Understanding Marketing Functions In Digital Marketing
The marketing functions are defined as the various roles of a marketing team in helping a business to identify and source potentially successful products for the marketplace, then promoting these products by differentiating them from similar products.
In business, marketing can be overlooked and can be a department where cost cuts come first, but reminding yourself about the marketing functions can help understand how important marketing is in creating a successful business, as much as financial, and research and development departments.
The marketing department can be divided into functions that all focus on different business objectives and thus the stages of the buyer’s journey. Specialization within the marketing department ensure for better focus and understanding of each stage of the buyer’s journey, uncovering relevant and pin pointed insights. The more precise a marketer can be about the function he/she is trying to accomplish, and the stages they are focusing on, the more successful they are likely to be in bringing the consumer to the next stage.
There are several divisions in the marketing functions, but here we will generalize five functions that encapsulate the main roles of marketing within a business:
- Analysis and Optimization
We will explore each stage over the next few slides to understand how these functions are realized and how they tie into the business organization.
The Planning Functions
The Planning function of marketing relates to the core preparation work of your marketing and product activation.
It helps a business understand their position in the market, as well as the opportunities and threats that need to be addressed in order to succeed and grow. At this stage, the marketer focuses on the knowledge within the industry, building the base for a strategy that will hit the right target, and the correct market and price positioning – all based on research and strategic thinking.
For this function, marketing needs to work closely with the product and business team to understand and align with their goals. It also provides an insight into the best direction to develop towards and add value to the decision making process by bringing the consumer and community perspective into the discussion. This function also sets the ground for the following marketing functions by communicating the objectives and necessary costs of the digital marketing strategy that will achieve the global business objectives and promote and retain products adoption.
This function gathers activities such as:
- Market research: This activity is one of the most important in the planning marketing function. This is what will lead to future strategic decisions as no decision can be made without research. The marketer needs to know everything about the market, competition, culture, and people that are targeted in order to be the most relevant on the market for their product.
- Pricing: Product marketers will be charged with auditing different parts of the product and position the product the best way on the market. This is important when talking about pricing. Pricing development is an in-depth strategy that allows a product to sit on the consumer’s mind.
- Objective development: The role of this function is to translate the business goals into marketing goals that will help move the business forward. This is necessary to get buy-in on your budget by ensuring the relevance of the marketing efforts and justifying the cost that it will bring, aligning with the business KPIs.
- Budgeting: Based on the objectives developed and the planning of the tactics that will be necessary to reach them, the marketer has to budget every action for the business’ approval. Usually, a budget will be approved quarterly and on a project basis for marketing agencies. In many case, this budget is based on past marketing budgets and will be evaluated up or down based on former performance and future needs of the business.
- Planning: The planning activity allows marketers to clearly communicate their strategy with team members and with the broader business organization. Each marketing function might have their own planning activities, but a general planning stage can help to create a vision of the bigger picture and how teams need to work together to move things forward. Planning will be shaped as a document, illustrating marketing activities by date, time and duration, also referencing the location and campaign.
All activities in the Planning marketing function are related and will be the foundation for the next function to work from by building on the blocks created. The planning stage is crucial for success and aligns all other functions towards a common goal, plan, budget and audience.
The Awareness Function
The Awareness function of marketing relates to the creation of knowledge within your target audience. This function aims to create relevancy of a product/brand/company in a specific industry to the potential buyers. If we take a new product that is just being launched, the awareness function is the most important and will help put the name of the product in consumers’ mind when thinking about the product category. Building awareness is the core objective of this function, by creating involvement and relevancy. This function gathers many activities that will be unique and tie in with the planning stages:
In the market opportunities function, the core activity is to find the pathway to the consumer’s mind by identifying the opportunities in the market. It is easier for a brand to be positioned in a market in ways that are unique and different, rather than just following what the competition is doing. A similar product can be positioned and sold on a market in hundreds of different ways, the Awareness function needs to focus on developing this differentiation through research started in the planning stage.
