If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that sometimes, human beings all face the same challenges, and we all want to receive the same understanding, caring, and thoughtfulness that we give out to the world. This year, as customers, we’ve wanted that same level of forethought as we expect brands to deliver a more connected and thoughtful experience that resonates with us. We’ve wanted something from the heart.
Stripped of much of the flash, glamour, and rhetoric, marketing is all about focusing on meeting people’s needs. Brands have the opportunity to play a positive role in uplifting and supporting people as they continue to navigate uncertain times. With a new year, we all seek for renewed hope and a sense of unity, despite the issues that concern us. The skills marketers need to really elevate a brand’s message in 2021 and beyond have shifted.
Marketers that bring the following to the brands they represent will do well to help their companies thrive in this new era:
Be uniquely human.
The business needs you to sell, but customers need you to connect. More than ever, marketers need high empathy and the ability to truly bring the human side to an ever increasingly automated marketing role.
As automation alleviates marketers from much of the rote, tedious work, marketers that step into their roles understanding the value they bring as humans — with creativity, compassion, ideation, discernment, and intuition — will be able to bring technology to market in ways that truly resonate with a pandemic-weary world. We may talk about it, but acting that way is still unique.
Data-driven means more than a new tool.
Ok this isn’t a new thought. But hear me out. It’s not just about collecting the data, you’ve now got to start pulling it all together to use it. That’s done with tools, but it also involves thinking through your processes, and the skills you have in your team.
You don’t need to be a data scientist, but with AI-driven technology generating more and more customer data, marketers need to know how to work with data, analyze it, and interpret the insights that truly matter.
Marketers with solid tech skills will have the upper hand, as more integrated applications and platforms come into play and an understanding of how to truly derive the most value from what these solutions can do for your team will be valuable.
Marketers with a basic understanding of AI and machine learning will be able to grasp how these technologies can truly help them better connect with customers — and be able to spot instances when AI or machine learning capabilities are over promised or crossing a line your audience isn’t ready for.
Be a silo fighter.
We’ve been talking for years now about how marketing, sales, and customer service need to unite under one common customer-centric vision and actually work together. Marketers that recognize silos and take down walls between departments will help the company achieve its business goals and provide the best customer experience to keep them happy. How can marketers do this? Take responsibility for the customer experience and take ownership of the business goals with your other go-to-market colleagues. Be the fulcrum to bring those groups together. Build genuine relationships across teams and functions, and build trust. Communicate and share and celebrate each other’s wins, and at the same time own the areas where you know you need to improve.
Be your customer’s champion.
This is an extension of all the previous points and can have a massive impact. Brands sometimes get tunnel vision when it comes to how they market to customers, seeing safety in how they’ve always done things, which can fall on deaf ears. On the contrary, sometimes to shake things up they’ll bring in a big creative agency who does something radical. Big and shiny can be loud and get you heard. But customers are humans who want to experience an emotional connection and more often than not, they just want to simply know how you’re going to make their life easier, happier, or safer. Marketers that see themselves as the customer’s champion — keeping a realistic perspective on how customers want to experience the brand — will help brands get their marketing right.
Find somewhere you can be yourself.
For all the science and data behind marketing, it still is ultimately a creative endeavor. Marketers that bring their true selves and aren’t afraid to speak up and toss ideas around and get it wrong sometimes, are the ones who help the team land on the right concepts. Don’t play it safe. Bring your true self to what you do. BUT, most importantly, you need to find a place, a company, a team, a boss, that helps you do that.
As marketers, we have the role of crafting messages and campaigns that do more than just sell products and services. As you enter this new year, I invite you to rethink how you can contribute to the good of all while deepening your value to the brand you represent. Let’s use our time wisely in being the bearers of hope, as well as hitting our business goals, in a world that really needs it.