IN THE SPOTLIGHT

Maximizing Your Marketing Dollars in the Age of Personalization

By Dara Treseder, Chief Marketing Officer, GE Business Innovations

According to Salesforce’s 2017 "State of Marketing" report, the use of marketing tech (including IoT devices and lead-scoring tools) will skyrocket from now until 2019. That’s not surprising, given that the report also discovered that high-performing marketers tend to use more advanced technology than their less effective peers. Salesforce found that the best marketing teams surveyed were 4.3 times more likely than below-average teams to use data management platforms; additionally, 92 percent of marketers will use analytics tech by 2019, with 91 percent using CRM systems in the same timeframe.

More information on customers means smarter engagement, but smarter engagement doesn’t look the same as it once did. For years, marketers assumed that the best way to win customers was to be omnipresent, spreading out low levels of engagement across long periods of time.

That strategy is outdated. The new consumer journey is measured in moments, not hours. Thanks to faster internet, smarter phones and personalized recommendations, people don’t take forever to make purchase decisions. They determine their needs, do their research and pull the trigger.

To encourage those purchases, marketers must shift from sustained engagement to torrential engagement—as a 2017 Kantar Futures report puts it—hitting audiences hard when they're receptive to marketing messages and using smart tech to make the most of those opportunities.

The Right Reasons to Turn to Tech

The success of the torrential engagement strategy hinges on cadence. Short bursts of high engagement naturally coexist with long periods of complete disengagement. If the old purchase cycle looked like a sine wave, gradually shifting between hills and valleys, the new one looks more like a heartbeat: high peaks followed by periods of complete stillness.

Northeastern University is pioneering the study of these short periods of intense attention, nicknamed “microlearning.” Students consume information and submit assignments through quick social media, such as Snapchat, which helps them absorb information by completing the learning-to-engagement interaction in one short session.

This means that every consumer interaction is all or nothing—buy or disengage. To sell in this new reality, brands must pick the tools that give them the best chance to win quickly.

Not all marketing tech is created equal, however, and brands don’t have the luxury of forcing consumers to listen like professors do with students. Those who use technology for the sake of having it will be outclassed by competitors that analyze the opportunities, evaluate their options and select the best tools within their current scope.

Riding the Wave of Innovation

Executives often struggle to make sense of the wave of tech innovations, but these advancements don’t have to be so confusing. Start by quantifying how different technologies will affect the business—from overarching strategy and internal operations to customer engagement. Will it create new competitors, boost operational efficiencies or allow the brand to reach a new market?

The goal is to choose the technology that presents the greatest competitive advantage. This isn't a task to pass on to the CTO or CIO. CMOs must take the lead here, keeping the partner and entire C-suite abreast in order to help them envision the future that this technology will enable.

When evaluating potential tech solutions, look for the biggest potential competitive advantages. Every company has pain points—which technology can solve those? Newer, flashier technology might sound too complex to implement, but these advancements have great potential.

Artificial intelligence platforms can automate repetitive consumer data collection to free up human labor for more strategic work. Virtual reality and augmented reality can create memorable marketing experiences for target audiences. For example, in 2017, IKEA rolled out an app with AR integrations that would allow consumers to see what pieces from its 2,000-plus furniture collection would look like in their living rooms before they made a purchase.

Technology in the Moment

Once brands have shortlisted the tech that presents the most opportunity, it's time to draw a fluid roadmap to application and implementation. These maps must shore up—not conflict with—brands' innovation strategies and offerings. And just as tech advancements will continue to evolve, so must the roadmaps.

Start the roadmap by outlining explicit goals. What should this technology help the brand accomplish? Be as specific as possible. Identify milestones, such as user adoption percentages, and timelines in which to hit those objectives.

Plan for new information by writing down gaps in knowledge and potential setbacks before beginning implementation. An important contributor might leave the company, or other time-sensitive projects might take priority for a few weeks. With those factors in mind, create action items on how to overcome potential issues and keep the roadmap on track.

During this process, don’t underestimate the importance of the human element. Maintain senior-level buy-in by keeping everyone informed on the status of the implementation. Keep communications open with ground-level employees to ensure that everything is working as it should. Remember, roadmaps are guides, not task lists.

With implementation complete, the success of the tech comes down to identifying the peaks and valleys of customer attention. Leverage tech advancements to hit hard when people are receptive, and back off when they’re not. When done well, these torrential engagements can result in sustainable sales.

We're only beginning to see how marketing technology will change the engagement landscape. IoT devices in stores, AI assistants to guide purchases and machine-learning tools for data optimization will all become more common in the coming days. Marketers who learn to use these tools now will enjoy a competitive advantage that could last for years.

  • Marketing

Dara Treseder is the Chief Marketing Officer for GE Business Innovations, which includes GE Ventures, Business Creation, Licensing and New Market Development. She has been described in Inc. Magazine as one of "30 Inspirational Women to Watch in Tech" and recognized in Forbes as a top marketing expert. Prior to joining GE, she led marketing and growth efforts at Apple and Goldman Sachs. Treseder is also an internationally recognized champion of public health, women's issues and diversity initiatives. She serves on the board of directors for the Public Health Institute and as an advisor to UN Women initiatives.

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