• 06.13.16

A Look at Instagram’s New Design



Whenever a change is made to a beloved social networking app, it’s met with both love and vitriol. The original Instagram app icon was recognizable and had barely changed over the years, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t change. Fast Company’s article shows the evolution and explains why Instagram needed to modernize all of its applications in a single style.

Check out the article from Fast Company


How to make consumers stay on your site longer

Website scannability


It’s 8:30 PM on a Wednesday night. I’m stretched out across the couch in my PJs, computer in hand. I’m looking for a certain product on the web. I find your site and click on it. I quickly scan your logo at the top of the page – three seconds – followed by a quick glance at the first header.

Five seconds.

I then scroll down and attempt to read the thick block of text explaining your services, hoping to end my search for the night.

Ten and out. I hit the x and continue my search, moving on to your competitor’s site.

Web users spend around 10-20 seconds on a site before they bounce. That means the design of your site’s home page not only has to be user-friendly but also must have scannable copy that easily engages consumers so they’ll stay longer and hopefully want to buy your product or service.

So how do you know if your company’s site it formatted for scannability? Ask yourself these three questions.

  • Does my website use simple, short paragraphs?

Less is more. You’ve heard it a million times. But are you using it for your website? Long and winding paragraphs will turn off your reader faster than Chipotle can give away free food. Even if there is a lot to say about your product or service, save it.

You want to offer just enough information so that your readers get hooked and want to click on other pages of your site. A tease, if you will. Paragraphs should be no longer than three or four lines. Easy to read. Easy to stay longer. Easy for consumers to understand what it is you offer.

  • Does my website use bullet points?

Bullet points have been around forever it seems. Why? Because they’re effective. Bullet points are one of the best ways to offer easy-to-read content in bite sized pieces – perfect for when readers are scrolling on their phone. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of these timeless classics on your home page.

If your product or service has multiple features and benefits, don’t cram them into a few sentences. Break them up into short but sweet bullets. Your readers will quickly scan the points, saving their eyes from fatigue, and will hopefully explore your site further.

  • Does my website use technical jargon or five-dollar words?

Did you know using bigger words makes you sound less intelligent? It’s true. Daniel M. Oppenheimer, professor of psychology at the UCLA Anderson School Management, ran a series of studies to determine how using language can make one seem smart or not.

He found that when people read shorter words they associated the author with “positive qualities, including likability and intelligence.” And when people read longer words they associated the author as “less capable and confident.”

So sharpen your pencil and start excising those complicated words from your website’s copy if you haven’t done so already. Your readers will thank you – and they’ll feel more confident in your product or service.

Websites formatted for scannability is nothing new. But if you’re not using it, you’re losing consumers daily. Format your company’s home page copy using these tips, and you’ll be sure to keep consumers on your site and increase your conversion rates.

Check out a scannable website IQ Agency created for one of our clients. Click here.


One Simple Trick to Dramatically Increase Email Performance

One Trick to Increase Your Email Performance - IQ Agency


Segmenting your email marketing list is an easy to implement best practice that will raise your open and click through rates. And of course, more opens and click throughs will create a higher percentage of converting users.  When you target content to relevant users, the email is more pertinent and of a higher value to the user. Not segmenting your list leads to lower open and click through rates and higher unsubscribe rates.

Why should we segment?  Simply put, because people are different.  People who purchase your product are not all the same.  The people who make up your email marketing list are in different stages of their customer decision journey. For example, the email sent during the exploratory or active evaluation phases should be drastically different from the email sent after a customer has purchased. Defining these stages in the CDJ and aligning email to bring value to the consumer or potential consumer’s life will increase future open rates and lower unsubscribes.  Additionally, people do not all have the same interests, live in the same area, and their emails might have been acquired from different sources.

Segmentation increases open and click through rates, gives your email relevance to the consumer, lowers unsubscribes, increases leads, and increases customer retention. Your deliverability with your ESP (email service provider) will also increase.

MailChimp’s report on the effects of list segmentation sampled “about 2,000 MailChimp users who sent about 11,000 segmented campaigns to almost 9 million recipients.” Then they compared the segment’s performance against the same customers who were sent non-segmented campaigns.

MailChimp data: February 1, 2016

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Customers are Breaking Your Business. Don’t Stop at Digital.

The Next Evolution is Customer Centricity

A few months ago I wrote about where companies are investing their marketing dollars in 2016. I’ve found it helpful to watch these trends in budgeting to get a sense of where companies priorities are, but I think the budgeting process might now be broken. In fact, consumers are demanding change in all parts of your business.

