March Madness is here! Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, UConn’s Geno Auriemma, and many other famous coaches will lead their teams onto the hardcourt. Tens of thousands of lesser-known coaches will do the same in travel and recreational leagues. All of these coaches are hoping to win and will begin their game with a plan to play to their team’s strengths.

Marketers do the same thing when they develop their marketing plans. They analyze the landscape and the competition. They position their brand to be relevant and impactful. They try to highlight their unique strengths. Many do research pre-launch to know that their strategies are sound. Then they work with their agencies to develop advertising and media plans with the hopes of growing sales and share.

GAME TIME

For both marketers and coaches, once the game starts, unexpected things happen. In basketball, some reliable plays won’t work, a star player may go cold, or a turnover could change the momentum. In marketing, the competition may surprise with a new game plan of their own, media coverage could drown out your messaging, or more commonly, the sales results and share just aren’t growing as much as your objectives.

This is where the paths of coaches and marketers typically diverge.

Coaches see most everything that is happening in the game. They observe in person when their strategies are working and where they are not. Naturally, the insights from these observations trigger coaches to make adjustments. UNC’s Roy Williams said it well: “Your game plan is only good for the first six minutes of the game… the rest is about adjustments.”

The details marketers see are highly variable. E-Commerce marketers are armed with seemingly ubiquitous data about who and from where people visit their site. A/B testing can be quickly used to make adjustments. The insights gained can put e-comm marketers at an internal advantage when sounding like the voice of the customer.

Brick and mortar focused marketers are in a different position when the “game” starts. They don’t see everything that’s happening as a coach does. The field is the entire country or more. How well their marketing plan is working is not always obvious. They can’t observe the reactions of people seeing their ad, or worse, that their ad may go unnoticed because of all the noise around it.

Retail marketers can stand in aisles and observe shoppers, but they are only observing an extremely small sample. Receipt surveys provide some good information, but not enough to know which if any advertising swayed a consumer to head to that location. In both cases, most people are reluctant to say that they were swayed by advertising at all. They often prefer to convey a more researched, considered answer.

CHANNEL YOUR INNER COACH

So, if making good adjustments through detailed insights is what separates the best coaches from the rest of the pack, how can retail marketers differentiate their results by learning to do the same? There are two key pillars that enable making great adjustments. Marketers need them both.

1.  Great coaches pay attention to the details, not just the scoreboard. The scoreboard only tells them if they are winning or losing. It’s of little help in knowing what adjustments to make. Great coaches focus on the details that tell them what has been working and what hasn’t been. For example, has their team been more successful scoring from a half court set or pushing the ball up the floor? Marketing’s version of a scoreboard is the sales and share report. Great marketers are wise to look beyond it so they to can see what’s working and what’s not. Which versions of your ad are driving incremental traffic and sales lift? Which publishers, ad exchanges and ad networks are performing better than others? Which audience targets are driving the highest receipts? When a marketer has such granular sales lift insights, the adjustment decisions get much easier.

2.  Coaches make halftime adjustments based on real time insights. After all, how useful is it for making adjustments if they get the data after the game is complete? It’s certainly better than nothing and post-game analysis can uncover different insights like what they need to practice. But there is no substitute for timely insights. Marketers need to do the same. Acquire the tools to see what’s working and what’s not in as close to real time as possible. Online marketing can and is tied to offline sales every day. The key is that it’s done so in a timely, actionable way.

A VISION FOR BRICK AND MORTAR MARKETERS/COACHES

It’s halftime of your big campaign. You are asked to give an update to the company. Everyone knows the score from the daily reports. You need to talk adjustments. What’s working and what’s not. And you are ready because you have real time insights about each aspect of your campaign that you can put into action. You win!

About the author: Nick Mangiapane is the CMO of Commerce Signals. As the fastest way to measure online advertising’s impact on in-store sales, Commerce Signals is uniquely suited to enable brick and mortar marketers to make mid-campaign adjustments just like the best coaches do at halftime.

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