Tag Archives: Marketing

Audiovisual Marketing and IoT Converge to Drive Massive Growth for Spectrio

Posted by Ranga Bodla, Head of Industry Marketing

There’s a lot of thought that goes into audiovisual marketing, the reassuring voice and soft music on hold during a phone call or the video displays in waiting areas of a hotel, auto shop or doctor’s office.

For Spectrio, a top audiovisual marketing provider in the U.S., a great deal of science, testing, customer service and cutting-edge technology goes into its range of full service offerings. To start, Spectrio’s services team collaborates closely with customers to understand the company, its products and services, and the clientele.

Spectrio PresentationImage 122017 01 Audiovisual Marketing and IoT Converge to Drive Massive Growth for Spectrio

“We’re a content company, we’re a marketing company and we’re also a technology-enabled service company,” said Aaron Kleinhandler, CEO at the 150-person Spectrio outside Tampa, Fla. “Customer experience is what we do.”

Spectrio relies on NetSuite’s integrated suite for virtually every business function, from financials and billing to CRM, inventory management, service tickets and tracking audio and visual content. It’s now rolling out NetSuite SuiteCommerce to give customers new ecommerce capabilities. Spectrio’s content and devices are connected (via the internet) with licensing and contracts controlled by NetSuite, which in turn connects with thousands of devices in the field.

Founded in 2002, Spectrio began as an on-hold messaging service, and now offers digital signage and overhead music for consumer-facing merchants. More than 25,000 companies, including Papa John’s, Whole Foods Market, Jiffy Lube and U.S. Cellular, across 65,000 locations, use Spectrio to enrich the customer experience.

A creative team works with customers to devise optimal solutions, often creating custom voice and video content, and licensing music from third-parties. Spectrio technicians are on call to handle hardware, wiring, installation and software management.

For instance, Spectrio worked with a large tire dealer to create a series of videos explaining the need for vehicle maintenance such as tire rotations and differential checks. Customers in a waiting room may learn a few things and ask the shop for additional inspection and possibly repair, generating revenue.

It’s been a recipe for success at Spectrio, named multiple times to the Inc. 5000 list of America’s fastest-growing companies.

“We’ve been able to attract outside investors and some very large customers to grow from a bootstrap Mom and Pop business to where we are today,” said Kleinhandler. “We’ve acquired 20-some businesses over the years, and just completed an acquisition of 25,000 locations that grew the business by about 40 percent.”

Kleinhandler credits the NetSuite platform, which Spectrio deployed as an early cloud adopter in 2003, for providing the scalability and flexibility the business needed to grow. Spectrio has also realized IT cost savings compared to on-premise systems that it’s channeled into customer service and content creation. In its 15 years on NetSuite, Spectrio’s revenue has soared 30-fold.

“Having a 360-degree view of our customers and operations with NetSuite has allowed us to efficiently grow the business,” Kleinhandler said. “If we didn’t have a system as versatile as NetSuite, I don’t think we’d be able to do that.”

Kleinhandler adds that Spectrio enjoys industry-leading customer retention rates, as well as steadily growing margins. In the future, Spectrio wants to personalize the customer experience even further, understanding the nearby consumer and context.

“That’s because we don’t have to spend money on IT infrastructure or deal with upgrades — we can spend money supporting our customers,” he said. “Not only that, NetSuite supports how we do future development, integrate new services and acquisitions, and build out more tools for customers.”

Learn more about NetSuite for advertising and digital marketing agencies.

Posted on Tue, January 16, 2018
by NetSuite filed under

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5 Tips to Implement In Your Account-Based Marketing Strategy

20181210 bnr office abm 351x200 5 Tips to Implement In Your Account Based Marketing Strategy

Gain necessary support for your account-based marketing strategy

Coordination across the organization is essential for a successful account-based marketing strategy. Sales and marketing in particular must be closely aligned—a fact backed by research by MarketingProfs. They found that companies with aligned marketing and sales departments on average generate 208% more revenue for their marketing efforts. But alignment is essential in more than just those two groups. Buy-in from the C-suite is also necessary for setting the expectations and advantages of ABM across functional groups.

Have the right data.

 Data is at the center of implementing a productive ABM strategy. The cleaner and clearer the data provided, the more productive the system. Successful ABM relies heavily on constantly receiving correct, high-value data about target accounts. However, many companies find that is an area that’s ripe for improvement. In fact, 64% of B2B organizations cite improving data quality is their most challenging obstacle. But there are ways to bridge that data gap with the right technology.

Target and personalize.

ABM strategies encourage B2B marketers to focus on strategic accounts and the decision makers within them, rather than a broader approach. Marketers can customize their ABM programs to find specific account attributes tailored to their company’s differentiation points and value proposition. Once the account is targeted, B2B marketers can set out to develop the right content for the right decision maker at the right time. That presents a great opportunity to create the most impact; however, as pointed out earlier, each account often has more than one or two decision makers. These different contacts or accounts may require varied content. With the right platform, marketers can easily target and segment audiences based on customer profile or industry.

Have the right technology.

Ensuring the accuracy of data sets can hinge on selecting a top-tier B2B contact database provider that can give comprehensive information, in real time, on accounts. Predictive analytics can automatically identify new accounts by finding similar characteristics of existing customers. In addition, an effective marketing automation tool can allow marketers to create targeted content for each member listed on the account. That content then must be delivered to the right team member at the right time within the customer journey. Having the right marketing automation technology can help that along.

Measure, learn, optimize … and measure again.

ABM is not a set-it-and-forget-it strategy. It’s crucial to establish metrics for each account, measure the content and tactics for effectiveness against those metrics, and then reshape and adjust them as needed. Marketing teams can measure engagement and other critical success factors through methods such as account scoring, which give them keen insight into account health. Changing direction quickly and refining future campaigns based on these types of data will allow for the highest level of ABM success.

ABM encourages B2B marketers to focus on quality over quantity—that is, better leads and overall account health over number of leads and accounts. Having buy-in, solid data, the right technology, a targeted account list, and effective metrics will set the path towards success. Enacting an impactful ABM strategy will take time, thought, and targeted efforts, but the revenue and overall efficiency improvements make it well worth the work.

Ready to implement an account-based marketing strategy into your current marketing plans? Learn more or get started today.

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Begin the Year With a Bang With These Marketing Tips

CRM Blog Begin the Year With a Bang With These Marketing Tips

As we begin the new year, it’s time to review your previous marketing strategies and strategize for the upcoming year.  Here is a list of 6 proven marketing tips that will boost your business. We hope you find our marketing tips useful.

