From good to great with ExactTarget

Following SEMA’s partnership with ExactTarget, a salesforce.com company widely recognised as visionary in the digital marketplace, I recently attended the ExactTarget digital marketing conference in Indianapolis.

Titled ‘Connections 2013’ the conference explored the concept of leadership from within, how good companies can become great companies and the role digital  marketing can play in helping companies get there.  The conference drew on inspirational, world-leading experts in marketing, business and digital technology to explore these themes.

So how do you take a company from good to great? According to guest speaker and author of best-selling book Good to Great, Jim Collins, greatness is not primarily a function of circumstance but rather a matter of conscious choice and discipline.  ‘Great,’ an admittedly subjective term, is operationally defined by Collins according to a number of metrics but specifically, financial performance that exceeds the market average over a sustained period of time.

One key attribute of great companies (vs good ones) that Collins identifies is something he terms ‘empirical creativity’. In other words, successful companies don’t innovate blindly. They don’t throw huge amounts of money behind a new idea purely because it’s creative and innovative. Instead they employ what Collins calls the ‘Bullets, then Cannonballs’ strategy. The idea is to fire small bullets (test new products, technologies, services, and processes) to see what works and what doesn’t. Essentially, what Collins is talking about is the “test and learn” strategy that we’re familiar with as marketers. It dictates that only after new ideas have been tested and proven effective should a company roll out the innovation on a larger scale, that is, fire the cannonball. Bullets don’t sink a ship, but a cannonball can.

This approach may be especially valuable when companies are considering digital innovations. There are a plethora of innovations available to companies in the digital space. That doesn’t mean you should be doing all of them and certainly not on a large scale. Great companies will test digital innovations, taking a targeted approach to learn what works and what doesn’t.

This can range from testing the latest in innovative mobile payment options to more simplistic tests designed to increase response rates. Such as, testing email subject lines and opening copy, testing offers and messaging and testing channel strategies. At SEMA we work with our clients to test and learn across a multichannel strategy. We don’t discount the value of traditional mail either, because it’s no longer innovative or up to date. We don’t innovate blindly and we work with our clients to ensure they don’t either. By creating a single source of data and a true multichannel platform we make it easy for our clients to test, analyse and react, resulting in improved customer communications.