My Wish List For This Holiday Season

giftDon’t bother with the gift boxes and bows. This year, my wish list is topped mainly with things that can’t be wrapped.

As Director of Corporate Communications for Teradata Marketing Applications, I’ve been a part of tremendous change throughout the marketing industry over the past 12 months. That evolution is being driven by this simple fact: More and more businesses are recognizing the value of data-driven marketing, an approach that’s been proven to revolutionize the customer experience and ultimately, drive revenue. I believe that the companies and brands that adopt data-driven approaches will emerge as leaders in 2015 – and it’s clear that more and more marketers are planning to do just that. But even so, as we turn the page to the New Year, I can’t help but wish for:

• Less talk, more action on true individualization. As I just mentioned, many marketers say they’re eager to adopt digital marketing and data-driven approaches. But if your inbox is anything like mine, you’re well aware that far too many still rely on the traditional marketing methods epitomized by mass-market emails. Back in September, Teradata’s research confirmed what I’ve seen for quite some time: that the customer relationship is the single path to sustainable growth and reliable retention. That means marketers need to get serious about making a commitment to true individualization.

As Lisa Arthur pointed out earlier, “true individualization” is not synonymous with “personalization,” a term marketers (and communication pros!) have been using for years. True individualization refers to understanding your customers as individuals – each with his/her own preferences and behaviors –and then providing meaningful experiences based on that knowledge. It’s more than just changing the salutation at the top of an email (where one reads “Dear Mary,” another reads “Dear John,” etc.). When you become truly focused on the individual, you have insights into Mary’s purchase behaviors and know to remind her about an upcoming sale that features her favorite designer. You also know that John lives in Maine and that he may need another shovel to dig out from the latest Nor’easter. In 2015, marketers need to start delivering the one-to-one, real time marketing that we know is critical to customer engagement and loyalty.

• More creativity. A recent study found that creativity helps companies foster innovation, develop talent and brand recognition, boost revenue and improve market share. In other words, creativity is a key success driver. So, why is it typically in such short supply? Have marketers become lulled by the same-ol’, same-ol’? Or is creativity simply too difficult to define, quantify and/or harness (particularly in a business setting)?

Contrary to what some may think, becoming data-driven will not quash creativity. In fact, just the opposite is true. As I see it, data is a reflection of people. So, it naturally follows that as you use data to glean more insights, you’ll be able to understand your customers better. Then, once you understand your customers better, you can actually become more creative – in ways that are meaningful, relevant… and effective.

Of course, when you start paying attention to data insights, you also can do a better job of assessing what works and what doesn’t. That can help eliminate some of the “fear of failure.” Have an out-of-the-box idea? Go ahead! Test it. Prove it works, or keep tweaking until it does. Consumers – whether they’re B2B or B2C – have shown again and again that they’ll reward creativity. And just how can you drive more creativity? Read my favorite book published in 2014 and see if the theories presented by Joshua Wolf Shenk in Powers of Two catalyze innovation in your workgroups.

• A ride on the cloud. Or should that be “in” the cloud? Or “within?” Or?? Here’s what I’m driving at: References to modern cloud computing have been around for at least a decade, and as marketing ecosystems expand, they’re destined to become more and more prevalent in 2015. Can we please settle on a way to describe the cloud? In the cloud seems to be generally accepted. But on the cloud is popular, too. In, on, within, at… Can we all rise above it and pick one? When we do, you know where I’ll be. You guessed it: on the proverbial cloud nine.

So, there’s my short wish list of gifts that (with the exception of Shenk’s awesome book) can’t be wrapped. If you were reading this hoping to find ideas for me that were a bit more tangible, well… Those of you who remember my post from last year know that I’m keen on gadgets. It probably won’t surprise you to learn that right now, I have my eye on wearables. From FitBit and GoogleGlass to all that’s happening with Will.i.am, I’m intrigued to see how the marketplace for wearables evolves – and impacts marketing – in 2015. Maybe by this time next year you’ll need a gift box and bow after all?

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