Whenever I approach a slot machine in Las Vegas, I allow myself a $40 “risk threshold.” Such was the case at the host hotel for the Adobe Summit, where I netted $100 at the Wheel of Fortune slot machine.
Thankfully, many marketing leaders at Adobe Summit displayed a higher propensity for risk than I do. I have some key takeaways and winning strategies to share from this packed conference. (full disclosure: Adobe invited me as their guest).
First, let’s start with my big “aha” insight: Modern marketers share two things in common: they are willing to take a risk and differentiate themselves by creating memorable and unique customer experiences. Second, they create cultures that are receptive to digital transformation.
Below you will find 6 critical success factors that create conditions for modern marketing success. Armed with these insights, I believe innovators can outsmart even the best AI solutions:
It’s no longer about customer experience; it’s about human experience.
Customer experience has spawned an entire industry. Adobe also used that term to announce their new product vision, the Adobe Experience Cloud. They intend to bring creative and digital marketing functionality under a single umbrella and simplify their messaging for customers.
Adobe goes one step further. They also realize that employees play a big role in communicating and modeling the customer experience. In 2016, they launched an Employee Experience initiative, and created a cross-functional team to gain employee commitment to the mission.
Sarah Gormley, Adobe’s VP of Brand Strategy, stresses that “we have to put customers at the center of everything we do. We’re working closely with our Customer Experience and Employee Communication teams to show employees how their jobs directly impact customers. We’re seeing steady employee engagement growth around this campaign—among our 16,000 employees, nearly 60% are now more engaged.”
Every organization needs to consider all stakeholders when they seek to optimize brand impact—not just their investors or customers.
Selling the sizzle is just table stakes (steaks).
We must avoid the temptation to act as if we hold some magical marketing powers over our peers. Truthfully, there’s no magic in digital transformation. It requires a tolerance for failures along the way, and fallout from legacy employees (and often customers) who prefer status quo. Since most of us are optimists by default, we tend to focus on our victories and downplay the patience and finesse required to steer the cultural ship.
During the Adobe Summit breakout and product preview sessions, machine learning/AI, AR & VR related topics generated plenty of sizzle. Adobe’s Sensei, their AI platform used across the Marketing Cloud products, allows creative and marketing teams to share the same data sets and predictive technology. This is a big step towards faster implementations and tighter customer integration.
Beneath the sizzle, however, is something marketers need to remember and monitor carefully: product integration costs. One CMO told me that “companies need elements of ten (10) different Adobe products to create personalization solutions.”
Digital marketing is not yet an out of the box solution, and, for the time being, marketing software companies lean on partners and digital agencies to help customers launch. As you evaluate customer experience and loyalty technology solutions, set aside at least 1.5-3 times your software spend on customization and integration until some of these product visions become more mainstream, off the shelf industry packages. Don’t surprise your CFO later in the process.
Marketers must outsmart AI
Breakthroughs in AI—which drive many advances in personalization—are generating ethical and operational questions. For example, what kind of customer interactions might benefit from AI solutions? Which ones do not, because they require empathy, ethical choices, and intuition? With the advent of AI and what skills should senior marketing leaders learn? What creative and marketing jobs will no longer exist in 5 years?”
Marketers face an incredible opportunity to contribute to strategy and growth when they raise these issues. The long term impact of AI and automation on job growth should be a factor in every marketing leader’s customer engagement and resource plans. The World Economic Forum reports that loan officers, retail clerks, clerical staff, paralegals, and paid drivers represent the most “at risk” jobs that AI and machine learning will replace. (see figure below).
Programmatic advertising: brand builder or breaker?
Want to alienate your C-suite and customers overnight? Over-promise results from your programmatic advertising efforts.
We witnessed a mass exodus of advertisers from Google’s YouTube last week. PepsiCo, Wal-Mart, Verizon, AT&T, and Coca-Cola are just a few major brands who just pulled their YouTube digital ads. Programmatic advertising risks were amplified when advertisers saw their ads appear on terrorist and violent YouTube video channels.
This signals a time for marketers to consider deploying a higher percentage of their advertising budget to offline channels (such as live events and small customer gatherings). It may also spark a brief spike in television advertising while the algorithmic mess gets sorted at Google and Facebook.
The network effect creates huge competitive advantage.
During the Adobe Summit, Microsoft shared details of their new Dynamics CRM and Power BI analytics toolset integration with Adobe Cloud platform on the main stage. In addition, over 1000 partners and agencies attended the Summit to showcase their commitment to helping customers navigate digital marketing transformations.
This bold move encourages every marketer to assess your current and future technology providers. What is their level of commitment to integrating solutions with your other mission-critical marketing tools?
Adobe’s ability to manage and guide the customer relationship from creative through predictive analytics and demand creation positions them as a platform provider, not a random collection of point products. Strong partner and integration ecosystems help marketers accelerate marketing technology adoption—which helps drive stronger C-suite commitment to your initiatives over time.
Embrace a wholesale “innovation exploration” mindset.
Mitra Best, a Principal and Innovation Leader at PwC, demonstrated the mindset of an innovation explorer. She provoked the audience during an Adobe Summit panel on innovation, when she described her most memorable lessons at this $35B professional services firm:
“We need to deconstruct failures, extract the learning, and scale this learning. It’s OK to fail once. But you can’t fail on the same thing again and again. That’s not learning…CFOs need to budget for failed experiments when they think about overall ROI. Failure needs to be factored in to ROI calculations. Finally, compensation models cannot punish failure.”
These six insights will give you the upper hand against competitors and innovation inertia.
Marketing renegades are placing their bets on winning customer experiences. Will you retreat, or double down?
Copyright 2017, Lisa Nirell. All rights reserved.