April 2015. In This Issue:
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editor's CUT

Editor's Cut: It was conference madness for me this spring.

I braved Las Vegas, a city built on data (and more than a little sin), and spent several days soaking in all-things-customer at SAP’s CRM 2015 event. To say that my brain hurt after three long days is an understatement. It can be painful to be around so many smart people, especially if those people are architects of corporate data and CRM strategies and systems. Nonetheless, I walked away with a couple unifying ideas across three days of presentations to share with all of you:

Making something faster doesn’t make it good. With warnings about not automating for automation’s sake and not transitioning to the cloud for the sake of the cloud, the point was that without a solid foundation, new technologies will only lead to failure faster. Notable brands shared their stories of platforms of failure— those expensive missteps that promised customer salvation but only delivered complexity, anxiety and friction. The lesson learned from all of these trials, failures and reinventions is that throwing money at a new toy solves very few business problems. What is needed is an actual strategy, complete with business objectives, measures and reasonable expectations.

Marketing is a broken ship with busted navigation. At least this is what lots of folks outside of marketing see. It was nothing short of amazing to hear everyone from supply chain experts to IT leaders say loudly and proudly that marketing was in need of a hero—and that hero was not the CMO. I get it…from the outside, we do look like greedy, spoiled kids sitting atop a pile of data and promise. But so many marketers are using this treasure trove to prove why we did what we did. Over and over again, we heard stories of frustration that particular data strategies were so pathetically and obviously reactive and simply use data to prove KPIs. It makes us look greedy to hoard all of the intelligence and then use it to say, “Neener-neener, our campaign worked.” But the call to action was clear: Let’s stop simply buying toys and actually start playing with them!

Great ideas don’t come from a fortress of solitude. I can’t recall a case study presentation that didn’t include the phrase, “and then I sat and talked with…” as part of the success story. For German industrial control and automation company Festo, the conversation happened with customer support teams. The best piece of advice: “If you really want to know what systems need to be built, go ask your support team what really pisses them off.” Amen, my friend. Amen.

People: You can’t do it without ‘em. There were plenty of conversations that, as a marketer, made me feel like I was getting shown the door. The “it might be better if you just leave” sentiment was palpable. But then it happened. A brave soul on a panel said the statement of the day: “What you all need to remember is that all this ‘data’ you are talking about is actually a person.” With all the discussions of big data, data management and data strategies, it is easy to look at the connection across data, technology and engagement. The hard part is remembering that data is actually the manifestation of our customers…real, live people who don’t really appreciate being treated like ‘data.’

Ironically, the biggest lesson learned didn’t come from the conference itself, but rather the venue—the Mirage Hotel. It had easily been 20 years since I had last set foot in the Mirage. But the moment I got out of the taxi, the scent of piña colada wafted in my direction…the same exact scent I remember from 20 years ago. With every inhale, I would remember times I won, times I laughed so hard I cried, and times spent with great former co-workers, friends and colleagues. They could have thrown trash at me, and honestly, if I could still smell that familiar scent, I’d probably still tell you it was a great experience. The big “aha” moment here was that an exceptional customer experience isn’t necessarily a one-time or even real-time engagement. It is the accumulation of all of the customer’s experiences— online and off, over any number of channels, and over any expanse of time.

Until next month!


P.S. Special thanks to my friends at @SAPcrm and Hybris for the invitation and to CMO Council Advisory Board member Jamie Anderson for calling out my snarky tweet mid-presentation. I will get you back….you won’t know when, but it will happen.