Let’s Blur Marketing Lines and Focus on Customers

With the proliferation of communication channels and the tools to measure and respond to customer feedback, brands now have the potential to improve customer experiences in ways that were never before possible. The challenge is that customer-brand relationships have evolved faster than the technology systems that enable them. Today, most customers assume you are collecting their data — especially when they have explicitly given it to you  and they expect you to use that data to improve their experiences. Is your marketing technology allowing you to fulfill their expectations?

Let me illustrate with a personal example. I have both a business account and a personal account at a well-known bank. I trust my bank with my most personally identifying information and engage with their app, website and ATMs often. I recently received a direct mail piece from them that said, “You trust us with your business banking, why don’t you trust us with your personal banking?” Now it’s not like they let someone charge thousands of dollars worth of perfume at a duty-free airport shop in Paris with my account number  well, that actually did happen, but that’s another story. Maybe it was just a case of bad direct mail copywriting, but I actually took a bit of offense. I trust this company with all my personal information, yet they don’t have the intelligence to know that I already have both a personal and business account with them before sending me this junk mail? While this mistake is fairly innocuous, small interactions like this eat away at a customer’s brand trust.

I don’t know what marketing automation system they are using, but I can tell you it is typical for a large company to have completely different systems managing completely different data sets about the same exact customer. And, different departments frequently have no visibility into what the others are doing. This is the result of marketing technology systems that were built around business units rather than customers, resulting in a less than ideal customer experience.

However, the blurring of marketing lines and shifting the focus on customers is upon us. It’s less about separating marketing functions and more about leveraging technology to reach customers in the right place at the right time with the right message. “The line between digital and traditional marketing continues to blur,” says Laura McLellan, research vice president at Gartner. And as Gartner’s Martin Kihn asserts in this AdExchanger article, the worlds of ad tech and “mar-tech” a.k.a. marketing automation, multichannel campaign management and CRM are colliding. “Gartner’s putting a stake in the ground and we feel the world of CRM and advertising are no longer separate from a marketer’s point of view,” he explained. This is a good thing, as I believe the blurring of old-fashioned marketing definitions in favor of building customer-focused solutions will benefit the entire ecosystem. If your disparate systems can’t cohesively leverage data across your marketing stack, you won’t be able to fulfill customer expectations.

Amidst all the marketing cloud wars (when things sometimes aren’t as seamlessly unified as they’d like you to think), keep this in mind as you evolve your marketing technology solutions to focus more on customers: Your customer data is one of the most valuable assets you own. Make sure that your solution gives you full access and control to all your customer data in your marketing stack including your email service provider, CRM, social media, transactional, behavioral, and device data. Your goal is to architect a system that allows any decision-maker, analyst or marketer in your company who could improve performance by leveraging customer data to have access to that data.