What is Modern Marketing?

Editor’s Note: The following post was originally published on September 15th, 2015, but has been updated to reflect the continuously evolving modern marketing landscape. Eliza Green is the original author of this post. Updates published on April 18th, 2022 were completed by Erik Norsted.

At Olive & Company, we are, by definition, modern marketers. But what does that mean? It’s not about eschewing print or traditional tactics for digital. It’s also about more than just embracing new technologies or espousing the latest trends. 

We could sum it all up in a Don Draper-style existential speech, but straightforward explanations backed by real numbers are more reflective of the modern marketing flavor. So, put aside that Macallan neat, and let’s dive in.

Modern Marketing Definition

Modern marketing is a holistic, agile, data-driven methodology that connects brands with their ideal customers to drive targeted business results. Though the elements can be assembled in an infinite number of ways, a modern marketing approach always blends creative thinking and execution with research, strategy, technology, and analysis to achieve organizational goals.

But, what are those goals?

For many reasons, nearly every business aspires to variations of one thing: growth. Increasing customer numbers, expanding market share, growing profitability, adding employees, etc. To support these goals, the most effective modern marketing teams build brand awareness, shape perceptions, nurture key audiences, and propel action by adhering to eight core principles.

The 8 Modern Marketing Principles

1. Elevate the Customer Experience at Every Brand Touchpoint

Modern customers of both the B2B and B2C variety are sophisticated animals. They have high expectations when it comes to brand experience. (We can thank Apple for that.) These elevated expectations relate to much more than just the technical user experience of websites and applications. Yes, users expect to be able to switch effortlessly between multiple screens when interacting with your website and brand, but every touchpoint should also speak to the value of your brand, establish trust, and tell a cohesive story.

And we do mean every touchpoint. That includes websites, social media posts, ads, emails, phone calls, and everything in between. For B2B brands, it also means dozens of interactions with multiple people spread over long sales cycles. 

Whatever number of touchpoints are required, your customers expect seamless transitions between every last one of them. In fact, 60 percent of Millennial customers—the ones who will shape the marketing landscape for the next 20 to 40 years—expect a consistent brand experience across all channels, and those expectations continue to rise as buyer journeys center more and more on digital experiences.

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2. Build Personalized Connections with Individuals

The sophisticated expectations of the modern customer don’t end with a consistent brand experience. That experience must also be tailored to them. Not as a vague demographic group, but as individuals. Website content must speak to their unique challenges. Emails must anticipate their specific questions. For B2B businesses, sales materials must be tailored to an individual’s role within a buying committee.

Modern marketing is a holistic, agile, data-driven methodology that connects brands with their ideal customers to drive targeted business results.

To achieve that level of personalization, we, as modern marketers, need to develop a deep understanding of our customers. What are their desires, challenges, pain points, hopes, dreams, and favorite colors? The deeper we go, the better we can shape their brand experience.

We also need marketing technology that can effectively personalize content and experience. At this point, even the most basic email marketing platforms offer some form of personalization functionality, and website content management systems can be configured—with some strategic web design and information architecture work—to provide an experience tailored to the unique characteristics and behaviors of users.

Implementing personalization strategies takes effort, but 94 percent of marketers know it’s worth it. That’s probably not a surprise, considering that personalization can deliver five to eight times the ROI on marketing spend.  

3. Integrate Omnichannel Marketing Strategy and Tactics

Modern marketing doesn’t equate to a digital-only approach. Nearly everything we do incorporates a digital marketing component—and we often think of our approach as “digital-first”—but modern marketing is more about finding the right channel. 

The average person spends over 11 hours a day bouncing between various forms of media, a figure that includes smartphone usage, TV, radio, magazines, and more. If our marketing is going to meet customers where they are, the best approach is to establish touchpoints across multiple channels. It’s a strategy that brings in six times more sales than single-channel marketing, and it reflects the somewhat chaotic, non-linear nature of the modern buyer’s journey.

When it comes to our clients, we analyze the opportunities provided by each channel, employing those that make the most sense for their business and their customers. 

We also strategize ways to connect one touchpoint to the next. A lead generation campaign that begins with a direct mail promotion leads to an online landing page. A lead that originated through an in-person event receives a follow-up email sequence. A pay-per-click campaign drives users to an event page that promotes a webinar. It’s all tied together in the name of optimal marketing results.

4. Adapt to the Evolution of the Marketing Landscape

Modern marketers are, by nature, agile, constantly adapting to changing technologies and behaviors. We take pride in our ability to keep up with the latest trends and algorithm updates, and to take action based on how those trends and updates will impact the performance of our campaigns. 

Modern marketers are, by nature, agile, constantly adapting to changing technologies and behaviors.