Creative development will allow this positioning to speak by developing the personality, visuals, colours, and most importantly the concept that will drive the brand. More specifically the campaigns will be developed for awareness. This is usually involved in the third party of creative thinkers and trendsetters.
Content development is the next logical step after the creative development. Now that the concept is set up, the content of each campaign, each visual, each line will be created with the creative concept in mind. This is crucial in keeping the product/brand experience consistent, which creates a much stronger impact on the consumer’s mind. One product, one brand, one message, one concept is critical to working in the awareness function. This will need to be communicated to the other functions in order to keep that consistency.
With the aim of the awareness function being to create a mental picture of a brand on a specific product category, the more consumers reached the better. A media strategy is needed for reach and engagement The function is based on scale and memorability, creating impactful content shown at the right time and in the right place. Once again research is foundational for understanding where the target audience is and the best way to capture their attention. For instance, a business audience will not be on the same website or social media as a music enthusiast. One might be found on LinkedIn and Twitter, while the others will be on SoundCloud, Spotify or Instagram. In addition, the media strategy will focus on frequency that is key in building awareness. The more a message is seen, the better it is associated with the creative and product.
The budgeting activity is one of the latest performed in any marketing function as it needs to be fed by all the previous choices and activities. The budget gathers cost for the creative team and concept development, the time spent developing content, the media buying, and the research. In the awareness stage, a specific set of tools and media will be used in digital marketing. We can think about site covering, video campaign on social media, first view format on Twitter, buying keywords, a special event that will be promoted online and influencer collaborations.
The Conversion Function
The Conversion Function of marketing relates to the transformation of leads into actual customers. Different from the awareness function, the conversion function will focus on smaller sets of audiences that have already shown interest.
Using CRM tools, the conversion marketer is able to gather data and insights on where in the funnel theses leads are and what it will take to move them into the conversion stage. This function is more tactical and requires less creative differentiation. It is no longer about creating this extraordinary initial impact and experience, but to keep a constant stream of information and build a relationship that will focus on a highly relevant and interested audience.
Selling is the core objective of this function, but the path to reach this goal can be varied and colourful. The more targeted, the easier it will be to appeal to the audience in question. In order to achieve this, the conversion function will look at research and positioning from the planning and awareness functions.
Based on the findings and decisions made, the marketer will capitalize on the differentiation points that are relevant to the leads in the funnel and adapt their messaging to be consistent with the core positioning and concept developed by the awareness function.
This function gathers activities focused on persuading by providing extra information, values, and urgency to the current offer. Additionally, keeping the product top of mind in the decision making process by using repetition and retargeting.
- Identify media opportunities: Much like in the previous function, the conversion function needs to focus on media formats and tactics that will ease conversion. Retargeted advertising takes the consumer directly to the product they have been looking at, providing content related to their problems, either in search or directly reach the consumer through their mailbox with relevant content. For the conversion function, the scale will not be as much of an importance, the ROI and conversion rate will be prime in the media and format selection.
- Set quantitative goals: Compared to the awareness stage, the conversion stage taps into the actual number of sales, and not on psychological components of the consumer mind. Measuring the success of the conversion campaign relies on setting quantitative and measurable goals that will be easily translated in business objectives. So instances of metrics used may be an average shopping cart payment, the number of items or the number of emails collected, etc.
- Develop offers: One role of the conversion function is to provide the correct message that will trigger conversion. Conversions are often defined as sales, but can also be adapted depending on the business need. If a business is building their CRM data base, the conversion point will be a visitor converting into a subscriber. Depending on the type of conversion set up by the marketer, the message will be adapted in relation to the consumer’s need but will also need to stay aligned with the agreed positioning. Positioning and effective messaging may result in the consumer taking the decided actions that will lead to conversion.
- Optimize content: The best strategy for the conversion function is optimization. A successful message cannot simply be researched, crafted and launched on the market, chances are it won’t always have the planned impact. Therefore, because the conversion function is about efficiency and ROI, testing is key to finding the most successful and cost effective content. Often, conversion marketers will develop multiple version of a campaign, test them, and each week assess the most successful combination. This will kill the least cost effective and re-invest in efficient content.
