Overcoming marketing’s 5 deadly fears
To fully take advantage of the opportunities of marketing today, marketers must get over some of the fears holding them back. Contributor Matt Zilli explains how to take the first steps.
Unless you are particularly good at playing possum, replacing fear with action is the only recourse for survival in the natural world. It is also the only clear course for marketers in the digital world.
For years, marketers have talked at length about enticing notions, technologies and goals such as across-the-board personalization and artificial intelligence marketing. But for all the talk, few organizations are actually acting on such opportunities, due largely to the fear of risk, failure or the unknown. But those fearless marketers who are taking these difficult actions, even if they are only taking measured steps, are getting their desired results.
Courageous marketers are beginning to break barriers in many areas — not for fun, but because they have to. It’s the only way to successfully ride today’s rapid cycles of change and continually increase engagement with customers. So, the time to act is now.
Five deadly fears marketers should face immediately
Marketers must move boldly and eliminate fears in these five areas if they are to stay relevant. Here’s how to start:
- Fear of technology. The sheer volume of marketing data today is both daunting and exhilarating. Marketers need to get their arms around their available data and listen to what it can tell them. Yet most marketers have only 30 percent of their technology stacks integrated. That means all those fancy marketing technologies you’ve invested in see only a sliver of the overall picture, which means you probably see only a sliver of the picture, too. Fearless marketers are not afraid of tackling complex technologies, bringing them together and finding hidden insights in the data that other marketers would miss.
- Fear of personalization. Most marketers would agree that betting on personalization is going to pay off, much more than “batch and blast” campaigns. The fear of personalization creeps in when the sheer scale of the matter raises its head. So, start small. Make sure you know your customers deeply and understand what they expect of your company. Then figure out what things need be personalized and what objective you hope to achieve (e.g., increased follow-on sales, more upselling). Finally, pick just three or four things to personalize that can help meet that objective, and put them in place in a single channel, campaign or marketing tactic. Granted, personalization is big, and even a small dip in the pool takes a decent amount of resources, but there is no payoff until you start somewhere.
- Fear of AI. Artificial intelligence is an area that is fraught with fears. What marketer would ever allow a machine to take control of their message? Yet we have more data than any of us can ever consider, so we must find opportunities to use AI to extend our own effectiveness. This starts with education so that the organization can begin to prepare for when AI is the norm. Then, as with personalization, deployment should proceed in small steps. Don’t force AI, pick one use case to try in a low-risk fashion, then build the expertise and the business case for proceeding with AI in other areas.
- Fear of partnering. Marketing needs to own or influence the end-to-end customer journey, with all its customer touch points. But even a fearless marketer can’t do it alone. Partnerships across the business are imperative, most particularly with sales, service and other customer-facing teams. Everyone involved, not just marketing, needs to abandon their fears of losing their turf to build partnerships based on give and take, with no “first among equals.” Yet the marketer is the one who must lead the charge in making partnerships happen by being the loudest, most efficient, and most impactful megaphone for end-to-end customer engagement.
- Fear of proving your worth. Finally, courageous marketers must break barriers by proving marketing value and how marketers contribute to growing revenues and profits. Years ago, it was impossible to prove marketing value, but the digital world has helped us shine a light on things like contribution to pipeline and revenue, defending marketing’s value. Now, it’s time to play offense. These days, the fearless marketer seeks out this debate and has the tools, measurements and analytics in place to not just defend marketing’s budget but to get even the most skeptical board of directors to give marketing more.
Fearless marketers are not a rare breed. The capacity is in all of us. The tools to support fearless marketing are available. All that is needed is the will to act.