Sherlock Holmes

Something strikes me about marketing as a discipline. It has been around, in some form or another, for centuries, but it did not emerge as a fully-fledged discipline until the 1960s. Which, in the grand scheme of things, was not that long ago. When reading Robert Keith’s founding article on "the marketing revolution," it immediately becomes clear that his language is mostly still valid. Keith remarked in his piece that we were moving away from a production era to a marketing driven one – a transition that is, to some extent, still happening.

In fact, what he describes in his piece is nothing more than what certain marketing pundits of today take as gospel: “customer centricity.” The fact of the matter is that marketing must always be customer-centric, there is simply no other option. Marketers must continually improve on how they address consumers, their choices, their preferences, their resistance to marketing pressure even. They must also live up to that great promise put forward, by the founders of the Cluetrain manifesto, as their third thesis: “Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice.”

“Our solution was to establish the present marketing department. This department developed the criteria which we would use in determining which products to market. And these criteria were, and are, nothing more nor less than those of the consumer herself.”

Robert Keith, “Marketing Revolution” - Journal of Marketing, Jul 1959

In a nutshell, this is what technology enables us to do, when it is used properly. Far from being a barrier between consumers and brands, it must be a bridge which enables marketers to create, nurture, enhance and measure customer engagement with the brand for mutual benefit.

This is what data driven marketing is about too. Not just owning and managing your data but using data in the interest of your customers. It requires the ability to work cross-organizationally and effectively with data to enhance the relationship with your clients and deliver a superior customer experience.

To achieve customer-centricity in a data-driven world, marketers will have to go through yet another revolution. This revolution, however, will not happen through traditional reorganizations of people. Data has become our common language, and the new marketing revolution is a data marketing one. Marketers will have to focus on this fundamental question: “what is stopping the smooth flow of consumers along their purchasing journey?”

Most marketers are aware, and some are worried, about how their job is changing. But as the late Apple founder Steve Jobs once said: “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology.”

Yet for many brands the pace of technological change leads to bolting on, buying in or building disparate advertising and marketing technologies across their businesses. Unfortunately, this only exacerbates existing silos between customer acquisition and customer marketing.

Next generation marketing is the convergence of marketing and advertising technology into a customer-centric ecosystem. This new environment uses data and artificial intelligence (AI) to personalize engagement at every stage of the customer journey, from brand awareness and customer acquisition to customer marketing and brand loyalty.

That promises to be a game-changer for brands, because delivers personalized and orchestrated engagement – at scale and across all channels. Previously, such an ambition would have been expensive, unwieldly and overwhelmingly manual. However, today’s technology can deliver consistent messaging and experience to every customer interaction at every touch point.

The evolution from customer experience to customer engagement and how to move towards a converged and data-driven marketing revolution

Customer experience has been the watch-word of the past few years, with digital transformation at the heart of many brands. Yet such projects prove unwieldy, taking months or even years to complete, involve many different organizational units.

Modern marketers understand that customer engagement, rather than customer experience, is key, and evolving technology helps generate personalized communications that cut digital waste. Next-gen tech should be something marketers easily own and justify in terms of return on investment.

Customer engagement is now a context driven experience. Yet, with so many delivery channels, marketers face a growing challenge – how to deliver the right message at the right time through the right channel. According to a recent report by Atlas, 84% of marketers feel that a comprehensive cross-device strategy is essential for success, though only 20% feel very confident they are serving the right message on the right device. A survey, undertaken by Forrester Consulting in 2016, showed that even as marketers rush to adopt cross-device solutions, their evaluation criteria are often unclear. 

That lack of clarity is exacerbated by the way many businesses are organized. Not only are teams physically separate, but their data spread across different platforms and vendors, with separate and disparate budgets, strategies and key performance indicators.

Next generation marketing technology should bring customer acquisition and customer marketing together. The future of marketing needs to be evolution, not revolution, and technology should be centered on giving marketers the access to data that drives initiatives forward. It’s about breaking the organizational silos and building a digital skillset across the marketing team.

A single technology that enables brands to leverage all its data sources, understand customers’ behaviors and orchestrates personalized customer engagement. The evolution from experience to engagement, from content to context.

Any brand that wants to survive – and thrive – in the digital age must fully utilize its existing technology and customer data, digitalize its marketing strategies, close the digital skills gap. By doing so, marketers will deliver well timed, relevant and intelligent messages, making for meaningful and lasting engagement with the people that matter – their customers.

Now is the time for brands to deliver on promise and potential. Next generation technology can help us all make meaningful human connections and lasting engagements.

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