At Acoustic, we’re all about listening. We listen to marketers, to our clients, to our own teams. So at our launch event in New York last week, we viewed it not just as an opportunity to celebrate our new brand being out in the world (finally!), but to hear about the blockers our guests were facing and some fresh ways to solve them.
“One of the challenges I face is just cutting through all the noise,” was one pain point shared. We couldn’t agree more (and it’s part of the reason we named our company Acoustic, which is all about creating more personal environments). Our CEO Mark Simpson explained that today’s marketing clouds aren’t able to keep up with a rapidly changing industry, preventing marketers from connecting with customers on those deeper, more personal levels. AI, though, promises to turn this around. “We believe AI will do more for your customer experience in the next five years than anything you’ve seen,” he said.
Our speakers laid out a few ways marketers can start taking advantage of that and get to better results. Here are three of the best things we heard.
1. “What are you doing to get in front of people you don’t normally interact with?”
The first and most critical way to connect with people is simply to understand them. With people expecting you to deliver an experience as good as anything they’ve encountered — in any industry, on any app — a basic experience simply won’t cut it anymore. Megan Burns, founder and CEO of Experience Enterprises, explained how good marketers are delivering bad experiences and causing customers to head to whoever will offer them something better. Empathy, however, is where you can win. It’s an instinct we all have and, according to Burns, can be nurtured and practiced across your company.
One cool example: American Express installed a phone booth in their cafeteria to get their employees to better understand their customers. Employees could pick up the phone and listen to actual customers on service calls, getting a reminder of and better insight into who they were there to help. Even though we sell technology, Burns said to make sure it doesn’t serve to separate your brand from your customers. So she asked everyone to challenge themselves by asking, “What can I do right now to push more empathy and deliver a better customer experience?”
2. “AI is the new black.”
Marketers are being disrupted every. single. day. “It’s not just that one thing is changing on us,” said Vice President and Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, Joe Stanhope. “It’s changes in data, technology, regulatory, and compliance. None of the old stuff from your day job goes away, you’re always piling on.“
With 21% of today’s marketing budget going to technology, our tools and methods are more critical than ever before. That’s why when you’re thinking about new components, it’s especially important to build for the future and only invest in high-quality technology platforms that are open and extensible. Stanhope warned to never let features overshadow integration, and to standardize elements to avoid functional overlaps. “This is the single best thing you can do to ensure your success in this technology,” he told the crowd.
What can help? Accelerating AI adoption. “AI is the new black,” Stanhope said, though it’s not just a fad. As marketers’ problems get more and more complicated, AI dramatically simplifies decision-making by identifying patterns and suggesting courses of action. “The reality is we need AI as marketers,” he said. “We’ve reached the point where data complexity, speed, and volume exceed what our brains can handle. AI will help us fill that gap beyond what our brains can do today.”
3. “Data is not knowledge.”
I’m not sure you could’ve been at a marketing event in the past decade without hearing about data. It’s all around you, it will save you, it will save your company. Yes, but all too often what’s missing in marketing is making connections with customers that go beyond all those digital points and numbers.
“The whole humanness of marketing needs to come back in and be valued,” said Michelle Madden, an advisor at Bain & Company, on the panel with Gerry Murray of IDC and Stefan Tornquist of Econsultancy. “Data is not knowledge. It doesn’t always give us the right answer and can lead us in the wrong direction. We make the mistake that because we have so much data on our customers we have knowledge about our customers.”
Yessss. Telling stories, making emotional appeals, and asking what’s personally important lets marketers get the clearest picture possible of their customers, something data can’t do on its own. If you’re relying too much on data, it might even limit innovation and stifle the creativity you need to surprise people. The fact is, people want to hear stories. And when data is used to supplement what you do and not replace it, marketers can drive results and find their moments of brilliance.