It is an age-old question business leaders have asked for generations: when facing limited resources, is it better to focus on tactics that can help you in the here and now, or strategy improvements that set the foundation for a more efficient and prosperous future?
Which would you rather have applied to your marketing and IT operations? The tools that help you prepare for and see into the future, or the tactics to help you more successfully navigate the present. Let’s consider the trade-offs of both options:
Planning For The Future: The Right Strategy & Roadmap
In the midst of ever-changing industry dynamics, smart marketers and their IT counterparts are preparing their technology stacks to handle more advanced, personalized, media-driven experiences. According to Digital Clarity Group Senior Analyst Robert Rose, marketing has gone through 6 such evolutions so far, and the 7th, the Era of Experience, is just beginning.
In the Era of Experience, marketers will focus on creating seamless stories, optimized to function and automate regardless of channel, creating the most effective forms of customer engagement. By ensuring these experiences–and the content behind them–are closely tied to the objectives of revenue, the customer journey never strays too far from optimizing the shopping cart (B2C) or the lead-gen form (B2B).
There are a few steps to ensuring your future is a bright one in the Era of Experience. Here are just a few things you can do right now to think ahead and be prepared for whatever the future holds:
1. Study Current Behavior
Examine the influence of content and experience on e-commerce and conversions. How is your customer relationship evolving with each step in the buying process? Is your content creating value or just describing it? There are a few brands that demonstrate the relationship between content and commerce successfully, and many that have yet to benefit. Integrating content and commerce technologies is not an easy fix, but the benefits may be well worth the investment.
2. Tell Big Stories That Get Your Brand Noticed.
Big, ambitious stories, with complex characters emotions, and a prominent beginning, middle and end, engage, entertain and get shared. Doing this effectively requires a shift in the way you view campaigns. Where marketers of the past may have created separate campaigns for each channel, modern marketers have begun to focus on the overarching experience, as the customer travels across channels and the customer lifecycle. This allows the story to be consistent, no matter how and where they start to engage with a brand. Once you have created a campaign and a content process that works, make it repeatable and scalable, so that the story can adapt and evolve.
Update your content strategy to break down content from rich text to structured content “chunks.” By creating a content strategy and experience paradigm based not on articles or pages but on content components, marketers can achieve a whole host of benefits, including but not limited to reuse, personalization and localization. The resulting content-rich experience is flexible, adaptable, programmable and specific to each and every user profile on their terms. As a marketer, you have delivered compelling experiences efficiently by Creating Once, and Publishing Everywhere, often referred to as C.O.P.E.
4. Align Your Technology Roadmap.
Technology selection is more than finding the best products to meet corporate needs. How will your new tools fit into the existing technology stack? How will the product(s) roll out to your various departments? What technologies will help you create the best experience for your customers now and into the future, and which capabilities can you live with from existing or legacy systems with minimal investment? Today, executives may feel compelled to circumvent required due diligence and planning by going with SaaS or PaaS tools. But be wary as these tools typically require more upfront planning and analysis than on-prem, enterprise-level solutions. Integrating over the web, rather than within your own environment, creates a whole host of new variables and integration risks–security, reliability, performance–that have to be accounted for. Preparing for these issues ahead of time will allow you bring differentiating capabilities to market ahead of your competition and address these risks before making costly, time-consuming investments.
Getting The Tactics Right
Marketers know that staving off a stagnant future means competing in the present. Innovation is supposed to save or earn your company money. But innovation without organization will slow time to market, increase internal tension and ultimately, cost your organization more than it earns.
There are a few activities and tasks you can start on immediately that will put you ahead of the competition.
1. Organize to Innovate and Collaborate
Making yourself better, faster and stronger today first involves a shift in mentality. While we all know silos are a fact of life in big organizations, putting company objectives into silos is a recipe for disaster. So the first step is to align all department leaders–from marketing to IT to finance to project and program management–around common goals and objectives. This means creating governance and accountability for things like technology selection, engagement targets and sales goals. This also means assessing the skills of the team you assemble. Have you considered hiring a marketing technologist? How about a content engineer? Or a content strategist? These new roles must either be accounted for with existing headcount or augmented through your marketing and engineering agencies.
2. Modernize and Optimize
Look to key system upgrades that can be done efficiently and effectively, moving you towards your strategy goals. When done effectively, upgrades can optimize budgets, reduce risk and improve business control. Partnering with experts both internally and externally can help you identify which upgrades within your technology stack would be most beneficial, and which are more trouble than they are worth. Similarly, Prioritize additions to your Content Management System (CMS), Web Experience Management (WEM) or other core technologies that help prepare your content for social platforms, mobile operating systems, shopping engines, and syndication across channels.
3. Page Speed Equals Findability
With so much content being produced, making sure it is findable through organic search is back in vogue, and for good reason. Experience optimization solutions like page-level caching and document-oriented databases will increase load speed and reduce the impact of rendering rich, high-definition, media and content like video, graphics and more. This has proven, positive impact on search engine rankings.
4. Conduct an Analytics and Experience Audit
A focused review of your current metrics, user experience practices and technology integrations will help reveal gaps in your experience and content delivery. By figuring out where you are falling short, you can address low-hanging fruit that has immediate business impact with minimal investment.
Can’t We Do Both?
Of course, the most successful companies find ways to balance both, but require frequent planning, the right resources and senior stakeholder support to get the job done.
Which one of these sounds more like your organization? Are you focused on the present or the future?
To discover how smarter technology decisions today can lead to a better tomorrow, and our 5-step plan towards ensuring your content is driving commerce, check out our webinar by clicking the link below!