Neil OKeefe 318x318Neil O’Keefe is DMA’s SVP of CRM & Member Engagement

This week I joined my colleague and ventured down to the great state of Texas to visit with DMA members in the greater Dallas/Ft. Worth area. Hosted by IBM at their Innovation Center in Coppell, TX, I was reminded of the diversity of our country and marketing industry as I gazed across the local road at a herd of Texas Longhorn Cattle grazing less than a football field away.

IBM is an active DMA member and one of their senior execs, Buell Duncan, is a member of the DMA Board of Directors. The attendees received an update on the progress IBM has made with “Augmented Intelligence,” Cognitive Learning and Watson. The focus with Watson was on the ability to manage “dark data” and turn it into actionable insights for marketers. Companies like 1-800 Flowers and The North Face are already incorporating Watson into their online experience, allowing customers to use natural language in determining the best products and services to meet their needs.

Harnessing unstructured social data and free form queries like this is where Watson seems to excel. Its greatest contribution is the ability to empower the human marketers who interpret the insights and take action with them. This is largely why IBM insists on Augmented Intelligence vs Artificial Intelligence. Watson allows one marketer to respond like thousands and for one marketer to speak to thousands of customers 1:1. The ability to tap into Watson APIs is increasingly easy and few barriers remain for SMBs to begin utilization of this type of intelligence.

Since the human marketer remains key to turning the insight to action, marketers’ ability to excel remains limited by the ability of the company they work for to increase their data centricity – an ability to appreciate data, capture it and store it responsibly and to deliver it back to customers in a relevant and valuable customer experience. These issues were recently captured in a DMA/IAB whitepaper produced with Winterberry Group. The results of the whitepaper were presented at the Dallas roundtable by Jonathan Margulies, Managing Director at Winterberry Group. Silos and skilled staff remain key challenges to achieving data centricity, an issue DMA embraces through meetings like the Community Roundtables and through DMA’s EDU and Research initiatives.

In addition to the Data-Centric research, DMA has recently released research on Omnichannel challenges and a look at Future Trends in Data-Driven Marketing. Omnichannel highlights the increasing need to deliver a relevant and cohesive brand experience across all channels and the increasing difficulty as customers increase device usage (7+ per household and often as many as 3 in one day by a single user). To further address these challenges, DMA has broadened its Education offering with new courses like Next Generation Omnichannel Marketing and Mobile-Friendly Web Design: Responsive, Adaptive, or Hybrid? as well as a new certificate all available online and on-demand. In addition, since DMA is essentially as valuable as its collective membership, DMA has established the Structured Innovation Program which has in its first initiative developed a working group to address Cross-Device challenges. The first output of this team is the release of an RFI template, allowing marketers to level set on terminology and necessary questions to ask when evaluating cross-device solutions from solution providers.

Wrapping up the roundtable was Mike Hail of Data Decisions Group. Mike’s experience dates back to working with Texas Instruments in the prairies of West Texas, where I also began my career. Mike rekindled fond Midland Texas memories with a famous quote “West Texas isn’t the end of the earth but you sure as hell can see it from here.” Mike’s vast experience allowed him to deliver a true omnichannel approach to data, cautioning marketers in the room to avoid a GIGO (Garbage In, Garbage Out) culture that further prevents a data centric approach to customer relevancy and customer experience. While social and email may be cheap to deliver, the resulting opt-out or unfollow that comes from a poor experience is quite costly over time and even more costly to replace.

Mike encourages trying traditional modeling and segmentation in new media such as social and, in particular, Facebook. Why build custom audiences against your file when you can optimize that initiative by first applying best customer models against your full database – thereby allowing you to derive new customers from Facebook that reflect and spend like your best customers. This allows you to better focus on core products and services favored by your very best customers as opposed to trying to be all things to all people… and failing. Mike cautioned marketers not to be intimidated by terms like Big Data. Data-driven marketers have been working with data for the past 100 years. Data hasn’t just gotten bigger, it’s creating tremendous insight and an ability to communicate with your customers in ways never before envisioned. And tools like Augmented Intelligence are at hand for all marketers to leverage the potential of the data captured each day from our customers.

Everything is bigger in TX; The Data and The Opportunities.

Will we see you at our next Roundtable in 2017? Check out our calendar of upcoming events and join your peers today!