How best practice benefits your business
Editorial

How best practice benefits your business

Adhering to best practice guidelines across your work helps achieve results and can protect against a crisis. So what’s stopping you?

Marketing has only ever been competitive. After all, its end game is to deliver a message that will persuade customers to part with their hard-earned money for goods and services.

Where the economy is under pressure, and with the uncertain impact of Brexit, the industry has become more competitive than ever – and more demanding, too, in an increasingly digital world with which regulatory regimes are scrambling to catch up. Many businesses are looking to employ best practice to ensure they keep their competitive edge. Here are six simple steps marketers can undertake to protect against a crisis.

Manage customer relationships

Some companies might be tempted to chase the dollar regardless of the consequences. But spurning best practice – where ethical and social responsibility dimensions sit alongside sound business ones – can backfire all too easily. Take online gambling firm 888, who were recently ordered to pay a record penalty of £7.8 million after it failed to protect vulnerable customers.

The Gambling Commission found ‘significant flaws’ in the firm's social responsibility processes, which allowed 7,000 customers who’d chosen to bar themselves from their 888 accounts to carry on gambling.

The case of 888 is a reminder of how important a decent customer relationship management (CRM) strategy is – and that any good CRM system should accommodate a historical view and analysis of who you’re dealing with. While it’s all very well amassing data, if that becomes misapplied or overlooked, no one benefits.

CRM can help target the right people in the right way, but marketers must also stay vigilant, and if you’re serious about best practice, that means spotting and rectifying problems quickly.

Monitor new technology

Mark Slade, managing director of Location Sciences, thinks marketers should also act collectively in trying to grapple with rapid technological advances.

“The arrival of mainstream Augmented Reality (AR) is a good example of an issue where industry collaboration would help to inform best practice guidelines,” he says.

The growth of AR – which integrates digital information with a user's environment in real time – relies on location data. But, as Slade points out, traditional data can be flawed by inaccuracies. This needs to be resolved if AR is to deliver impact that works for consumers as a solution, instead of complicating their customer journey.

“The industry needs to come together to determine best practice that puts location data at the heart of the discussion about AR,” he says.

Share creativity

Of course, best practice isn’t just about trying to avoid crisis or fines, it can also deliver when everything is going well. For Dale Lovell, UK managing director at ADYOULIKE, it’s about generating an all-round awareness of goals and standards that extends beyond the marketing department. One place in particular where he sees its benefit is in the company’s creative output.

“It’s easy to think, for example, that all the best marketing ideas come from your creative team,” he says. “But that’s not the case. Often, when given the opportunity, a wider business team can offer up inspirational ideas.

“Share your advertising goals, so every employee will be familiar with your product. Highlight what you’ve done already, and how it performed, with the wider business for input. You might be surprised what comes back.”

Encourage diversity

Marketers, says Charlie Carpenter, managing director of creativebrief.com, should also keep a sharp eye on the world around them and on the spectrum of people in their midst, when it comes to their creative work.

“Remaining competitive is about adapting to changing times,” he says, “and, from our experience, it’s clear that diversity lies at the heart of this. Increasingly, marketers are making diversity – be it in their casting decisions or representations of gender and ethnicity – a key focus. It’s not hard to see why. Not only is competitiveness at stake, but credibility, relevance and creativity.

“Think of some of the ridiculed campaigns we’ve seen plastered over social media and the trade press. Why do they happen? The all-too frequent answer is because the marketers generating ideas are too myopic in their planning, too devoid of diverse heritage and backgrounds to have a voice of caution that is representative of the customer base.”

In July, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) issued new guidelines to counter gender misrepresentation in advertising. According to Carpenter, some companies feared that ASA intervention would stifle creativity, and therefore competitiveness.

“But look at the successes that brands such as Channel 4, Lynx, ASOS and Maltesers have had by not shirking this responsibility,” he says. “Diversity has fed their creativity, not hampered it. Marketer’s best practice guidelines should stretch to holding themselves and their agencies accountable on diversity; setting out how important it is.”

Admit and apologise

What should happen when things go wrong – if, through sins of omission or commission, a marketing campaign falls flat? A quick search of the internet brings up lists of fiascos, gleefully compiled. Take for instance, the Fat Girl costumes peddled by Walmart in the run up to Halloween 2014. After a public backlash, the supermarket giant backed down.

“This never should have been on our site,” it said. “It is unacceptable, and we apologise. We are working to remove it as soon as possible and ensure this never happens again.”

Standing on the shoulders of giants

There’s often a common misconception amongst senior marketing figures that they must do everything all by themselves, or that because their business operates in one of the newer digital economies, the wisdom and practices of old are irrelevant. Every generation likes to challenge the status-quo – but most modern best practices have been developed and then refined, refined and refined again as markets and audiences adapt. With uncertainties such as Brexit and GDPR on the horizon, considering the wisdom and best practices of marketers who have come before could be a seriously smart move.

Learn how to design and implement a new and relevant approach to CRM in an increasingly connected and technology-driven world at our CRM 2.0 - Successful CRM in a Connected World masterclass course.

Andrew Mourant
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