Marketing Innovation: Attribute it to the Web
‘Marketing’ and ‘Innovation’: two words that have traditionally been cloaked in vagueness, if not uncertainty. Why? Because they get abused by association and diluted in practice. Inconsistent results, substance, and meaning tend to have that effect. But when they click … [wo]man-o-[wo]man, that’s the stuff of business legend. And when the combined term ‘Marketing Innovation’ is firing on all cylinders, well, that’s something to write home about (or on the homepage at any rate). It would appear this is such a time, for are ABM and predictive marketing ever hitting their stride!
For purposes here, a simple definition: Marketing Innovation – a promotional practice that decreases the uncertainty in reaching a target audience.
We all know digital marketing has changed the game, but in reality, now digital marketing IS the game. What is referred to as digital marketing now, will soon be marketing in general. And with the onset of AI capabilities and IoT scale, guesswork marketing practices will fade into history more and more. Are there considerations that should be made as we start to segment into 7+ billion ‘demographics’? Absolutely, but here I am focussing on B2B practices. And to be quite honest, perhaps a little more data collection on corporations will prove to be a good thing. It is high time that we start equaling the playing field in numerous capacities for society at large. Why NOT start in digital marketing? My thesis is that with ABM leading the charge, consumer marketing may even learn a few things. Yea, that’s right, all you expert affiliate marketers out there confident you know the system better than most if not all, I got news for you: leaders in the B2B marketing space stand to clean up the game, and I for one welcome it. It’s all cyclical right? B2C -> B2B -> B2C+B … -> B2U [regardless, but knowing, where you are and in what capacity].
The Marketing Innovation Summit (a.k.a. #ABMsummit) was produced by DemandBase, and when a company puts that much effort into an event, I like to sit in on at least one of their presentations. In this case, I am really glad I did. Jessica Fewless dropped some customer-[l]earned knowledge (from more than 100 of them). I was pleased to hear whereas some companies send a sales engineer, Demandbase sends a marketer on sales calls. That speaks volumes to me, and granted it’s an online marketing company, but nonetheless. Another thesis I have: the sooner companies fuse if not remove the gaps between sales and marketing, the better they will perform. Her talk revealed just how more efficient website optimization can be if you know even a couple things, for instance ‘prospect or customer’ and ‘SMB or Enterprise’. And then depending on how complicated a company’s product offering(s), it does not take an algorithm to reveal the [UX] value associated with knowing when it’s a reoccurring enterprise customer arriving on your site. ‘Up-sell the cross-sell’ will begin to take on new meaning.
… the sooner companies fuse if not remove the gaps between sales and marketing, the better they will perform.
So is the goal to be where ‘Marketing meets Science’ or to ‘make Marketing Science’? I think most think in terms of the latter, but it was great to hear the Head of Marketing at GoogleCloud quote the former. And not just because I like the idea that the all-but-undisputed #dataKing still places considerable value in the creative, in the art.is.tic aspects of marketing; but also because even if marketing optimization does come down to a predictive algorithmic equation, deviating from those equations in certain ways will still be what sets messaging and the beginning of the ‘customer journey’ apart. [We seek anomalies.] It tells me that creative still has its place at the table with analytics, no matter how powerful the recommendation engine or strong the data correlation. The presenter in this case was Alison Wagonfeld, and in asking her what they were finding sets apart GoogleCloud customers from say AWS, her answer was 1) diehard [google] analytics practitioners, 2) those hoping to leverage the entire gSuite (from IaaS to SaaS), and 3) immensely performance-focussed, mission-critical customers. I think the biggest challenge for GoogleCloud will be to translate their #streetcred with developers & engineers into core competency within the enterprise, but I also have to admit I’m glad to see the hyper-investments Mountain View is making towards exactly that end. AWS is already at least an order of magnitude ahead in terms of cloud capacity AND certainly in terms of the sophistication of its services. Bring on the containers playbook! (and I foresee GOOG also competing from security and #dataintegrity standpoints.) Further, can you think of a more experiential business at scale than GOOG? Its core business pays for all the other experiments and then some. And with initiatives like the Advanced Solutions Lab, definitely look to Google to get the [ML] marketing magic right. I think one can safely say that getting the AdWords AI chapter well-written sits pretty high among Alphabet’s priority list.Perhaps my favorite talk of the day came from a somewhat unlikely place, a PR firm. But to my pleasant surprise, Chris Penn (VP of Marketing Technology for Shift Communications) came more than prepared, and went on a tear of a slide deck exposing the audience to no shortage of tech and trends to pay attention to as we enter the AI Age. He gave a plethora of examples of how different AI capabilities will totally reshape industries, including the diagnosis of complex diseases like leukemia and reducing the time required to complete a financial audit from 3 months to 7 minutes (or certainly within days). In terms of next.gen tool recommendations, Chris also did not disappoint. Take GrowthBot for example, a side project of Hubspot’s CTO @dharmesh, which connects quite a few marketing systems including Google Analytics and, yes, Hubspot into a marketing chatbot for growth professionals. And one that I found particularly interesting is GoogleCloud NLP, where a user can enter ‘natural language’ and GOOG’s API will analyze based on Entities, Sentiment, and Syntax. There are additional API’s for audio files, to scan documents, and translate languages and when such a suite of capabilities is then tied into Deep [Machine] Learning models and storage architectures, the possibilities start to look mind boggling indeed. Unstructured hoo-ray!
