Yes, my fel­low mar­keters, the era of depict­ing what we do every day as “dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing” is com­ing to a close. Much like telling new acquain­tances that my first con­cert was The Who’s farewell tour of 1982 (I think we know what hap­pened after that), talk­ing about dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing at the close of 2014 will sound dated at best. Why is that?

Although many of us have embraced dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing tech­nol­ogy as a dri­ver of mes­sag­ing, feed­back, and clearly defined action, we are now beyond putting tech­nol­ogy first—it’s all about deliv­er­ing the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence that hap­pens to be enabled by dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing. Thus the evo­lu­tion of the New Marketer—a big think­ing, con­cep­tual, yet ana­lyt­i­cal stu­dent of con­sumer behavior—cannot go for­ward with­out cast­ing aside the fas­ci­na­tion with dig­i­tal chan­nels and mul­ti­me­dia assets. Frankly, we’re not doing “dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing” any­more. Sim­ply put, it’s mar­ket­ing (in a dig­i­tal world!).

Let me explain: As dig­i­tal dri­ves the efforts of the New Mar­keter, the empha­sis is no longer on the impor­tance of mobile, Web, email, paid search, and so on; the chan­nels have dis­solved into nor­malcy. Con­sumers have moved on too. They aren’t cap­ti­vated by the nov­elty of these plat­forms; instead, they think in terms of task or activ­ity or func­tion. Today’s cus­tomer is plugged in in so many ways. The dig­i­tal land­scape pro­vides us with mul­ti­me­dia touch points. Now we must infuse data from those touch points to become stronger marketers—New Marketers.

We can now lever­age data to deliver the best con­sumer expe­ri­ence in real time. Con­sumer action imme­di­ately pro­duces a user expe­ri­ence that must match her inter­est, inten­tion, and ulti­mately, her objec­tive. Within mil­lisec­onds, we must accom­plish four strate­gic goals:

  1. It starts with gath­er­ing data from vis­i­tor actions. What have they done? What user action brought them to you? How do we orga­nize data sets in a mean­ing­ful way?
  2. We need to pre­dict which trig­gers will drive their actions. Where do they want to go? What infor­ma­tion are they seeking?
  3. Third, we must access and assem­ble the dig­i­tal assets that “move the nee­dle,” that pro­vide inputs that drive the out­put mar­keters are seeking.
  4. Deliver those assets through the right chan­nels to deliver the end user expe­ri­ence that con­sumers seek.

Let me touch on goal 1. You’ll find that I’m some­thing of a data geek. Now that we are cap­tur­ing it at spec­tac­u­lar veloc­ity and vol­ume (it’s now Big Data…), New Mar­keters must use data to serve our cus­tomers bet­ter. What you ulti­mately get when data is the back­bone for your mar­ket­ing cam­paigns is that the HIPPO (highest-paid person’s opin­ion) becomes irrel­e­vant. While inter­est­ing, a marketer’s opin­ion about his cus­tomers is less per­ti­nent when data is there to rep­re­sent actual con­sumer behavior.

From data we test our assump­tions. This points back to strate­gic goal 2. New Mar­keters must zero in on the right con­sumer expe­ri­ence by test­ing var­i­ous expe­ri­ences (A/B and mul­ti­vari­ate test­ing) then tar­get­ing the right expe­ri­ence to the right con­sumer at the right time. This test­ing enables us as mar­keters to bet­ter con­nect with our cus­tomer and ulti­mately deliver the best pos­si­ble expe­ri­ence. Yes, data and dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies make this pos­si­ble at scale, but it’s this New Mar­keter best prac­tice of Always Be Test­ing (ABT) that make us successful.

As an exam­ple, I was able to share the expe­ri­ences of one of our val­ued cus­tomers, SAP, at the Adobe Dig­i­tal Mar­ket­ing Sym­po­sium in New York and San Fran­cisco ear­lier this year. Their mar­ket­ing has been shaped around test­ing for over two years. SAP serves more than 232,000 cus­tomers in 188 coun­tries and expects to reach over 1 bil­lion users world­wide by 2015. The diver­sity of cus­tomers SAP serves requires a sophis­ti­cated test­ing envi­ron­ment that allows the com­pany to allo­cate its resources effec­tively. With thou­sands of diverse user seg­ments as part of their cus­tomer base, test­ing that effec­tively meets the needs of such diver­sity is essential.

So, what does it mean to be a New Mar­keter in the dig­i­tal age? The New Mar­keter should evi­dence cer­tain qual­i­ties: big pic­ture, com­pre­hen­sive think­ing paired with a sense of gran­u­lar­ity and speci­ficity; a sense of pos­si­bil­ity and a desire to be proac­tive in imag­in­ing new com­bi­na­tions of data and cre­ative; a knack for cre­at­ing the best expe­ri­ences designed for an audi­ence of one; and a belief that strat­egy and tac­tics must evolve (as the con­sumer evolves). Bot­tom line? Mar­keters must con­tin­u­ously learn from the data their mar­ket­ing exe­cu­tion generates.

Over the com­ing weeks, we’ll reflect more on what it means to be a New Mar­keter. We’ll deep-dive into the four strate­gic goals and explain why, when it comes to mar­ket­ing in an age of dig­i­tal, what defines the New Mar­keter is not a mas­tery of “dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing” but under­stand­ing the impor­tance of devel­op­ing and mes­sag­ing to a com­pre­hen­sive pro­file of the tar­get consumer.