Why brands must take a people-first approach to martech




  • Don’t get distracted by the shiny new thing. Companies that use martech to serve the “human experience” are getting it right, says Riverbed CMO.

    Why brands must take a people-first approach to martech

    Subbu Iyer, CMO of Riverbed, speaking at MarTech Conference 2019.

    SAN JOSE, CA — Brands are spending more than 16% of their budgets on technology, and yet 50% don’t believe they have the tools they need, according to a Moore Stephens poll.

    The real problem, said Subbu Iyer, CMO at Riverbed, in a talk at MarTech Conference Thursday, is the way brands are approaching technology. “The amount of money going into tech as a percentage of marketing budgets is increasing. But if you’re looking at satisfaction it’s not there.”

    Many of us constantly seek out the new hot thing — the shiny object — and yet, often our marketing outcomes aren’t improving with all this new technology the way we expect.

    “Marketers need to ask what the purpose of the technology is – and it needs to be to serve the human experience,” said Iyer. “How can we do better evaluating technology? Think about it from a human context.”

    Marketers also need human-centered digital strategies. Then they can deploy technology for their own customer-centered use cases that address the human experience.

    The human experience Iyer refers to encompasses “the total set of interactions and encounters that you as a brand have with your employees, customers and partners.” That’s a true measure of affinity, said Iyer. “It’s not about MQLs and SQLs. It’s about affinity and engagement.”

    Customers are savvy. They demand, value, transparency and authenticity and personalization. As customers become more self-sufficient and do research on their own, those are the things they’re looking for, said Iyer. “To be successful, the starting point is not the technology.”

    The buyer journey is not linear or sequential. “That’s our challenge when thinking about it from a tech stack perspective,” said Iyer. “We think about it very linearly. It’s not linear. It’s never linear.”

    Among the strategies of people-first approach that Iyer explained is to use the full power of digital technology to build cognitive empathy.

    Iyer pointed to a number of studies that show emotions are the number one factor in determining loyalty. Understanding and responding to emotions as users come into contact with your brand can dramatically change outcomes.

    Companies such as Humana and Asurion that are doing this now with AI. For example, Iyer explained, Humana has deployed AI software to monitor inflection and tone on customer calls. It can warn agents where the call is heading based on the modulations of the customer’s voice. The results: 28% improvement in customer satisfaction, 63% increase in agent engagement and 67% improvement in first-contact resolution.

    “Customers aren’t buying products and services anymore, they’re buying experiences,” said Iyer, in closing. “That’s a fundamental belief I have.” Many companies understand this, he said. Coke sells happiness. Apple sells a lifestyle. Nike sells inspiration. And then there’s Peloton. Is it a media company or a fitness experience, asked Iyer? “It’s an integrated experience and they disrupted the fitness market.”

    This story first appeared on MarTech Today. For more on marketing technology, click here.


    About The Author

    Ginny Marvin is Third Door Media’s Editor-in-Chief, managing day-to-day editorial operations across all of our publications. Ginny writes about paid online marketing topics including paid search, paid social, display and retargeting for Search Engine Land, Marketing Land and MarTech Today. With more than 15 years of marketing experience, she has held both in-house and agency management positions. She can be found on Twitter as @ginnymarvin.

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