1 – Sell Benefits, Not Features

Selling is all about the benefit. Focus on how your product or service will improve users’ lives. People do not buy things just for the sake of buying- they want it to solve their problems!  It has been proven that most purchasing decisions are emotional, not rational. Marketers need to spend a great deal of time getting to know their target market, or buyer persona. Once they know this, it is much easier to personalize sales and marketing messages, anticipate the needs of their target market, and exceed expectations. It is a proven fact that having a well-defined buyer persona can help you build a more effective marketing plan and target your marketing campaigns and offers to the right groups of prospects. Hasse Jansen has written extensively about the benefits of buyer personas.

2 – Use a Variety of Marketing Channels

Today, there are so many marketing channels. There are not only many social media platforms that you can market on, but there are also content and email marketing, as well as the vast online world. The world is your oyster – take advantage of it!

  • Content Marketing can be a very powerful tool, but it’s crucial that the content you create is of excellent quality and value. Publishing trending content is essential, but make sure you are also publishing evergreen content. Another thing to keep in mind is to make sure to include a sharing button. The more exposure (whether it be blogs, newsletters, infographics, etc.) to your content, the better.
  • Email Marketing is one of the most powerful and cost-effective tools out there. Knowing your buyer persona, or ideal client, allows you to target your email messages and offers. I would suggest building your own email database, rather than purchasing one. To read some tips on email marketing from enCloud9 click here.
  • Marketing Automation is an amazing tool to use in your email marketing. No matter how hard you try, you just can’t do it all. Let automation do the hard work for you. Why start the New Year out with tasks/emails that could be automated? Marketing Automation not only saves time and money, but also alleviates a lot of stress and has been proven to increase productivity, efficiency, and customer retention. Contact enCloud9 today to find out more about our Marketing Accelerator. Our Marketing Accelerator combines the power of Microsoft Dynamics 365 for managing sales and ClickDimensions for marketing automation. When marketing and sales teams work together, organizations have clear insights into your customer’s journey.

3 – Market Your Products Before They Are Ready

Most companies do exactly the opposite. They wait until a product is perfect and then they market it. What they really should be doing is generating interest before the product is offered. Let customers know the product is coming. Sell the benefits before the product has arrived. When the product is here, you are ready and so are they.

4 – Research Competitors

The market is becoming increasingly competitive. Your competitors are likely offering products and services that include a lot of the same features. Look at what your competitors are offering – and improve on it. You need to make your offer the most attractive and do something that stands out. This goes back to the idea of selling the benefit – not the feature. Convince prospects that your offer is going to solve their problems. Spend some time thinking about what makes you unique and focus on it! That is what is going to make prospects choose you over the competitors.

5 – Measure Results of Marketing Campaign

If you are going to invest time and money in marketing, you want to be sure your investment is paying off. You need to be able to track conversions that stem from each marketing campaign. You may want to run many marketing campaigns at once so you can compare. Throw out the ones that don’t work and keep the ones that do. Marketing Automation, combined with a CRM system for managing sales, is a great way to track and monitor your marketing campaigns. Learn more about how enCloud9’s Marketing Accelerator can benefit you by visiting http://bit.ly/2FhV1Vq.

6 – Invoke Curiosity

Many companies do exactly the opposite. They try to answer as many questions as possible and give as much information as they can. You want to give prospects a reason to contact you. There should be a basic level of information offered, but it should inspire them to contact you.

So there you have it- 6 proven ways to boost your marketing in the New Year. We hope you found something of use on our list of marketing tips. To learn about some other simple ways you can step up your marketing, click here.

About enCloud9

enCloud9 has one of the most experienced Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM teams in the US. From pre-sales to project management, and user support, we respond quickly with our expertise to answer your questions.

Our history dates back to 2009, but our experience dates back even longer. Our consultants have been advising companies for almost thirty years to give them the tools to achieve their goals. Our experience leads to your success.

Isn’t it time to turbo charge your marketing? Let the ClickDimensions certified professionals at enCloud9 assist you in creating your first integrated marketing campaign using ClickDimensions easy-to-use marketing automation solution! We will help you along in each step of the process.

Contact us today to get started with our Marketing Accelerator. If you are not already using Dynamics 365 for Sales, the Sales Accelerator can be implemented along with our Marketing Accelerator.

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Embrace Artificial Intelligence in Marketing

2017 AO RethinkMktgPodcast featured Paul Roetzer AI Embrace Artificial Intelligence in Marketing

But then around 2011 I developed a fascination with artificial intelligence. That to me became an, oh my gosh, what if that technology was applied to marketing? And I didn’t know at the time what AI was, really, or if this was even possible. But it started this journey for me of discovery. And it led to late last year, November of ‘16, we created the Marketing Artificial Intelligence Institute with the mission to identify the current and future potential of AI and provide that education to marketers so they could look for ways to transform their own marketing, but also their careers.

What do you think is the first thing marketers should know about AI?

Michelle: That’s awesome. … It’s just a huge topic. What do you think is the first thing marketers should know about AI?

Paul: I think the first step for a lot of people is just to understand the basic terminology and what it actually is. Because you hear AI, machine learning, deep learning, natural language processing, natural language generation, image recognition. There are all these terms. And for me even 12 months ago it was just this mashup of words.

So I always start by explaining that AI is the umbrella term. Machines on their own, they don’t know anything. They don’t know a table from a chair. They don’t know how to learn and get better at a task. They’re trained to do this using data and different types of processes to do the training. And so AI is that. It’s this big picture idea of enabling machines to get smart.

And then underneath that are categories like machine learning, which is the most common one you hear. So the key is to not be overwhelmed by the terminology or even the idea of it. Despite the dystopian views that are out there and the things you see in Hollywood, at the end of the day AI is really there now and for the foreseeable future to enhance what you do as a marketer. And the sooner you embrace that and seek ways to have it help what you’re doing and make things more efficient and more personalized, you’re actually going to get ahead of everyone else.

What are things that people might not even think of as Artificial Intelligence that really is?

Michelle: In many regards there’s a lot of artificial intelligence that’s actually being used today and we might not even know about it. What are things that people might not even think of as AI that really is?

Paul: Yeah, it’s an important point. Because my general guidance to people is: Your life is already machine assisted, and your marketing will be, too. And you just won’t know it. And so, as you were saying, you probably as just a general consumer or a person living on this earth will interact with AI dozens if not hundreds of times every day.

If you watch Netflix, Netflix has massive AI investments. Google is an AI-first company. On your Gmail app on your phone when you to go reply to something, if you look at the bottom you’ll see recommended responses, usually like two to five words. Those are called smart replies. There’s AI all over that. If you’re lucky enough to drive a Tesla, Tesla autopilot is enabled by AI using deep learning. So yeah, it’s literally everywhere.

And I think for marketers, they’re going to start seeing that, like the platforms like in Act-On, where you’re using them anyway, they’re just going to start getting smarter and they’re going to start introducing little features into them that make your life easier. And you may never actually go looking for an AI tool to do send-time optimization. It’s just all of a sudden going do it. And you’re going think it’s like magic. In reality it’s AI.

