You Are in the Experience Business — NOW WHAT?

by Kevin Lindsay

posted on 09-12-2016

Last week, I talked about the ongoing evolution of marketing and, really, business in general. Decades ago, companies had balanced customer/shareholder/employee focuses. Years later, though, the approach transformed to an all-shareholder, all-the-time take. So long as the shareholders were making money for the stakeholders, everything was good (at least on paper).

But now, we are in an entirely different era — the era of experiences. That means we, as marketers, are now in the experience business. And that’s a great thing for everyone —shareholders included. So, last week, I posed some big questions: “What does this shift mean for marketers? What skills do all marketers — from newcomers to accomplished leaders and envelope-pushers — need to continue moving forward?”

What Does Today’s Marketer Look Like?
Long gone are the Mad Men days of marketing. Today’s marketers need creativity, big ideas, and then some.

Also gone are the days of 50/50 marketing (I know that 50 percent of my marketing is working — I just don’t know which 50 percent!). Nowadays, marketers must not only understand data and be totally driven by it in their approaches, but also be very comfortable with it — love it, in fact!

While they must, of course, concentrate on their key performance indicators (KPIs), today’s (as well as tomorrow’s) marketers must focus less on campaigns or channels and more on customer-driven growth.

They must stop contemplating what will work for particular audiences and, instead, think far beyond segmentation. Marketers must be comfortable with letting the data automate more of their decisions and apply the right tactics for the right audiences at the right time — every time.

Above all, they must be able to validate their intuitions — those great (yet, potentially disruptive) ideas — and instantly predict what will and will not work for their organizations and their customers before diving in. Marketers who possess this characteristic will become indispensable ‘go-to marketers’.

Satisfying Both Sides — Is It Possible?
The best part? The marketer of the future does not have to choose between focusing on the customer or the shareholder. As I have said before, satisfying customers’ cravings for powerhouse experiences drives success — and success is what shareholders are looking for. Today, we understand that optimization means driving great experiences against business KPIs. Moving forward, technological advances that are paired with increases in marketers’ skills mean that companies will be able to balance both without missing a beat. And, it will not be because of some innovative new workflow that is still way out in orbit somewhere. It will be through refining and reimagining a process most of us already follow:

  1. Tap into the data: measure, understand, and then hypothesize;
  2. Draw upon your best creative ideas and energies — take risks; and
  3. Test experiences, implement the best ones, and continually optimize.

Everyone Is a Marketer?
All of this will happen under one new and totally universal truth: everyone is a marketer. Harvard Business Review nailed it, explaining, “It’s clear that “marketing” is no longer a discrete entity (and woe to the company whose marketing is still siloed) but now extends throughout the firm, tapping virtually every function. And while the titles, roles, and responsibilities of marketing leaders vary widely among companies and industries, the challenges they face—and what they must do to succeed—are deeply similar.” Marketing is not a separate department anymore. We have a place at the table — and that place is growing by the millisecond.

Think about it. Let’s say, a customer visits your bank to open a checking account. She sees signs on the windows, receives a promotional pamphlet when she sits down, and chats with a branch manager who puts the wheels in motion.


She logs on to your app or website and sees an offer for a companion savings account with an exclusive “new customer” rate. She adds the service and transfers some cash to fund her second account with your bank — a clearly high-value conversion.


She receives email offers that are personalized to her banking patterns and life stage and clicks through.


All clear cut, right? But, what about the other touchpoints in her banking journey? What about when her account is compromised, and she calls customer support to troubleshoot? She’s anxious, frustrated, and feels exposed — she needs customer support big time. Done right, she remains a loyal customer. Done very well, she might even upgrade her account, layering in added benefits or ongoing support services.

Done wrong, she cancels her accounts.

It’s clear that we’re all in this together — crafting always-on, always spot-on, relevant journeys that are all-encompassing and that incorporate every single step a customer takes with your brand. The retention rep who handles a cancellation inquiry has just as much impact on what that consumer sees, hears, feels, and experiences with an organization as those targeted email blasts and personalized recommendations do. If we’re all speaking the same language, prioritizing the same experience delivery, and focusing on connecting consumers with relevant touchpoints — no matter what our particular roles in the process are — we’ll wind up with a cohesive, consistent, and meaningful path for every single customer.

Putting It Together: How Do You Create an all-Marketing Organization?
For me, this conversation is really anchored in finding balance as well as individuals who not only understand the need for creativity and great ideas, but also possess some of these hard skills. These are the people who organically expose themselves to many different angles and approaches. They come to the table with very playful, creative sides in addition to their deeply analytical and scientific sides. Like anything, it’s a balance — left brain/right brain, hard/soft, conceptual/factual. Up-and-coming marketers need to possess both.

From an educational perspective, this shift makes it even more important for colleges and universities to educate future marketers to work both sides of their brains. Likewise, we are all responsible for training and engaging marketers from all backgrounds and skill levels. Done right, we’re on the brink of something amazing. I cannot wait until research and validation are things of the past — when we will be incredibly scientific in our collective approach but won’t spend any time waiting around for reports and analyses — we’ll just have them. That, paired with our high levels of creativity, will make tomorrow’s marketing leaders unstoppable and invaluable in the experience business. Better than anything we’ve seen before.

Topics: Personalization