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Signs you've outgrown your marketing platform

Jon Mitchell, Chief Technology Officer

Marketers facing a surge in new contacts need to consider new approaches if they want to convert these into long-term loyal fans. Here we present our tips on spotting when you've outgrown your tools and it's time to step up your marketing capabilities.

With so much upheaval in the commercial world many companies are seeing huge changes in their customer behaviour. While many are finding everything harder, others are actually seeing unexpected success. Some companies have seen rapid growth in their customer lists to levels way beyond what they had anticipated.

The marketers fortunate enough to be working in these companies have the chance to reach a new, wider audience, but there are risks. A larger and more diverse set of customers presents fresh marketing problems that simple tools may struggle to solve. Higher-powered products, that use customer data to automate multi-channel experiences to different groups, are ideally suited to this kind of challenge. It’s therefore important to be able to recognise when it’s the right time to move to a richer set of marketing tools.

Spotting the Signs

Are you enjoying unexpected success right now? Some companies, particularly online retailers, have enjoyed much higher than anticipated custom. As Hive’s Head of Client Services David Greenman explains:

While they are tactfully not publicising it, many of our customers with a strong online presence, are seeing spikes not just in overall sales, but also in the number of new customers making purchases, way beyond what they would normally see for this period. David Greenman, Head of Client Services

Rapid growth can be a risky time for you as a marketer. To make the most of the opportunity, it's important to adapt to this new situation. The strategy that got you this far may start to falter when trying to communicate to a larger, more diverse customer list.

If you’re operating with simple, batch tools then adapting your approach may involve a rethink of your marketing tool kit. Some of the giveaways that you have outgrown your current technology include:

  • Larger customer list but lower marketing response rates
    Seeing lower opens/click-throughs and higher opt-outs may just be a sign of a more varied customer list. Or it could be that using the same messages to newer, more transient customers in the same mailing list means you’re missing the mark. Having one primary mailing list may work well for a niche retailer with a small, loyal customer base but is less suited to a wider mix of customers. Having too many different shapes of customer in one list makes it hard to understand the causes for a drop in engagement. Is it due to problems with your messaging or simply changes in the shape of your target audience?

  • Juggling too many lists
    You may have identified the need for more targeted messaging already. Perhaps you've even taken the action of splitting customers into different lists. This is a sensible approach but presents its own challenges. Are all your customers in the right lists? How do you identify if a new customer is showing the signs of becoming a loyal customer and needs to move lists? Without a rich understanding of behaviour and spending patterns over time this is a challenge to manage.

  • It's harder to write your marketing content
    Is it getting harder to create that one marketing message that hits the right note with all the customers in your list? Are you wanting to inform new customers of your range of products and services without repeating content to those that are already fans? If you're struggling to cover too many bases with each message then it could be a sign that you need to refine and target your communication.

  • Not having the visibility that you need
    Is looking at each marketing channel in isolation preventing you from building a full picture of your customers? This is a sure sign that you're outgrowing your tools. Deeper data capabilities could provide more meaningful insights into the behaviour of your customer profiles across multiple communication channels.

Understanding the Risks

Carrying on with an old approach that is no longer working presents some real risks. The effects of these aren't limited to marketing but could have real impact on the long-term success of your business.

  • Missing opportunities with new customers
    With a new set of contacts there's a great potential opportunity to create new high value relationships. To succeed here, the content and timing of communication needs to be just right. After all, an unexpected surge in new customers won't last forever. There's a short window to convert people into raving fans or you risk them losing interest and returning to their old ways.

  • Alienating existing customers
    If you have a loyal customer base it's important to remember them - particularly if you're experiencing unusual levels of demand. If all they see from you is disruption and a focus on new customers then you risk tarnishing the valuable relationship that you've built. Building on a solid foundation of loyal customers is essential if your growth is to be sustainable.