Can you explain what are the five P’s of Artificial Intelligence?

Michelle: Exactly. … So, a lot us in marketing, we all know about the five P’s. Can you explain what the five P’s of AI are and maybe share some examples for each of them?

Paul: We really struggled to understand how to categorize the different technologies that were out there. Over time we started to see patterns developing where we could start to more logically categorize these so they could make sense to everybody. And so we ended up settling on planning, production, personalization, promotion, and performance.

Now each of those categories, some of them are very immature, so the technologies aren’t very far along yet. But I’ll walk through some examples of each so they make a little more sense.

At the planning level, if you look at something like search engine optimization, keyword selection, topic clustering ‒ that tends to be a very human-driven process. That’s something that a machine in the near future should be doing for most marketers.

Production we look at as the curation and creation of content. So specifically in 2015 we started looking at can we use AI’s natural language generation, being the kind of AI we were looking at, to write blog posts, because we do a lot of blog post writing for clients. So over time we realized that you have to create the templates and train them the different branching logic. But once you do that, you can tell a data-driven story at scale hundreds or thousands of times instantaneously.

Personalization is where we’ve seen most of the money going. Things that right now a human has to set rules for, the machine can absolutely do that better than a human if it has enough data to do it. So you’re going to see a lot of personalization over the next 12-to-24 months. That’s where most of the use cases for marketers will emerge.

Then you get into promotion. That one is also ripe to be disrupted. Not a ton of great tools in that space yet, but more developing. An example of that would be Albert, which does digital media buying. You just give it the budget and the creative, and it runs all the infinite variations, and makes all the changes itself based on performance data.

And then the last one would be performance. And that we mainly look at as taking analytics data, and finding insights out of it, and then figuring out what to do next. That space is also extremely immature.

Those five Ps then enable us to look at all these different AI-powered tools. And we’re tracking over 500 of them.

How to get get started with AI and Machine Learning?

Michelle: Is there an area that you would recommend that someone should get started with AI? Is it personalization? Or how do you typically recommend people think about it?

Paul: There are two general recommendations I have for getting started. The first is to pick a single-use case. And so by that I mean take a look at your existing marketing structure, your average monthly spend, and where your time goes, and look and see if any of those are really data-driven and really time-intensive, that once you understand what AI’s capable of you could say, well, that would be logical that an AI tool might exist to do that, and go do a search for a tool for that.

The other is to go talk to your core martech stack. So if you have a marketing automation platform, email marketing platform, whatever it may be, go talk to them and say: What are you guys working on? Are there any more intelligently automated features that you’re either beta testing or that are coming up that we could experiment with to start better comprehending what’s possible? And I would actually maybe even reverse those and start there.

Do you think there’s a world for both marketers and AI?

Michelle: Do you think there’s a world for both marketers and AI?

Paul: I think in the near term, which I would look at that three-to-five-year range, more than anything AI is going to enhance the knowledge and capabilities of marketers. And the ones who take the initiative to understand it, embrace it, and apply it, they will have a competitive advantage over their peers. It basically gives you superpowers in certain areas. That’s the reality of what most people will experience.

Will it replace jobs? Yes. It’ll transform the industry within the next decade. Which ones? I don’t know. Any great technological advance in the history of society has done that. It takes jobs, but it also gives jobs that you can’t guess would exist. And I think that’s what marketing will see. I think the industry will continue to grow, lots of opportunities will continue to exist for marketers to evolve. But they’re going have to embrace the opportunity evolve. If marketers just sit back and pretend like AI isn’t going to have this impact, then those are the people that would be in trouble.

Michelle: How can we learn more about you, PR2020, and the Marketing AI Institute?

Paul: Our website is just pr2020.com. That’s the agency. And then we do have the separate site which is marketingaiinstitute.com. As of today it’s just a content hub. We try and publish two to three times a week. We do a lot of interviews. And we’re really just trying to connect marketers to the resources right now and see where that site goes.

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Act-On Blog

Marketing Automation: The Key to a Smarter Business

20180102 bnr old map new map 351x200 Marketing Automation: The Key to a Smarter Business

Editor’s note: A version of this article on personalized marketing automation appeared originally in Digital Marketing Magazine.

Large marketing organizations. They’re all the same, aren’t they? Since their inception, they have been viewed with a stigma around their operations; a siloed internal setup, segmenting their customer base into basic markets with no further insight and using simple one-size-fits-all approaches when it comes to outreach and service.

Impersonal Marketing Automation

A stereotypical view of an organization assumes that all technology buyers in B2B companies with more than 5,000 employees act in the same way and can be treated in the same manner. Or that if a customer takes a certain action, the marketing response should always be the same – automatic emails to website visitors, for example.

But the game has changed – both for marketers and for the customer. The customer journey has become much more unpredictable, with many digital touchpoints (and with contact offline thrown into the mix, too), marketing organizations have had to become savvier in finding, securing and nurturing customers at any point in that journey. Not only this, but customers are expecting to be treated more like individuals than ever before; each customer is a human and wants personalized treatment. The approach that companies take is now under much closer scrutiny.

Personalized Marketing Automation

Step in a more personalized marketing automation. With predictive and artificial intelligence technologies embedded into the system, a new customer can have a personalized experience, depending on where and when they join the customer journey. These technologies can also anticipate behaviors, automate outreach at best possible times and suggest best possible ways to engage with customers, when to engage them and what to engage with.

The latest system updates are giving marketers a technology that allows them to personalize the customer journey through intelligent automation, streamlining processes and ensuring all consumers are satisfied. Activities in marketing can be measured across more channels than ever before, sending relevant customized content to the right customer or the right potential customer at just the right time.

It also can ensure marketing better partners with other sectors of the business – particularly sales – to show the return on investment for different activities and how they all impact business function.

The Waze approach to intelligent automation

One way we, as a company, like to look at the difference between today’s more advanced marketing automation platforms and the previous generations still in use at many companies is to think of what it was like to use MapQuest circa 2003 compared with Waze or Google Maps now. MapQuest was a significant improvement over physical maps, giving users a more convenient, computer-based way to get directions. But the technology it provided was static: it couldn’t alert you or adapt if conditions changed – if the driver made a wrong turn or an accident occurred ahead, for example. Today’s apps, on the other hand, are constantly updating to provide real-time insights on traffic or road conditions to get you to your destination in the shortest time.

Conclusion

Just like Google Maps and Waze, the latest marketing automation technology can track customers in real-time, making individual decisions on people to assess and optimize marketing activities to ensure companies are more effective in their customer service and outreach.

When integrated with all facets of a company – the website, social accounts, CRM and a host of other application infrastructures – marketing automation platforms can become enterprises’ de facto engagement database of record.

So, in this age of technological advancement, are all large marketing organizations the same? Not anymore.

