customer strategy

Having the Right Strategy is Hard

Executing It is Harder.

My twenty years at Grey Advertising were priceless in teaching me what have turned out to be “forever fundamentals.” They’re the tent poles of business and they’ve helped me understand the critical balancing act that creates a solid marketing foundation. 

But here’s the thing: these fundamentals need to adapt to stay relevant to the world today. So, let’s begin by looking at the new marketing strategies in today’s customer centric, digitally connected economy. My position is that a critical new key to business success today is what I call Relationshipping; it has steadily overtaken Marketing which is why it stands at the core of the strategy outlined here.

Grey was fundamentally disciplined. On a fixed fee basis, we needed to actively deliver the profit margin based on a budget of hours to serve.  Exceeding those hours would be a red ink disaster, so it was vital to create an efficient front-to- back marketing system. 

With budget and objectives set in place, the components will be the time-period budget expenditures for Relationshipping with ROI goals for customer acquisition, retention, win back and revenue goals. Vitally important is the strategy driving these spends.  I learned this discipline on the agency side of the desk, but then took it to the client side; the point is that it needs to be applied.

The foundation of getting strategy and execution right was the policy of: No work can begin on a solution until 1. The Strategy was Put in Place, and 2. Heads of Departments (back then Account, Creative and Media) signed off on it.  More than having hours expended in wrong directions, it also got all the players on the same page. Not doing that almost guarantees that hours will be wasted, the dots will not be connected, and opportunities lost.

Today marketing strategy has become Relationshipping Strategy, which calls for the team to decide:

What thoughts do we want to put into

Who’s minds, in the face of

What competition, using

What offer and call to action, across

Which integrated touchpoints, clicking to or calling 

What landing page, or phone number, supported by

What Brand Marketing, and grounded in, attributed, and measured

Using the CLV metric?

Right away, this discipline addresses the vast majority of consumers who are digitally connected – and that 67% of purchases begin with search which means we have a hybrid buying world merging retail and home purchasing. (BTW: 2021 was the year that Performance Marketing Spend surpassed Brand Marketing Spend and growth continues).  

The reality is most 20th Century thinkers who are dedicated to Brand Marketing do NOT want to see it as support for Performance Marketing and call for Brand Marketing independence.  My point is not to dismiss or denigrate Brand Marketing, which is vital to create awareness and tell the Brand story.  That is to say that the best performance will be attained by balancing the spend and aligning Brand Marketing to— and supporting—the Performance Marketing spend.  Its performance needs to be measured as combined also.

Is your organization doing this?  It’s hard if there are silos for these two areas, and it’s hard to bring all the silos together.  Unification these days is sometimes assigned to the CMO or more recently to the CRO; it can be that there is no single executive assigned to unification.  But here’s the thing:  it really falls on the C Suite to embrace this strategy and work to align the spends and execution behind an agreed upon strategy.

The other major point of Relationshipping Strategy is to make Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) the metric used for evaluation of spend success.  In the past, we compiled the marginal cost curve of acquisition, for example, and we would cut the highest Cost Per Sale spends and invest more in the lowest.  

Fact is, today we need a Marginal Customer Lifetime Value Curve and to adjust spends away from the low value customer and put those funds into the spends that bring in the highest quality customers.

All the above is not easy, for sure. As CMO, and CEO, my approach was to have at least a monthly staff meeting (and often weekly) of the team to review results and to adjust strategies as needed.  It’s more complicated today because more sign offs are needed.  In addition to the account or touchpoint manager, creative lead, and media manager, we now need the head of analytics and IT, and possibly Call Center Management to sign off on strategy.  The user experience (UX) is more diverse and complicated than it was in the 20th Century.  The consumer wants as much brand personalization as possible making it vital to bring all the touchpoints together for a good experience. 

Sometimes it was a chore to just get all the managers together at key meetings.  There was always someone on a plane or called into action elsewhere on an important matter which complicated the meeting by that absence.  I never stopped working hard to keep having and making these meetings work.  Today our ability to virtually connect helps.  

Bottom line: it is important not to let tricky staff schedules and imperfect attendance cause these important strategy/execution meetings to not happen.

In next articles the focus will be on real-life cases. Find out how connecting the dots with the right strategy and execution actually works.

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