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In the current climate, when business costs are being slashed as a result of the impact of the global pandemic, the role of marketing has greatly come into question. Alongside this, there have been numerous and sometimes conflicting opinions about what brands should or should not be doing at this time.

There has been a lot of noise about brands needing to look at longer term brand building and I fully appreciate the value of it, but most brands don’t have the sizeable marketing budgets to consider branding right now. Businesses see marketing as a cost centre so in the case of a pandemic that is negatively impacting many sectors, marketing proves increasingly difficult to justify.

We are in an era where brands are becoming customer and data first, powered by technology. Marketing should really be a position to drive this forward and show the value that it has to a business.

As important as brand building is, the following 4 topics are areas that brands, regardless of budget size, can consider over the next few months.

1. Developing your data and tech stack

Mapping the entirety of your data and tech stack can be a quite daunting but there’s no better time to start planning, as there’s significant business value that can be achieved because the optimum stack will help you to:

· Deliver better marketing campaigns

· Provide a seamless customer experience

· Map customer journey

· Drive return on investment

· Provide marketing and business insights

To map out the data and tech stack is not an easy job, most brands will have a wide range of tech at their disposal, which is probably siloed away within different business units or agency partners.

By having a clear idea of the business objectives and the business questions that regularly get asked answering the following will provide you with a better picture of the current set-up:

· Is the technology at my disposal fully integrated and set-up to the best of its capabilities?

· What data do I currently have access to?

· What insights can I gather from the current data I have access to?

· What limitations can I see in this current set-up?

Asking these questions before committing to bring in additional tech to support will provide you with an understanding of where you are today and what additional tech you might need to meet business objectives.

2. Improving data governance

Data governance is one of the most mundane tasks in data management, which is why it’s always the last thing to do — but having a robust, clean and structured data governance that is error free across your different data platforms is gold dust. Once there is a consistency in data governance it makes any reporting and analysis stress-free because merging data sets across different tech stacks will make it a seamless task. This can positively impact every business unit or agency using the data and the insights from any of the platforms you have integrated.

3. Customer journey mapping

Customer journeys are complex and the reason this area of planning has become so important is because it provides a visual story of a customer experience with the brand, from initial engagement to hopefully building a long term relationship. It should allow the brand to step into the customer’s shoes and gain insights into common pain points.

The main benefits of developing customer journey map are:

· To ensure the customer journey has a logical order

· To understand where in the journey customers are interacting with your brand

· To identify areas of the journey that need to be fixed

· To prioritise resource on parts of the journey that will deliver maximum impact

While there may be no single solution in place to understand the customer journey it’s still worth exploring within the tech available in your stack. Most brands will have a mix of Google Analytics or Facebook Analytics plus CRM such a Salesforce and Call Tracking have the ability to provide user journey insights.

4. Aligning KPI’s

Don’t be fooled to think tracking more KPI’s will provide a better understanding on performance. It’s very easy to end up rich in data and poor in insights.

This is a good time to clean-up your measurement framework and focus on KPI’s that matter to provide tangible insight against set business objectives. Operating in a platform-led environment means that all digital KPI’s can be tracked and reported against the different platforms in your stack. It will allow marketers to be customer-first when building out a strategy — by thinking of the audience + customer journey + creative message then the channel mix how to target the audience at any point in the journey.

The impact marketing has on business success can be significant but it does require all business units to be working towards aligned objectives internally. Selecting the right stack, integrations, having good data governance, selection of right KPI’s and customer journey mapping are key to enable brand marketers to show the value of marketing on the overall business.