Christian Bowman has been the head of customer experience at Ladbrokes for the past five months. With over 14 years' experience in marketing, Christian specialises in digital strategy and customer experience. Ahead of his presentation at the Chief Marketing Officer Summit in Sydney this October 5-6, we sat down with Christian to talk all things digital marketing, from content to the use of data.
Digital development has had a huge impact on marketing - for you, what has been the biggest change?
The most obvious change is budget allocation. It’s positive in a sense that organisations are utilising channels which allow them to capture more insights and scale more effectively. There has been a lot of money pumped into digital channels, which have led the new technology being developed to service gaps in the digital space. This is great as we are seeing another democratisation of advertising inventory through programmatic as well as better measurement capability. In terms of utilisation of digital capability, I think there are still gaps between brand marketers and performance marketers and understanding how traditional industries can incorporate digital. A good example is FMCG - if you’re an established food brand, how do you utilise channels like social media and mobile devices? I think agencies and brands are only now finding really good ways to utilise those channels and, from what I can see most of the time, it comes down to their ability to tap into customer advocacy.
New technologies have led to the exposure of brands across a number of platforms - what challenges do these consumer connections pose?
No doubt the key challenge is complexity and good marketing technology platforms should simplify the complex. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you have to do it. It does come back to strategic priorities and what you’re trying to achieve at any particular point in time. In most instances, you only need to be doing one thing at a particular touch point. The most successful use of technology that I’ve seen is when people problems are being solved and when relationships between customer and company are enhanced.
How important is the content of marketing campaigns?
It is very important but the key thing with content is that it is relevant and useful. This means that before any piece of content is developed that those things are considered and, realistically, an objective is set to know what you’re trying to do so that you can measure whether or not you achieved it.
What effect has social media had on brand visibility and SEO?
Like most things in digital, social media has democratised how people access information. This means that new entrants into the marketplace can start off and get brand momentum much quicker than you could have previously when reliant on just SEO tactics. Even still, content was always the constant with SEO, and I think that with today’s search engine algorithms and aggregators out there, they have found ways to allow people to search and find genuine content and understand the original source of content. This means that SEO is pretty much dead.
Do you have any tips for a cost-effective search marketing strategy?
When looking for cost-effectiveness, the key thing to do is to look for niche high-impact activities. The simplest way to do this is to identify which audience groups have a more approachable market compared to highly competitive markets. The best combination is really high search terms which have low competition both paid and organic. Both will take time, but utilise the tools inside your Adwords account to measure impression share, rankings and competitor seasonality. Then the ultimate figure you should be looking for besides ROI is Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) to stack different search campaigns up against each other.
Have you adopted a data-driven strategy - if so what have you learned?
Yes, the key lesson I’ve learnt from taking a data-driven strategy is actually the process of developing questions to ask your data. If you can really hone in on asking the right questions, you’ll be in a much better position to get the right answers. There is always a better question and that’s the fun part. To give you an example, it’s the difference between asking ‘How many likes should we have?’ and ‘Which channels provide us with the most engaged customers?’ or ‘Which activities should we undertake to create more advocates?’. By developing great questions, it attracts problem solvers in your organisation and allows teams across departments to work towards a common goal.
I’ve also learnt that whilst quantitative data is important, qualitative data helps explain why something may be occurring. Don’t underestimate the value in just asking the customer for feedback. Invariably just the gesture in asking will also pay dividends down the track.
What key trends do you see for marketers in the year ahead?
I think in Australia we’re starting to catch up with the rest of the world. Where organisations are understanding the value in co-creating a customer journey where customers not only have a voice but are actively involved with produce and service innovation. At Ladbrokes, we are very in-tune with the implied and explicit needs of our customers. We are very deliberate in making sure not just to close feedback loops, but also empower customers to actively engage with the improvement of our service. So the key trend is really around customer experience design and actually incorporating customer feedback and behaviour into crafting marketing messages and service delivery. Differentiation, in essence, is best achieved with strong personal relationships with customers regardless of stage in the sales process.