It’s human nature to make mistakes. We all do it—some more than others (my family would love to chime in here).
And marketing is no exception to this, but is also often misunderstood in its practice. No, this is not a “feel sorry for marketing” rant. It’s actually about the root of many so-called marketing failures—and successes. Let me explain.
Far too often in the marketing world, the marketing department is held to task on delivering an end vision of “the many.” Unfortunately for marketers, the challenge is that the work they put into getting results is often viewed by “the many” as too slow, too much, or simply chalked up as marketing nonsense. These people see marketing as an absolute—a place where results should happen immediately—rather than an ongoing process of trial and error.
This is the biggest issue companies face—the unwillingness of “the many” to understand let alone empower marketing to do its entire job. That job involves daily re-examination of the landscape, understanding real-time market drivers, evaluating and re-evaluating customer intent, and addressing a thousand other intertwined pieces of a data-driven puzzle. Indeed, marketing is a constant ecosystem of multi-variant testing—from email formats, to landing pages, to mobile app screens, to offer types and more. Right down to the colors used in ads, everything must be tested.
When marketers are afforded the time, the right tools and systems to do their job, 90% of their job is based on experimentation. When a specific marketing offer doesn’t work, this ecosystem of testing can pinpoint the “why”—essentially transforming so-called “mistakes” into key learnings. This experimentation data is then used to drive new experiments, which—eventually—drives business success.
Let’s look at this from a personalization lens—the next evolutionary step in the marketing world. Personalization is lightyears beyond old school demographics, basic segmentation marketing, and semi-generalized targeted ads. It is now about knowing EVERY customer on a highly personalized, deeper level.
Like any relationship, the path to knowing someone on a deeper level is based on asking questions and adjusting behaviors for overall better interactions. Sure, in your personal life, you may suggest sushi for dinner the first time you hang out with someone. If their answer is “yuck,” then you metaphorically store that data—and will likely avoid suggesting it the next time you make a dinner recommendation. Was suggesting sushi in the first place a mistake? Maybe, but you can’t actually read minds. Conversely, you can look at the situation as a learning opportunity that improves your understanding of the other person.
Likewise, to achieve personalization success in marketing, trial and error is imperative. That means identifying the “right” questions to ask customers, determining the ideal tone to communicate with, and making decisions about many other variables—all with the goal of gathering more detailed profile information about each individual person.
And then comes identifying and providing the “right” offers based on those insights. For example, restaurant marketers may learn over time that one customer prefers the same meal or beverage every time, whereas another customer likes to vary their selections. Any “errors” made in the process will serve to accomplish two things. First, they educate the marketing department on how to create better engagement and better offers. Second, over time, those errors help marketers garner more and more precise data to truly understand—and cater to—each individual customer’s needs and preferences.
So to summarize, yes, of course marketing folks actually make mistakes. After all, to err is human. But in the context of the marketing role, the majority of what may appear to be “mistakes” is actually part of the job description. When everyone learns from those mistakes, they can improve upon the next interaction and offer—with each step bringing your business closer to ultimate success.
Chief Customer Officer
Andrew Armstrong is the Chief Customer Officer at omNovos – working globally with customers to design world-class customer engagement programs. He’s a prolific writer and speaker on topics including customer loyalty, personalization, and retail marketing technologies. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter - his open approach to all topics usually leads to a fun discussion and a few laughs.