With the number of tasks, channels and platforms the average marketer has to deal with these days it’s no wonder marketers are failing. Chris Pitt, Head of Marketing at Vertical Leap explains how software and automation has made his own team work better.
There were some very interesting results from a recent survey (published in adage.com) which focussed on what the marketing industry as a whole needs to tackle in the coming months. According to the marketers surveyed, 55% think that the most important thing is to make marketing more efficient. I couldn’t agree more. It did however get me thinking – When are we, the marketers, going to admit that we aren’t doing a very good job?
Before you look me up on Twitter to vent your anger let me qualify that. We, the marketers, are doing the best job we can. We turn up each day and do all we can with what we have available. But the problem is that we are assaulted by choice and information. Think about it. The unprecedented scale of platforms, channels and tactics available to marketers, combined with the increasing volumes of data that gets created by those platforms means that we marketers are overloaded.
Smart Insights.com estimates that there are 120 plus channels available to marketers. That’s the channel only and doesn’t take into account the tactics and platforms that are a subset of the channel. For example, Smart Insights counts Google PPC as one activity, when really it is multiple activities that might include Adwords, Display, remarketing and customer match, combined with mobile, desktop or tablet.
Then there is the data created by those channels. Wonderful data that allows us to target customers down to the minutest behavioural detail. A recent IBM study revealed that “every day, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data — In fact, 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone. The problem is it is located in too many places. eConsultancy says that the average marketing department uses as many as 51 different systems, all of them creating data.
It’s this data that is causing the marketing inefficiencies. It gets in the way of productivity. Time spent integrating different systems, time spent analysing – repetitively going over the same data, week after week, trying to make sense of it. We can’t ignore the data, but we equally don’t really have the time to make the most of it. So we do the best we can with the time we’ve got. We could of course do nothing but neither of those scenarios equals a job done properly.
Marketers aren’t to blame however. We are human and we have our own efficiency problems, ranging from “It’s Wednesday” through to “the boss is in a foul mood and the creatives haven’t delivered”. Every day there are 101 other things that need doing as well as having to go through a spreadsheet that details the engagement of over 1,000 website pages. Again.
Liberate me from marketing drudgery
There is a solution of course – Robots. Or rather, software built on intelligent algorithms that can do the thinking for us. You would be hard pushed not to have seen a recent article or news report that talked about the infiltration of machine learning software into our everyday lives. It’s not really a new thing either. Our phones, our cars, the Internet – many of our daily social and professional interactions are completed with technology.
The intelligence of software is still relatively new and it’s the reason why many of us don’t see it as an option. On the one hand, whilst it’s fine to have software that organises, automates and schedules our marketing for us; for some, intelligent software that tells us what to do next, feels just a little too much like submission. Too much like redundancy. People are worried for their jobs.
There is the wonderful anecdote I once heard that I think applies to this kind of (understandable) fear. It goes like this: Businesses of the future will comprise of only a computer, a dog and a human. The computer is there to do the job, the dog is there to stop the human touching the computer; and the human is there to feed the dog.
I don’t think that this is the future.
People buy from people and I can’t see a time that marketing won’t need a human, creative element. However, we have to accept that without intelligent software to help us, we will never be as effective as we could be. There is too much to do, too much to analyse and so many human fallibilities. Without intelligent software to meticulously and repetitively make sense of everything for us, we will fail, bogged down by ever increasing marketing drudgery.
We need the algorithms to take the manual labour away so that we can get on with doing the marketing. And if we can do that, there is a really big benefit. You get more for your money.
Thank you Dan Bricklin (inventor of the spreadsheet)
We have been here before, with accountants and spreadsheets. Before spreadsheets, accountants used pen and paper. The job got done, but it took *this long* and it needed *this many* people. Then computing and spreadsheets came along and whole business could be run from a single, effective spreadsheet.
Suddenly (and here’s the important part) accountants could take on more clients at the same cost, without needing to increase their own resourcing costs. After all, if Excel made a single accountant four times as fast, surely that meant that four times as much work could be done.
As well as a direct business benefit, there is a client benefit too. If a client pays a two hour, monthly retainer for a particular service, the value and return of that retainer is restricted by the achievable output within those two hours. So, if technology makes us more effective, surely that means our clients get more output from those two hours.
The money goes further. You can get more done, properly and thoroughly, for the same cost.
Embrace the change
Including me. I have ambitious growth targets and based on demand, market share and conversion rates, there is not enough of us in this office to achieve those targets. We simply can’t do it, but thanks to algorithmic software we just might.
You see, we use two kinds of software. The first is marketing automation software that allows us to individually market to, engage with and nurture thousands of interested contacts based entirely on their behaviour and different buying signals. We also use our own proprietary software that uses intelligent algorithms to analyse the whole of our online presence and provide insights into what we need to do to further our online performance and get in front of even more contacts.
It would be no exaggeration to say that between them, these two pieces of software do the work of more than ten people – and for very little cost. It means that my marketing team is outputting the work of at least 4 times as many people. It means that I can stand in front of my stakeholders and tell them we have achieved our targets, within budget and on time. It means effective efficiency.
They don’t come easily though, these efficiencies. Even if you are a forward thinking business that accepts where there world is going, it isn’t a simple task to integrate this new kind of technology. Existing processes, both human and otherwise, have to adapt quickly. People have to give themselves over wholly, let go of some of the control, and place trust in the technology to do a better job than they were doing. That’s a really hard thing to do.
The thing is it can be done. The key is in identifying the repetitive tasks within your business that people would prefer to not to have to do.
Head of Marketing