A decade ago there were clear lines between marketing, sales, IT, HR, customer service, etc. Each had separate goals that contributed to the success of the company. But many things happened over the past several years that have led to companies beginning to put the customer at the core of the business (as opposed to just giving lip-service to them). In many industries now, business decisions aren’t even considered without customer input in the form of behavioral data. Customer Experience is the new buzzword – a concept that has always existed, but one that has taken on new meaning today due to the fact that it has evolved from transaction optimization to 360-degree customer/brand relationship management. This new focus on the customer makes most business processes (not just budgeting) either difficult or altogether obsolete because each department plays a role in providing a quality customer experience. Their goals are now intertwined, even if their tactics differ.

Consider this scenario:

It’s July and some of your competitors have implemented a new technology solution that was introduced in Q4 of the previous year. Analysts are showing a decline in conversion because consumers are going to your competitors for this new technology that makes for a more convenient experience. The CEO says that IT must implement the new technology by Q4, but there is no line item in the budget for the project. Where does the money come from?

Today, IT has three options: 1) make the case for the project to be capitalized, 2) cut a different project, or 3) go to an adjacent department and ask for some of their budget. While the first option is the most common, it’s often not easy and as this occurs more frequently it will continue to make department budgets even more obsolete. The second option means eliminating projects that were meant to help reach pre-defined goals; cutting them could mean cutting into end-of-year reports that likely serve employees’ individual measure of success. And option 3 means relying on unreliable politics.

Ownership for the customer relationship is no longer siloed in customer service, sales, or marketing. It now spans all parts of the business, making everyone a key player in customer satisfaction. How then do we create goals for each department when there are so many dependencies in other departments? And how do we budget when so much collaboration is needed for success? And how to we plan annually, trying to anticipate constantly changing consumer expectations?

One solution that is being implemented by many large companies is to create a Voice of the Customer (VoC) position. This person is tasked with managing customer experience across all internal departments and external channels. If this role existed in the scenario above, the primary goal of maintaining or increasing customer satisfaction/retention would fall on the VoC and IT could rely on that budget line to fund the project. But the vast majority of companies in 2016 do not have that role and are struggling to evolve processes to meet these challenges.

A few years ago, major companies were clawing their way through digital transformation – figuring out how to digitize offerings, services, and processes to stay relevant. Today, most have accomplished that, but they’ve realized that it wasn’t technology driving the demand, it was the consumer. It isn’t enough to just invest in your website or to think “mobile-first.” Businesses that want to compete have to think consumer-first. And that means everything internally is on the table for change – from how you’re staffed, to how you incentivize employees, to how you go to market. The good news is, nearly everyone is struggling with this right now, so you have time. But I’m willing to bet that we’ll watch industries put off the next evolution again just as they did with digital as long as possible, until they find themselves surrounded by old and new competitors outperforming them.

Don’t wait. This one is going to take a while.


Great Ads (Can) Still Exist

Great Ads Can Still Exist

We see a lot of ads. And if you watch any 1-hour-cable TV-non-bingeable shows, you see a lot of ads. Some shows are even sped up to add more commercial time.

In the midst of a (seemingly) 15-minute commercial break, how many times have you thought, “Gee, that was a great ad!” I could answer that but dividing by zero is mathematically impossible. Okay, maybe just a few times throughout any given year or Seinfeld marathon. Good ads can exist.

Of course, great ads are created with a great strategy. But these ads are never a literal re-stating of “support points” or marketer’s jargon. Often times, the ones that stick with you don’t mention a price or even a sale of any sort. Most ads might even say too much without being remotely interesting. As Bob Hoffman wisely states, “What we say and what we communicate are two very different things”.

One of the best ads this year actually says nothing at all. No dialogue, no features or benefits. Just stellar visuals matched with great music selection. 

You’ve likely seen this ad from Honda, as it hit airwaves in January. You may have also also looked up the catchy tune that plays throughout (Empire of the Sun’s “Walking On A Dream”).

It introduces a new model, but it doesn’t need to tell you to “buy”. It manages to keep the brand position (technology-focused/innovation) while pleasing the emotions of the viewer. 

By choosing the right music, Honda also effectively gave a broader audience a reason to check it out. It’s a great, catchy song — that was released way back in 2008. With over 2 million views on Honda’s YouTube channel and television spots running, the ad even boosted the song back to Billboard’s Hot 100 charts, getting the praise it finally deserves. 

