The Melding of Marketing and Technology - Where do you Fit?

John Bartold, VP, Loyalty Solutions, Epsilon
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John Bartold, VP, Loyalty Solutions, Epsilon

You would need to be completely off the grid to be unaware of the rapid evolution of marketing. While smaller changes have been unfolding over the years, we have recently hit a not-so-subtle tipping point signaling a new era. Marketing, advertising, and technology are inextricably linked in order for marketers to deliver the required customer outcomes. It happened so fast, that the majority of organizations were not prepared. From a company culture standpoint, start-ups and smaller companies appear to have adapted more quickly because they have newer technology platforms and simple, more flexible organizational structures. For the well-established, complex organizations, the challenges can be incredibly overwhelming.

The struggle spans everything from silo’d systems and technology platforms to organizational structures and lack of governance models. Perhaps even more challenging is the cultural clash; anecdotally, the mixing of oil and water or in this case, art and science.

Right now, there is considerable focus on digital experience and building out those capabilities. Some organizations are just starting the journey while others are well on their way. The reality is, there have been other waves of ‘new technology’ over the past few decades as technology has evolved. Joe Stanhope, a Forrester analyst, is already signaling that we are in the ‘post digital’ movement where marketing, advertising and technology must converge. .

Historically, marketing has been more art than science. Not anymore.

Marketers typically operate using conceptual thinking and gut instinct; they focus on shiny objects that capture consumer attention, elicit an emotional response and then orchestrate campaigns to generate market buzz. Technologists are all about tangible proof: science, clear performance, operational standards, and defined schedule processes.

  â€‹Start-ups and smaller companies appear to have adapted more quickly because they have newer technology platforms and simple, more flexible organizational structures   

Here’s the key: how quickly an organization becomes aware of their common purpose– customer outcomes, regardless of their respective background or discipline, will determine their success.

Organizations that are making solid advances have evolved, pushing silo’d thinkers out of their comfort zone. Their teams are hyper-focused on what they ultimately have in common: customer outcomes. While marketers are learning the science of agile development, scrums, and sprints; technologists are learning about customer journeys, interaction maps, epics and user stories. Through this, silo’d structures are giving way to matrixed structures forcing better communication, the creation of hybrid vernacular, new process development and a truly collaborative approach.

As a loyalty marketer, my focus has always been what I’ve referred to as a brand’s most valuable asset or inventory: its customers. Without customers, there isn’t anyone to buy the products and services you offer. Sounds logical, but it’s remarkable how often this basic truth is overlooked. To be successful in today’s marketplace, you must know your customer. And, not just as a name or record in a CRM database. You must take action to interact with customers in real time, on the right channels, and with relevant information, content and approaches.

This truly requires a hybrid of both art and science, and can include everything from reward and frequency programs, to a long term relationship that unequivocally yield the best return on investment and brand nirvana: building authentic, reciprocal relationships with consumers.

As your organization works to meet the challenges ahead, a few things to keep in mind from the loyalty marketing world:

• Engage consumers in the process and provide a reason for them to identify themselves, share information and work with you. Collecting information and building the consumer profile is much easier when you have consumers willing to identify themselves and provide the information themselves. It is much easier than gleaning information or developing the capability to ‘identify’ consumers in the background.

• Consider using external providers for the platforms and infrastructures to support your consumer efforts. Before investing heavily to build the capability internally, outsource until you can fully define the opportunity and the internal requirements for your organization. There is nothing wrong with taking an iterative approach. The flexibility outsourcing offers can allow you to be agile, test and learn to determine what is best for your long term strategy.

• Consumer relationships touch all aspects of your business: which means you must build teams from various disciplines to solve problems, create opportunities and evolve your strategy. Focus on solving consumer problems or uncovering new opportunities for consumers to engage your brand.

And, while you think about your teams, it might be a good time to introduce some new members and their languages and cultures to your team. Get ready to meet the data scientists, behavioral economists, psychologists, sociologists, and anthropologists. Now that you are in the world of customers, you have a lot of new languages, processes, and beliefs. And, don’t think change is ever going to stop. You’re just getting started in the brave new world of marketing, advertising and technology. It is time to begin melding with your organization.

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