Updated: Aug 29, 2019
Credit by: Rafael Schwarz
In the marketing world nowadays, it is easy to be tempted by the endless stream of technological gadgets, algorithms and artificial intelligence-powered tools. When we look at the top marketing challenges, such as attracting your target group, engaging them and optimizing and analyzing the results, it is important to have a strategy in place regarding tech tools. These solutions should help you during the execution of these processes.
However, analysis shows that more and more marketers might focus too much on having the right tech gear in motion, while they are inclined to forget an impactful source of fuel that could help them achieve their goals: people. Chief marketing officers (CMOs) are often attracted to the newest, shiniest tech tools. In fact, they invest more in software and algorithms than paid media and the people who create it (e.g., agencies and their own marketing staff), according to research by Gartner. A significant change has occurred, where budgets allocated for people and agencies dropped, while tech budgets increased.
In the long run, this prioritization could bite back, because CMOs still need people to operate their tech stack. They still need creative work to be put on the air and still need media budgets to distribute their messages.
When it comes to investments in your “human marketing stack,” I believe there are four main considerations that should play a role in every CMO’s strategy map:
With new software and automation tools transforming marketing and media, and new social platforms requiring new approaches to consumer engagement, it is vitally important to keep training your marketing teams on both old and new tools and best practices. While many Generation Z graduates who are hitting the job market right now might be totally fluent in social media and digital marketing tools, I find that many of them lack the basic knowledge of traditional media and brand strategy. So, it is important to keep investing in marketing training programs and mentoring programs to ensure your teams can make the right decisions and invest in the right tools.
And when it comes to your wider organization, there is still a vastly unexplored opportunity that could amplify your marketing activities by turning your employees into brand ambassadors. An article by MarketingWeek (subscription required) recently recommended that “brands should encourage their staff to act as ambassadors for their business -- in fact, they should be considered a key communications channel.”
However, nobody becomes an ambassador simply by receiving a mass mailing informing them about the latest launch. Turning non-marketing employees into brand ambassadors requires dedicated efforts, training and investment in the right tools and techniques.
Influencer marketing has been flourishing as brands realize the importance of human-to-human communication and social interaction, hence allocating budgets to influencer-related activities. Influencers not only provide organic reach in social media. According to one study reported on by The Drum, content and communication coming from an actual human being also triggers more emotion and stays longer in our minds.
With the shifts in media consumption away from advertising-funded classical media and toward subscription-based and on-demand services, I find that brands already face an issue with reaching out to younger audiences. The number of social media users (subscription required), however, is still rising fast, with new social platforms attracting broad and niche consumer groups. By partnering with the right influencers, brands can leverage these social networks and engage effectively with their target audience.
People should not only be considered for the purchasing of your products -- in fact, the term “consumer” is too limiting given the relevance and importance that buyers today have in sharing messages and building opinion and preference about brands and products. Consumers’ wallets -- but more importantly, consumers’ online and offline recommendations -- hold the power to either boost your sales or cause your business to disintegrate. This is why our company has started to call consumers “co-marketers” or “everyday influencers.”
Engage with them at eye level. Ask for their feedback, and act on it. When you do so, they will be more likely to feel valued and truly become part of your marketing team. Investing in your customer relationship management (CRM) program, newsletter marketing or social media brand page, upgrading them to real hubs that nurture brand advocacy, can be extremely powerful, as seen with many companies during the last years.
The ongoing discussion about the benefits of in-housing agency work overshadows the fact that marketing still needs creative talent, whether it is within the company or at an agency. These professionals are the ones who create great brand assets -- from product design to advertising copy, corporate blogs to your new jingle.
While algorithms and artificial intelligence already help them to be more productive and enhance their services, based on my point of view, we are still years away from computers doing the creative marketing work entirely. Or as Julia Kirby eloquently wrote in an article published by Harvard Business Review “It would be easy to conclude that advertising has flipped to all science and no art. But then along comes fresh creative to show us what really sells.”
The takeaway is that companies, and especially CMOs, should re-evaluate their investment into their human stakeholders and start holistically looking at their entire ecosystem to fully leverage the power of their human marketing stack. This should, by no means, denounce investments in your tech tools, but encourage business leaders to equally look at their investments in their employees, influencers, agencies and brand advocates.
The human marketing stack can create a powerful ecosystem that truly sets your business apart from its competition. Investing into the newest marketing technology is something everybody does -- and there is limited competitive advantage to be gained there -- while your human marketing stack could become your main source of growth and sustainable advantage.