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Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the 2018 Marketo Marketing Nation Summit in San Francisco. One of the largest marketing conferences in the world, this Summit attracts some of the biggest and brightest people in the industry. Vision Critical sponsored the Summit’s Executive Experience, an invite-only, one-day track for more than 200 C-level business executives.

The theme of this year’s event is “The Fearless Marketer”—a call to arms for professionals in the industry to embrace new thinking and innovations to navigate the rapid pace of doing business today. And, indeed, many of the speakers at Marketo Marketing Nation Summit challenged marketers in attendance to be bolder, try new things and be more fearless in their approach to building customer relationships.

Here are some of my key takeaways.

Marketing’s role—and influence—is expanding

In his keynote, Marketo CEO Steve Lucas said marketers today need to wear many hats. Customer experience (CX), in particular, is becoming a new area for marketing leaders. According to a study from the Duke University and Deloitte, 51% of CMOs are now expected to own this area of the business.

CX is becoming a marketing responsibility because marketers have an understanding of the customer journey. Marketing activities create a buyer journey before anyone in sales or customer service touches the prospect, so marketers have a big hand in shaping the overall experience of customers.

Companies are investing in marketing technology to meet the challenges presented by the expanding CMO responsibility. In the next 3 years, we will see a 198% increase in analytics spend, according to Lucas, while the martech industry is expected to grow by 27%.

Lucas said that to accomplish all of their goals, marketers need to be bolder. I agree with this sentiment. As marketers, we should see our expanding roles as an opportunity to make a bigger impact in the company. However, to take advantage of the challenge in front of us, we need to play a bigger role in driving customer centricity. It is only by really knowing our customers that we can create marketing campaigns and build experiences that drive customer loyalty and revenue.

Personalize, but be respectful

To deliver a personalized experience to customers, marketers need to walk a fine line. “Fearless” shouldn’t mean “reckless.” If companies go overboard, customers will get creeped out.

Marketers need to take a hard look at how they get the data necessarily to personalize experiences. Customers are becoming more aware of the value of their own data. Consequently, we need to rethink the traditional, cloak-and-dagger way of getting customer data, or we risk turning off customers. As I shared in a recent webinar on the Cambridge Analytica scandal, a permission-based approach to data gathering is more authentic and transparent. It’s a more effective way of building customer relationships.

Build trust

Another big theme is the need to stop talking about customers in an abstract way. Customers are not merely demographics or numbers on a spreadsheet, according to many speakers. Creating empathy for the customer at scale is essential to doing business.

"We need to be able to understand and share the feelings, issues, understanding of the problems our existing and prospective customers have," said Laura Ramos, an analyst from Forrester, during her session. "You need to express that empathy across the marketing organization. Is it efficient, is it reliable and can I trust it? When they do that, empathy is at the center."

"Trust is the ultimate human currency."

To that end, having authentic, two-way conversations with customers is critical as it creates trust. And if you can build trust with your customers, you can build an incredible competitive advantage for your business.

"Trust is the ultimate human currency," said SAP CEO Bill McDermott. "It's earned in drops and lost in buckets. You’re not thinking lead to cash anymore, you're thinking lead to loyalty."

It’s all about value

The Marketo Marketing Nation Summit is a reminder that “fearless” marketing is not about creating volume—it’s about creating value. It’s not about impressions, but about the value that we bring to our customers. Ultimately, creating great marketing campaigns—and building a profitable business—relies on really knowing your customers and creating an authentic relationship with them.

Photo credit: @marketo on Twitter

A Turning Point in Data Collection

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