Back to Articles
Share this Article

When it works well, this kind of communication and process is what leads to business success.

I recently wrote about how to build a two-sided market — and then replicate that machinery through multiple business models. It’s about Uber-izing your new offerings. Today, I want to delve into an important part of this business strategy: aligning technology with marketing.

Full disclosure: I’m not actually a marketing wizard. My focus is more on big data and machine learning. More generally, my specialty has been the ability to align technology with overall business goals. But that skill allows me to work with CEOs and other C-suite colleagues. It’s often by working closely with marketing people that we get the magic to happen.

I think a lot of technical people (CTOs, senior developers, etc.) try to pretend like marketing doesn’t exist — or that it’s just not relevant. Coders speak code. Marketers make messaging — and they never need to meet in the middle. Right?

That’s a huge mistake. But it happens — and even worse, they seem to have very different assumptions about what will move the business needle. Technology leaders need to work with marketers. Likewise, the most effective marketers can talk tech.

Let me give you some insight into what I’ve learned by working with some very creative people to grow, scale and (on occasion) bring a company to its IPO.

The One Marketing KPI To Rule Them All: Repeat Usage

“We need more web traffic!” is the perennial call of a junior marketer newly promoted to a senior role. A close follow-up is “We need more click-throughs” or “Our open rates on our email newsletters are a must.” And then there’s the mother of all not-so-useful marketing metrics: “We need more sign-ups!”

Let me fill you in on a little secret. None of that matters — or, at least, it doesn’t matter as much, compared to this key performance indicator (KPI): repeat usage.

Repeat usage will show you whether you’re actually providing something that customers find valuable. In fact, repeat usage is a combination of every other metric. This is the only one you can use to bring in the money and grow the company.

A simple example? Take Uber or Lyft, for example. Either company will die if their service doesn’t attract repeat customers. You might check their website, you might download the app and you might even register with the app. You might even take one ride. But if you don’t take multiple rides — if your experience is not awesome through the whole process — you never come back. Then all their marketing effort was wasted.

When we were building a two-sided market, getting repeat business was our biggest challenge. Traffic, sign-ups — no problem. But the customers would only book one transaction and then never come back.

Getting more traffic or signups wouldn’t solve your problem. In fact, acquiring new customers with marketing resources could be expensive. And the company might even lose money on their first transaction.

The issue was actually outside of the app, and it was part of what my partner calls the “universal user experience.” We got better about mapping (and understanding) the customer journey. We understood a key problem: The service providers weren’t showing up on time.

We provided notifications to the service providers. This simple change allowed us to create a better user experience and got us happy, repeat customers.

On-Brand? Off-Brand? There’s An Easy Way To Tell

Most marketing people are artists in some form or another — wordsmiths, designers or poets of branding. And as a guest at various business planning meetings, especially for leading-edge startups, one phrase comes up often: “Is this on brand?” If there’s an answer, I hear it most often in the negative (e.g., “This seems off-brand.”).

My go-to marketing partner is definitely an artist — but he also has a healthy respect for practical matters of business. So I’ve heard him say, more than once, “If the customer likes it, then that is our brand.” He’s not wrong.

You can waste time in meetings, endlessly going in circles about the piece of messaging that truly defines what you are about. Or, you can ask the customer what you’re about. Give them a value proposition and a call to action. You have your hunch — data-driven or driven by your own enthusiasm. Dress it up in whatever design you think best.

They make the decision. They don’t buy? That’s fine. You’re off-brand. When your customer buys your product, that’s when you know you’re on-brand. Bonus: You’ll spend a lot less time in meetings.

Getting Your Teams On The Same Page

There are a few simple things that companies can do to help align marketing and the tech team. The first thing? Actually schedule time together between the head of marketing and the CIO or CTO. At first, they need to literally explain to each other, what they do all day — and what they can do for each other. Understanding will breed trust and respect for each other’s time.

As they speak, they should keep marketing buzzwords and technical jargon to a minimum. They can use a common language of business objectives and business metrics (e.g., KPIs for repeat business).

I remember an example where the tech team was able to quickly implement tracking for the user journey through the mobile app. Now the company could correlate data from marketing. We could see that some customers were starting to drop out the moment when we asked them for their banking data. Knowing this allowed us to change the process and messaging involved. Users could add their banking data at a later time when they would actually be incentivized to do so — to get paid! This measurably improved user adoption.

As a side effect, the marketing team had much more data. This was used by the data analysts to further enhance understanding of the customer profile. Product development chats became more useful.

When it works well, this kind of communication and process is what leads to business success.

First published on Forbes.com on April 28, 2020.

Comments ({{count}})
{{comment.user.full_name}}
{{getTime(comment.created_at)}}
{{comment.message}}
Replies: {{comment.comments_count}}
Reply
Close
{{reply.user.full_name}}
{{getTime(reply.created_at)}}
{{reply.message}}
Submit

Be the first to comment on this article

Load more +

Want to leave a Comment? Register now.

Are you sure you wish to delete this comment?
Cancel
Confirm