Like so many things in the Internet Era, an ‘innovation’ comes down to efficiency. The -net and its subsequent Web allows us to do far more with less than we have even begun to actuate, but that does not come without a cost. For every action there IS an equal reaction, there are no exceptions (in any one dimension anyway). In this case, the trade off is data, and the taming of the learning curve it represents. Marketing is no different, only more personal. I believe many will have some conscious decisions to make in the near future. You can either engage and benefit from the extensive and massive technology systems being assembled to make our world more efficient and cost-effective, or you can reject the idea, that such ‘improvements’ cannot come at the expense of one’s privacy and even individuality. I do not believe there is a great deal of room in-between, at least not right now. And people can tout ‘aggregate data’ all they want, but the reality is that whether your name is tied to it or not, to the system(s) you are but a member of that data set. What really is the difference? If by being part of certain demographics it guides, if not dictates, real-world outcomes, whether one’s full name and identity can be [easily] pinned to it doesn’t change the net effect on society. More to the point, it actually provides immunity to the corps gathering and organizing this data for various reasons. I say conscious because if you do not explicitly make a decision, it will most certainly be made for you. Default = opt in.
Why now am I bringing up philosophical questions about the individual to wrap up an otherwise upbeat piece on B2B marketing innovation? Because if you back out a couple levels of resolution on our digital+real=#digiteal hybrid existence, I do not see this a dreadfully divisive issue. I simply think people should be informed and then free to make a decision for themselves. The reality is that most will choose to engage because the benefits for them, their family, their livelihood, and their well-being are too large to turn down. Such is the way with technology, as it has always been. The core difference currently lies in the rate of change and adoption of new technologies that have such massive effect and implications for how we as a species/civilization conducts [y]ourself. And yes, there is a distinction to be made between a company comprised of any number of employees, and once that employee ‘clocks out’. A distinction that is not easily measured or determined necessarily, and in there lies the challenge, but an immensely important difference nonetheless. Because at the end of the day/week/quarter in our heavily capitalist-influenced world, a corporation IS NOT a person and should not be extended the same rights and responsibilities, it goes both ways. [Gorsuch, are you listening? You know I had to get a political position in here. There are some major, unprecedented forces coming to a head in American society soon enough. Government’s role: guide corporations to benefit/protect its citizens. #CitizensUnited]
Zoom back in now, and the reality is that the ever-innovative realm of wild-west consumer marketing is due for some checks-and-balances (at times #sheisty is the word). That is to say, digital/online marketing is well overdue for a healthy dose of transparency. My belief is that B2B ABM [AI] is a great means to create just that, a new baseline for both performance and ethical best-practices. Small steps towards more efficiency towards better performance towards a bigger trend towards a ‘better’ vision and tomorrow. The fact is, you are who are, whether a web-site owner/optimizer knows that is not the issue to be debating (there is a STRONG argument that if they do it benefits the overall system). Would not that same business owner ‘see’ you if you walked into their physical workplace? They would ask where a potential customer works, what they do, what problems they are trying to solve, where they are in selecting a solution, etc. This is the same thing at scale, and it should be seen as such.
[Two core technological challenges that are worth exploring: 1) how to distinguish to transactional precision the difference between a corporate employee and an individual citizen 2) how to put the value of a person’s data back in their hands.]