What are your biggest opportunities & challenges for next 12-24 months?
I’ll begin with the biggest challenge, which is overcoming the assumption of many marketers that the new slew of big data residing at their fingertips is analogous to having all the answers about their consumers all of the time. While the mass of behavioral and demographic information is powerful, it can also be risky if it’s always taken at face value and used in a vacuum to guide major decisions. A high number of marketers are quick to make assumptions and decisions based on percentages, numbers or stars or snippets from Facebook and Twitter posts, which could lead them down a costly wrong path. They fail to get to the why behind consumers’ attitudes and actions, which is where more robust consumer insights like the ones we deliver for our clients comes into play.
One of the near-term challenges to get them there is awareness and budget allocation, particularly since many have the “shiny object” syndrome that has them experimenting with the perceived next big thing, rather than tried-and-true tactics.
I see an immense opportunity for us to help marketers take their research a step further – to uncover the motivations, reasoning and influences behind their statistical consumer data. It simply takes applying the right technology tools and human supervision to cut through surface appearances and get to a place of true understanding. The ROI case for having more substantive consumer insights is clear. Marketers and their insight teams just need to put more emphasis on creating telling streams of information, blending together data and feedback into a cohesive story, and making the output easily understandable and actionable for all those involved.
What are some unmet needs in marketing technology landscape?
From my perspective, the industry is desperately lacking tools that help us create personas and segments that are based less on demographics and one or two consumer actions, and more on values, expressed views, lifestyles, etc. Grouping and marketing by these often more instructive, albeit harder to attain psychographics, can be extremely beneficial for businesses who might be lumping their audiences into groups that don’t best represent them simply because it’s the easiest and most-technology friendly way to do it.
This also gets back to the fact that the industry has moved to dashboards as its de facto reporting method, and marketers are conditioned to receive data in that way. Dashboards are useful in some scenarios, but are they really best for every situation? If the commentary you’re collecting is intended to help you profile audiences, a persona-based report might be the optimal output. Or if you’re collecting feedback from different inputs along the customer journey to see how experiences, preferences and perceptions vary, then a report that compares the journey touch-points might be more appropriate. This is another area where I believe marketers have settled rather than pushed for more options.
What keeps your clients up at night?
The big insomnia-inducer seems to be the fear of making a major mistake that costs them market share, revenue and, quite possibly, their job. At iModerate, the expectations faced by our clients – whether they’re digital marketers, customer experience directors or brand managers – are extraordinary. They’re tasked with aligning touch-points and messages, delivering great customer experiences and moving the needle in a measurable way. They know how vital promoters and loyalists are, and that once they put something out there, good or bad, it’s out there. Blunders are now public, missteps more painful and costly. The bar to surprise and delight customers with personalized everything keeps getting higher every day, and meanwhile their resources are constantly being allocated elsewhere.
Suffice to say the pressure is on, but it all gets significantly less overwhelming and suffocating when they do the proper consumer intelligence and insight work on the front end and can hold up data in front of their managers that supports their weighty decisions.
What social network do you anticipate accelerating growth in the next year?
My vote is Instagram. I’m not exactly going out on a limb given the fact that recent data from Pew Research Internet Life Project shows Instagram is the fastest-growing social network. However, for me it’s about one simple fact – pictures are engaging. They are easy to consume, easy to share, tell a great story quickly and have tremendous marketing value. Unlike lines of text, it’s hard to gloss over a great image. Eyeballs and engagement are pretty good cornerstones for growth. What’s more, it used to be that millennials used Instagram and Gen X used Facebook, but we’re now seeing both generations embrace Instagram, creating nearly double the reach for marketers.
What’s the hardest thing to educate clients about?
It’s tough to get many of them out the mindset that there is one out-of-the-box data aggregator and analyzer solution with a slick dashboard that can answer all of their intelligence needs. I find that our clients are under so much pressure from the top of their organizations to quickly “solve” the company’s data and feedback conundrum that they mistakenly leap into big agreements and massive tools without the infrastructure or strategy to be successful. It’s hard to get them to walk before they run, accumulate small victories, and be iterative – but the ones that heed our advice to “start small, but start now” tend to come out on top.
2015 will be all about:
This year should be about using every tool in the toolbox and play in the playbook to optimize the customer experience. The customer experience has become the mantra of many companies, but that’s only because it’s the proven path to success. In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2016, companies will compete primarily on the experiences they deliver. Customers should be first, employees second and shareholders third.
Consumers are smart. They know companies have near-endless resources to learn about them, and most are willing to give up some of their information if the return comes in the form of a more dialed-in and personalized experience. In 2015, we’ll see a scramble among both insight and intelligence software suppliers and consultants, as well as their clients, to supercharge listening, asking and observing solutions and initiatives. The race is on – who can make their customers the happiest?