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In today's hyper-competitive environment, many marketers would be happy if 2 percent of their website visitors made a purchase. But what about that other 98 percent?

The importance of addressing those potential customers came up repeatedly yesterday during a CMSWire webinar entitled "Be More Agile with Real-Time Insights."

The program featured Donna Pahel, director of digital marketing and e-commerce solutions for EPiServer, and Joakim Holmquist, the company's digital marketing manager. EPiServer also sponsored the session, which you can watch by clicking here or at the end of this story.

The Bigger Picture

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A central theme stressed by both speakers was to understand customer expectations and make that central to your company's marketing plans. Pahel claimed the connected customer is the new CMO -- chief marketing operative.

With "a few tap of their thumbs," she said those customers can make or break a company's reputation and success rates.

"Their voices are amplified and carry a lot more weight than anything we could every say about ourselves as brands. They're either our greatest advocates or our greatest adversaries," Pahel observed.

Because of this fundamental change in marketing focus, "best practices are dead," she added. "They're so yesterday."

What she meant was that by the time marketers run a traditional campaign, conduct analysis and derive insights, the would-be customer is long, long gone.

Customers today have "an infinite number" of choices in what to buy, where, when and from whom. And they move fast.

"That connected customer and the emerging technology set is moving at an unprecedented pace," said Pahel. "And that [analytical] information just won't hold true for any period of time. That's why we have to become more agile as marketers."

Hippo Stampede

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Holmquist added his own complications and solutions to the discussion. Too many marketing decisions today are still make by a HIPPO, he said, referring to the "highest paid person's opinion" as to what to do. Most of the time, that HIPPO is someone who is far removed from the customers visiting the site.

Another problem is that the current abundance of possibilities ironically tends to paralyze marketing departments. Marketers tend to wait until all the new data systems are connected, but in reality, they're using that as "an excuse for not taking action right now."  The biggest mistake, he said, is to do nothing.

All marketers want to get to a "state of awesome," but Holmquist said it's important to carve out some smaller targets along the path to awesome by identifying your biggest problem, developing a clear strategy to eliminate it and then executing that strategy. When you do, he said, be sure to run A/B tests, then start over and speed up the process.

"What we see over and over again is that companies are very good about obsessing about the 2 percent, give or take, of visitors who are converting on their websites," he said.

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It's good to make a sale, he said, but most people who come to a site are probably not going to convert. "So you also need to figure out how you're going to meet this other 98 percent."

"Many times, I would say those are the folks we really need to obsess about if we're going to become a customer-centric business," he added.

For example, if someone comes to a site looking for product support, are they succeeding? Are they happy? How can you measure that?

The Bucket List

He suggested creating buckets for all those who come to your site, whether it's to buy something, conduct research, check prices, get support or another reason. They figure out what you can do for them.

"There are different ways of getting this data, but I think that if you want to learn a little bit more about visitor intent, run a survey and ask strong questions that will drive action," he said.

Pahel summarized the presentation in five principles for today's marketers:

  1. Live from your customers point of view. "Just like an agile software developer, the agile marketer knows what the target market needs now rather than what they needed six months ago and tailors the activity accordingly," she said. "It's a constant test and learn."
  2. Keep the big picture in place. "Agile marketing can be exhilarating. It's sort of fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of stuff. It's easy to get carried away with daring experiments and lose sight of what your brand is about," Pahel said. "Having a set of clear objectives for your marketing and KPIs to track it, makes it easy to tell when you've gone too far off course."
  3. Built a great "mark-ops" team. "This really empowers the whole team, to not only be able to identify issues and challenges, or what's working, and to share that across the team, but It empowers the team to make decisions on the fly," she said. "You have to be able to move at the pace of the customer."
  4. Prioritize the Problem. "We've got to utilize the data in a really smart way because, after all, data is just noise until we create insights," Pahel said. "And of course, we've to take action on those insights."
  5. Test and Learn, Act and Do It Again. "Of course, we've got to have a strategy and a road map," she said. "But it has to be a living, breathing document that the whole team can tune into and that is driven from the customer's point of view."  

Title image by Tom Murphy.