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Mind the (Marketing) Salad Bar

November 27, 2012 | By Jonathan Block

The way some companies approach their marketing activities is often similar to this cafeteria approach. A menu that is thought to be tried-and-true is rarely tampered with, despite the dissatisfaction of patrons.

Many office buildings have their own cafeteria. While the convenience can be a draw for company employees, often the food quality and limited choices render this convenience a less than tolerable perk. Although some cafeterias make an effort to vary their menu, others just stick to variations on a theme and never stray too far from the ordinary. In other words, “You can have whatever you’d like, as long as it’s chicken or tilapia.” And don’t get me started on the salad bar. If you’re not one of the first people to avail yourself of the salad bar, vegetables, legumes and other selections that have no business fraternizing with each other inevitably commingle.

The way some companies approach their marketing activities is often similar to this cafeteria approach. A menu that is thought to be tried-and-true is rarely tampered with, despite the dissatisfaction of patrons. Do you use the same marketing tactics and channels, in the same order, regardless of the campaign or program? When was the last time you tried a new tactic or approach? Do you even know how well so-called proven tactics have performed over time? Unfortunately, the answer to this last question is often no, and if we step back to get a broader perspective, we often see a mass of disjointed marketing tactics that resemble a disheveled salad bar.

In the last few years, an intended antidote has been to embrace social media, as if simply trying a new outlet for our tactics will magically increase campaign and program performance. The question is, if you don’t know how your traditional tactics have performed and can’t communicate those metrics, how will you know if adding social to the mix is providing a lift in performance?

The solution? Measure often and consistently. Data is still your friend, and a dose of objective analysis and benchmarking (with internal and external data) can provide the actionable insights you need regarding the performance of your campaigns, programs and tactics, and how they impact customers, prospects and offerings. This doesn’t mean just flipping on the switch for a bunch of different technologies. It’s critical to understand what data you should collect, how and when different data sets should be integrated, and how it can all be used to gain insights. And remember to implement an optimized data quality and management process, or you’ll end up with a data salad bar – neat and tidy at the outset, but quickly reduced to a compromised mess.

Jonathan Block

Jonathan Block is Vice President and Practice Director, Technology, at SiriusDecisions. He has developed key models and frameworks that enable b-to-b organizations to understand, evaluate and implement appropriate marketing and sales technologies, as well as advised executive clients on the role of technology to help drive sales and marketing integration and enterprise alignment. Follow Jonathan on Twitter @jblock.

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