Good job to everyone involved. Now back to your regular scheduled Netflix binge.

  • 03.30.16

IQ Spotlight: Arielle Cason, UX

Arielle Cason, UX at IQAgency.com

At IQ, we take a different approach to strategy – one that combines multiple disciplines so that we approach challenges from all angles. Having User Experience (UX) on the team means that we have a true consumer advocate to balance traditional strategists’ focus on achieving business goals. Arielle is a key member of the strategy team – extremely smart, always encouraging, and hyper-focused on building the best experiences possible.

So, get to know Arielle. The interview below gives you a glimpse into who she is, but you’ll be even more impressed after working with her.


For the official record, what is your name and your title at IQ?
Arielle Cason – UX Researcher and Architect 

Why did you get into UX?
My grandmother had a car wreck which resulted in a long-term brain injury.  Some technology became very difficult for her to understand. She started asking me questions that made me see things through a different lens, and I realized that so much technology really doesn’t make sense, not just for her but for so many people. Her experience drives me to make technology simpler and more accessible. 

Tell me about a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant so far in your career?
At a previous job working for a wireless telecom I conducted a usability study and discovered a large gap that prohibited users for making adjustments to their account online. Due to this discovery I was able to present findings to the VP-level and affect changes beneficial for end users. 

If you could work on any type of project what would you do and why?
Help young women learn technology in countries where girls are not valued equally to help them create a future for themselves. 

What are your thoughts on UX sitting in strategy?
I think it’s great! To me, UX is less about the specific elements on a page and more about the user’s path from learning that something exists through utilizing it in their own lives. That’s strategic.

Where will UX be in 2020?
“UX designer” is a catch-all title. It could include the job duties of business analysts, product designers, information architects, interface designers, researchers, statistical analysts, data visualization designers, and so many more. But as companies become underserved and disillusioned with hiring the wrong kind of UX designer for their business need, both UX professionals and companies will be more specific in describing UX roles with more appropriate titles.

What is your favorite aspect of working at IQ?
The accepting atmosphere and the unique people.

What is something you’ve learned in the last week?
A content management system’s internal-facing interface can deeply effect the consumer-facing UX. If a site’s backend is difficult to navigate, content might not be entered in the best place for the user to find it or content might not be entered in the most efficient format. A confusing backend will also deter companies from updating the site, so stale content sticks around. Consumers see stale content and think the company isn’t reputable. A CMS has a huge impact on the end user, even if it seems to only affect employees internally.

What are you most passionate about in your life, and why?
Advocacy is my word – Advocating for the user, advocating for accessibility, advocating for rescue dogs, advocating for the disenfranchised segments of our population.

What are a few sites you visit at least once a week?
Littlebigdetails and Medium 

What is one thing you never leave the house without?
I’m not going to say phone, everyone says that… Protein, because I don’t want to get hungry.

If Georgia Tech and UGA had to fight how would they fight?
UGA would bring football players and Tech would bring robots.  (Side note from the interviewer: Arielle is currently finishing her Masters degree in human computer interaction from Georgia Tech while the interviewer attended The University of Georgia, the state’s oldest and flagship institution. Go Dawgs!)


Tea or Coffee?
Sweet tea

Math or English?

Board games or video games?

Checkers or Chess?
I’ve never learned chess and I’m sure I would like it better. But, checkers until then. 

Cats or Dogs?
Kittens AND puppies


Say the Magic Words: The Value of Content Strategy

If you think about your own buying behavior for a moment you will quickly recognize that advertising has less influence on you than it used to. For most people, advertising still creates awareness and gives you general impressions about brands, but you don’t probably rely on it for the information you need to make buying decisions. Instead, you know that within seconds, you can identify the major brands within a category, visit their websites, read reviews and ratings, see social posts, watch informative videos and generally be immersed in knowledge on virtually any subject. Consumers, like you, have an expectation that with search and the internet at their fingertips they can make the best, smartest, most fully informed decisions every time.  The reality, however, is different. There is almost too much information; it’s disorganized. A lot of it is misleading or deceptive, and most of us don’t want to put that much effort into the whole process. This is an opportunity for brands.