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Act-On Blog

Making Sense of the 2018 Marketing Predictions and Trends

20171227 bnr robotic shopping assistant 351x200 Making Sense of the 2018 Marketing Predictions and Trends

Marketers in 2018 will adopt more and more artificial intelligence tools; continue to invest in producing great content; and further seek strategies and tools that focus on the customer, according to an informal survey of 2018 marketing predictions and trends to watch.

Rather than have you surf the Internet for all the many 20a8 marketing predictions, we’ve boiled them down to bullet points on what the experts are saying from a dozen websites, including Act-On.

Why is this worthwhile? Predictions and trend pieces often are full of hot air. If we could predict the future, we’d all be buying lottery tickets. But they do have value in getting marketers to think about opportunities they can and should be considering as they attempt to accelerate their businesses.

In reviewing the many posts, several themes emerged: artificial intelligence and machine learning, investing in content creation, and focusing on the customer experience.

Nearly 80 percent of marketers either agree or strongly agree that AI will revolutionize marketing. “We’re still at the dawn of AI adoption,” Jean-Luc Chatelain, Accenture Analytics chief technology officer, told Adweek. “Brands have yet to fully understand all the ways in which AI will change the marketing game.”

Recently on the Rethink Marketing Podcast, Paul Roetzer from the Marketing Artificial Intelligence Institute outlined his five P’s framework for marketing artificial intelligence. It should give you insights into how you may incorporate machine learning and AI in your marketing in 2018.

The bullet points are my summaries of what the blog post authors were making, and were made for the sake of space. Consider them an entry point into learning more. Click the hyperlinks to read the original posts to learn more about a specific point or prognostication.

Social Media Today

Social Media Today offered up 12 trends to keep an eye on in 2018:

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Live video
  • Mobile video
  • Customer experience
  • Content marketing
  • Voice search
  • Non-traditional TV advertising
  • Strategic social media
  • Generation Z
  • Transparency and trust
  • Hyperlocal

Content Marketing Institute

As the year ends, so does Joe Pulizzi’s run at CMI, which he sold to UBM in 2016. That means no more This Old Marketing podcast with his buddy Robert Rose, which was one of my favorites podcasts. In his final CMI contributions, Joe wrote on 2018 marketing trends and predictions. Among the top were:

  • Original content
  • More company acquisitions
  • Marketing shifting toward a profit center

MarketingProfs

We had MarketingProfs Chief Content Officer Ann Handley on the Rethink Marketing Podcast earlier this year. She suggested one thing marketers should be doing is building their personal brands. “If you have aspirations to write a book, to be a leader, start to improve those soft skills, start to tell your own story, poke your nose out, start telling that story in ways that have relevance for the people you are trying to reach,” she said.

Five Megatrends for 2018

  • Content replaces advertising
  • Purpose marketing
  • Participation PR
  • Automation 2.0
  • Chatbots

CMS Wire

CMS Wire offered its 7 Content Marketing Trends for 2018. Its predictions centered around new technologies and channels for your content marketing. The first, virtual and augmented reality, is an area being prioritized by 26 percent of marketers worldwide, according to a eMarketer report.

  • VR/AR
  • Personalization
  • Machine Learning/AI personalization
  • Machine Learning/AI content production
  • Virtual Assistants
  • Microinfluencers
  • Strategy

Convince and Convert

Convince and Convert’s Jay Baer will be on the Rethink Marketing Podcast early in 2018. His team offered up the 4 B2B Content Marketing Trends to Watch in 2018.

  • Content Marketing Budgets Increase
  • More customized content
  • More interesting content
  • New and improved funnels

HuffPost

The Huffington Post took a look at top trends in its 10 Marketing Trends to Think About for 2018:

  • Live video
  • Mobile video
  • Growth hacking
  • AI
  • Explainer videos
  • Chatbots
  • Viral content
  • Geofencing
  • Microinfluencers
  • Brand blog

B2C

The Business 2 Community website offers up all sorts of trends and prediction articles for 2018. We took a look at the 7 Mobile Marketing Trends For 2018:

  • Live video
  • Augmented Reality
  • Native ads
  • Faster loading
  • AI
  • Messaging apps
  • Internet of Things

Entrepreneur

One way to ensure you hit the mark in your predictions is to list out all the options. This article from Entrepreneur follows that tactic with its 18 Marketing Trends to Watch in 2018:

  • Chatbots
  • Personalization
  • Data-driven marketing
  • Augmented reality
  • New ad channels
  • Voice search
  • Privacy
  • Instagram
  • Live events
  • Multichannel cold email marketing
  • Twitter dies
  • LinkedIn for B2B
  • Machine learning advertising
  • Predictive lead scoring
  • Virtual realty
  • Customer experience
  • Influencers
  • Ungating content

Neil Patel

Neil Patel has a team of marketers testing what’s hot and what’s not. They offered up 9 content marketing trends to keep an eye on in 2018:

  • Diverse talent skillsets
  • Internet of Things
  • Transparency
  • Content marketing
  • Blurred media lines
  • Strategy
  • Live video
  • Interactive
  • Distribution

MarTech Today

The folks over at MarTech Today took a different approach with its 5 B2B marketing non-predictions for 2018. The first three are acronyms that should be familiar to B2B marketers: AI, ABM, and GDPR. For companies that do business within the European Union, the GDPR is going to be a very big deal in 2018. Take a look at our GDPR hub for up-to-date info on what you need to know.

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI)
  • Account Based Marketing (ABM)
  • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
  • Growing MarTech landscape
  • Teamwork makes the dream work!

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Act-On Blog

Essential Steps For SMBs To Maximize Marketing ROI

In the tech world in 2017, several trends emerged as signals amid the noise, signifying much larger changes to come.

As we noted in last year’s More Than Noise list, things are changing—and the changes are occurring in ways that don’t necessarily fit into the prevailing narrative.

While many of 2017’s signals have a dark tint to them, perhaps reflecting the times we live in, we have sought out some rays of light to illuminate the way forward. The following signals differ considerably, but understanding them can help guide businesses in the right direction for 2018 and beyond.

SAP Q417 DigitalDoubles Feature1 Image2 1024x572 Essential Steps For SMBs To Maximize Marketing ROI

When a team of psychologists, linguists, and software engineers created Woebot, an AI chatbot that helps people learn cognitive behavioral therapy techniques for managing mental health issues like anxiety and depression, they did something unusual, at least when it comes to chatbots: they submitted it for peer review.

Stanford University researchers recruited a sample group of 70 college-age participants on social media to take part in a randomized control study of Woebot. The researchers found that their creation was useful for improving anxiety and depression symptoms. A study of the user interaction with the bot was submitted for peer review and published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research Mental Health in June 2017.

