For marketers, the easy days are over. Once upon a time, maybe four or five years ago, it was fairly straightforward to segment customers, predict their behavior and schedule broad but impactful marketing campaigns.
Technology has changed all that. Social and digital media, powered by rapidly evolving technologies, have transformed the consumer landscape and destroyed both the traditional market segmentation and customer journey.
A tech-savvy 50-year-old armed with a smartphone and tablet, for example, may have more in common with a 17-year-old Snapchatting hipster, than with a 35-year-old who prefers a brick and mortar retail experience over the instant gratification of friction-free online shopping. Technology has democratized our online access, but our behavioral responses can still be very different.
Targeting categories like blue-collar workers and millennials would be like using a sledgehammer to fix your broadband router.
Attack of the shape-shifters
That’s because the media habits of millennials have already gone viral and spread to older generations. Having your parents join Facebook to stalk your social posts is already yesterday’s problem.
This year, we’ve seen online overtake television when it comes to news consumption in the UK; news on social media, meanwhile, has now edged ahead of newspapers. These are seismic changes in the media landscape that are transforming the modern marketer’s outlook.
Today’s consumers are digitally savvy and platform agnostic. They are elusive shape shifters who make today’s marketing certainty tomorrow’s fallacy. There is simply no such thing anymore as a predictable audience for anybody’s advertising campaign. Exciting times, indeed.
Technology may have made life difficult for Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) and their teams when it comes to planning and executing campaigns, but every big hairy problem also hides an amazing opportunity. Since we now have the technology to analyse the fragmentation of the consumer landscape and track the shape shifters, we can use these insights for precision marketing to create a one-on-one relationship with our customers. Even better, Return on Marketing Investment (ROMI) is finally measurable, often in real time.
For CMOs, this is the Holy Grail. It’s finally within reach. However, to succeed, they have to fundamentally reboot their own role both within their company, as well as how they define their customer relationship.
Where data meets creativity
Let’s be honest, technology will not replace the creative flair and storytelling capabilities of marketing teams. However, CMOs can now gather data at nearly every single customer touchpoint. With the right CRM tools and big data analytics, this data can be turned into actionable insights. And when matched with great creativity, that’s where the magic happens.
As we are dealing with shape shifters, these campaigns and actions have to be fine-tuned all the time, which is made possible as predictive modelling will allow us to anticipate customer behavior, while marketing automation helps us to tailor the experiences and content on offer for each customer.
To make it work, CMOs have to add the right skills to their team: data scientists who have a deep understanding of how the right analytics and CRM tools can make all the difference, and know which questions to ask. But most importantly, CMOs have to ensure that the whole business collaborates to develop a unified customer view.
Gaining this comprehensive insight does not happen by accident; CMOs need to lead the effort of gathering and analysing the data, and ensure that all teams across the company – from R&D and Quality Assurance, to customer service and support, to sales and channel partners – have secure, enterprise-grade collaboration tools built for the mobile age to make it happen.
The collaboration nation
In turn, it will be the job of Marketing Leaders to share the insights from this data across the business. With the right technology, CMOs can become the strategic driver of customer-centric collaboration across the enterprise. In fact, CMOs will take on the role of Chief Collaboration Officer across the company.
This is not just a question of choosing the right technology, but also of curating the company’s culture. When it comes to interacting with shape shifting consumers, it’s all-too-easy for a company to be as embarrassing as the aforementioned Dad who’s invading the online equivalent of the dance floor at the school disco.
For companies that rely on data-driven marketing, the old quip that “half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half” does not hold true anymore.
That also means that “failing fast” will become the new mantra of marketers. The new tools available to us make it possible to see and understand what customers like, what gets them engaged and what persuaded them to act. Marketing failure is not only quickly contained, it even offers insights that further help improve the next steps of the campaign.
For most CMOs and marketing teams, using these technology tools will be a process of learning and experimentation. After all, every company’s core messaging is distinct and every company’s customer base will be fragmented in different ways. It will also take time for teams across companies – from sales to marketing, and support to development, and beyond – to truly learn how to collaborate in the use of these tools.
A game of risk
It’s a curious contradiction that this technology-driven de-risking of marketing actually in turn encourages risk-taking. It sounds counter-intuitive, but constant measurement and A/B testing of marketing campaigns gives us instant results, giving us the confidence to try new things and then scale what works.
Playing it safe simply isn’t necessary anymore… not that many of us embarked on marketing careers to be risk-averse. Many of us became marketers for a more diverse, creative career where consumer intuition matters, and where we can experiment with ideas.
There is a beautiful irony that the binary logic of technology is helping to unlock the fantastical world of creativity.
Perhaps it’s time to hail the new generation of marketing leaders who embrace the sweetspot where marketing technologies meet creative application, where science meets art, and where computing power meets human imagination.
And to do that? Perhaps the answer is just to do a little shape-shifting ourselves.