Decades ago when Bill Gates said “Content is king,” he may have been underestimating things. Today content is the fuel that powers the modern marketing engine. However, while consumers theoretically want all the data and information, they actually want it neatly packaged up and wrapped with an engaging little bow. In other words, consumers want someone else to do all the work for them. They want someone to bring them the information they need to know, to make sure it is useful and accurate, to tell them what’s important to consider and what’s not, and to make the whole process and experience, fast, easy and engaging at the same time. Regardless of what business you are in, you can be sure that your buyers prefer you to do their work for them. And if consumers come to believe that you will reliably deliver credible, valuable content in the form they want, when they want it, you will get on their short list for your category. Not too many brands make that short list, which is not unlike the positioning ladder that Reis & Trout popularized in a previous age.

Content can be an article on a blog, an interactive tool on your website, an eBook, a whitepaper, a video, a podcast, or a touch screen at an airport. Content is everywhere in a thousand different forms, and it seems like every company that’s ever read an article on content marketing is producing it. Most of it, however, is not very good, which is why quality is the first order of the day. As a Pardot survey revealed, 71% of respondents reported being disappointed with a brand’s content, and 64% indicated that they would not be very likely to ever engage with a brand again that had made a poor first impression.

The objective of content is to get the formula right. What makes content good is not just good creative, but saying exactly the right thing, to a particular consumer, for that moment in time, in a way that’s appropriate for that context. That might seem like threading a very small needle, but it’s what you, or any other tough, demanding consumer, expects. It’s a standard set by the very sophisticated brand experiences that consumers have become accustomed to.

Informed by your Messaging Framework and Consumer Journey Maps, you can plan the most effective content approaches for each persona, at each of the key engagement points you have identified. This becomes your Content Strategy, and it will direct everything your teams do from this point on.


This article is part of a larger series, Decoding Modern Marketing, that aims to help executives understand the value of marketing in 2016 and create a plan for achieving measurable results.


Walking in their Shoes: The Consumer Decision Journey

We are all familiar with the sales funnel. At the top, it shows how a brand captures a wide swath of prospects, which through attrition during the marketing and sales process, is winnowed down to a much smaller number of buyers at the bottom. This is still essentially what happens. We set a wide net and yet only end up with a small fraction of prospects as buyers. The funnel is useful as a measure of the quantity of leads at each narrowing point in a sales process. But it doesn’t show us how to influence the movement of consumers through the stages of the funnel.

A great concept for this is the Consumer Decision Journey. First devised by McKinsey & Co. in 2009. This is a representation of the consumer’s journey from initial awareness all the way through purchase and then on to loyalty and advocacy. It is a valuable conceptual model that helps you to focus on creating better experiences at each interaction point. It teaches you how to influence behaviors that lead to conversion, repeat purchase, loyalty and advocacy. Unlike the funnel, it is a loop where the initial purchase is just a stop along the road, because it recognizes the importance of the loyalty part of the journey. A reflection of how powerful the post-sale influence of every consumer has become.

The idea of journey mapping is to chart the journeys that different personas take from initial awareness to first purchase and then through the experience of being a customer. This tells you what their key steps and interactions are likely to be. It also reveals the primary influences that shape attitudes and preferences along the way. If your mission is to truly serve the consumer and to anticipate their needs and wants, journey mapping becomes a central tool. According to the Association of National Advertisers, journey mapping translates to better business performance, with top performing companies having a better grasp of their customer journey than low performers. Not surprisingly, Amazon is really good at this. First they recognize that their website is their most important touchpoint. Then their customer experience mapping focuses on how personalization can humanize, as well as simplify and smooth, the consumer experience.

As we’ve discussed, each persona is different, and as such, has a unique journey which requires its own mapping. The mapping exercise can take two forms. The first is a workshop with key company stakeholders; the second is an exploration directly with target consumer segments. Obviously it’s best to do both kinds of exploration; however, when pressed for time and budget, the internal stakeholder route should be the minimum.

The stakeholder workshop is designed to tease out the knowledge of the customer that exists within your organization. It should be made up of key leaders as well as people who deal with customers on a day-to-day basis, such as sales and customer service. Participants share their knowledge of what happens on consumer journeys. It makes for great discussions and valuable insights. It also makes these key internal stakeholders more likely to actively use your journey maps to guide your on-going customer experience efforts. This helps the important shift to a consumer-orientation that your company has to make; as Bruce Tempkin of Forrester says “these maps can shift a company’s perspective from inside-out to outside-in.”

In every case you want to understand what’s happening at each of the key stages in the consumer decision journey.