While Woebot may not revolutionize the field of psychology, it could change the way we view AI development. Well-known figures such as Elon Musk and Bill Gates have expressed concerns that artificial intelligence is essentially ungovernable. Peer review, such as with the Stanford study, is one way to approach this challenge and figure out how to properly evaluate and find a place for these software programs.

The healthcare community could be onto something. We’ve already seen instances where AI chatbots have spun out of control, such as when internet trolls trained Microsoft’s Tay to become a hate-spewing misanthrope. Bots are only as good as their design; making sure they stay on message and don’t act in unexpected ways is crucial.

SAP Q417 DigitalDoubles Feature1 Image3 Essential Steps For SMBs To Maximize Marketing ROIThis is especially true in healthcare. When chatbots are offering therapeutic services, they must be properly designed, vetted, and tested to maintain patient safety.

It may be prudent to apply the same level of caution to a business setting. By treating chatbots as if they’re akin to medicine or drugs, we have a model for thorough vetting that, while not perfect, is generally effective and time tested.

It may seem like overkill to think of chatbots that manage pizza orders or help resolve parking tickets as potential health threats. But it’s already clear that AI can have unintended side effects that could extend far beyond Tay’s loathsome behavior.

For example, in July, Facebook shut down an experiment where it challenged two AIs to negotiate with each other over a trade. When the experiment began, the two chatbots quickly went rogue, developing linguistic shortcuts to reduce negotiating time and leaving their creators unable to understand what they were saying.

The implications are chilling. Do we want AIs interacting in a secret language because designers didn’t fully understand what they were designing?

In this context, the healthcare community’s conservative approach doesn’t seem so farfetched. Woebot could ultimately become an example of the kind of oversight that’s needed for all AIs.

Meanwhile, it’s clear that chatbots have great potential in healthcare—not just for treating mental health issues but for helping patients understand symptoms, build treatment regimens, and more. They could also help unclog barriers to healthcare, which is plagued worldwide by high prices, long wait times, and other challenges. While they are not a substitute for actual humans, chatbots can be used by anyone with a computer or smartphone, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, regardless of financial status.

Finding the right governance for AI development won’t happen overnight. But peer review, extensive internal quality analysis, and other processes will go a long way to ensuring bots function as expected. Otherwise, companies and their customers could pay a big price.

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Elon Musk is an expert at dominating the news cycle with his sci-fi premonitions about space travel and high-speed hyperloops. However, he captured media attention in Australia in April 2017 for something much more down to earth: how to deal with blackouts and power outages.

In 2016, a massive blackout hit the state of South Australia following a storm. Although power was restored quickly in Adelaide, the capital, people in the wide stretches of arid desert that surround it spent days waiting for the power to return. That hit South Australia’s wine and livestock industries especially hard.

South Australia’s electrical grid currently gets more than half of its energy from wind and solar, with coal and gas plants acting as backups for when the sun hides or the wind doesn’t blow, according to ABC News Australia. But this network is vulnerable to sudden loss of generation—which is exactly what happened in the storm that caused the 2016 blackout, when tornadoes ripped through some key transmission lines. Getting the system back on stable footing has been an issue ever since.

Displaying his usual talent for showmanship, Musk stepped in and promised to build the world’s largest battery to store backup energy for the network—and he pledged to complete it within 100 days of signing the contract or the battery would be free. Pen met paper with South Australia and French utility Neoen in September. As of press time in November, construction was underway.

For South Australia, the Tesla deal offers an easy and secure way to store renewable energy. Tesla’s 129 MWh battery will be the most powerful battery system in the world by 60% once completed, according to Gizmodo. The battery, which is stationed at a wind farm, will cover temporary drops in wind power and kick in to help conventional gas and coal plants balance generation with demand across the network. South Australian citizens and politicians largely support the project, which Tesla claims will be able to power 30,000 homes.

Until Musk made his bold promise, batteries did not figure much in renewable energy networks, mostly because they just aren’t that good. They have limited charges, are difficult to build, and are difficult to manage. Utilities also worry about relying on the same lithium-ion battery technology as cellphone makers like Samsung, whose Galaxy Note 7 had to be recalled in 2016 after some defective batteries burst into flames, according to CNET.

SAP Q417 DigitalDoubles Feature1 Image5 Essential Steps For SMBs To Maximize Marketing ROIHowever, when made right, the batteries are safe. It’s just that they’ve traditionally been too expensive for large-scale uses such as renewable power storage. But battery innovations such as Tesla’s could radically change how we power the economy. According to a study that appeared this year in Nature, the continued drop in the cost of battery storage has made renewable energy price-competitive with traditional fossil fuels.

This is a massive shift. Or, as David Roberts of news site Vox puts it, “Batteries are soon going to disrupt power markets at all scales.” Furthermore, if the cost of batteries continues to drop, supply chains could experience radical energy cost savings. This could disrupt energy utilities, manufacturing, transportation, and construction, to name just a few, and create many opportunities while changing established business models. (For more on how renewable energy will affect business, read the feature “Tick Tock” in this issue.)

Battery research and development has become big business. Thanks to electric cars and powerful smartphones, there has been incredible pressure to make more powerful batteries that last longer between charges.

The proof of this is in the R&D funding pudding. A Brookings Institution report notes that both the Chinese and U.S. governments offer generous subsidies for lithium-ion battery advancement. Automakers such as Daimler and BMW have established divisions marketing residential and commercial energy storage products. Boeing, Airbus, Rolls-Royce, and General Electric are all experimenting with various electric propulsion systems for aircraft—which means that hybrid airplanes are also a possibility.

Meanwhile, governments around the world are accelerating battery research investment by banning internal combustion vehicles. Britain, France, India, and Norway are seeking to go all electric as early as 2025 and by 2040 at the latest.

In the meantime, expect huge investment and new battery innovation from interested parties across industries that all share a stake in the outcome. This past September, for example, Volkswagen announced a €50 billion research investment in batteries to help bring 300 electric vehicle models to market by 2030.

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At first, it sounds like a narrative device from a science fiction novel or a particularly bad urban legend.

Powerful cameras in several Chinese cities capture photographs of jaywalkers as they cross the street and, several minutes later, display their photograph, name, and home address on a large screen posted at the intersection. Several days later, a summons appears in the offender’s mailbox demanding payment of a fine or fulfillment of community service.

As Orwellian as it seems, this technology is very real for residents of Jinan and several other Chinese cities. According to a Xinhua interview with Li Yong of the Jinan traffic police, “Since the new technology has been adopted, the cases of jaywalking have been reduced from 200 to 20 each day at the major intersection of Jingshi and Shungeng roads.”

The sophisticated cameras and facial recognition systems already used in China—and their near–real-time public shaming—are an example of how machine learning, mobile phone surveillance, and internet activity tracking are being used to censor and control populations. Most worryingly, the prospect of real-time surveillance makes running surveillance states such as the former East Germany and current North Korea much more financially efficient.

