Big Ideas

You Don’t Have to Boil the Ocean

Keep your head above water: take an incremental approach to modern marketing.

by Kevin Akeroyd

May 2016

I started my career at the biggest direct mail and catalog printer in the world—so I’ve seen a lot of change in marketing over the past two decades. Today, marketers can take advantage of amazingly advanced digital marketing technologies and have insights into the customer that would have once been unimaginable.


For example, when email campaigns became a new marketing method, I remember thinking, “Basically, this is the same as the direct mail business.” Email had powerful advantages over direct mail, but the strategy, tactics, and goals were roughly the same. Email marketing reflected an evolution of existing marketing practices, not a radical disruption.

Marketing technology has been heating up for a quarter century and marketing organizations have evolved in parallel, dropping or adding operational functions based on the demands of the market. As a result, even digitally savvy marketing organizations are often structured around operations—a vice president of acquisition working with a vice president of sales, both coordinating with a vice president of loyalty and a vice president of social media.

But it’s hard to deliver a seamless customer experience if customer care is divided among 17 organizations. The loyalty group might have data that shows a customer is happy—but the fulfillment team might be dealing with an active complaint from the same person. So it’s probably not the best time for the campaigns team to send a “happy customer” promotion to that customer.

Until all of these divisions figure out how to align their processes, their data, their analytics, and their key performance indicators, marketing will always be somewhat alienated from the customer.

Marketing culture must be redefined to reflect the customer’s needs as the absolute top priority. And that means totally re-engineering the traditional ways marketing gets done. This is a daunting task—especially if it requires you to upend your current marketing approach. But I believe the marketing organization can evolve—similar to the way marketing tactics have evolved—if leadership keeps one thing in mind: you don’t have to do everything at once.

Oracle has solutions for every aspect of modern marketing, built on an open framework that connects a marketer’s data, apps, and media—removing the task of integrating new technologies. This not only helps marketers take advantage of their current marketing technology, but also ensures that they are ready for tomorrow’s innovations. This flexibility is critical for those who feel that it’s too soon to buy a complete modern marketing platform. I have seen CMOs have tremendous success with a more targeted approach—focusing on small, measurable initiatives in mission-critical areas of the business.

Share your best practices with others in the organization. If you’re crushing it, they will want to know what you are doing and how to replicate the results. The culture and organization will chase your success.”

Is email marketing working for you, but you feel the pressure to adopt an omnichannel customer interaction model? You can start by adding one or two additional channels. Test out social and mobile and see how they perform. Learn from your customers, your successes, and your failures. Invest more resources where you see the best return. Share your best practices with others in the organization. If you’re crushing it, they will want to know what you are doing and how to replicate the results. The culture and organization will chase your success.

There is an ever-increasing number of digital marketing channels that marketers can use to engage customers (and potential customers) at the moment of a buying decision. There are powerful IT systems that can manage and organize customer data and use machine learning and automation to adapt to customers’ needs. But you can take an incremental approach to modernizing your marketing practice. And the best part is, you don’t have to boil the ocean.

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