard choices.

Agencies have been selling and preaching digital marketing infrastructure for over a decade with the promise of attributable marketing. After all the building, brands now want to see the machine work.

I’m here to say the behavioral mapping we have always dreamt of is here. Digital breadcrumbs and big data gathering make it possible. Machine learning makes it actionable. The budget squeeze is coming, and it’s marketing’s time to put up or shut up.

The perfect digital marketing storm

We’re currently on the cusp of something great: truly trackable marketing. The holy grail. Events like this don’t happen overnight. This is an evolutionary process that requires several elements to be just right for an impactful revolutionary moment. I’m calling this the perfect storm of digital marketing.

Storm 1: Online critical mass

Time spent on the internet in developed countries.

Source: We Are Social

It’s easy to proclaim that everyone is online, and that’s generally true in most developed countries. The missing component to this statement is that everyone is online constantly. Between websites, social media, and apps, people are spending a huge part of their time and attention online.

Adult time spent online averaged around 5.6 hours per day in 2016.

Source: KPCB

That’s great news for marketers because we can track and target people based on behaviors and locations. We can make assumptions and prove or disprove those assumptions using research and test campaigns. Targeting and tracking has become so precise that we can reduce creative bias from assets and get down to what works and doesn’t work for the target market.

But the challenge for marketers is finding where the target market spends their time. There are thousands of places for prospects to discover, engage, and be influenced. Because everyone is online in some capacity, our next challenge is to conduct extensive research on where the primary buyer spends the most time and for what reason.

Storm 2: Marketing technology stacks

Marketing technology has exploded in the last 5 years, growing from around 150 systems in 2011 to over 5,000 in 2017.

he growth of marketing technology from 2011 to 2017.

Source: Chief Marketing Technologist

It does not surprise me that budgets for marketing technology have risen with the growth of the technology sector. Marketing technology has a lot of promise to disrupt the industry and lower overall operating costs of departments while increasing the effectiveness of campaigns. Although the potential for marketing technology is amazing, marketers need to consider two factors before diving into new systems.

1. Technology stack integration

Before any marketer adds technology, they must determine how it will integrate with their existing tools. There is no single tool that will project manage, calendar, distribute, and measure. Each system needs to work well with others.

Not every brand can afford the Salesforce and Adobe Marketing Cloud combo. Brands might be better equipped with Basecamp, Opal, Sprinklr, Eloqua, and Tableau. Or Smartsheet, Hootsuite, Marketo, Optimizely, Ion, Crimson Hexagon, and Dynamics. Whatever your tech mix, make sure your systems create insightful correlations to marketing efforts. Subscription cost waste can be a margin vampire for companies, so make sure the value is clearly defined.

2. Marketing strategy

Before even jumping into the new tech fold, make sure the technology aligns with your marketing strategy. What we see more often than not are brands adding technology to solve their strategy problem.

Tech will never provide insights if you don’t know the direction you’re headed. We find ourselves as marketers and consultants unraveling the complicated martech stack for clients and removing tools that are wasteful over adding new tech.

Storm 3: Generational workforce shift

Net natives (millennials) make up the majority of the workforce; they are also beginning to advance to purchase positions within organizations. Millennials are online more too.

The American Press Institute estimates that 51 percent of millennials are “mostly or almost always online”—which is great news for marketers. So to review, we have a generation of net natives entering purchase positions and spending a majority of their time online.

Millennials now make up a majority of the workforce.

Source: The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation

This is a huge opportunity for marketers to reach our target audience with a customized message on integrated online channels. Oh yeah—and we can now measure everything too. This is the key to it all! Marketers should be rejoicing, learning, integrating, and aligning marketing departments as profit centers for the organization.

Back to my original point, we have to want it. We cannot be lazy or complacent. We cannot rely on outdated assumptions with no clear measurement. Now is the time to:

  • truly think big picture.
  • strategize with a clear tangible objective.
  • integrate with the organization and technology.
  • create meaningful content customized for specific audiences.
  • measure all available data points for correlation and causation to ROI.
  • provide meaningful insights to campaign success.

The future in marketing is complicated but exponentially more meaningful. And I couldn’t be more excited.

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