According to a 2015 discussion paper by the Institute for the Study of Labor, a German research center, by the 1980s almost 0.5% of the East German population was directly employed by the Stasi, the country’s state security service and secret police—1 for every 166 citizens. An additional 1.1% of the population (1 for every 66 citizens) were working as unofficial informers, which represented a massive economic drain. Automated, real-time, algorithm-driven monitoring could potentially drive the cost of controlling the population down substantially in police states—and elsewhere.

We could see a radical new era of censorship that is much more manipulative than anything that has come before. Previously, dissidents were identified when investigators manually combed through photos, read writings, or listened in on phone calls. Real-time algorithmic monitoring means that acts of perceived defiance can be identified and deleted in the moment and their perpetrators marked for swift judgment before they can make an impression on others.

SAP Q417 DigitalDoubles Feature1 Image7 Essential Steps For SMBs To Maximize Marketing ROIBusinesses need to be aware of the wider trend toward real-time, automated censorship and how it might be used in both commercial and governmental settings. These tools can easily be used in countries with unstable political dynamics and could become a real concern for businesses that operate across borders. Businesses must learn to educate and protect employees when technology can censor and punish in real time.

Indeed, the technologies used for this kind of repression could be easily adapted from those that have already been developed for businesses. For instance, both Facebook and Google use near–real-time facial identification algorithms that automatically identify people in images uploaded by users—which helps the companies build out their social graphs and target users with profitable advertisements. Automated algorithms also flag Facebook posts that potentially violate the company’s terms of service.

China is already using these technologies to control its own people in ways that are largely hidden to outsiders.

According to a report by the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, the popular Chinese social network WeChat operates under a policy its authors call “One App, Two Systems.” Users with Chinese phone numbers are subjected to dynamic keyword censorship that changes depending on current events and whether a user is in a private chat or in a group. Depending on the political winds, users are blocked from accessing a range of websites that report critically on China through WeChat’s internal browser. Non-Chinese users, however, are not subject to any of these restrictions.

The censorship is also designed to be invisible. Messages are blocked without any user notification, and China has intermittently blocked WhatsApp and other foreign social networks. As a result, Chinese users are steered toward national social networks, which are more compliant with government pressure.

China’s policies play into a larger global trend: the nationalization of the internet. China, Russia, the European Union, and the United States have all adopted different approaches to censorship, user privacy, and surveillance. Although there are social networks such as WeChat or Russia’s VKontakte that are popular in primarily one country, nationalizing the internet challenges users of multinational services such as Facebook and YouTube. These different approaches, which impact everything from data safe harbor laws to legal consequences for posting inflammatory material, have implications for businesses working in multiple countries, as well.

For instance, Twitter is legally obligated to hide Nazi and neo-fascist imagery and some tweets in Germany and France—but not elsewhere. YouTube was officially banned in Turkey for two years because of videos a Turkish court deemed “insulting to the memory of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk,” father of modern Turkey. In Russia, Google must keep Russian users’ personal data on servers located inside Russia to comply with government policy.

While China is a pioneer in the field of instant censorship, tech companies in the United States are matching China’s progress, which could potentially have a chilling effect on democracy. In 2016, Apple applied for a patent on technology that censors audio streams in real time—automating the previously manual process of censoring curse words in streaming audio.

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In March, after U.S. President Donald Trump told Fox News, “I think maybe I wouldn’t be [president] if it wasn’t for Twitter,” Twitter founder Evan “Ev” Williams did something highly unusual for the creator of a massive social network.

He apologized.

Speaking with David Streitfeld of The New York Times, Williams said, “It’s a very bad thing, Twitter’s role in that. If it’s true that he wouldn’t be president if it weren’t for Twitter, then yeah, I’m sorry.”

Entrepreneurs tend to be very proud of their innovations. Williams, however, offers a far more ambivalent response to his creation’s success. Much of the 2016 presidential election’s rancor was fueled by Twitter, and the instant gratification of Twitter attracts trolls, bullies, and bigots just as easily as it attracts politicians, celebrities, comedians, and sports fans.

Services such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram are designed through a mix of look and feel, algorithmic wizardry, and psychological techniques to hang on to users for as long as possible—which helps the services sell more advertisements and make more money. Toxic political discourse and online harassment are unintended side effects of the economic-driven urge to keep users engaged no matter what.

Keeping users’ eyeballs on their screens requires endless hours of multivariate testing, user research, and algorithm refinement. For instance, Casey Newton of tech publication The Verge notes that Google Brain, Google’s AI division, plays a key part in generating YouTube’s video recommendations.

According to Jim McFadden, the technical lead for YouTube recommendations, “Before, if I watch this video from a comedian, our recommendations were pretty good at saying, here’s another one just like it,” he told Newton. “But the Google Brain model figures out other comedians who are similar but not exactly the same—even more adjacent relationships. It’s able to see patterns that are less obvious.”

SAP Q417 DigitalDoubles Feature1 Image9 Essential Steps For SMBs To Maximize Marketing ROIA never-ending flow of content that is interesting without being repetitive is harder to resist. With users glued to online services, addiction and other behavioral problems occur to an unhealthy degree. According to a 2016 poll by nonprofit research company Common Sense Media, 50% of American teenagers believe they are addicted to their smartphones.

This pattern is extending into the workplace. Seventy-five percent of companies told research company Harris Poll in 2016 that two or more hours a day are lost in productivity because employees are distracted. The number one reason? Cellphones and texting, according to 55% of those companies surveyed. Another 41% pointed to the internet.

Tristan Harris, a former design ethicist at Google, argues that many product designers for online services try to exploit psychological vulnerabilities in a bid to keep users engaged for longer periods. Harris refers to an iPhone as “a slot machine in my pocket” and argues that user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) designers need to adopt something akin to a Hippocratic Oath to stop exploiting users’ psychological vulnerabilities.

In fact, there is an entire school of study devoted to “dark UX”—small design tweaks to increase profits. These can be as innocuous as a “Buy Now” button in a visually pleasing color or as controversial as when Facebook tweaked its algorithm in 2012 to show a randomly selected group of almost 700,000 users (who had not given their permission) newsfeeds that skewed more positive to some users and more negative to others to gauge the impact on their respective emotional states, according to an article in Wired.

As computers, smartphones, and televisions come ever closer to convergence, these issues matter increasingly to businesses. Some of the universal side effects of addiction are lost productivity at work and poor health. Businesses should offer training and help for employees who can’t stop checking their smartphones.

Mindfulness-centered mobile apps such as Headspace, Calm, and Forest offer one way to break the habit. Users can also choose to break internet addiction by going for a walk, turning their computers off, or using tools like StayFocusd or Freedom to block addictive websites or apps.