These can be generally described as:

Consumer Journey:

  1. Trigger – What causes a consumer to begin thinking about a purchase?
  2. ConsiderationIs this purchase necessary and feasible? What will it mean to them?
  3. EvaluationWhich product is better and why?
  4. PurchaseHow and where is the purchase completed? Is it easy?
  5. LoyaltyWhat is the experience of the product. Will customers become advocates?

Different verticals may have different stages. But whatever they are, at each of these stages in the journey, we want to figure out the consumer’s goals and emotions; the triggers, pain-points and service gaps. We want to know the channels they use and their context; what content is needed, what kind of experience they want, what tools might be useful, what the brand’s role is, and how we will measure performance. We also need to identify those interactions which are true Moments of Truth that define or change a consumer’s perception of the brand.

These inputs start to build a comprehensive picture of how each persona type navigates their journey. At my office, for example, we map these journeys on a giant corkboard so that we can see the journey as a whole. It helps us to keep the big picture in mind as we search for those magic insights that can become the basis for competitive differentiation. These insights might tell us where consumers need more help or information, what needs or attributes are being missed, or what might make their journey easier and more enjoyable.

With these maps in hand you are a step closer to understanding where to focus your marketing efforts; what channels and even media vehicles to use; what ideas, words and phrases the consumer responds to at each stage of the journey; and most importantly, which steps along the journey are the most effective for creating brand preference.


This article is part of a larger series, Decoding Modern Marketing, that aims to help executives understand the value of marketing in 2016 and create a plan for achieving measurable results.


Sharpening Your Focus: Consumer Segmentation and Persona Development

Like most companies, you probably have a solid idea of the composition of your consumer audience, but for the purposes of marketing, we need to have a very clear picture of the relative importance of one vs. another, which to prioritize and why, plus the behavior profile of each.

For those of you new to segmentation, it is exactly what it sounds like: segmenting the consumer market for your products and services into groups. These groups might be divided by age, or usage or some other characteristic. The important thing is that the reason for the segment should be important to the brand and a defining characteristic. Segmentation is critical because most companies have more than one target audience and each behaves very differently from one another.

Segmentation also lays the groundwork for the kind of data profiling that will only become more prevalent as these data technologies get more accessible to companies of all sizes. This allows companies to use behavioral data to inform profiles of different target segments. If people in a segment tend to workout regularly, you might infer that everyone with that same behavior profile is into fitness. Famously, Target inferred that a teenage girl was pregnant based on her buying behavior. When her father complained that the company was encouraging his high school daughter to get pregnant with coupons for baby clothes, a manager apologized profusely. A few days later when the manager called to again say sorry, it was the father’s turn to apologize. He explained he had spoken with his daughter, and she had admitted that she was, after all, pregnant.

Segmentation can be by geography, demographics, behavior, lifestyle, frequency of use and much more. The process of conducting a segmentation study should actually show where clusters of similarity exist and in doing so may reveal hidden opportunities. This work should be data-based vs. informed guessing. Industry focused studies are available for purchase, but often they are too broad for the specific needs of one product or services category. Coming out of a segmentation study, a company should be able to identify which discrete segments it makes sense to pursue. Clearly many considerations factor into these decisions such as the size of the market, growth potential, value, maturity, competition etc. Much of the other research you have gathered, and your business goals, will help, but a judgment is called for before we go on to the next step of creating personas. The idea is to get down to a manageable number of segments, often three to five. Too many will spread your efforts too thinly, and create operational problems down the road.

Segmentation is great and valuable, but a sheet of numbers is not enough for a customer-oriented organization. It’s too easy to forget that your prospects and customers are flesh and blood people and not numbers to be counted. So to bring the reality of your target audience to life and keep it alive, not only for our marketing teams, but also for every person in the company, you create personas.

Personas are simply profiles of the typical person in a segment. The idea is to help you and your teams internalize the emotional reality of the target consumer you are marketing to, and relate to them as human beings. There may come a time when your marketing bot is selling to their buying bot, but we are still quite far off from that. If you are selling to people, your brand experiences will always have to be this mushy mix of analytical and emotional elements, just like people. Personas help you get, and keep, the mix right. Be sure to define your personas by age, gender, location, education and family, as well as by, goals and challenges, values and fears. To cap it off, it’s also helpful to have a visual of the persona, and an encapsulated pitch that would resonate with them. Each persona will help guide you through the subsequent steps in the planning and execution process.

