Everything’s Changed but Nothing’s Changed. Let’s not try to fool anyone today. There are many words we use to represent change. Whether we call it transformation, reinvention or reimagination, it’s an exercise in semantics. The bottom line is that something happened that drove the need to change how you do things. I’m a marketer and from the marketing perspective, what has changed is that customers are demanding a supremely personalised and 1:1 experience. We no longer afford to play on hunches, educated guesses or even broad demographic generalities. We have use the huge amounts of data we have to demonstrate a personal knowledge of the customers enabled by the data that’s freely given and available to us to slice and dice any way we see fit. With knowledge comes power and with power comes responsibility. How we apply that knowledge becomes the agent of change which drives reimagination, reinvention and eventually, transformation.
I had the pleasure of presenting a talk on Adobe and its transformation to a data-driven marketing powerhouse at the recent Festival of Marketing gathering in London. There’s only so much you can say in 30 minutes, so I thought I’d share some additional thoughts in a blog post. I made the point during my talk that all this new knowledge coming at us is both a blessing and a curse. It’s the source of our new found power and influence in the board room, but it also drives change that is universally gazed upon as evil by the rank and file. Challenges abound just as the new opportunities to reach the customer at new touch points are multiplying faster than we can secure marketing budget to figure out if it’s a valuable marketing channel or not.
At the CMO level, C-Suite expectations have risen in real terms. Attribution and ROI from the marketing efforts must now be quantified and proven to be of value. I’m not the CMO, but I will tell you that proof of value rolls downhill in most marketing organisations.
People. Data does not provide knowledge in its raw form. It must be processed, cleansed, and subjected to various forms of data mining and statistical treatment to glean the insights the data is trying to tell you. That requires new skills and talent to become part of the marketing team. Data scientists, computer modeling expertise, IT (yes, the “nerds”) and data analysts become part of your marketing team. You have to learn a whole new language (geek & data speak) as well as teach all these new team members marketing speak. If you can’t communicate, you’re pretty much dead in the water.
Technology. All this new information requires the software tools to enable you to understand what the data is trying to tell you. The speed and volume of the data coming in requires an automated analysis capability on an integrated marketing platform. The geeks will build the platform but you, as the marketer, must learn to operate the dashboards that are telling you how your marketing campaigns are performing. In our case, the Adobe Marketing Cloud had to be rolled out and integrated enterprise-wide.
Process. Yeah, the one nobody wants to talk about but it lies at the heart of making the transformation successful. Data silos and its accompanying organisational isolation must be torn down. There can only be one set of data, a single source of truth. Someone has to mind the store 24/7. The web is global.. It never shuts down. The customer likewise is “always on.” Waiting for perfection in your marketing campaigns is no longer an option. Time to market outranks perfection. However, it doesn’t relieve you of the responsibility to monitor performance, test and iterate until the campaign performs up to expectations or scrap it for plan B. Peter Drucker summed this up well with this quote, “Doing the right thing is more important than doing the thing right.”
What’s the Same?
Fundamentals of Marketing – the game hasn’t changed. It’s all about understanding your customers, and building relationships that are meaningful to them. It’s not about you. You have to make sure you’re sharing the right information at the right time and in the right place. In their language and on their terms. You are who you have been. All those years of experience have taught you many lessons that are best not forgotten. Your intuition and risk-taking qualities are the same. That reminds of another eternal quote from Peter Drucker, “People who don’t take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year. People who do take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year.”
Brand Management – brand basics still hold true. You need to know who you are and what you stand for. We had to spend a lot of time understanding who we are and what our value proposition and differentiation was. You can’t move forward until you know. How can you possibly build a relationship with customers until you understand who you are. This has always held true.
Community not customer – you still can’t do it all yourself; Co-create, collaborate and Open Up. The new wrinkle here is that the customer is now part of your marketing team. The community, not the customer, is king. Its an important difference to how we think, We are no longer the sole owners of our brand. Our customers want to play a role in creating what Adobe is. So to that extent we are the custodians, not owners. After all any brand today is no more than the combined experiences of its customers.
Market Research – your competitors are still out there, and just one click away from you when your customers are online engaging with you. Business intelligence is still a priority. Customer sentiment must be monitored and measured. How we do that has changed and the consumer panels of old have been replaced by real-time behavioral data.
The changes to marketing will keep on coming. Transformation is just the beginning of being able to adapt to the new order of things. The key to keeping up is to learn how to evolve as the changes affect your ability to reach your customer. Organisational structure, corporate culture and the process of doing business were never meant to be etched in stone. You must be agile, open-minded and accepting of the need to foster a culture of change with the company.