Everything You Missed at the Gartner Digital Marketing Conference

Trends, trends and more trends. As marketers, we live and die by them.

I spent two and half days last week in sunny (err… cloudy) San Diego at the Gartner Digital Marketing Conference absorbing the latest digital marketing trends from many big thinkers in our industry. If you haven’t been before, it is a pretty amazing thing: marketing leaders and market analysts coming together to share their view and vision of the world ahead.

The role of marketing is going through another major shift as new technologies in data, automation, customer experience, personalization and marketing channels (to name just a few) afford new ways to reach and communicate with customers.

Today, where choice is a commodity, experience is the new battleground. And the person who Gartner believes should lead the charge is the CMO or, I should say, the CGO.

More than 20 hours of content can be hard to digest, but I’m going to give it a try by outlining five key trends that stood out at the show.

Goodbye CMO, Hello CGO (Chief Growth Officer)

The CMO has a new mandate: growth. To that end, Gartner sees the marketing function shifting from one of promotion to one of growing the business through all phases of the customer journey. If you work for a tech company, you know this trend is several years in the making as growth teams have emerged to hack and maximize digital channels for acquisition and retention. The “religion” is spreading as Gartner sees this as a requirement for marketers in all industries.

The precision and control that martech and adtech affords is allowing us to find and exploit existing advantages through specific marketing channels. This is driving new patterns in spending; Gartner found that martech spend is now up to 1/3rd of overall spend, on par with FTE cost and media spend!

Think Like a Sherpa, Not a Megaphone

The classic marketing funnel is dead. I think many of us have felt this for quite some time. The idea that you can promo blast your way to relevance and manage a sequential journey through a series of steps became outdated the moment digital started to take root. Customers are in control now. They decide when, where and how they are going to interact. They have unprecedented levels of information for decision-making. And now, with their mobile devices, they also have the power of access, anywhere and anytime.

So how should you respond? Flip the script. It’s no longer about trying to get the word out about what you have to sell. It’s quickly becoming about how you can help consumers. You can respond by looking for the typical moments that matter in your customer’s decision process. What do they need to evaluate alternatives and decide which option is right for them? How can you make replenishment easier? What can technology do to anticipate when they might need help? All of these things are possible today. Listening (i.e. data) is the axis upon which everything turns.

Focus on Little Insights, Not Big Data

What has digital given us? Data. Tons of it. Marketers report that they are drowning in data. As a result,talent to help make sense of the data and put it into actionable insights is in high demand. An analytics background was reported as the top requirement for new hires on marketing teams. Mobile experience is a close second.

This tells us marketers are turning the corner on the big data problem. Collecting data is no longer the issue. Tying it together into a master customer profile and identifying the data signals that help with core business goals like new user acquisition, purchase and retention (i.e. churn) is where attention needs to be. As such, when marketers create a dashboard or report, they should ask themselves a couple of questions: “What decision am I going to make?” and “How does this prove or disprove my hypothesis?”

Rise of the Loyads

What do Uber, Starbucks, Nest and Amazon have in common? Lots of loyads. Essentially, loyads are customers so loyal that they become brand advocates. And how do these brands attract them? They create customer experiences so remarkable that loyads want to talk about them — the ultimate in efficient marketing — rather than requiring promotion dollars to get the word out, you create an experience so unique in your category that customers want to share it because it makes them feel special.

Doing this is not easy. Thinking like a sherpa (see above) will set you on the right path. And finding little insights in your data (see above) will help you listen closely to what they want.

As you aim towards growth, think about how to add the advocate cycle into your customer experience. In other words, there are now three primary cycles in your customer experience to optimize:

  • Buy cycle: prospect to customer

  • Own cycle: new customer to loyal customer

  • Advocate cycle: loyal customer to advocate

Customer Experience Trumps Promotion

The final — and possibly biggest — takeaway is that “the customer experience” is the new north star of marketing. Now that consumers have more control, they are blocking out the things they don’t want. Ad blocking increased 41% y/y and ad skipping increased 56% for consumers who watch at least five hours of TV every week.

The only way to cut through that power is to create personal, relevant experiences that serve the customer where they are at a specific point in time. Having an integrated view of the customer is imperative, as is creating the best experiences across channels. As Gartner said, no single vendor can deliver it all. Their recommendation is to use systems that are best-in-class, open and interoperate in real-time with your marketing stack to be best positioned for success.

As you can imagine, this was a welcome message from our standpoint, as we’ve released products that make it easier to bring mobile into the fold by openly communicating with your marketing stack , providing user-level insight and delivering great experiences through your app or mobile wallet.