There’s no doubt data deserves the spotlight at every marketing meeting. It’s always been viewed as a piece of the puzzle, but it’s finally earned the right to drive KPIs that help marketers win the constant “prove your ROI” battle. And as customers continue to keep a watchful eye on marketers to ensure they’re impacting brand value, data has become the DNA of engagement.
Measurement is what allows a marketer to understand and track what has worked in the past and highlights where the current campaigns need a little TLC. With these capabilities, data has a bright future. The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) has given brands the opportunity to increase their dependence on machines to crunch numbers and spit this valuable data out. Some worry that it will soon replace the work that marketers are doing across all disciplines, and that can’t be the farthest thing from the truth. With the rise in value of data the question remains: Does data trump the importance of people?
While the future of AI is certainly daunting, marketers need not worry they will be replaced. What they should fear is this: that they won’t rise to the challenge. Marketers must embrace the value of these new techniques and modernize their skillsets to meet the expectations of the customer journey. AI shouldn’t make a marketer’s life easier—that’s settling for ordinary engagements, not personalized experiences. And on the flipside, it shouldn’t make their lives harder–it should challenge them to rise to the opportunity and be better, smarter and more unique. Be as emotional as your customers are. That’s where the magic happens under the experience model.
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The easy way to look at the dilemma we’re faced with is to realize that humans need data as much as data needs humans. Here’s why:
1- The best campaigns harness human creativity.
Data helps marketers tee up campaigns and target the right customers, but it won’t provide the creativity that it takes for a full-blown marketing campaign. Data won’t make the smart choices that your executive team relies on you to make, and it’s certainly not capable of that “aha” moment that I’m sure you’ve experienced in your career.
Data may help you monitor for industry trends, but it lacks brand familiarity to know which ones to pursue. Data provides evidence when your team is faced with a tough decision, but it won’t employ the good old-fashioned gut check you rely on when decision time comes around.
But what do all of these things have in common? They’re proof that marketing requires human qualities if you want the job done right. The best campaigns are centered around human creativity, thoughtfulness and years of experience in the trade that no machine can begin to compensate for. Marketers must focus on the ideation process and learn to move those ideas at the right time and place in the market to meet customer demands. Data should challenge marketers to think outside the box during this process and be more strategic with the new tools they now possess. The moral of the story here is that ideation is fueled by data, but it’s carried out by people.
2- Integration requires strategy. A process where data can be left at bay.
Today’s marketing landscape requires every aspect of an organization to be integrated, or the brand risks falling behind. To “integrate” is defined as, “to form, coordinate or blend into a functioning or unified whole.” The key word here is unify. Today’s modern marketer must learn to coordinate with other teams, departments and customers to become successful.
Sure, most marketers have developed specialized roles within their organizations, but the critical question is how do they apply those skillsets to other areas around them? How can these individuals and departments come together to brainstorm strategies that will propel their brand to the next level?
You’re probably thinking, how does this relate to data? The answer is that it doesn’t – data plays no part in learning to integrate your teams. It won’t move ideas and accelerate them into action. Data may provide a baseline for why your departments should be integrating (i.e. the customer journey relies heavily on sales AND marketing), but it won’t do the work for you. Integration and the movement of ideas requires human interaction and sound strategy.
3- Data rests at the top of the funnel.
Content on your owned channels plays a big role in being your brand’s first touchpoint with prospects. Your blog, website, videos and social media channels are places where you reach that awareness stage and start moving them into the path to purchase.
The top of the funnel is laden with data and analytics. You should be constantly monitoring what content is grabbing your customers’ attention, where they came across that content, how long they stayed, and where they go next. Data will be your best friend here, as it will provide you with the resources to retarget and remain focused on your efforts.
While data plays a critical role in top of funnel efforts, any seasoned marketer should acknowledge that it doesn’t reach far beyond the first few touchpoints. As you move to the middle of the funnel, your outreach becomes inherently more human. Customers expect more personal outreach at the decision-making stage, which is why people will never be replaced if sales and marketing want to close the deal.
Value your people.
It’s pretty clear that data has a hand in everything we do as a modern marketing department, but it’s even more clear that people provide the biggest value. Learn to integrate your campaigns, your departments, your ideas, and the people who create those ideas. Their ideas and creativity will continue to be the bread and butter of your successful marketing team. So, sharpen your measurement practices and buckle down on data-driven campaigns, but remember to always leverage what matters the most as a marketer: your people.