People-based marketing requires good people
Columnist Jose Cebrian believes that to get the most out of marketing technology, you need to hire the right people who can help you use it to its fullest.
People-based marketing is grounded in the ability to really know the person to whom you are marketing. It’s not a new concept. From its earliest days with the postal service through its evolution into telemarketing, email, SMS and push, it has evolved.
Now, marketers have the ability to directly match first-party customer and prospect data anonymously with the first-party data of publisher networks. This has brought true people-based marketing within our reach in the digital world. As a result, brands are shifting budget from low-fidelity cookie-based marketing to known audiences. A tremendous opportunity is in front of us.
The issue is that in the real world where the work gets done, you need people to deliver on this promise. Good people.
I have run large services businesses, and the key differentiator among them has always been the quality of the people doing the work. Technology is important, but you need people to operate the technology and make informed decisions. I think we all know this, but I see two disturbing trends worth examining.
1. Tech investment without people investment
The first troubling trend is that marketers have been lulled into believing technology can do it all. Whether you call it a “cloud” or describe it with an acronym (e.g., the marketing DB, ESP, DMP, DAM, CMS), technology has been the focus of much discussion and investment.
If you’re in the marketing world, you’re bombarded with messages about marketing technology and its many benefits, many of which are true. The issue is that these messages are generally put out by technology companies that want you to buy their software. Believing what they say, you buy with the intention of improving your company’s revenue and profit.
Nobody is wrong in this equation. What’s wrong is the belief that the value comes from simply implementing the technology. It doesn’t. Unless your objective is straight cost reduction, the value comes from your ability to use the technology to its fullest.
The tech investment business case must include people to actually use the technology. And, in my scenario, those people must be in the marketing department. When you don’t match a new tech investment with an incremental people investment, you essentially just do a “lift and shift.”
Yes, you might get some cost reduction from efficiencies of new technology, but as far as I’m aware, the purpose of marketing is to grow revenue, not reduce costs. So marketing leaders must thoughtfully consider what they need to operate and get the most out of the technology that is being implemented.
Whether IT or marketing “owns” the technology, the truth is that it’s all for marketing. You need people to create content, analyze results, make changes and lead the charge to use the new technology to the fullest. Talent resources cannot be put into a queue to be prioritized against other IT projects. You need a team that can focus on marketing and work in an ongoing fashion, versus prioritizing tickets.
2. ‘Bodies’ is a horrible word
“I need X bodies to do … ” is a phrase that angers me every time I hear it. It happens often in my career, and I seek to correct it at every turn. The phrase implies that anyone can do it. That’s just not true. Regardless of who utters it, the phrase shows a lack of appreciation for the work and the expertise of the people who do it. From my perspective, it’s a slight against marketers.
Marketing encompasses many disciplines, each of which has its own variations, including analytics, design, coding, planning, project management, execution. No role that I am aware of can be covered by just anyone — a “body.”
As marketers, we need to be extremely thoughtful about who we hire and their purpose. It’s not that we must hire all-experienced journey-people. We need to be thoughtful that the people we hire have the aptitude and attitude to do the work we do now and that we need to do in the future. The fact that some have done a task in the past certainly speaks to their capability, but can they evolve and push the program?
Marketing is a mix of knowledge, sweat, inspiration and attitude. If you think anyone can do it, you’re wrong. We need to defend marketing as a valuable part of the company that generates money. And we can generate more money with more people using great technology.
I leave you with this analogy that I recently heard from a client. He likened all the parts of the marketing tech stack to musical instruments. Played by themselves, they can be interesting or noise. But the beautiful music comes from having a conductor to coordinate the players. As marketing becomes more integrated, we need to develop fine musicians and conductors, not just hire “bodies.”