If modern marketers are tasked with connecting brands to their ideal customers, then we need to understand those customers’ behaviors, expectations, and preferences; we need to understand the channels and technologies that facilitate these connections; we need to monitor how all of these elements shift over time; and, as clearly demonstrated by the impact of COVID-19, we all need to be prepared for dramatic changes. 

While certain marketing fundamentals have remained constant, the landscape around those fundamentals evolves continuously. Simply put, modern marketing moves fast. The marketers who challenge themselves to learn and adapt are those that thrive. 

5. Maximize Efficiencies Through Marketing Technology and Automation

We don’t simply rely on technology to improve the way we reach our audiences. We also turn to advances in marketing technology and automation to become more efficient marketers. By eliminating repetitive manual tasks, triggering communication workflows, managing social media, tracking performance, adjusting digital advertising campaigns (and much, much more), these tools maximize the efficiency of marketing resources and investments. To the tune of a potential 451 percent increase in qualified leads.

According to figures from Marketo, 76 percent of companies that implement marketing automation generate a return on their investment within the first year. Not only that, but 44 percent of them see a return within just six months.

Every company—no matter how large or small—would move mountains to see this kind of improvement. The good news is, this technology is widely available, expanding and advancing at a rapid-fire pace. In 2020, there were 8,000 marketing technology offerings, compared to just 1,876 in 2015. 

With all of these solutions vying for a spot in our martech stack, brands simply need to determine which one is the right fit for their end game. Once they do, the toughest decision will be which initiatives should take priority when reallocating the newly freed marketing budgets and resources.

6. Combine Inbound Education With Outbound Promotion

We’re well settled into the information age, which means potential customers are conducting more research than they ever have before making purchasing decisions. In fact, 81 percent of shoppers conduct online research before making a purchase, and more than 70 percent of B2B buyers fully define their needs before they ever make contact with a sales representative.

It doesn’t matter if your customer is a new homeowner comparing mattress reviews or a corporate decision-maker searching for an enterprise technology solution. Today’s buyers won’t make a move before conducting a significant amount of research, and the vast majority of this research occurs online.

81 percent of shoppers conduct online research before making a purchase.

Inbound marketing allows brands to aid in this research while shaping perceptions and building trust at every step of the customer acquisition journey. But it’s not simply a benevolent act. Inbound leads cost 61 percent less than outbound leads. 

Despite its cost-effective benefits, modern marketers know that inbound can’t replace outbound entirely. True inbound marketing takes time to build momentum. Outbound augments these efforts by building brand awareness and often driving faster results. As with all things modern marketing, the key is finding the balance that works best for your brand, your customers, and, of course, your budget.

7. Measure and Analyze Marketing Performance

Marketing is an investment and investments are measured by returns, a fact the “big data” movement has solidified. 98 percent of CMOs cite measuring ROI as their number one concern. Still, no matter how advanced data analytics tools become, certain pockets of marketing will always defy easy measurement. 

Sure, the rise of the Google Gods and endless analytics tools have made it much easier to understand marketing attribution. But other marketing initiatives—like brand strategy and development—can be trickier to evaluate, especially in the short term. It’s not an uncommon plight. 

But the modern marketer doesn’t give up. We work hard to build processes and frameworks to measure the measurable, connect KPIs to business outcomes, identify what is (or is not) working, and change course based on the insights. 

While the quest for 100 percent attribution clarity can sometimes be misguided, there’s no denying the value that data-driven insights have in shaping and maximizing the return on marketing programs.

8. Leverage Iterative Execution and Optimization

A modern marketing strategy never truly crosses the finish line. We’re constantly exploring new channels, adopting innovative tools and technologies, adapting to market shifts, outpacing the competition, and improving upon creative strategies and solutions that could be just a little more perfect. 

This constant state of motion has led many teams to embrace an agile marketing approach. Of the marketing departments that haven’t yet gone agile, 91 percent say they plan to in the next 12 months. With good reason, as agile marketing has been shown to increase project success, productivity, job satisfaction, and revenue.

Brands that fall in line with an agile approach that includes iterative execution and optimization are able to quickly respond to new threats while taking advantage of fresh insights and opportunities. The agile approach could facilitate rapid updates to an existing campaign based on data analysis. Or, it may empower a team to pivot from a previously planned campaign to a newfound opportunity. No matter how consequential the execution, this iterative cycle allows brands to maximize their marketing performance.

Though there are many elements that make up a modern marketer, the carrot we all drive toward is building a brand experience that engages and influences customers to fuel organizational growth. Keep this in mind, and you’ll be many steps ahead of the Mad Men of yore. Go so far as to adopt the eight principles of the modern marketing philosophy and the steps will become miles.