Gerard Lim, Chief Marketing Officer, Spa Esprit Group
Despite the rise of chatbots, AI, machine-learning, AR vs VR and the death of Voice, it’s hard to imagine that beneath / underneath it all, lie the humans that are determined to make traits like instinct & gut into evolving algorithms that make themselves and livelihoods, obsolete.
Any Martech solution implemented without the right human being running it, will be destined to mediocrity or failure.
To date, Amazon, Google & Apple remain the world’s most well-known brands. They use technology that learns from the daily behavior of their customers, to the point that we the customers, now need to be protected from such subtle invasive practices.
Over 7,000 MarTech solutions exist to ensure that we are spoilt for choice. Most companies who bought them, would not have been able to get the best out of it. The problems around the software such as integration, collaboration and sharing data are similar to the real view of humanity. Why can’t everyone just get along…
Most organisations’ choice of CRM, DAM, CMS (etc) systems, do not work in synchronicity. But within a 3 to 5 year cycle, we keep upgrading without fixing enough of the source material while our vendors, agencies and familiar staff keep changing.
But broadly, organisiations expect automation at the very least – to even anticipate our customer needs and make sense of their behavior. But technology is merely an enabler, it has to learn from us and we have to make decisions from the data that we’ve gathered. Unfortunately, we never get to master the systems that we have bought, in the time we have, before the customers fragment yet again.
At the employer-end, staff with specific technical platform familiarity are more in demand than marketers because the MarTech solution implemented, requires it.
This feeds into the ever-failing marriage between Marketing and IT because organisations are continually rushed or deliberately delayed onto decisions that are supposed to increase productivity.
The resultant ‘menagea trois’ is complex; a marketing team that struggles to understand customer behavior while operationalizing the systems they bought, an IT department that continually tries to integrate the other legacy flows with sales and customer data. And an executive management committee that expects to monetize its ‘transformation’ quickly. The turf wars, priorities, amount of jargon & terminology everyone needs to communicatively decode is over-powering. Truth be told, it would have been much more peaceful to do nothing at all.
In the past decade, I have found that a practical, foundational checklist works best for me:
1. Ensure that the organization has a sizeable, real time customer database that has been segmented against its most practical metrics (name, contact details, age, spend, frequency of sales, types of things purchased etc)
2. Ensure that every one of these customers have opted-in for marketing messages
3. Identify how the channels (offline, online, social) are/are not currently providing the flow of sales, leads, feedback.
4. Identify & Remove the barriers for #4 in terms of being able to close the loop / transactions. Overlay your marketing activities across these established journeys.
5. Since email is still cheapest, integrate this with a simple, reliable platform that can be managed by most staff so that beyond your call center call-backs, you can reach out quickly
6. Do not embark on ‘loyalty’ beyond simple customer birthdays until you have a dedicated skilled resource to actually do it.
7. Ensure that your marketing department (not sales), drive this. Rinse & repeat. You need human beings to interpret customer and brand interactions. So it should be the priority.
Finally, where appropriate, identify a Martech solution against this blueprint to be able to deliver quick wins. If not, go back to step 1. Until you get it done, all your efforts will be classified as ‘building awareness’ or ‘education’. In short, management will quickly devalue your activities.
Certainly, I have made my own share of poor choices while being dazzled at solutions that claimed to be ‘cutting edge’, ‘intuitive’ and ‘user-friendly’.
I would prefer to be good at something instead of okay at lots of things. Its way better to concentrate on a few of these areas, to deliver consistent, improving weekly and monthly results. If it doesn't have a place in the organisation’s marketing strategy then I won’t waste funds or effort. In my humble opinion, a marketing technology solution should fulfil 3 things: be part of a customer’s organic decision-making behavior, fit easily into the existing company IT infrastructure/workflow and finally, be able to be learnt & effectively used by normal individuals.
The future still lies with us humans to build an emotional-connection strategy. It needs our analytical ability to identify deep customer insights from the data that technology has amassed. That is the way business can see the pay-off because ultimately, smart marketing hinges on humanity, not technology.