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Push your marketing ahead

8 inspirations to push your marketing forward

Takeaways from the 2015 MarTech conference

Kyle Richardson | May 8, 2015

I really enjoyed this year’s MarTech, which brought together over 1,100 people in San Francisco to talk about what’s new and emerging in marketing and marketing technology. With 29 speakers and 67 exhibitors it was a highlight event featuring cutting edge technology and strategies. It was great to see the focus on the emerging community of hybrid professionals who are both marketing-savvy and tech-savvy: marketing technologists, creative technologists, growth hackers, data scientists, and digital strategists.

Here are some takeaways from the presentations and concepts discussed at the conference. They’re reminder actions and guiding principles for marketers – some new, some reinforcements of paths we’ve all been on and need to continue to evolve.

  1. Start with the people. With the digital world growing and playing a larger role in our lives, more than ever we need to design interactions for PEOPLE. First, take a step back and look at everything you’re doing. Understand what problem or behavior you’re trying to work toward. Ask yourself what basic human need and desire you’re solving for. It’s critical to focus on the consumer and the end experience. With that lens and focus, you can design a truly human and emotional experience – not some robotic feeling, mass-produced interaction. Many marketing departments have gone too far, and are primarily focusing on the technologies and capabilities they think they need. Look to the customer and the experience the customer desires. Marketing shouldn’t get too obsessed with technology. Make technology choices based on the experience you want to drive, and let the experience drive technology decisions.

  2. Get in your customers’ shoes. As you’ve probably found, customer journey mapping is a powerful tool, and it needs to evolve to not get stale. It needs to take into account front- and back-stage activities. Replace the inside-out viewpoint (capabilities, processes, technology, services) and instead implement an outside-in viewpoint. Talk about the customers’ view, the context of interaction, and what it means to engage. Pair that viewpoint with an understanding of the front-stage activities that are occurring (customer touch points, content) and the back-stage activities (content creation, platform, organization, measures) required to enable the desired experience and journey. Focus on what the customer thinks/does/feels. Building a customer obsessed organization is the desired outcome and key for marketing's success in this digital age.

  3. Think art and science. Design has always been important to marketing, but its value is growing even more. In the past, design was equated to art – but they’re each focused on different things. Similar to engineering, design is about making solutions, and similar to science, art is about making questions. Companies need to bring these mindsets together because where they intersect is where amazing things happen. Lean product design is a good example. Lean product design has an emphasis on incremental changes and not complete site-redesigns (think about small changes that Amazon makes to its website). It seeks to build the learning into the experience and understand the desire for changes and features before fully building it into the product.

  4. Get technical chops. The way we think about our marketing departments is morphing. We’re going to need some techy types along with our creative types. Marketing automation is basically engineering/programming with a visual interface. It requires complex design and logic to create the desired customer journeys. To effectively create engaging experiences, marketing departments need technical resources and an engineering mindset along with more creative and campaign-focused people.

  5. Get your data together, and use it in all channels. Marketing frankenstack is not uncommon – different tools in different departments, and different layers all with special features. Companies are beginning to realize the value of bringing the data together and the opportunities that can be unlocked. But don’t think so much about big data. Think instead about big testing. Data needs to be used to inform the view of the customer and decisions around the customer experience. Try to steer clear of using data as a rearview mirror.

  6. Pull from the world of development, and act agile. Customers are more digitally-savvy than ever before. Emerging upstart companies are designing their experiences to better meet their customers’ needs and desires. Agile principles and practices are key for modern marketing to bridge the gap between companies’ interactions and consumers’ expectations. In the past, marketing had a longer cycle and was typically a big campaign tied with a single message – it functioned like an orchestra playing a symphony. But now our marketing needs to be more creative and responsive – marketing needs to be more like jazz. You need to be agile and transform your way of marketing from an orchestra playing a symphony, to a band playing jazz – they require different skills, a different pace, and they seek different types of marketing results.

  7. Beef up your analytics capabilities. Marketing technology is closely linked to analytics, in that some of the real value and power it brings is its ability to show the numbers, results, and ROI. In 2003* and in 2012** The Harvard Business Review predicted the demise of IT and marketing respectively, but the reality is that IT and marketing have morphed and become entwined. They are more important than ever. IT and marketing have grown together and the analytics that are being produced can now prove the value that’s being created. Marketers can prove their worth more than ever and can tie themselves to results.

  8. Push for constant innovation. Marketing technology is amazing. Innovation will come not just with new tech, but in how we use existing technology to create amazing experiences. The potential is found in ingenious uses of tech and data to create new forms of storytelling and captivate audiences. Pizza Mogul by Dominoes and Pantene’s #WantThatHair at the Oscars are great examples of ways marketing departments are thinking innovatively to overcome hurdles and create amazing and engaging new experiences.

According to some of the venture capital firms at MarTech, we’ve only scratched the surface of what’s possible. And there’s a new-wave of multi-billion dollar marketing technology companies coming up. Given the already huge landscape, it is daunting to imagine what might be around the corner.

* Nicholas G. Carr, "IT Doesn't Matter." HBR May 2003

** Bill Lee, "Marketing is Dead.” HBR August 2012

Kyle Richardson

Kyle Richardson is a solutions principal in Slalom Seattle’s Customer Engagement practice. He is passionate about partnering with clients on digital and customer strategy, marketing, and analytics. He has over 10 years of management consulting experience and deep knowledge across the high tech, retail, and communications industries.


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