The Retention function
The retention function of marketing relates to the building of loyalty and delightful customer experience. All marketers know that in modern marketing, the product influence doesn’t stop after the product consumption.
Once the product has been consumed and experienced, the consumer will re-consider the brand for their next purchase. That is where relationship building and nurturing comes in play. A marketer’s ultimate goal is not only to convert leads into customers, but to convert customers into brand advocates.
Brand advocates are among the best sources of promotion as they will organically recommend your brand and product to their pears. If you think about one customer and their direct circle of influence, it is cost efficient to turn a customer into a brand advocate that will then potentially create new customers at zero cost solely via recommendation and shared experience. Naturally, consumers are most likely to trust a friend they share common value with over an unfamiliar brand and product.
For that reason, the retention function is key to building communities and brand advocacy, making your product and brand lasting in time. This function is about nurturing by providing extra content, experience, promotions, etc. This is one of the core values of the inbound strategy, by providing added value to your product brand and experience, you are likely to attract customers to come back without having to forcefully push advertising to new leads or old inactive customers.
‘Customer delight happens when you surprise a customer by exceeding expectations. When expectations are met, you have customer satisfaction. When expectations are exceeded, you achieve customer delight.’ – Impact.com
This function will once again base their tactics on the research of their audience, with in-depth attention focused on who the individuals are beyond the customer and how to appeal to them in a human way. It will also be driven by customer behavior witnessed on the company owned media in order to understand their level of engagement and thus the best message to provide to them.
Some activities of the retention function include:
- Identify buyers needs and expectations
- Develop additional value
- Develop a nurturing strategy
- Monitor post-sales activity
All these activities aim at taking the customer back into the funnel and re-purchasing after a set period of time that will serve the business development.
In terms of tactics, the retention stage will use all the most direct forms of communication such as email marketing, social media messages and post, push notifications in-app, re-targeting on owned media, leveraging influencers, creating community events and discussions, lead conversation online, request feedback and reviews.
Analytics and Optimization
The last marketing function relates to the analysis and optimization of the previous tactics, planning and budget. As seen in the conversion function, optimizing all aspects of your strategy will help bring cost effective success. Specifically, in digital media, the flexibility of the buying models and assets allow marketers to upload, test, measure, change and go through the cycle again.
This marketing function happens three times within the marketing process:
1.When researching the audience and market for planning
2.When testing and optimization all along the awareness and conversion stages
3.After a campaign to draw conclusions and plan the strategy for the next campaign
Before making any strategic decisions, marketers involved in the analysis function should study the market, audience, trends, culture and competitors using multiple research tools available online that we will cover later in the module.
Once the strategy is set up based on the findings of the previous analysis, the role of marketing will be to monitor the success of its effort through measurement such as form submissions, engagements on social media, page views, clicks, conversions, etc. This will dictate the success or failure of specific creatives and content, allowing marketers to adjust according to the response of the audience on what is being presented. Successful content, timing and collaboration will be reproduced, while those which are under-performing will be stopped. In that situation, setting up objectives during planning is crucial as you will measure the content against these objectives to decide if they are worth keeping or not.
Additionally, monitoring social media and website performance will be an ongoing task, even outside the broader campaign planning periods. This is a necessity in order to better understand the organic activity of the brand’s owned media and the impact of a specific campaign or marketing tactic.
Lastly, after a campaign, this marketing function will be used to assess the success or failure of the strategy by collecting data and comparing them against the original marketing ad business goals. Where these goals reached? Did the strategy over or under perform, and if so, where? Where can it be improved? Where was there a lack of investment? These are some key questions that the optimization and analyst marketers might ask.
This last function is important for presenting the success of the strategy to the broader business organization. It will be the role of the analyst to convert the marketing results into more tangible business results by assessing their impact on business objectives.
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