The role of marketers is changing as marketing goes digital, revealing the knowledge hidden in data. So what does that mean to us as marketers? We will be researchers, mechanics but also executives, according to SAS Institute’s SVP of Global Marketing, Adele Sweetwood. I caught up with her on the changing culture of marketing and how SAS Institute has applied its own medicine. Four of her key points are in the video snippets inserted in this blog.
The classic view on marketing, Mad Men style: a playground for the creative class, conjuring up exciting campaigns and slogans, effectively seducing the masses into submission and through the checkout line with goods they never knew that they needed before marketers helped them see the light.
Of course, even the so-called good old days were a lot more complex than that. Still, data analysis and digital customer interaction is changing the game. We can no longer pretend that customers are mysterious creatures summoned through attention grabbing tactics: They let us know loud and clear what they are looking for through their digital footprints on our website, search patterns, and social media interactions. We even have the tools to analyse their physical reaction to goods in a show room, face-to-face inquiries to sales people and the tone-of-voice in phone calls to the help desk.
SAS’ own Adele Sweetwood knows enough about that topic to write a book - so she did.
The Analytical Marketer is equal parts guidebook and first-person tales from the trenches of the changing field of marketing. I sat down with her for a #SASChat Talk Show about her experiences, which you can watch here in its entirety.
Learning to walk the talk
Change is never easy, not even in a company such as SAS where analytics has always been front and centre of our business. But our understanding of the power of data insight helped guide the way and today, SAS walks its own talk also in marketing.
Being truly customer centric today makes it less relevant to make detailed long-term campaign plans or sales funnels; we simply need to keep in step with our customers on a day-to-day basis. In that sense, marketing, sales and service are melting together to ensure that customers are served when they want, how they want it and in the right dosage. It really is about humans connecting with humans, even as we apply analytics to understand how best to make that connection. Which brings me to the first lesson from my talk with Adele Sweetwood:
Analytical Marketer Lesson #1: Customer journeys are not created by marketers, but by customers
Today I think customer journey is about what journey the customers want to be on, they’re more in control, and they’re telling us with their behaviours, with their choices, with their preferences, they’re telling us what they want us to know about them so we can create the right experiences in that journey, that toolkit that you refer to has a lot to do with data, and it has to a lot to do with analytics, has a lot to do with people and the way they design from a marketing standpoint, has a lot to do with the types of talent you might hire and then how you bring them together in a structure. And then of course how you lead them, lead them through this change and inspire them to be analytical marketers.
Too much of a good marketing thing
Another thing that changed in the early days of digital marketing was the multitude of channels, we suddenly had to take into consideration. More social media platforms popped up every month, mobile became prevalent. We as marketers were eager not to miss an opportunity in an evermore fragmented world of media. But customers do not want more information – they want the right information, as Adele candidly explains in this, the
Analytical Marketer Lesson #2: Don’t let multi-channel lead to over-communication
We spend a lot of time in that assessment phase analysing our own customer journeys and realising that we had organised in such a way, and had prioritised in such a way that we were actually over communicating, that we were over marketing, and probably creating some bad habits in the way we interfaced with our customers, and we decided, you know, instead of having this very channel narrow focus on how we might design, we were going to take this data and this information, pay attention to patterns, trends, behaviours, reset some of the segmentation and targeting and shift our focus to a customer focused approach to marketing. And that changes everything, it changes how you design a campaign, it changes how you really even set outcomes or objectives for that campaign. We’ve got very selective in the channels that we use, the expectations we have from those channels, and the investments we make, it’s allowed us to be much more agile in responding, but it’s also allowed us to be much more confident so we get better response rates, better conversation rates, better impact on pipeline, ultimately better revenue impact and happier customers, because we’re not inundated them with the wrong information.
So, letting go of the fear of the missed channel opportunity, we as marketers need to focus instead on some basic housekeeping: How good is our data? Who owns it? What does it all mean for our ability to harvest, analyse, and utilise the knowledge derived from this data? Once this is clear and marketers have access to exactly the right information and is using it continually, we might wake up one day and realise that
Analytical Marketer Insight #3: Marketing is looking more and more like race car mechanics
I do believe that marketing organisations have to take a serious look and evaluation and assessment if you will of where they’re at from an analytical life cycle standpoint, with their access to data, how clean is that data, what did they do today and is it performing or not performing and really we talk about lifting up the covers, or looking under the hood type concept to look at the details and be very hard on yourself about where things are at, what’s working, what’s not working. That evaluation process today for marketing is a critical and important tool.
Great, so now we are all analysts and mechanics as well as marketers. But once we master all these roles, we should be all set – or…? Well, brace yourselves, there is more to come.
Analytical Marketer Insight #4: AI and IoT is about to change the marketing game yet again
I think we’re going to face new challenges with more data coming from sources like artificial intelligence, all the data that’s going to be collected in beacons and artificial devices and other areas of the business we hadn’t really gotten data from before, so we’re going to have challenges there, and opportunities as well. It seems like, you know, we’re getting somewhat of a balance in social and digital channels, but I do expect more changes and something new in different, maybe new devices that we’ll have to manage along the way, but all exciting, all for the right reasons.
Be brave and get paid
The need for marketers to adapt will never be over and there will always be a next new thing, which we need to weigh against our strategy and priorities as businesses. However, when we find the courage to embrace this new paradigm, there is a potent upside for marketers which is anything but fuzzy: Through diligent tracking of marketing activities, today we have the insight to know exactly how marketing efforts has contributed to sales. We can celebrate a new win with equal pride along with the team, who handed the contract to the customer. We can back our work with hard numbers, also when we negotiate next year’s wages and our eligibility to sit at the executives’ table. That is also one of the key takeaways from Adele’s book The Analytical Marketer that shows a bright future still for us CMOs and our teams.
So is creativity in marketing dead? No, but its application is changing. We can delight customers and not just (in worst case) our own professional egos, exactly due to the fact that we actually see them. When the light is not just on the stage where we dance, while the audience sits in the dark.