For Marketers: Unlearn What You Have Learned, You Must

unlearned what you have learned

One of the key proclamations at this year’s Gartner Digital Marketing Conference was, “you must unlearn what you have learned!” As many of us remember, in “The Empire Strikes Back,” Yoda gave this advice to Luke Skywalker, and Gartner is using it as inspiration for marketers in 2016 and beyond.

Gartner cited that 98% of marketers recently surveyed said that digital marketing equals marketing – that there is no distinction anymore in terms of budget, activities  and channels. In fact, executives’ expectations are shifting toward more strategic innovation, lead conversion and ROI. A whopping 73% of marketing organizations own or share a P&L. As noted by Yvonne Genovese from Gartner, “you have the 360 degree view of the customer that no one else has.” To succeed, marketers must master customer experience and drive business growth while aligning each of their objectives with the company’s goals.

For most of us, unlearning a lifetime of habits and experiences is no easy task. Not at all. But in this digital age, let’s acknowledge that there is a vast opportunity for us to learn new concepts, skills and abilities that will help us plan for today while keeping the future in mind. Gartner noted three key themes for mastering the marketer’s journey in 2016.

1.  Become Data-Driven

Sixty-nine percent of marketers said that most decisions will be quantitatively-driven by 2020. This means that the blend of art and science is shifting. No longer are decisions made from the gut, but rather, data reigns supreme.

In addition, the amount of data has simply exploded. It can be persistent or ephemeral, personal or anonymous. It often contains our most prized customer information. Gartner Research VP Martin Kihn commented that “the amount of data available to marketers roughly doubles every year.” One way marketers are getting a handle on data is through the emerging field of digital marketing hubs. In this model, marketing and advertising converge to provide integrated access to applications and workflows, adding capabilities such as collaboration, data integration and common analytics.

The idea is that once you have your data, a destination and a map, now is the time to build a team that is focused on pulling it all together. As Stephen Covey famously said, “start with the end in mind.”

2.  Embrace the Customer Experience

Along with data ownership, marketers are likely to own or be responsible for improving the customer experience (CX). Today, customers and prospects have more devices and data than ever before. And they want a two-way dialogue that is trusted and personalized to their needs. They also have perceptions and feelings about your brand (i.e. they can refuse via ad blocking or skipping). Proper CX management means that you’re constantly designing and reacting to customer interactions.

Gartner’s Augie Ray noted that too many brands stop short of loyalty. Instead, we must strive for advocates who love our brand and share it across their networks. Powerful brands like Apple, Starbucks and Zappos do it best by grabbing our attention with smart outbound marketing tactics, like ads on Facebook.

In short, marketing should be a critical part of your customer experience effort.

3.  Welcome Emerging Trends

The changes in customer expectations and behaviors will drive marketing innovation. Kirsten Newbold-Knipp noted that 41% of CMOs ranked innovation as one of their top three challenges in a recent Gartner Spend survey, making it top of mind as a growth driver of the business.

This means that brands can innovate with new technologies to shift from defining the right message to the right person at the right time, to anticipating the right offer for the right person at the right time.

Consumer examples of augmented reality (AR) by Ikea and Sephora, virtual reality (VR) by Lowe’s and the Internet of Things (IoT) by Amazon show that that marketers need to embrace innovation and become experts at customer insights.

As Gartner puts it, “marketing success is part vision, part insight and part execution.” How we prepare for today with tomorrow in mind means, in many respects, that we must unlearn what we have already learned. My advice is to embrace the trends we are seeing from Gartner and others to help awaken powerful forces in all of our organizations.