Speed of change
There is seemingly infinite delight in watching our industry constantly changing. The opportunities presented by the volume of data combined with the growth in technology, are both exciting and daunting in equal measures.
The tools used to capture data and generate insight - and then apply it - have evolved too, and this change can feel significant.
Subsequently, as this exponentially complex ecosystem grows and expands, so too does the level of marketing and business jargon that often plagues CMOs and business decision makers. It’s one thing to lay claim to speaking a different language, but when that language is quite literally being invented and reinvented on a daily basis, how can you even begin to translate?
Riddle me this
Frustratingly, miscommunication between marketers and suppliers is a commonly felt issue. Gain Theory undertook extensive, qualitative research with c-suite decision makers in order to find out exactly where the communication breakdown lies, and how it affects day to day operations.
The research revealed that many business leaders find the language used across the data, analytics and technology industries to be too complex and very often confusing. To borrow a phrase, a spade is not often a spade. Not every decision maker will share the same level of ‘equation literacy’ – after all, they are likely to be multi-skilled, dealing with streams of information, yet the expectation is that they can base decision making on a language they are not fluent in, and that updates itself constantly.
No wonder that the participants in the research admitted to struggling with the dense, jargon-filled solutions they are presented. By lacking the understanding, their confidence in either selling a solution back to the organisation, or applying if effectively to their business and its objectives, will be severely limited.
Complicating a complex problem
Herein lies the problem. Rather than making the route to purchase easy, in many instances suppliers are putting up their own barriers. Instead of presenting understandable, and crucially actionable, solutions to recognisable business challenges, they are cultivating misunderstanding in the c-suite when it comes to data and technological advancement. Business decisions can’t be comfortably made, and the very nature of the choice being presented is unclear.
It is that latter point that feels like the most central of issues. Too often the broader business objectives of a prospect or client are being overlooked by the supplier, in favour of presenting a ‘solution’ that answers very specific questions, perhaps even defined and posed by the supplier, whether or not they reflect the needs or point of view of the decision maker.
Suppliers who complicate the complex often do so to over inflate the appropriateness of their solution, bamboozling clients into thinking that the solution presented is a panacea to the problem – often before the supplier has even understood the problem.
One particular research respondent mentioned that in his early career, “The CFO never understood or believed in the marketing effectiveness measurement”, stating that this perceived lack of value - a symptom of an incomprehensible case made by the supplier - directly resulted in the CFO refusing to agree the required investment.
It’s also true that because of the aforementioned speed at which solutions change, and because of the importance of context in how a solution is best articulated, the task of deciphering exactly what challenges could be solved moves beyond of the abilities of even the most experienced corporate cryptographer, let alone the c-suite. Decisions are then either based on a hunch or an assumed understanding.
The misunderstanding of a product or proposition through the use of over complicated language also serves to do a supplier an injustice, by potentially devaluing their abilities. If appointed, a serious implication for a supplier is the misconception that the work they provide is sub-standard, because it isn’t delivering on the purpose the organisation assumed it to be for. It’s like buying a flying car, only to find it’s a standard model with a can of Red Bull in the drinks holder.
One of the most common issues the research respondents highlighted was the dreaded ‘black box’: the supplier hiding the true nature of their proposition behind smoke and mirrors, making the way the ‘trick’ is performed akin to magic rather than a practical solution.
Trust suffers too, or is near on impossible to form. If an agency or brand cannot understand what a prospective supplier is trying to offer to them, what else will be lost in translation and lead to further misalignment? In the context of good old fashioned supplier / client chemistry, understanding the problem is essential before presenting the solution.
A plain solution
Marketers turn to their suppliers to make their jobs easier, as well as to seek vital consultancy. It’s frustrating that, as the research suggests, so much extra complication comes from the presence of inaccessible jargon. Why make life and the path to purchase easy when you can complicate the already complex?
It’s unrealistic for any supplier to assume that marketers and client decision makers (especially when they are not marketers themselves) will be fluent in this ever growing and ever evolving world of data and technology. This assumption has serious consequences for all involved.
Instead I would argue that it is the job of the suppliers to make things clear and concise, providing understandable, actionable solutions that correspond to clear and concise business challenges. If suppliers can find a balance between banning (or even reducing jargon) without sacrificing capability, they will be able to offer a plain-speak solution unlike so many others around them.
For many organisations there’s also the benefit of carefully choosing a partner that can help them interpret and understand the language of our marketing future. After all, what better way to explore the world than with a trusted, multilingual guide?
By Manjiry Tamhane, Worldwide COO and CEO EMEA of Gain Theory.
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