Most importantly, companies in the business of creating tech products need to design software and hardware that discourages addictive behavior. This means avoiding bad designs that emphasize engagement metrics over human health. A world of advertising preroll showing up on smart refrigerator touchscreens at 2 a.m. benefits no one.

According to a 2014 study in Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, approximately 6% of the world’s population suffers from internet addiction to one degree or another. As more users in emerging economies gain access to cheap data, smartphones, and laptops, that percentage will only increase. For businesses, getting a head start on stopping internet addiction will make employees happier and more productive. D!


About the Authors

Maurizio Cattaneo is Director, Delivery Execution, Energy, and Natural Resources, at SAP.

David Delaney is Global Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, SAP Health.

Volker Hildebrand is Global Vice President for SAP Hybris solutions.

Neal Ungerleider is a Los Angeles-based technology journalist and consultant.


Read more thought provoking articles in the latest issue of the Digitalist Magazine, Executive Quarterly.

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Digitalist Magazine

Making Sense of the 2018 Marketing Predictions and Trends

20171227 bnr robotic shopping assistant 351x200 Making Sense of the 2018 Marketing Predictions and Trends

Marketers in 2018 will adopt more and more artificial intelligence tools; continue to invest in producing great content; and further seek strategies and tools that focus on the customer, according to an informal survey of 2018 marketing predictions and trends to watch.

Rather than have you surf the Internet for all the many 20a8 marketing predictions, we’ve boiled them down to bullet points on what the experts are saying from a dozen websites, including Act-On.

Why is this worthwhile? Predictions and trend pieces often are full of hot air. If we could predict the future, we’d all be buying lottery tickets. But they do have value in getting marketers to think about opportunities they can and should be considering as they attempt to accelerate their businesses.

In reviewing the many posts, several themes emerged: artificial intelligence and machine learning, investing in content creation, and focusing on the customer experience.

Nearly 80 percent of marketers either agree or strongly agree that AI will revolutionize marketing. “We’re still at the dawn of AI adoption,” Jean-Luc Chatelain, Accenture Analytics chief technology officer, told Adweek. “Brands have yet to fully understand all the ways in which AI will change the marketing game.”

Recently on the Rethink Marketing Podcast, Paul Roetzer from the Marketing Artificial Intelligence Institute outlined his five P’s framework for marketing artificial intelligence. It should give you insights into how you may incorporate machine learning and AI in your marketing in 2018.

The bullet points are my summaries of what the blog post authors were making, and were made for the sake of space. Consider them an entry point into learning more. Click the hyperlinks to read the original posts to learn more about a specific point or prognostication.

Social Media Today

Social Media Today offered up 12 trends to keep an eye on in 2018:

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Live video
  • Mobile video
  • Customer experience
  • Content marketing
  • Voice search
  • Non-traditional TV advertising
  • Strategic social media
  • Generation Z
  • Transparency and trust
  • Hyperlocal

Content Marketing Institute

As the year ends, so does Joe Pulizzi’s run at CMI, which he sold to UBM in 2016. That means no more This Old Marketing podcast with his buddy Robert Rose, which was one of my favorites podcasts. In his final CMI contributions, Joe wrote on 2018 marketing trends and predictions. Among the top were:

  • Original content
  • More company acquisitions
  • Marketing shifting toward a profit center

MarketingProfs

We had MarketingProfs Chief Content Officer Ann Handley on the Rethink Marketing Podcast earlier this year. She suggested one thing marketers should be doing is building their personal brands. “If you have aspirations to write a book, to be a leader, start to improve those soft skills, start to tell your own story, poke your nose out, start telling that story in ways that have relevance for the people you are trying to reach,” she said.

Five Megatrends for 2018

  • Content replaces advertising
  • Purpose marketing
  • Participation PR
  • Automation 2.0
  • Chatbots

CMS Wire

CMS Wire offered its 7 Content Marketing Trends for 2018. Its predictions centered around new technologies and channels for your content marketing. The first, virtual and augmented reality, is an area being prioritized by 26 percent of marketers worldwide, according to a eMarketer report.

  • VR/AR
  • Personalization
  • Machine Learning/AI personalization
  • Machine Learning/AI content production
  • Virtual Assistants
  • Microinfluencers
  • Strategy

Convince and Convert

Convince and Convert’s Jay Baer will be on the Rethink Marketing Podcast early in 2018. His team offered up the 4 B2B Content Marketing Trends to Watch in 2018.

  • Content Marketing Budgets Increase
  • More customized content
  • More interesting content
  • New and improved funnels

HuffPost

The Huffington Post took a look at top trends in its 10 Marketing Trends to Think About for 2018:

  • Live video
  • Mobile video
  • Growth hacking
  • AI
  • Explainer videos
  • Chatbots
  • Viral content
  • Geofencing
  • Microinfluencers
  • Brand blog

B2C

The Business 2 Community website offers up all sorts of trends and prediction articles for 2018. We took a look at the 7 Mobile Marketing Trends For 2018:

  • Live video
  • Augmented Reality
  • Native ads
  • Faster loading
  • AI
  • Messaging apps
  • Internet of Things

Entrepreneur

One way to ensure you hit the mark in your predictions is to list out all the options. This article from Entrepreneur follows that tactic with its 18 Marketing Trends to Watch in 2018:

  • Chatbots
  • Personalization
  • Data-driven marketing
  • Augmented reality
  • New ad channels
  • Voice search
  • Privacy
  • Instagram
  • Live events
  • Multichannel cold email marketing
  • Twitter dies
  • LinkedIn for B2B
  • Machine learning advertising
  • Predictive lead scoring
  • Virtual realty
  • Customer experience
  • Influencers
  • Ungating content

Neil Patel

Neil Patel has a team of marketers testing what’s hot and what’s not. They offered up 9 content marketing trends to keep an eye on in 2018:

  • Diverse talent skillsets
  • Internet of Things
  • Transparency
  • Content marketing
  • Blurred media lines
  • Strategy
  • Live video
  • Interactive
  • Distribution

MarTech Today

The folks over at MarTech Today took a different approach with its 5 B2B marketing non-predictions for 2018. The first three are acronyms that should be familiar to B2B marketers: AI, ABM, and GDPR. For companies that do business within the European Union, the GDPR is going to be a very big deal in 2018. Take a look at our GDPR hub for up-to-date info on what you need to know.

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI)
  • Account Based Marketing (ABM)
  • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
  • Growing MarTech landscape
  • Teamwork makes the dream work!

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Marketers: Check Out These Hot B2B Marketing Automation Trends

20171226 bnr video marketing trends 351x200 Marketers: Check Out These Hot B2B Marketing Automation Trends

B2B companies can start to experiment with using live video in conjunction with marketing automation, putting out the content that prospects demand and gleaning valuable insights from how they watch and interact with that content. As a result, you can make marketing efforts more precise, further driving more leads and sales for your company.

