Forget what you know…find a way to listen to the customer…

“If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there’d be a shortage of fishing poles.” ~ Doug Larson

I am constantly reading about the shortage of digital pros or hybrid technologists in the market. And I agree that there is certainly evidence to support that the rate of change in our information needs and abilities has outstripped the ability to completely fulfill the demand.

That said, this is still amazing state to me given how many people participate professionally in the digital space, and the sheer numbers present even within specialized area such as technical SEO, content creation, paid search, various technical platform specialties, analytics, and so on…

My thought is there is actually a gap; and it is a role that is not being filled in many organizations …specifically the ability to manipulate the data or technology AND also understand the result from the perspective of a human being.

You have the technical side: Practitioners in this area know every technical aspect of their work like the back of their hand. This is true whether they be data gurus or system wunderkinds. Today, a certain level of technical knowledge may well be a prerequisite to being in marketing in today’s world, but it is certainly not the complete answer.

With all of the amazing advances that technology and inexpensive computing power has brought, there are still areas where we need to improve. Technological myopia can lead to poor usage of the technology or resulting data and analysis. Understanding how systems work and what the numbers represent is not the same as knowing if those numbers (metrics) represent value, if we are measuring the right aspects of our audience’s behavior or that they are appropriate for our business model.

When we look to the wrong measures and drift to what is conventional, our path can lead to a lack of vision as to what all of this data could be used to achieve. In the end, the result we achieve is often not actionable, and certainly not optimal, because it fails within our business context. This result does not lead to positive change.

This is not to say the technology is not important, because it is…critically so.

The technology today is driving huge changes in the way we communicate and how our organizations are built and interact with the world. However, too much focus on this area can lead to whiffs in other still important aspects of marketing, building a brand and running a business.

Then there is the qualitative side of the marketing community that has limited recognition of the pervasive nature of the technology, the accelerated pace of change we now live with, and its impact on our organizations and customers. While this group will embrace the new communication methodologies, they often will try and use these tools directionally to execute outdated models of customer relationship interaction. On this side of the coin, we have not yet learned that pushing corporate/brand/product messaging to disinterested audiences is not viable. This also will not lead to the intended or optimal result.

Like most other things in life, balance in implementation is key. While technology often renders “what we know” useless or invalid (sometimes within the same year), there are also certain fundamentals of life that remain consistent. People and organizations still have needs, many of which remain very basic. How they communicate to the world around these needs is what has changed, and continues to change, radically.

The difficulty lies in combining empathy for both the quantitative and qualitative sides of the puzzle. This is a combination that neither of these sides usually have individually, necessitating yet another skill set. The emergence of marketing operations and a well-conceived project manager model comes into play here.

All organizations need that balanced view that has best interests of customer and the organization/brand in mind. Especially important is that balance between what constitutes a good use of technology, and yet is still being customer friendly (in all senses of that discussion…usability, creepiness factor, etc…but this topic is a discussion for another time.)

The customer must be recognized above all, as ultimately they have the final vote. Whether we are seeking to interact one-on-one on an individual level or create a heightened connection though finely tuned personas, the approach must be customer-centric, not on our own perspectives of how things work.

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