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3 things all brands should do by the end of Q1

Quarterly advice for a successful year

‘Tis the season for end-of-year recaps, 2016 predictions, planning, budgeting and some well-deserved time off to celebrate the holidays and usher in the new year. If you’re an executive responsible for marketing, revenue or data you’ve already presented detailed plans to the rest of your executive team or to your board and are starting to look ahead to execution come Q1. Whether you’re a chiseled veteran or have stretched yourself and undertaken a role at a new company here are three areas that if tackled early in the year, will solidify your leadership and ensure your company’s success:


1. Take stock of your tech stack

The technologies we work with tend to have been accumulated iteratively and over time. You’ve probably chosen your web analytics system a long time ago independently of your email marketing system and perhaps several years before choosing a cross-channel marketing automation suite. Most people will be looking to add something new to their tech stack, whether it’s a new and improved mobile-first data visualization tool or a more fundamental shift like taking your programmatic trading infrastructure in-house. If you were an early adopter of DMPs chances are that your 2 or 3 year contract is up for renegotiation and you might find that your needs have changed dramatically in this time. Ask your team to take you through the following exercise: if you were building your tech stack from scratch today, what would look different and what would stay the same? For example, if you were an early adopter of DMPs chances are your initial 2 or 3 year contract is up for renegotiation this year and you may very well find that, as the data management space matured, so have your needs. This will give you insights into what’s working well and what could use improvement, vs where you may have outright gaps and where you may want to issue RFIs or RFPs. Technology in adtech and martech moves fast and it’s important to regularly keep abreast of who’s innovating and working on something potentially impactful for your business. This type of evaluation is best done every 18 months or so but I recommend it as a team exercise at the start of each year (especially if you lead cross-functional teams) to ensure you’re all in alignment on what could be a potential pain point to executing your strategy smoothly.

2. Invest in your people

If tech stacks are evolutionary so are the skills of most teams - some of your hires likely come from a web analytics background, some perhaps hail from ad operations, and others yet are perhaps marketing and data generalists. Ramping up a new team member can on average take the better part of a quarter (depending on role and seniority). 2016 will likely see the continuation of a strong and competitive job market and the best way to minimize the impact of voluntary attrition is to ensure you’re investing in your team and people. Ask your team to flag what they’d like to learn this coming year - whether through a formal training program, through involvement in industry organizations (like the IAB) or conference and seminar attendance. While you may not have budget for everyone's top wishes, commissioning custom 1- or 2-day training training workshops may be a cost-effective way to effectively invest in your team’s professional development. Finally, don’t shy away from hiring experts to help drive specific projects or act as subject matter experts for shorter, targeted periods of time. You don’t need to open headcount for a full time role if your needs are better met with a flexible and experienced consultant but make sure whoever you bring onboard is a good fit for your culture. Your team will thank you while they’re picking up new skills from the experts and building institutional knowledge.  


3. Look at the data you have

Like with your technology stack and your people, start off the year with an inventory of what customer data points are readily available today for analysis as well as activation across all desired channels and which additional ones will be needed for you to meet your strategic objectives. For example - if you’re committed to using location data this year for better and more accurate right time offer targeting, do you know the origin of the data you’re using today (e.g. from a specific vendor, how fresh is it and how frequently does it update on all downstream activation systems, etc)? If you’ve made significant investments in the previous 18 months or you’ve seen consumer behavior and customer journeys change significantly in the same time period a full data audit may be a wise way to kick off your year. A privacy audit would also be a wise choice, especially if you have a presence in Europe and need to prepare for the upcoming  implementation of pan-European privacy rules (or face hefty fines).

These three recommendations address technology, people and process around successful operationalization of predominantly customer-level data. With data maturing as a discipline, those who invest in holistic cross-channel data strategies will have considerable edge over competitors who continue to think of data assets as tactical, channel-specific, and short-term campaigns. They are fundamental investments in approaching data as a corporate asset and ensuring that your organization is capable of capitalizing on insights into its consumers, users, or viewers in a timely and effective way.
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