Opinions Targeting Wireless

Is Science the “One Thing” Missing for Marketers?

Posted by Glenn Pingul on December 3rd, 2013 at 10:20 am

In a world where measuring change in customer behavior and the financial impact that results is secondary to volume-based metrics, like take rate, marketers are often left with a false sense of success.

In working with marketers across the globe, I’m often reminded of my favorite line from the classic movie City Slickers, staring Billy Crystal, Daniel Stern, and Bruno Kirby. For those of you who have not seen the movie (come on… really?!), it follows three city guys who go to a dude ranch in their search for a renewal of life.

In one scene, the three men are herding cattle from one location to another under the watchful eye of Curly, the herd master. Just as they finally figure out how to drive the herd, they run into a horrific storm and the characters yell out:

Ed: “We're doing great, guys! We're driving them!”
Phil: “Ah, that's perfect! We're lost but we're making good time!”

Marketers often fall into the same trap – running tons of campaigns that lead to a vicious cycle where regardless of the activity and effort, they end up like Ed, Phil and Mitch – in the same spot.

It’s the classic assumption that ‘doing more gets more.’ Too often marketers measure success according to volume-based metrics (and some incidental relationship to top line results) and therefore each year, are able to justify the next year’s budget by “adding” more campaigns and reporting.   Lord, help them if they don’t get the budget and resources they ask for; they still have to generate the same volume of marketing activity. And even if the marketer is rewarded with the budget they ask for, they find themselves struggling with how more budget will translate to more success.

Recently we were working with a mobile operator in Asia whose in-base marketing team was running more than 500 different campaigns each month. Let’s take a single customer – they were the target of four different campaigns per month. And they were contacted as often as two times per day per what the operator’s contact rules allowed. To manage the tactical side of things, the operator had a battalion of people working to get the campaigns out the door. Yes, tons of volume but very little time to determine the real value of the outreach – i.e., what was working vs. not working, what offers were driving the most desired and valuable actions, which offers were generating viral shares, etc.

This hyper activity is also often carried through to the reporting of ‘results’. Reporting certain metrics up to senior management on a weekly basis sounds like effective measurement and communication, right? Well, it depends on what you’re measuring. In one instance, the marketing team was sharing results on prepaid recharge stimulation. Although the marketers’ approach was ‘scientific’ in that control groups were utilized to measure campaign effectiveness, the results that the marketers were providing had a bigger variance week to week (meaning the results oscillated week to week like a yoyo) than between the control and treatment groups. The marketers were simply reporting noise – and generating a lot of unnecessary questions among senior management.

So how do marketers begin to rethink how they measure success? They press the pause button.

It starts by slowing down and taking a methodical and systematic approach to how you market.  It’s where ‘marketing’ means testing and learning – and not moving forward until you get results that are significant.

This type of approach not only gives marketers confidence in knowing what direction things are headed, but also gives them the cadence to breath and be more systematic about how they’re engaging with their customers.

Our work with marketers around the world shows that once they get off the volume track and start running campaigns in a more scientific manner – that is, using data and science-based analysis – they get rid of the noise and the marketing becomes much simpler. Simply put, the marketers get to a state of “doing what’s best to then achieve what is best”.

Now back to City Slickers. If you recall, Curly, the herd master, had the answer to Mitch, Ed and Phil’s search for the secret of life all along:

Curly: “Do you know what the secret of life is?”
[He holds up one finger]
Curly: "This."
Mitch: "Your finger?"
Curly: "One thing. Just one thing.  You stick to that and the rest don't mean s--t."
Mitch: "But what is the one thing?"
Curly: [smiles] "That's what you have to find out."

Just like the City Slickers searching for answers on the dude ranch, many marketers continue to spend valuable time turning their wheels and resources in hopes of landing upon the “thing” that really sticks. As you reflect on 2013 and look ahead to the next, I challenge you to ask yourselves: What’s the “one thing” that we need to improve our success?

I suspect that your answer is not more campaigns, more offers, or more resources – but more intelligence. It’s knowing your customers, knowing what’s working, and knowing when and how to act that makes the difference.

Now go get rollin’, rollin’, rollin’…

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