Once you have them, spread your personas widely through your organization and bring your customers to life for your people in any creative ways you can. Some companies create persona rooms, or spaces designed to reflect the life and preferences of a persona. Staff can go there to immerse themselves in the images and emotional icons of a particular persona and hope for empathy and inspiration. Personas work. Forrester studies indicate that planning with personas actually improve the effectiveness of critical initiatives by as much as 400%.


This article is part of a larger series, Decoding Modern Marketing, that aims to help executives understand the value of marketing in 2016 and create a plan for achieving measurable results.


Tackling Complexity: 3 Steps to Getting Started on your Marketing Strategy

The new marketing landscape, just like the consumers who inhabit it, is much more complex than it used to be. Instead of just the four big outlets of the past, today you’ve got the whole messy digital world. You also have demanding, digitally-savvy consumers with very high expectations, and an unforgiving power to punish brands that manipulate, deceive or just fail to please. This requires that companies move in a very thoughtful, careful way, based on data and evidence vs. their experience or intuition, which is probably already out of date or wrong. Marketing from your gut today is like trying to hit a target in a blacked-out room. If you hit anything it’s probably by accident. And for those whose cry is that creativity is the answer, the question is: What happens when the world’s best creativity isn’t pointed in the right direction?

In the old marketing model, most of your company’s marketing dollars went to pay 3rd party media, like magazines or TV, to carry your message to consumers. It really was the only way, except for perhaps direct mail, for a brand to tell their story to a lot of prospects. Today, digital channels are direct to consumer. That allows a company to connect one-to-one and have a two-way conversation with their prospects and consumers. This sets up the potential for creating a new formula that relies less on renting 3rd party vehicles and more on your own proprietary communications infrastructure. We call this Owned media. It includes things like your website, mobile sites and email. Paid media, like, TV advertising and banner ads, still has a role in the new marketing, but its responsibility is less than it used to be. Instead of doing all the work of connecting, cultivating and converting, it instead becomes a spark that gets the process going. Earned media is the final kind of media we use. It’s denotes the word-of-mouth exposure a brand earns from consumers, customers and press. This includes social media, commentary, ratings & reviews and PR. All three types of media are necessary today, but the opportunity is to focus more on Owned and Earned media and less on Paid media.

Marketing strategy tells you what trees need to be in the forest and what it’s going to look like in the end.  It shows you how to construct your marketing system so that each piece supports the others and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Of course you need a website, but what do your consumers need it to do? What content should it have and what functionality? And how should it work with your social media websites or your email? Your marketing plan tells you what to say, when, in what channels and to whom? It tells you how to grow share of wallet, where to find more prospects, and even what products to develop. All of this comes from a methodical process, which delivers a detailed execution plan and a roadmap for building your system; all designed to accomplish business goals.

Stakeholder Interviews

Throughout this interview process, begin to be on the lookout for clues that will lead you to consumer insights. These are the “aha” moments when you get an insight that tells you something about the consumer that your competition may not have stumbled upon yet. When it dawned on Bill Gates that computer manufacturers would prefer to buy an operating system rather than make their own, he bought an existing operating system from a small Seattle company, developed it into MS-DOS and licensed it to IBM for PCs.  Much as Gates had anticipated, PC cloners such as Compaq decided it was cheaper to use the IBM operating system instead of making their own. Within two years, Microsoft sales exploded.

Conduct a competitive evaluation

You will need to have a comprehensive understanding not only of the strengths and weaknesses of your competitor’s offerings, but also how they go to market. This includes how they differentiate themselves, what channels they are in, what target audiences they pursue, how much they spend and what messaging they use and have used in the past. You will need to know what their visual or creative approach is, the strengths and weaknesses of their customer experience (CX) in all channels, their mobile strategy and how they present themselves at retail. This is very important because it will give you clues as to how to differentiate your brand from the field and show you where the opportunities to provide an experience advantage over your competition might lie.

Finally start the data gathering part of the process with a distillation of any metrics you currently have.

This includes sales trend data, sales data by product type and geographical area, and add any other key factors that may be important for your industry. It also includes marketing data such as metrics for your website, mobile sites, email open and view rates, search performance, CRM and loyalty participation and performance. Together this data, your competitive evaluation, stakeholder interviews and existing research  will set the stage for a successful planning process.


This article is part of a larger series, Decoding Modern Marketing, that aims to help executives understand the value of marketing in 2016 and create a plan for achieving measurable results.

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