When I think about the adtech industry - one whose very existence depends on influencing customer behaviour - it’s ironic that so much of our marketing to brands and agencies is driven by our technology, and not our customers. While cutting-edge technology and innovative new features are exciting to talk about, it’s too often through these features and technologies that we frame our conversations about how we can improve business, solve problems or drive solutions for our customers. In the process, the very people we’re trying to reach get buried under all these technology “stacks,” and have a harder time understanding what is being offered.
If we want our industry to succeed, we need to get back to focusing on the customers. There isn’t an app for that - it’s about effectively changing the relationships between key function areas, and in order to do this, it’s time to start listening differently.
It all starts in the responsible hands of sales. When a seller works toward making a sale, they actively listen to what the customer is saying so that they can turn that feedback into action for their own company - action that informs not just how you sell, but also what you build.
For example, many marketing teams are heavily focused on an inordinate number of events that typically treat the customer as a secondary concern. Instead, the time and money spent on these could be put back into focusing on customer accounts and learning from them. In marketing, there are a lot of constant iterations. We have all worked on customer case studies and references before, but how do we use these when we’re thinking in terms of an account-based approach or looking at feedback from the perspective of a vertical, a particular product offering or solution? Marketers need to learn from our case studies and ask the necessary questions. How does the seller provide value to the customer? How does marketing help the customer understand the value? How does marketing help the seller understand the customer? This is where the marketing team needs to work closely with the sales team to put the customer first.
Today, engineers are seen as the brains behind the projects. They build the products and they know them best. Then they share their creations with the product teams, who know the technology slightly less. The product teams share their knowledge with the marketing team, who know it slightly less than the product team, and so on, all the way down to the customer. Marketing and sales then should filter all the information they gather up to the product and engineering teams. If the customer feedback dies with the sales and marketing teams, was there really an action or effort taken to improve a product or service?
Today’s businesses are often so technology-driven that some have created labs or think tanks to fuel the creation of new products and ideas. As marketers, it is our job to begin thinking about how to package and position the innovations stemming from these labs and develop a plan for how to take these new products to market. This is the difficult part and often the moment of translation when much of the larger, customer-oriented message is lost. You end up instead with a message laden with acronyms and rich with detail, and not a coherent, comprehensive, easily understandable picture. Ultimately, all of the hard work and dedication of every team involved -- engineering, products, marketing - trying to promote all the new technology being created goes to waste.
To ensure that a circle of communication is happening, one that links and aligns every group in the org to listen to and act for the customer, give each team one point of contact in charge of making sure the rest of the team is aware of what is going on with other divisions. Their focus is on guaranteeing transparency and communication internally so that no one department is dropping the ball.
If we can all come together to make this cycle a reality, it won’t be long before we evolve from an industry narrowly focused on technology, to a more customer-centric industry. In the end, this will lead to more effective products, happier customers, and a more successful adtech industry.
By Eric Duerr, chief marketing officer at Rocket Fuel
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