The following is a guest post by Stephanie Miller, Partner, TopRight Partners, and Program Advisory Committee Member for the MAC2015 Conference.  

SAM photoNo matter how much technology and data we have to power our marketing, the most important strategy is to humanize our marketing and treat people as individuals with real emotions, needs and interests.  Marketing Analytics Conference (MAC) 2015 featured keynote and futurist Deborah Shultz (@debs) emphasized that marketing is no longer about “targeting,” it’s about co-creation of experiences, where consumers are active participants as well as recipients of the experience.

“Intention is the future of marketing,” she said.  “Marketers have an opportunity to co create marketing WITH customers, rather than market TO them.  If you can be a trusted advisor to my life, and really help me, then you are welcome – really, invited! – to use the data to improve my life.

“If you have data on me, make sure that using it matters to ME and creates value for ME,”  she said.  In our Internet of Things environment, she said, it would be helpful if my GPS app Waze is linked to my connected home, where my smart GE appliances are networked and so if I’m stuck in traffic, then the app will tell my coffee machine to turn on 15 minutes later so the coffee is fresh when I get home.  “That is helpful! And human,” she said.

Randy Hlavac, author, Professor at Northwestern and a member of the conference Program Committee, found this concept provocative.  “Today, there is so much jargon around technology and data that we forget the fact that it’s really marketing – it’s not that different than our long-time charter to reach and engage audiences, but of course, the channels are all different.”

As a result of all this technology and data, careers in data-driven marketing and analytics have a bright future, Deb promised.  “The people who understand data today can add so much value to my life.  Data can be seductive. So use it artistically, not just scientifically.  Don’t just send me ads.  Sculpt the data to create value for me.”

Marketers sit in a very powerful and important place in a business.  We are both the voice of the customer to internal stakeholders and the voice of the brand to external audiences.  “You could own the entire customer relationship if you want, so act like a person and connect in ways that match how people interact with other people,” she advised.  Customers are not “elusive” – often they are just annoyed.  They avoid advertising and marketing that has no value.

Deb challenged us to think about what the world would look like if customers actually invited us in to online conversations.  This is possible, she said, if you have trusted relationships with customers.  “Start experimenting – incubators, testing, content curation, co-creation,” she said.   If you need to include outside partners in the customer journey, be sure that they also have earned the customer trust, she cautioned.

Marketing database consultant Pegg Nadler noted after the keynote, “This is important… we need to all getting back to how we want to viewed by people, taking what I call, ’The great leap backwards’  – with all this technology you can forget that we are dealing with people. We all want to be hugged and loved.”

Today’s keynote reminds us of our own humanity when we do our jobs.  “You do not become a robot or a database when you sit down at your desk,” Deb said.  The role of the marketer is found in human terms:   Listener. Curator, Catalyst. Diplomat. Artist. Designer.

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