The Marketer’s Journey

Brent Sleeper
Jan. 29, 2016 by Brent Sleeper

the-marketers-journey

Jay Henderson, general manager of IBM’s Marketing Cloud business, was a featured speaker at SparkPost’s annual Insight user conference. In his talk, he delivered a great overview of how marketing is adapting to new technology and business models.

His highlights include:

  • Noisy marketing chatter is cheap. And ineffective. The number of campaigns and emails and messages we encounter has soared. The right content is critical to breaking though the clutter.
  • Mobile technology is ubiquitous. Mobile marketing isn’t a niche—in fact, it’s the most mainstream medium possible. Email and other marketing tools need to be mobile-first, not mobile-maybe.
  • Cross-channel experiences are not optional. See above—customers use mobile all the time. But then, they walk into a store. Or switch to a web site at their desk. Does the experience you offer follow effortlessly, or at all?
  • Marketers must manage their portfolio of marketing technologies—the martech stack—strategically. In a period of innovation, it’s easy to wind up with a jumble of technologies that barely hold together. The balance between streamlining technology investments while still pursuing competitive advantage and differentiation is a perennial challenge for all of us.
  • Successful marketers cultivate a culture that bridges technology and creativity. Better-performing marketing teams collaborate with their technology providers and have the operational resources to make the most of martech.

I’ve included the slides from Jay’s keynote below.


 

Jay’s presentation stuck with me in the subsequent weeks, and I kept thinking about the implications of these changes for my profession. What does it mean to be a marketer today?

In most regards, there’s never been a better time to be a marketer. The technology’s awesome and has made all kinds of things possible that we couldn’t do before. The business models of growing businesses, be they cloud-based services or real-world retail, are increasingly dependent upon marketing expertise to understand customer behavior and engagement. The portion of marketing budgets that are considered strategic rather than discretionary is increasing. The amount of “marketing” that we all experience is going up, up, and up.

Yep. Good times.

But why, then, do I sometimes sense some unspoken anxiety from my peers at professional conferences and meetups? Why does it seem that a lot of us are “faking it ’til we make it?” Hey, no shame. I have those feelings from time to time, too. I think a lot of it is just human nature in the midst of change. Some of us welcome it, and some of us fear it, but there’s no denying that the marketing worldview has changed in lots of meaningful ways.

Maybe you’ve heard the comment author William Gibson made at the dawn of the modern Internet era: “The future is already here—it’s just not very evenly distributed.” And perhaps, at first, the different facets of digital and data-driven marketing seemed like specialized skills. But this change has been underway for a long time, and it’s now become so obvious that it’s impossible to miss.

Over the two-plus decades since Gibson made his quip about the future and the web ushered in commercial use of the Internet, several technology stacks have arisen (and sometimes fallen) to enable an ever more intimate (read: data-driven) customer marketing relationship.

So, for marketers, the future indeed already is here. It’s all about the long-term shift in how businesses think about connecting with customers. Conceptually, one of the biggest changes has been an explicit reorientation away from a relatively static notion of marketing—for example, that a customer’s decision to buy is based on a lightning strike of the right combination of the four P’s of product, price, promotion, and place. Instead, most of us today understand that a customer’s experience with a brand or a company really occurs in many steps over time. That experience over time is the “customer journey” that we strive to perfectly fulfill.

But one thing that sometimes gets lost in this acknowledgement of the primacy of the customer journey is that we marketers have been on a journey of our own. Sometimes that journey requires a fresh perspective on our craft. Other times, it means becoming facile with new technologies. And throughout, it depends upon bringing more “science” and empirical decision-making to our creative “art” of communication. But above all, it means not standing still.

By the way, do check out Jay Henderson’s presentation that I embedded at the beginning of this post. His ideas definitely are worth your time.

Do you agree? What are the changes you’ve experienced as a marketer? I’d love to hear from you!

—Brent
@brentsleeper

 

Check out more from Insight 2015:

 

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