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Marketing performance – what that will look like in 2020, and how data will play a vital role

(Image credit: Image Credit: Shutterstock/Sergey Nivens)

For several years now, marketers have been shifting their focus onto performance – largely as a way of demonstrating ROI.

However, in some ways this has been an overcorrection, wherein performance is narrowly defined and often poorly conceptualised.

Throughout 2020, there should be a return to balance. However, this doesn’t mean changing focus again for organisations, it simply means broadening that focus to understand exactly how complex and wide-ranging the causes of bottom-line performance really are. It will involve marketers seriously recalibrating their strategy to look at long-term thriving and turning an honest eye to their current situation.

Data will be a key element here, as it is the most efficient and effective way of making sense of a business’s situation and stress-testing potential strategic paths. However, there is a real danger of allowing pet-theories or personal hunches to dictate large-scale performance strategies – particularly when it’s possible to gain greater clarity and insight by simply ‘looking at the numbers.’

Beyond all of this, data will need to be at the heart of the strategy itself. And that is where the definition of ‘performance’ becomes most interesting.

What does the next 12 months have in store for enterprises?

There’s no doubt that 2020 is going to be an exceptionally difficult and challenging time for businesses to navigate flux. With constant digital disruptions and economic volatility, the tables have been turned on many legacy companies which now appear at a distinct disadvantage against their more agile, digital-native competitors. For many organisations, successful performance will constitute simply ‘surviving’ rather than thriving.

This means successful performance needs to be thought of as properly executing the next phase in a larger strategy. What that all entails for marketers is they will be the ones tasked with executing said performance need so that it’s very clearly aligned with their businesses – and willing to ask tough questions about strategy, vision and the ability to ‘think big’.

While lifting bottom-line revenue should be front and centre in marketers’ minds, if they are doing it by overlooking larger concerns then they will eventually falter.

Why a modern-day marketer’s role has vastly evolved – and how it continues to

Consider paid media. While improving efficiency and being ruthless with budgets is important for many savvy professionals, such strategic effectiveness will soon reach a bottleneck. The reason being that elements such as brand visibility and recognition all influence below-the-line effectiveness much more than many organisations would like to think.

As a result, these often-siloed facets of marketing will need to be ever-more integrated across various channels and specialism, in order to unite behind a common goal. By blindly prioritising bottom-line performance, marketers incentivise approaches – and this will ultimately undermine real progress. Just because P&G can afford to slash its ad budget, doesn’t mean it will work out for every business. 

A more strategic approach would be to make data optimisation itself a key performance goal for the year. It’s easy to assume data can be tagged on to a business’s processes, but to really make use of it – to be able to use Machine Learning (ML) and AI effectively – requires a serious investment. Doing so will allow performance to be look at on a larger canvas, and prove more worthwhile in years to come.

Having insight infrastructure properly setup – and of a high-quality – thick data which becomes available will almost immediately provide a huge boost to both productivity and efficiency. In addition, it provides the opportunity to ‘free-up’ time for leaders to take their need for a large-scale transformation process seriously. And perhaps, most importantly of all, it can help them to stay ahead of the curve and not be left behind by competitors who do invest in data.

As ML and AI become more powerful tools, there should become a point where the gap increases – between those able to harness the insight and utilise it well compared to those who don’t.

Extracting the data to improve marketing performance

Throughout 2020, leveraging live data should become something incredibly exciting for savvy professionals. From predicting outcomes to measuring customer susceptibility, delving deeper into the detail and gleaning the critical information that matters should go a long way towards organisations improving their creative decision-making via faster, more robust, testing.

Additionally, another key trend set to transform the next 12 months will be businesses changing what they measure.

Those wanting to remain relevant must now be focusing on bespoke measurement systems which are purpose-built to track specific needs and allow them to get a clearer sense of how their marketing is shaping up against specific performance goals. Such a trend could prove to be significant because it signals a shift away from competition to a focus on transformation.

In one sense, this makes 2020 an exciting time for marketing performance. Why? Because boldness, strategy and willingness to invest are all a business needs, in order to succeed and level out the playing field. However, it also makes things more fraught with the potential to be disrupted by competitors who have been able to make bolder decisions or better data investments.

Phill Midwinter, chief technology officer, Third Foundation (opens in new tab)

Phill Midwinter is the chief technology officer of AI and ML brand Third Foundation. The enterprise focuses on helping organisations achieve commercial advantage and improve their marketing performance via automation.