The search for certainty
In times of economic uncertainty, Mark Lethbridge, CEO of Gravity Global, argues that marketing professionals should bring greater clarity to support the decisions we are asking the c-suite to make
Perhaps the most powerful message from recent political events is that there is no such thing as absolute certainty. And it seems we are particularly poorly set up to deal with uncertainty as a society: financial and economic systems are struggling to remain stable without the certainty they have become used to and upon which they were founded. And while instability prevails, the inevitable result appears to be a paralysis of decision-making.
These same forces have impacted our client businesses. Regardless of claims of corporate agility, all but a few organisations need a high degree of certainty to de-risk their decision-making. And perhaps more now than ever, while the environment that companies are operating in is turned on its head, as marketing professionals we should be bringing greater clarity to support the decisions we are asking the c-suite to make.
Paradoxically, while some of the reasons given for the unforeseen political results were down to the influence of new media, it’s new channels and technologies that are enabling the marketing community to access a world of data to provide a level of evidence and certainty previously unavailable.
The take-up of digital and social channels in B2B marketplaces has been quite dramatic. Only 18 months ago, clients were telling us their stakeholder audiences would never switch from their printed subscription of Widgets Weekly. And yet today, the major concern is connecting with the new generation of millennial talent and the next generation of digital native decision-makers.
“The time has come for the marketing community to start proving its true worth”
This rapid digitisation in B2B means we can now use online data mining tools and mass quantitative research techniques to gain access to the thoughts and ideas of business communities we previously struggled to reach.
Which brings me to a hot topic: providing the c-suite with the confidence it needs to make brand investment decisions. The marketing community is constantly challenged to provide evidence that the investment required to competitively reposition a brand, address aspects of brand reputation or use the brand to guide culture change will be worthwhile. And in general, the response is a promise of ROI based on all kinds of metrics other than the very direct commercial evidence required to support every other type of board-level investment decision.
I exaggerate, but I believe the time has come for the marketing community to start proving its true worth. It’s not that we don’t have a desire to demonstrate the commercial worth of what we do, or that we lack the conviction that we make a business difference. The issue has been that until now, certainly in B2B markets, we have lacked the tools and measures that allow us to commit to the commercial forecasts the c-suite needs to provide the certainty they seek when making major investment decisions.
But it’s now possible to use research techniques that tell us with great accuracy which competitive attributes are enabling a brand to win business, and which aren’t. We can say with confidence how effective a business is at converting awareness to a conviction to buy, and we can do the same for its competitors. We can accurately segment B2B markets and determine exactly where a brand should reposition against competitors.
I believe we have reached a point where providing a reasonable certainty of future commercial returns from brand and marketing investment decisions is not just possible, but our duty as a professional business community.
I believe we can move forward into 2017 armed with that insight, a new toolkit, and a commitment to providing more certainty about the future, establishing a new level of stature and trust among the c-suite, in both the brand and marketing communities.
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