  • Simplistic reporting
    With new customer profiles comes a wider variety of spending patterns that need to be reflected in reporting. New customers who had few alternatives when they came to you are unlikely to deliver the same lifetime value as current ones, who had more options. Without the right tools it's hard to identify the spending patterns of different customer types and act accordingly. Forecasting without taking these different profiles into account could lead to over-estimating revenue.

How to Harness the Opportunities

Identifying that you may have outgrown your marketing system, and are exposed to the risks this entails, is the first step. The next is knowing what is possible and the outcomes that you can achieve with the right tools.

  • Target different engagement segments with the relevant approach
    The people in your customer list found you for very different reasons - some out of necessity, some by intention. The messaging to each person needs to reflect those differences if you want to build and maintain long term relationships. The move to a richer, more targeted approach to customer communication may involve a change in tools. Choosing ones that give seamless access to data allows you to segment and target different customer profiles. This isn't a one-time activity but needs to be maintained as people's behaviour changes over time. When customers automatically move between segments based on their activity, targeted communication gets a lot easier to manage.

  • Look after your loyal fans
    In times of change it's important to look after your loyal customers to avoid losing the great relationships you've built. Acknowledging the importance of your relationship is key to maintaining it. This could be a simple message to say you appreciate their loyalty in busy times, or a timed offer to show that you value them. Expanding to other channels, such as postcards, also provides a great option to reinforce your relationship. Adding a well timed, personally tailored postcard to the journey for your loyal customers is a proven way to make an emotional connection.

  • Convert new customers into loyal ones
    Understanding what turns customers into loyal fans is key here and this requires access to purchase data. If you analyse previous buying patterns of your most loyal fans you get vital insight into the journey you need to take new customers on. Also identifying when people are likely to lapse based on their buying history allows you to re-engage them with a timely offer.

  • Automate to give you time
    Providing bespoke communication experiences doesn't have to be a hands-on task. You can provide a relevant experience for each individual by automating the journeys that you want to take them on. Basing these journeys on their previous behaviour is the key to ensure every customer gets the right message in the right way at the right time. Simplistic automation based on whether someone has responded to an email won't avoid the risks we've outlined above.

  • Analyse to give you insight
    To build an understanding of different customer profiles you need to bring purchasing and behavioural data together. Having this rich data in a single customer view is the foundation to support deeper marketing analysis. From there you can apply simple yet powerful engagement models, such as RFE or RFV, to categorise your customers. Then you can communicate to each group in just the right way to nurture them into the raving fans you've built your business on.


If you're experiencing an unexpected uplift in customers, it's important not to rest on your laurels. Moving from a small company with a niche, engaged customer base to a more mainstream one could justify a step up in marketing tools. Adding the ability to bring your data into a single customer view will allow you to truly understand your customers. From there you can set up automated, personalised communication which in turn frees up vital time for you to refine your marketing approach.

Some companies inevitably leave it too late. Fear of high costs and lack of data skills will hold them back, but it doesn't have to. The well-known enterprise platforms aren't the only option here. There are providers who specialise in helping smaller organisations in the move to more advanced marketing. By working with a more targeted provider, you can expand your marketing capability within sensible budgets. You can also access whatever level of data integration expertise is right to for you to get up and running.

The next step in your marketing capabilities doesn’t have to be a difficult one if you work with the right provider. The key is identifying when it's time to change. If the warning signs we've shown here look familiar then it's time to consider whether you may have outgrown your marketing tools.

About the Author

Jon Mitchell, Chief Technology Officer
Jon is the co-founder and Chief Technology Officer at Hive. He has over 20 years experience in software development, with the majority of that focused on creating fit for purpose Marketing solutions, with companies such as Occam, Alterian and Experian. From architecture and design, development and testing, to deployment and cloud hosting, Jon leads our R&D team to ensure that clients and end-users can put their trust in our Hive Marketing Cloud platform.
Connect with Jon on LinkedIn.


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