The world is filled with process, efficiency, and order.
The overburden of technology in our lives and a world of connected devices have washed us over with a discipline we supposedly didn’t have when life was less connected. But what if I were to tell you that all that order and efficiency is not what will make you successful as a marketer in the 21st Century? What if I were to tell you the illogical motivations of being human is what you should work toward enhancing?
Yes, I know what you’re thinking, why am I telling you to be less efficient, less process oriented and less, um, digital and analytical in a growing digital world?
Because, with all this talk of digital transformation, marketers have become less human, more analytical, and less interesting. And when you’re less interesting, you matter less to people, including your customers and potential customers.
Besides, machines can do analytics better than any of us will be able to do. But empathy? That’s more difficult for machine learning to mimic.
Right now, in our digitized world, people want to speak to more people when they are dealing with transactions. But that’s not where we’re moving toward at all. No, instead we’re moving to a world full of bots, automated phones, fewer people, and less customer relationship management. Yet, for some reason, marketing people with 25 plus years of experience think more ads and more transactional language is a good thing.
Just ask your customers how they really feel about this.
I even discuss how ads don’t matter anymore in ‘Disruptive Marketing’, where I share: “We have become accustomed to tuning out the advertising and marketing messages because we don’t like interruptions in our habit-formed lives. And we’re skeptical of the messages ads bring us. In fact, most of us feel ads don’t bring much value to our lives, just more distractions.”
Yet, marketers think the more they learn about targeted ad buying, the better they will perform at their job. The more “modern” they will become.
What a croc.
Being a modern marketer means not getting caught up on the bandwagon of bright, shiny things. While many have rushed to be part of this digital transformative world, they are missing what customers want. They are transforming based on what they think will be best for their company or business using technology as their impetus, not what will be best for their customers.
This is a grave mistake.
While I love the ease of mobile payments, transactions that don’t require people, and the ease of most digital customer experiences, I’m still a person. A human. And by design, we are pack animals that are social in nature.
We like people; we can’t survive without others.
So why have modern marketers shunned what will make them stand apart and define the new century by becoming cold, calculated, and analytical to the point where creativity has been ostracized?
In this creative age we are crossing the chasm and entering, creativity is the main differentiator. Yet, more job postings for marketing roles have the dreaded and clueless terminology (sorry job recruiters but it’s true) like “seeking data-driven digital native marketers.”
If I could operate my own agency, here are the four characteristics I would look to hire for my firm. These are the four that will define the new century marketer. It would be good for all of you reading this to acknowledge this is a very different world from the one that exists now. But this new normal is going to destroy the old hierarchy and move away from tired marketer skill descriptions that are ageist, classist, racist and sexist by subliminal design.
1. Intellectually Curious
It’s hard to teach people curiosity. But it is a learnable trait. The reason it’s so important is that while many marketers tout the mantra you simply must be digital to be able to excel in this new era, that just isn’t true.
What happens when the Internet of Things, Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence come into dominant play in our world? What happens then? A person with a fixed mindset believes labeling themselves digital is enough.
Those with a growth mindset and who are always open to experiences realize things change day-to-day, not year-to-year or quarter- to-quarter. How you think about the world around you based on the people in it will keep you sharp. Not how you think about honing your marketing skills. Marketing now is driven by customers, not marketers. What drives customers is what you should be focused on – how they change, evolve, and adapt.
2. Always Listening
Marketing has always been ruled by loud and obnoxious men (there I said it), who just won’t shut up. Amplification seems to be their rule of thumb. But in a two-way communication world, it pays more to listen than talk. To be more immersive than extroverted. Why? Because if you stay quiet long enough your customers will tell you what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong. Marketers who don’t use this excellent user data to their advantage will simply be shunned, when customers move to a company that listens to them rather than (I’ll say it again) advertises to them.
3. Empathetic, Inclusive, And Ethical
What do I mean by this? Well, you need to have feelings for customers currently. Not necessarily how they relate to you but how they relate to the world at large. Remember, even though you think about the company, product, solution, or brand you work for 100% of your day, they do not. They may only think about you 1 to 2% of the year! So be aware of what bothers them, what motivates them, why they turn to you or why they turn to your competitors. In addition, what bothers them depends on who they are; where they live; what their interests are for a living.
That’s why inclusive teams of marketers are a must. I can’t possibly understand what people different from me go through in their situations. But people who are different on my team that I’ve created can. Inclusivity is a big part of understanding the beautifully diverse world all around us. Also, while you think it doesn’t matter how your company behaves outside of its core proposition, that is simply untrue with emerging audiences.
Generation Z will not support companies that pillage the Earth, don’t stand for social justice, or don’t believe in paying their female employees the same as their male counterparts. The role of marketer now is ensuring your company has an ethical compass. And not simply a compass for public relations purposes, but because those same customers believe you should give back to society and give back often!
4. Learns, Unlearns, And Relearns
If there are two terms I cannot stand in marketer verbiage it is “expert” and “native.” What does it mean to be an expert in a world changing by the minute? The best marketers are constant learners even if considered deep experts in their field. The other term “native” makes it seem that because people have only lived in an era where the Internet existed they are business savvy and people-friendly. This is false. In a world where customers want more socialization, face-to-face conversation, and feedback loops, natives who spend too much time building impersonal and efficient processes aren’t paying attention to the fact we are ultimately coming full circle.
Personalization, humanization, experiences, and transformation; customers want all these rolled into one. A native doesn’t necessarily understand this because, in the pre-Internet era, things were way more humanized. You had to speak to people to get anything done or get questions you had answered. The fragmentation of communication channels has changed all of this. But if anyone, including natives, is open to learning, unlearning and relearning, then they can adapt and do just fine in this new normal.