Technology is changing marketing at a staggering rate, and many brands, especially smaller ones, are finding it difficult to keep up with new tools like marketing automation, artificial intelligence or even the ever-expanding number of social media channels. According to Matthew Sweezey, principal of marketing insights for Salesforce.com and one of the top minds in the future of marketing, focusing on those tools, rather than your marketing tactics, might actually be what’s holding your business back.
Sweezey is a noted author and speaker and considered a pioneer of marketing automation. He has written for Forbes, AdAge and Harvard Business Press, among others and works with some of the largest brands in the world. In his role with Salesforce.com he uses his research and insights to help better understand the consumer/brand relationship and produces their yearly Future of Marketing Report.
Q: What’s the #1 takeaway in 2019 from the Future of Marketing Report?
A: For the short term—the next five years—the report reveals real data confirming theories about modern consumers wanting customized, specific experiences. In fact, 80% of consumers said that their experience with a brand was as important as products or services. That idea means marketing now incorporates every interaction your brand has with a customer, which really changes its role within the organization.
In the longer term, it’s important to note that technology has changed every purchase a customer makes into a considered one. There are no such things as impulse purchases any more. The idea that B2B and B2C marketing is different now is erroneous. Customers can ask their phone a question about anything and receive a considered answer. People even Google which toothbrush is best. The difference between products is all about how risky the decision it is. The riskier the decision the more questions asked.
Q: How is marketing’s role changing, and what barriers do you see to adapting in most businesses?
Marketing can no longer be a siloed thing. It used to be just tell the world about the products. Now we realize that consumers want experience, that they’re influenced by so much more than ads. It’s about every interaction they have with our brand.
Getting executive buy-in to a new idea of marketing as the owner of customer experience makes the biggest difference. It makes a lot bigger impact than adopting new channels or technology. When top performers remove marketing from a siloed role and expand it across the consumer journey, they are 10 times more likely to be beating their direct competition.
Q: What technology advances are coming in marketing, and how can smaller businesses employ them?
A: Artificial intelligence is the fastest growing technology because it’s the only way to keep up with customer demands for a curated experience and massive data growth. The highest performers expect to increase AI use by 200% in the next year. There’s just no way to reach the consumer without using AI anymore. Every aspect of a consumer’s life is optimized for them by AI and curated to be the most contextualized experience. Once we realize that, we can figure out how to break through it.
As with all great technologies, AI has become less complex and faded into the background as it advanced. It used to mean hiring a data scientist and buying algorithms. It’s something that comes standard with every application you buy now. You can employ website add-ons like chat bots with a small initial investment.
Q: What is the biggest risk to getting left behind in the future of marketing?
A: When the business owner or leader has an idea of what has worked in the past and they want to iterate it, or if they don’t know the right questions to ask and just keep trying to make better ads.
Brands need to understand that the future of marketing Isn’t about tools or ads. They need to realize that their idea of marketing is flawed. Marketing can’t create the perfect message. You can’t strive for right person, right product, right time. Google Adwords does that better than anyone else, and they’re only converting 3% of the time.
Q: What do you really want businesses to understand about the future of marketing?
A: We’re currently in the largest transition in the history of marketing. Our idea of marketing was created during the limited media era. The only way to reach customers then was capital, because businesses owned the media market.
The rules have changed now. It’s an infinite media market with consumers producing media on their own. They’re not bound by the same rules, which means the marketing game we were taught to play is no longer played in that environment. The rules have changed before, but it’s never changed like this.