Automation fosters greater channel integration.

Customers today have more channels to choose from when engaging with a brand, and while using these channels, they expect to receive a consistent brand experience. In fact, campaigns that integrate four or more digital channels are shown to outperform a single- or dual-channel campaign by 300 percent, according to Gartner Research. But the key is getting these interactions right.

Marketing automation helps push out consistent content through all channels and reach customers with greater impact. What’s more, you can gain insights and capture a more accurate picture of what’s going on with your customers in the moment of relevance, to create even better content in the future.

As a result, every customer experience can be tailored to the channel that customers prefer and to where they are in the buying cycle, delivering a more personalized and relevant experience through the power of automation.

Content marketing and automation create an unstoppable duo.

Marketing automation and content marketing are a powerful duo and allow you the opportunity to expand the effectiveness of your content, capture more leads, improve conversion rates, and drive higher ROI.

Marketing automation provides the tools required to get to know customers better. Using this information, you can segment customers into different groups and then start to develop content strategies for each set of customers.

Tapping into specific data on each group ― from understanding where they access content about your products and services to the types of search queries they’re creating ― is very valuable. Having the ability to generate these reports and make changes in a more efficient manner empowers marketers to stay nimble and better meet customer needs. As a result, you can nurture leads or move customers more effectively through the sales cycle.

Equally important, once you truly understand a group of buyers, you can modify and fine-tune marketing strategies to respond to their demands. The right content is delivered quickly, and sometimes you can even deliver the content slightly before the need, which helps move the sales cycle forward.

The user experience is shaped through marketing automation and insights.

At the heart of every product’s success is the user experience. When marketing automation works well, it enhances — rather than distracts from — the user experience. For example, let’s say that you recently sent out an email blast to prospects, encouraging them to visit your website and learn more about your product. If they click on the email link, it’s important that they view website content that is most relevant to their needs, such as case studies about their specific industry or other valuable details.

Marketing automation can play an important role in ensuring that what the customers view is customized to their needs, and in ensuring that the experience on the website is relevant to where the customers are in the buying cycle.

Gathering data about prospects, and better understanding that data, helps leverage the power of personalization, so that you present only the most relevant content. That leaves prospects and customers with a serendipitous feeling — they feel like the brand has a deep understanding of their pain points and struggles.

A Few Last Words

Marketing automation has proven itself to be a powerful asset in the marketer’s toolbox, but in the future it won’t be enough to have the tool itself; you’ll need to brainstorm creative ways to use it.

These examples can help inspire your strategy moving forward, as you integrate and test different methods for using marketing automation to connect with, engage, and delight your customers in new ways. As a result, you’ll gain the ability to manage leads and improve demand generation with greater impact.

How are you using marketing automation in your business? Please share your tips and insights below!

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How To Build Your Career In A Data-Driven Marketing World

20171220 bnr data employee 351x200 How To Build Your Career In A Data Driven Marketing World

Sharpen your storytelling skills.

Statistics and charts might be enticing for some of us, but for others they’re as good as sleeping pills.

Most speakers (and writers) know that, while it’s smart to use statistics and charts to back up what you say, if you use too many, your audience goes numb.

There’s a fine art to balancing data and storytelling, which is why there’s a whole field of work called “data storytelling.”

This is a skill that marketers would do well to study. It’s great to have the data, after all, but if we can’t attract and hold peoples’ attention (namely, the C-suite’s attention), we aren’t going to get what we want.

So we need some storytelling skills. Some data presentation skills. And some persuasion skills.

Fortunately, all of that can be learned. You might not even need to get a degree.

Here are a few resources:

  • Data Presentation and Visualization
  • Storytelling
  • Persuasion

Question your data.

Ever heard the saying, “Garbage in, garbage out”? It applies to data – in spades.

The most consequential example of accepting bad data without questioning it (or even realizing it’s bad, until after the fact) is the 2016 election. Regardless of your opinion of the outcome, in the run-up, the presumed results seemed clear. Most people thought Clinton would win. Only a couple of the pollsters and data crunchers, most notably fivethirtyeight.com (another place to get some data inspiration and see some great data journalism) gave Trump a fighting chance.

Wherever the problem was – with “shy” voters, with survey samples, with skewed assumptions – the result was an earthquake for the “data will save us” view that many smart people had held. Most of the data wonks were wrong.

Data is only as good as its inputs, after all. Mucky inputs produce mucky data. And if you don’t know you’ve got muck, you can end up making mucky decisions, and even, possibly, going out of business ‒ all while you practice near perfect data-driven marketing.

Want another way to look at this? The data is actually dumb. The inputs, the algorithms, and the reports only know what we give them. They only do what we tell them to do.

It’s up to us humans to really question how they work. That’s a super-important job.

Stay human.

All this technology and data is great, but it holds a risk – especially if you’re lazy.

Here’s an extreme, but memorable example of this:

My father spent his career in military intelligence. On the day 9/11 happened, his one comment about those events was: “That’s what happens when you take people off the ground.” I watched a 4-star general on television say exactly the same thing later that night.

My apologies for the chilling example, but we marketers are in some ways making the same mistake. We’re “taking our people off the ground,” in that we’re relying on technology to tell us what we need to know about our customers.

In short, we get so focused on the data that we forget about the actual people the data is supposed to represent.

Fortunately, there are ways around this:

  • Become best friends with your peers in Sales and Customer Service. Now that we’re all in this “customer experience” thing together, we need to work together. Seamlessly.
  • Go to events. It’s interesting that event marketing is one of the most effective forms of content marketing, or marketing in general. It’s also one of the few ways we data-driven marketers get to shake off the analytics dashboards and the customer journey models and actually talk to real people about their needs.
  • It’s fairly easy to set up a listening station. You can even automate most of it. Just listen with an open mind. We humans are dangerously good at dismissing data that doesn’t fit our worldview.

Our biggest competitive advantage as humans is…

… our ability to ask questions.

The single best question to ask is: “What does it mean?”

Actually, you could probably keep your job just by asking “What does it mean?” every time someone puts a report on your desk or mentions a statistic or pushes any type of data at you.

If you’re really going to excel at data-driven marketing, “What does it mean?” is the fundamental question to ask of every piece of data. Machines may be able to crunch numbers better than we humans can, but this one question usually stumps them.

It will probably stump them for a long time to come.

So make data your servant, not your master. It’s us humans who give it meaning. And the meaning, ultimately, is the only thing that really matters about data.

In many ways, all this data may be pushing us to simply get better at asking questions. The data can give answers, but it’s still only humans who come up with the type of questions that can change a business.

Back to you.

Are you worried about how “big data” and artificial intelligence are becoming more prevalent in marketing? Do you feel like being a data-driven marketer is a privilege – or a curse?

Leave a comment and tell us what you think.

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