Ruth Mathias
Ruth Mathias 16 June 2014

The Evolution of Marketing: Where's The Human Factor?

As the role of marketing continues to evolve, do we no longer see leads and prospects as humans?

With the exponential rise of big data and the increasing emergence and growth of new technology platforms and automation tools, the role of marketing is changing. It is gradually absorbing greater responsibility for managing the technology involved in enhancing the customer experience – responsibility that would traditionally sit within the realm of IT.


Blurring the lines


As the sphere of digital marketing becomes more and more convoluted, the modern day marketer must adapt and upskill to future proof their career. Nothing new there – marketers have been doing this for years! The continual evolution of search, social, content, CRM and mobile marketing – coupled with the changing trends in content consumption and online behaviour – has led to greater integration and the need for marketers to become multi-disciplined and analytics experts.


In Adobe’s recent Digital Roadblock: Marketers Struggle to Reinvent Themselves report, 64 per cent of marketers said they expect their role to change in the next year; 81 per cent in the next three years. The top three driving forces behind this expected change were cited as:

  • Expanded number of channels and platforms to reach audiences.
  • New ways of thinking about audience engagement.
  • New technologies for analysing marketing effectiveness.

When asked what prevents them from becoming the marketer they aspire to be, 33 per cent of respondents cited ‘confusion over roles and responsibilities’.


In terms of marketing priorities, 33 per cent of marketers said personalisation was most important moving forward, with 22 per cent citing big data.


Taking responsibility for customer experience 


Mike Hoban, Marketing Director at Thomas Cook – speaking at The Drum’s Digital Convergence panel in London – stressed the necessity for marketers to ‘take responsibility’ for customer experience through harnessing technology.


Hoban argued that “If marketers allow themselves to be boxed in by worrying about the colour and size of logos they will be redundant, as they will be overtaken by IT departments who will be responsible for customer experience.”


But while his suggestion implies that marketers should absorb the management of customer experience technology, he also stressed that a healthy dialogue should be maintained with the IT department, as this relationship will help ensure a business succeeds.


Rise of the Chief Marketing Technologist 


In a recent interview – with Vala Afshar, CMO, Extreme Networks – Scott Brinker, CTO, ion interactive, advised creating a new role - the ‘Chief Marketing Technologist’ (CMT) - to enable marketing teams to leverage technology. The CMT facilitates the collaboration between marketing and technology, reporting into the CMO and acting ‘as the right hand to the CTO for how technology can accomplish specific marketing missions.’


Where’s the human factor?


For me, this increased emphasis on technology, automation and big data within the marketing sphere, signals not only a shift in what’s required of marketers – but a loss of the human factor in marketing. Ironic really, given the growing importance of personalisation.


It’s now more important than ever for marketers to prove ROI. Marketing automation helps streamline activities and better align marketing and sales functions, shortening sales cycles and delivering higher quality, qualified leads.


But, when did we stop seeing leads and prospects as humans? Prospects are being stuffed into sales funnels, and for each phase we calculate the possibility that a prospect will convert into a customer. Are we not in danger of focusing only on figures, not on people?


In general, I think marketing automation and web analytics have given us insights that are really useful and relevant, but we do need to try to maintain the human element.


People make decisions based on a number of factors, not least their emotions. There’s only so far technology can influence the user journey and decision-making process.


This is where I believe PR comes in. PR plays a key role in ensuring businesses tell stories that really matter to their target audience, not develop content simply to increase conversion in the short-term. PR is about long-term gain; building trust and communicating the real story and values of a business.


This article was originally published on the LEWIS 360 blog.

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