Editor's Note: The following is a guest post from Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, CEO of agency Hawthorne.
As marketing budgets have soared, so has the need for accountability. For direct response marketers, this comes as no surprise.
The 2016-2017 "CMO Spend Survey" from Gartner found that marketing budgets increased to 12% of company revenue in 2016 and CMO marketing technology spend is on track to exceed CIO tech spend in 2017. Along with all this money flowing in comes the need for marketers to demonstrate results — to prove that those marketing dollars are dollars well-spent. This has made accountability a buzzword and guiding principle for forward-thinking marketing teams, but it's a principle that has guided direct response (DR) marketers for years.
DR is an accountable, measureable and actionable way for brands to engage and collaborate with their customers. Digital marketers may have made accountability cool, but DR pioneered the concept when most brands were pouring all of their dollars into image-based advertising.
It's a mixed-media world
The proliferation of mobile devices has made marketing more complicated and results more difficult to track. Between traditional media like linear TV and newer formats like social media and mobile apps, brands have to market across channels and embrace mixed media campaigns to stay relevant. However, campaigns across multiple channels are more difficult to measure than campaigns across just one. Organizations that value accountability need tools that can measure and track across platforms.
One of the tools driving the shift towards accountability is marketing automation, which is used to market across multiple online channels, automate repetitive tasks and measure and track results. It gives organizations the tools they need to measure mixed-media modeling, which involves analyzing sales data to determine the effectiveness of the marketing mix. Today, half of companies use a marketing automation solution, which is more than 11x the rate of use in 2011.
We've observed this surge in our own work at Hawthorne. Marketers are using technology applications and platforms to figure out how much "weight" to put on which advertising channels, which platforms are performing the best (and worst) and how to effectively allocate budgets among those various options. These insights can then help determine the optimal media mix, which can be a major challenge in today's highly-fragmented digital media world, where consumers hop back and forth between devices and view ad content on each.
One solution is pixel technology, which can be used to figure out and track consumer engagement levels. This technique means adding pixels (or small lines of code) to client websites to track the consumer from beginning-to-end on a website in order to timestamp when they first saw the advertisement and then went directly to the website (or Googled it). Then it tracks their path through the website on each individual page and even creates a heatmap of what they are looking at on each page. This tracks consumer engagement and whether or not they made a purchase.
Accountability and automation
The combination of DR and marketing automation enables advertisers to seriously up their accountability. They can use an array of online and offline media choices to quickly capture engagement and directly pitch clients at the top of the sales funnel who are happy because they know their target audience is on the radar.
For example, Hawthorne recently created a campaign that targeted 18- to 25-year-olds, who represent around 10% of people in U.S. households with TVs. Hawthorne created a customized marketing plan that incorporated programmatic and addressable TV and targeted that specific demographic, similar to how online media can target specific niches. We then used mixed-media modeling to demonstrate the campaign's impact across multiple platforms and to maximize the advertiser's message across channels.
It was a highly targeted and highly accountable campaign that resonated with the audience and the client alike.
The learning curve
Automating and fine-tuning a campaign is a big challenge that involves a learning curve with new technology and requires research upfront, particularly in terms of identifying and leveraging cross-device segmentation.
Marketers have to figure out the paths that different demographics are going to take, as well as understand how quickly they will move through the sales funnel and make a purchase or sign up for a service. In addition, marketers have to identify which advertising mechanisms work the most effectively in each case. Or, to put it more succinctly, marketers have to understand how people respond from one end of the sales funnel to the other, including how they engage across devices. It all boils down to understanding the lifetime value of each customer and connecting that information back into advertising, station selection, creative and any other element that has an impact on sales.
The more consumers use multiple devices to consume content, the more marketers will embrace mixed-media modeling (and related tools) to automate certain parts of the advertising process. And, as consumers embrace more ways to connect with their favorite brands, agencies and marketers will have to evolve along with them, or fall behind. Greater accountability in marketing is better for everyone.