[For the December cover story, Target Marketing asked a field of marketing experts the top four questions facing marketers in 2015. This is the fourth question in the series.]
While making an emotional connection with customers is becoming more important, most of the experts we interviewed for this article saw technology as part of the solution, not the problem. The trick is not just to have technology that works for you, but to be able to use technology as an extension of your marketing department. Can you make technology part of the marketing team?
"Most marketers aren't prepared for the requirements to implement and optimize various technologies, while also figuring out what to do with the data they find themselves drowning in," says Debbie Qaqish, principal and chief strategy officer of Atlanta-based The Pedowitz Group. "Data and technology are here to stay for marketing, and the pace of change will only continue to accelerate. ... New technologies are continuously coming to market, and marketing must be able to make decisions and investments that align with goals."
"Finally, marketers are able to execute in-house analytics and complicated database queries using sophisticated but affordable tools," says Lois Brayfield, president and chief creative officer at direct marketing agency J. Schmid & Assoc. "Brands no longer need to invest in $100,000 databases, but can use inexpensive products like Excel (power pivots) and solutions like Tableau. These products allow for quick queries that can answer questions across a multitude of categories."
"In the companies that are on the leading-edge of personalized consumer engagement, marketing and IT are collaborators, not contenders," says Gary S. Laben, CEO of Dallas-based KBM Group and president of data and insights at KBM's parent company, Wunderman. "In these organizations, the CIO team understands that marketing is critical for a company to thrive, and that the technology landscape has shifted to marketing."
"In the next year, marketers will need to ask themselves just how well their sales and marketing technologies play with one another, and to rethink the kind of view they're afforded into their business operations. Marketers ought to think about ways they can augment and optimize their marketing efforts by drawing in data from other systems—HR, accounting, CRM," says Paige Musto, director of corporate marketing for Beaverton, Ore.-based marketing automation platform Act-On Software.
Faced with this Big Q, many of our experts saw young marketers leading the way, turning the discipline away from labels and silos, and toward a naturally integrated way of communicating.
"The most exciting development in marketing today is the level of sophistication and understanding marketers have as modern marketers," says Qaqish. "We now have an entire generation of young marketers who get that marketing is about data, technology, the customer and revenue."
"I suspect the best direct marketers don't even think of themselves as direct marketers," says Omer Artun, Ph.D., CEO of Mountain View, Calif.-based predictive marketing platform AgilOne. "They've made a shift in culture and strategy to see themselves as true relationship marketers. They take advantage of predictive marketing, leveraging all sorts of new and growing customer data to ensure every interaction is specialized. "