This transcript has been edited for length. To get the full measure, listen to the podcast.
2018 Marketing Predictions
Act-On: You’ve written about the predictions you didn’t make in 2017. Could you talk about some of the trends you think everyone should be watching out for in marketing?
David: Look I’m married, I’m wrong all the time, that’s a given. That’s what my wife is for. But to give the false impression of what’s going on, that seems to be a little more hubris than I’m up for. But throwing caution to the wind and bearing in mind that nobody really knows…
Act-On: You don’t have a magic ball? Have you figured out a way to travel in time and go to 2018 and let me know how it turned out?
David: Yeah, but you don’t want to know. It’s too depressing. At this point we can still be hopeful.
Will GDPR really be the asteroid that hits the earth and destroys all the dinosaurs? Probably not. It just doesn’t seem likely that it’ll be enforced so rigorously to do that. Which is not to say people shouldn’t assume it is not going to be enforced. I don’t want to suggest for a minute that they should assume that the government’s going to cut them some slack, especially US companies.
But I don’t think it’s going to be the end of the world. There are people who think GDPR is going to make data inaccessible. You won’t be able to do advertising, you won’t be able to track people. People will find ways within GDPR to comply and still do data driven marketing. There’s a prediction I would make that I feel pretty confident on.
Other big things that happen …. AI is going to continue to grow. We’re not going to see total world domination by computers. But we will see a lot of progress in that direction. I think that’s a safe prediction.
I predict either the Googles and the Facebooks and the Amazons, the walled garden vendors who control our proprietary data, they’re either going to get stronger or weaker. And you can quote me on that one. Because we don’t know which way it’s going to go. They’ve been getting stronger and stronger and stronger.
And the safest prediction is just things continue in the same direction, but there’s a lot of push back now against them for a lot of reasons. It’s quite possible that the government steps in or even consumers and advertisers step in and there’s a sudden change in direction, which is the most interesting thing that happens when you think about predictions.
Mistakes marketers make when evaluating technology
Act-On: What are some mistakes marketers make when they start thinking about buying or evaluating MarTech?
David: If marketers wanted to be IT professionals, they would’ve been IT professionals. I’ve been doing marketing technology for decades, but it’s just the last few years that marketers have really gotten engaged deeply within technology.
Marketers, they like the bright and shiny; they like the fads, they tend to buy things they don’t quite know what they’re going to do with, but it’s a cool thing, and their buddies are talking about it.
The biggest mistake is just not really understanding why you’re buying it, what you’re going to do with it, how are you going to use it, how it’s going to fit in with everything else that you’re doing both on a technology level and on a marketing level. Because if you don’t do that, then you’re for sure going to buy a lot of stuff that you just don’t use properly.
Advice to CMOs for their MarTech stacks
Act-On: Do you have any advice to CMOs or people who are running marketing on how they should be evaluating buying and thinking about the MarTech landscape?
David: I think CMOs have to be engaged. A lot of technology buying has been delegated down to the department within; the sub-department within marketing. But the CMO is really the only one who has that overview, who has to say, ‘No guys, you’re not allowed anymore to just go off and buy things that only work in your own department.’
The first step is to hire somebody to do it because no CMO has time. But even if they do, they really have other things to do. So, hire someone to do it. And it doesn’t have to be a full-time job, but certainly at least a part-time person who’s required to see what systems are being used. Some of them aren’t. Or they’re being used to such a small degree and the function is available in three other system anyhow. Maybe just get rid of it and decommission a few of them.
Which does not make you very popular with whoever bought that system and likes it. But that’s why they pay you the big bucks is to make those tough decisions.
Beyond that, I would say think about having a few things that work really well. It’s like my wardrobe. I only have a few pieces of clothes. I just wear them all the time. Then I have a closet of clothes I never wear. Many people are similar. They have a few things that are the go to and they have everything else. You bought the everything else because it looked cool. That’s such a cute little jacket. I really could use a leather jacket that has a fringe and I’ll use it once. But don’t buy that. Resist that temptation to buy that thing. And go out and buy the more classic navy blazer you really use constantly. And think about MarTech the same way.
Proof of Concepts in Marketing Technology
Act-On: Sometimes, when people are trying to decide is this my essential go to, or will it be my fringe, they will try it on. What are your thoughts on proof of concepts?
David: It’s interesting about proof of concepts. Because the technology has changed, it’s much easier to do them now than it used to be. And I’m totally in favor of proof of concepts. They’re great. They really let you see what the system is like to live with. Because the worse thing, the worst nightmare that I, as someone who helps people buy technology, have is their going to buy a system, and they’re going to plug it in, and the first day they’re going to sit down and use it for real work after the ink has just dried on the contract. They’re going to say, ‘Oh wait a minute, you mean it doesn’t do this? I just assumed it would do this.’ Or ‘My God, it does it, but it does it so poorly that I couldn’t possibly use it that way.’ And then they start immediately doing workarounds. And, sadly, that happens quite a bit.
The proof of concept really helps you avoid that buyer’s regret the morning after, by letting you sit down and play with it. And now it’s so much easier to do those things that there’s really very little excuse, at least for a major system, not to have some hands-on experience before you buy it. It’s just going to solve so many problems, prevent so many problems really.
Advice to New CMOs
Act-On: You talked about consulting, and I’m sure you give advice to lots of CMOs. What advice do you typically give for the new CMO heading into an organization?
David: Well, the most important thing is to be strategic, but honestly that would be insulting. Most of them probably figured it out already. So, I would say the advice that we give, because they’re bringing us in to talk about technology, is to just sit back and really assess what you have, understand what’s being used, and what’s not being used. Focus on doing a few things well, using a few tools well. And then once you really have a good stable foundation, go out from there and do it in a very incremental fashion. Because everything you do builds up and makes something else possible. You must be really careful in every new thing you add, what other things is that going to then let me add after that to build it up well. There’s a real art to that as a sequencing.
I advise people to really give some pretty serious thought as they decide what to do next. Look several moves ahead