Marketing and Technology at Warp Speed

It was only a little more than 20 years ago when the Internet became a part of everyday life. Email services were synonymous with America Online. The most popular search engine was Yahoo, until Google quickly eclipsed it.

A decade later in the mid-2000s, social media erupted. Does anyone remember Friendster or MySpace? They were the precursors to Facebook, which is arguably the most powerful publisher in the world.

All of these technology advancements reshaped marketing practices – from what we communicate to how we communicate across a host of new channels. Now, fast forward to the current decade and the era of data, analytics and automation. Arguably even faster than the previous technologies, these advancements have changed marketing priorities. And with this rapid change, it’s made even the most strategic thinkers feel like luddites.

Fret not. We’ve tried to cut through the marketing “buzz” to provide a realistic perspective on how to look at, and not be afraid of, the new marketing paradigm and the tools marketers now need to use to stay up-to-speed. Here goes:

Marketing Strategy Meets SEO/Demand Generation: Today, virtually all marketing programs are designed to meet one primary objective – enhancing SEO in support of demand generation. In its totality, demand generation is an approach that first delineates customer segments and then creates keyword-based web copy along with online advertising plans, strategic partnerships, email marketing, and social media campaigns to drive web traffic and get visitors motivated to download content, take advantage of special offers, or just spend more time learning about an organization’s products and services. So with 73% of marketers finding that video positively impacts marketing results (ReelSEO), here are a few ground rules to make video a valuable part of your content marketing:

Data and Analytics: Marketing people first cringed when they saw the words data and analytics – these terms seemed better suited for left-brain quantitative gurus rather than right-brain creative types – but analytics are now a part of a marketer’s everyday world. The good news is that analytics have become increasingly easy-to-use tools that make sense of lots of data by delivering clear insights that give marketers a better picture of how, and to which signals, their customers are reacting. This means that the key role for marketers is to interpret these results – reviewing and analyzing outputs to inform the development or revision of targeted campaigns. For strategic marketers, this is basic to their wheelhouse.

What’s more, many analytics platforms are free, starting with the granddaddy of them all: Google Analytics. This readily accessible tool captures the following insights: the number of visitors to a website; how they are acquired, i.e. social media, organic search, etc.; where they are located geographically; what time of day they visit; how active they are on the site and how long they stay; and what specific pages they visit. Google Analytics also delivers a content efficiency report featuring a number of metrics including: which content engages your audience; what type of content (images, videos, GIFs, infographics, reviews) perform best; which content is shared most; and which content converts readers into customers – the types of key measurement that is the holy grail of marketing.

Personas: Delineating customer segments is one side of a coin, establishing personas is the other. Creating personas has become a buzz-term over the last few years but again, in reality, it is an advanced form of yesteryear’s customer profiling but with more robust data inputs to make the profiles more accurate. As defined by, personas “create reliable and realistic representations of your key audience segments as fictional, generalized characters that encompass the various needs, goals, and observed behavior patterns among your real and potential customers.” However, personas are only as good as the research on which they are based, typically reflecting a combination of behaviors reflective of web analytics, as well as qualitative and quantitative user research.

This is a key point. Most companies have lots of customer related information at their disposal – either from marketing campaigns or sales programs – that can inform persona creation. If not, quick surveys and perception audits conducted among key customers and prospects present affordable initiatives to provide critical strategic data.

Automation/Artificial Intelligence/Personalized responses: Today’s marketing programs are also built around automation – an effort designed to respond to visitors who express an interest or take-action on a site. These responses are typically personalized to reflect a visitor’s interests through the offer of additional relevant information, an invitation to an event or webinar, or more likely, an opportunity to purchase a related product or service. Marketing automation software facilitates these responses via emails, social media, and other personalized website actions. Companies like HubSpot and Marketo (now owned by Adobe) have become leaders in marketing automation software with the most sophisticated users incorporating it across their enterprises and linking it to their CRM systems to best leverage customer outreach.

Marketers should note that it’s artificial intelligence – another new term in the marketer’s lexicon – that fuels these automated, personalized response capabilities. As techemergence explains it, “Artificial intelligence technologies offer algorithms to analyze a visitor’s behavior allowing for real time campaign optimizations towards an audience more likely to convert. Programmatic companies have the ability to gather this audience data to then target more precisely, whether it’s from first party (their own) or from a third party data provider.”(1) With this type of science behind today’s marketing innovations, even companies like IBM-Watson, the major information technology giant, are in the business of offering AI-powered marketing solutions.

Again marketers, fret not. Market automation software and AI technologies require the involvement of IT professionals to set-up all the bells and whistles so a degree in computer programming is not required. In addition, big providers typically provide implementation services to help marketing professionals learn how to use the systems, as well as interpret the outputs. This takes a little bit of training, but it’s eminently doable.

Marketing is marketing is marketing. At the end of the day, programs built on the basics of smart positioning and informed by customer and market research, have the right foundation for success. We’ve come a very long way from the early days of the Internet with today’s new technologies aiding and abetting the basics while helping to engage with customers and prospects in a whole new way.

In fact, these new technologies provide the type of added insights and metrics that can make campaigns smarter than ever. With offers that incentivize customers to help drive sales – marketers, reluctant as they might be – must embrace these new technologies because they help to deliver and measure the ROI needed for successful campaigns that move the business needle.

Maria Lilly, Lisa Meyer and Jake Wengroff contributed to this article.

[1] Fagella, Daniel. "Artificial Intelligence in Marketing and Advertising – 5 Examples of Real Traction." techemergence. September, 16, 2019.