When the customer is ready, the message will appear, or maybe it “should” appear. So says a recent research study prepared by Bain and Company. They interviewed 1700 marketing executives globally in both consumer and business-to-business industries. The goal of the research was to determine what the leaders were doing that the laggards were not. The answer is simply a matter of timing.
Time for a Change
According to Wikipedia, marketing performance management includes the six A’s of success factors: alignment, accountability, analytics, automation, alliances, and assessment. Marketers that use metric-based strategies are familiar with these factors and routinely manage each one to ensure the maximum return on their investments. “Alignment of marketing activities and investments to business outcomes occurs when a marketing organization establishes a direct connection between marketing activities, investments and business outcomes. Alignment begins with customer insights, to ensure that the marketing performance management approach will be rewarded by the marketplace.”
Understanding customer wants and needs drives the selection of tactics used to appropriately reach the customer with highly relevant messaging. The research now points to another factor that separates the leaders from the others: timing.
Note: Leaders are defined as the top 20% of respondents using a composite score of revenue and market share growth; laggards are the bottom 20%. Source: Bain Marketers Survey, November 2017
As the chart above indicates, the maturity curve jumps for those marketers that react in a timely matter. In other words, to know the patterns of the customer and their disposition to purchase is not simply a reason to react in a timely manner, but to also proactively be there with the right message when the timing is right. Timing is key because if the prospect is listening there’s a better chance that the words can get through.
Time is Relevance
In a recent Harvard Business Review article by Sean Downey, Vice President of Media Platforms for Google, he says:
“Perhaps it’s no surprise that as people navigate life from the palm of their hand — or with just their voice — they’ve become more curious, more impatient and more likely to make decisions on the fly. As people search for answers, assistance becomes the new marketing battleground. And the biggest challenge marketers face in this age of assistance is knowing when to act.”
Customers today are more curious, demanding and impatient than ever before. This creates a new dynamic in the marketing mix, which is the merging of the “why” messaging with the high relevance of the “when.” The Bain and Company research cites the following example:
Keurig, for example, has learned the value of timing for its coffee pod business. Some people buy months’ worth of coffee pods at a time, while others purchase smaller amounts every week or two. Engaging with consumers at just the right moment makes a huge difference in revenues and customer convenience, by ensuring that people won’t run out of pods.
Ahead of Their Time
The Bain report also highlights the actions of leaders who get the timing right:
- Connect their systems. They integrate platforms and uncover audience insights so they can deliver more relevant messages.
- Test and learn. They conduct experiments to discover new opportunities, and they refresh critical marketing metrics and dashboards to support decisions.
- Share the insights. They make reporting and insights available to their teams so more people can take action.
Bain also showed that the decision making process has a great deal to do with moving into the top 20% and becoming a leader.
In summarizing his HBR article, Google’s Sean Downey list these four attributes that leader adopt to become and stay leaders:
- Leaders connect their systems. They take initiative to merge internal systems with media platforms.
- Leaders act fast to improve performance. Marketing laggards are more than 1.7x more likely to be held back by slow decision making.
- Leaders take control and gain visibility. Leaders are more than 1.7x more likely to indicate that the final decision maker is the CMO (see above chart).
- Leaders share insights across teams. Sharing creates a culture of fast decision making.
Today’s marketing arsenal is vast with data analytics churning out insights in massive quantities. The leaders are tapping into this wealth of data, but are also acting quickly to put it to good use when the timing is right. The lesson here for professional and creative services firms working in today’s Service Level Economy is that becoming a leader requires not only visibility into your business, but the willingness to act fast, which lets you take advantage of being in the right place at the right time.