Ideas about how marketers should optimize their time are scarce as well. Some departments use KPI frameworks to ‘cover all of the bases’ while others simply do what the business asks them to do.

To find out what marketers themselves think about what makes digital marketing successful, Econsultancy recently hosted a roundtable workshop with IBM Watson Marketing in Mumbai, India.

Senior client-side marketers from a wide variety of industries were invited and asked to come up with ideas about what a digital marketing department should do to increase customer engagement and boost brand loyalty.

Below are the five key topics discussed along with details about why these are the ‘ingredients’ for digital marketing success.

1. Integration

Participants on the day were emphatic that integration was essential for one main reason, consistent messaging.

They felt that without integrating channels, brands risk posting one message on, say, the website, and not following through with it on another, like social media.

Integration also helps with customer experience in a couple of ways.  First, off, integrating channels ensures that the customer has a single view of the company and it helps the company get a single view of a customer

Attendees noted that a single view is useful for messaging, but even better for providing appropriate customer service.  A customer who has made it clear that she is irate via email will become even more so with a cheerful hello from an uninformed operator in the call centre.

To make this level of integration a reality, marketers must first know what channels their customers use and how they use them.

Then, they need to make sure the data from the channels is available throughout the organisation so that the company can manage the customer relationship in a coordinated fashion.

One marketer pointed out that sharing data may cause problems for firms in heavily-regulated industries such as pharma and finance. Everyone, however, agreed that all organisations will benefit from some level of channel integration.

2. Segmentation

Another digital marketing function which attendees felt was key to success was audience segmentation.

Customers and prospects can be segmented in many ways.  Some participants said that they stick with simple attributes such as geography or interests. Others felt that behaviour was more important and delivered a better return on investment (ROI) than demographic targeting.

Several marketers, however, said that the best way to segment customers was by where they were in the buying cycle.

In their opinion, marketers should engage prospects differently if they were just finding out about the company (awareness), showing interest, trying out the product or service, or near to purchase.

Then, once the consumer becomes a customer, any communications with them should focus on encouraging loyalty, advocacy, and re-engagement with the brand.

When asked how they segment their customers in practice, participants said that they typically started with a customer relationship management (CRM) system linked to their email engine and, later, personalised the website.

Then, for continuous engagement, they created custom audiences on social media with customers’ email addresses. These audiences then were targeted with posts crafted for each segment to optimize engagement.

3. Content

Apart from integrating channels and segmenting audiences, attendees felt that marketers need to create content which drives engagement. Brands were advised to avoid publishing general purpose content which just drives traffic to the site.

Instead, all content should answer the question, ‘why would someone want to do business with you?’

One participant said that for ecommerce, the answer to this question is simple – the site offers better prices or a superior shopping experience.  For most brands, it is not quite so easy; they must find a unique value proposition and communicate it consistently.

This value proposition could be simply that the company has superior technology or is more efficient than competitors, but regardless of what it is, companies should agree on it and use it repeatedly.

Some delegates noted that behavioural segmentation can help with delivering content as well.  They suggested that brands can categorise customers according to what content they have clicked on before and ensure that the future content they see addresses their interests.

Doing so helps improves engagement and accelerates the buying cycle, according to one participant.

4. Automation

The fourth key ‘ingredient’ to digital marketing success, according to attendees, is marketing automation.

Most organisations, participants argued, work in silos so there is little inter-departmental communication about customers.

Marketing automation breaks down company silos and ensures that every department is using the same customer information and delivering a consistent message.

Doing so ensures that messaging and content are coordinated and that segments do not receive different messages from different parts of the organisation.

With automation, then, even the most disjointed organisation can create a single ‘virtual channel’ of communication with the customer and deliver the single value proposition mentioned previously.

5. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

The final characteristic of a successful digital marketing department is agreed-upon key performance indicators (KPIs).

KPIs let everyone in the department know what is important and to what extent they are accomplishing goals of both the marketing department and the business.

For the marketing department, KPIs should indicate whether the customer is engaging with and responding to the content. Engagement figures should also be linked to business results, noted one attendee. Likes and shares are nice-to-have, but performance metrics such as clicks and conversions are preferred.

According to one participant, KPIs should also be tracked against a particular channel or a piece of content.

Known as ‘attribution’, knowing whether, say, a web page or a particular ad is driving more conversions is critical to making improvements. Without understanding what activity is delivering more clicks, page views, and conversions, marketers will struggle to make improvements.

For the business, KPIs should help management understand how marketing is helping them realize their financial goals.

Participants felt that customer lifetime value (CLV) and marketing-assisted sales were two of the most important figures which marketers could deliver to the business.

Demonstrating ROI from marketing efforts was also the best way for marketers to enjoy continued investment in the technology, such as marketing automation, as well.

A word of thanks

Econsultancy would like to thank all of the marketers who participated on the day, subject matter expert Antonia Edmunds, business leader of IBM Watson Marketing in Asia Pacific, and our keynote speaker Sriman Kota, cognitive engagement executive in Asia Pacific for IBM Commerce.

We hope to see you all at future Mumbai Econsultancy events!