At our most recent breakfast briefing event, we explored the concept of marginal gains. We delved into how marketers can make small but significant improvements to areas of their marketing in order to drive business growth and profitability.
Our guest speakers were Ali Griffiths, Director of Strategy at Innovate Finance, the industry body for fintech in the UK, and Simon Shah, CMO at Redwood Software, the workload automation company – who engaged everyone in the room with a song and a story about a frog in a saucepan. Both shared personal experiences and practical advice on how to optimise marketing to achieve marginal gains and grow businesses.
So, what were some of the pearls of wisdom for marketers that arose from the debate? See our top 10 tips below:
1. Be transformational in the way you think. While in some cases there is pressure on marketers to come up with the ‘magic bullet’ or ‘The Big Idea’, small changes can make a big impact. In fact, it’s usually a combination of both big and small changes that generate the best results overall. The two are rarely mutually exclusive. The best approach for you depends on a range of factors including the stage and size of the business and the agility of your team, but critical to have a culture of ‘restless disruption/innovation’.
2. Know your audience. The principles of marketing remain the same whether you’re implementing incremental changes or making a big bang. You still need the building blocks to understand your audience, segment, target and position. Remember, segmentation now needs to incorporate personalisation (think about the principle of the Segment of One).
3. Align the mindsets of sales and marketing. People in sales and people in marketing tend to get excited about slightly different things. Sometimes we might think we’re playing for different teams. But it’s quite the opposite. Ultimately, it pays to understand that we’re all in sales and are here to help each other. Make sure you can show how marketing can tackle specific challenges and scenarios (e.g., increasing the amount at the top of the sales funnel) that matter to your sales colleagues to help align your mindsets.
4. Don’t be afraid to fail fast and learn faster. Marketers must have the confidence to try and fail. Just this week, McKinsey asks: ‘Have you made it safe to fail?’, pointing out that “learning and failing go hand in hand, but unless people feel safe, they won’t take chances”. Help your company foster a culture where people can test and learn, and watch what happens.
5. Improve internal processes through stronger relationships with key stakeholders. Understand your internal audience, the commercial targets it is driven by, and individual personality types. Take time to build trust and strong relationships through an ongoing and relentless drip-feeding of meaningful questions, interest and insight, to give your colleagues confidence in their marketing team. They need to recognise it’s a partnership. Harness the knowledge of the next generation in your business: invite their views or even create a ‘Shadow Board’ of less senior staff.
6. Use data smartly to show impact. Be on the front foot with insights and impact, but be selective: know which data to use. Understand what’s happening in the sales funnel, the customer, the metrics and why you are doing what you’re doing. Showing – for example – hard facts of a 500% increase in engagement and/or click throughs on social media as a result of a specific marketing campaign will immediately resonate. But remember, it’s important to get the right balance between data, content and creative to drive change.
7. Use the right technology for you, correctly. Using data smartly is only possible if you have the tech in place to meet your needs. It’s not about switching to the latest ‘best’ technology. For example, small teams don’t always need the bells and whistles of an all-singing, all dancing CRM system. Simply defining what you want your tech platforms be used for, and communicating this across the organisation, can drive efficiencies and ensure you get the information you need.
8. Finding new ways to connect with customers can create a marginal gain. If cold calling doesn’t work anymore for sales (which nearly everyone agreed at the event), what are the alternatives given that people want to buy, not be sold to? Consider chatbots for conversational marketing. They’ve been talked about for a long time, but adoption is now increasing for B2B companies as they begin to understand the different ways chatbots can serve a business. Alternatively, why not try creating a series of interactive videos and put the power in your customers’ hands.
9. New doesn’t always mean better. While the draw of gaining net-new customers is often hard to resist, your best new business could be on your doorstep. Tweaking your marketing approach to focus on resell and upsell opportunities amongst your current customer base can often deliver increased revenues, more cost effectively.
10. Be curious. Never stop asking questions, and make sure you’re interrogating your data. Are you utilising the right marketing channels? Do you really know the target customer? Don’t lose sight of what you’re trying to achieve and remember that what works today is unlikely to work tomorrow. Some of the most successful brands are actively seeking internal disruption in order to spark innovation and new ways of thinking. By doing this, they’re ensuring that they’re continuously moving forward and growing.
Throughout our discussion, it became clear that many marketers are facing the same challenges when it comes to supporting growth. Optimisation and incremental changes can certainly result in marginal gains. However, it was also clear that many brands require help in pivoting their programmes, adapting their campaigns and creating new ideas and thinking.
We believe that for brands to grow they must embed a culture of restless disruption. If history tells us anything, it’s that curiosity, and a drive to adapt and evolve, leads to success. In today’s challenging economic climate, growth rarely follows the complacent.
If you’d like to read the full LEWIS Global Marketing Engagement Index, which quantifies and measures the performance of many factors across the marketing spectrum, you can download it here.
To receive regular updates on events and new initiatives, sign up here: