In a world of rapid technological change, digital tools for marketers are having a moment. Marketing technology tools (also referred to as MarTech tools) have multiplied from about 150 in 2011 to around 8,000 today, a 5,233% increase that sends a clear message: Marketers are embracing digital assistance and data/analytics. The average enterprise now uses 120 cloud-based marketing tools (according to chiefmartec.com); in many companies, marketing departments are the heaviest users of cloud services.

This explosion in marketing teams turning to technology to support their efforts was already underway by the time COVID-19 emerged, but the changes forced by the pandemic only pushed it further, faster. A Twilio study of 2,569 companies found that the pandemic accelerated their digital communication strategy by an average of six years.

What does this mean for marketing and for marketers? According to Scott Brinker, editor of ChiefMarTec.com and VP of platform ecosystem at HubSpot — and often called the “godfather of MarTech” — digital tools may obviate human work in some discrete areas, but in most cases they will enhance humans’ marketing efforts, not replace them. 

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Becoming better marketers with data

Simply put, marketers can leverage new technologies to become better at their jobs. Scott believes that humans will continue to play the central role in marketing, with their efforts assisted in meaningful ways by AI-empowered tech. Scott has dubbed this new breed “augmented marketers.” Human thinking will revolve around creating and controlling models, since applying analytical judgment about how and when to use models is still a uniquely human ability.

Scott sees the current decade as “the age of the augmented marketer.” That’s because these software tools are reaching a critical mass that allows an individual to single-handedly enhance marketing in substantive ways — creating, analyzing, and iterating on their marketing outreach, and empowering them to reach new levels and speeds of innovation.

“We know in marketing that one of the most powerful ideas is experimentation,” Scott told Sisense. “You have to have the ability to experiment with ideas quickly and cheaply. What has held that back is that the gap between idea and implementation has been a real bottleneck for how much experimentation can happen.”

Powering up the marketing toolkit

The key to experimentation in marketing is the growth of “no code” tools — software that people without deep technical knowledge or skills can use to create applications and dig into data in ways that previously required specialists.

“The tools that they have right at their own desk let them do things that, frankly, not too long ago would have required so many different people,” said Scott. “‘I have to send this to the designers.’ ‘I have to send this to data scientists.’ The cases where you don’t need to do that are growing.”

Here are a number of ways that AI tools can augment marketers’ efforts without getting technical professionals involved: 

  • Targeting content: Using data about customer behavior, marketers can personalize content to engage various audience groups and do creative content planning.
  • Personalizing ads: Marketers can use analytics tools to target ads to particular customers, speaking more directly to each audience and enhancing connection.
  • Parsing metrics: Marketers can use real-time data about how their audiences are receiving their content to inform strategic and creative decision-making.
  • Translating for global markets: AI translation tools can broaden marketers’ audiences and allow better penetration into global markets. 

“We’re leaning on more and more machines to help us identify patterns or anomalies,” said Scott. “Machine learning and AI isn’t at a place where the software knows automatically what to do about that pattern or anomaly. But it can serve it up to the human, who will say, ‘Oooh, interesting!’”

Cultivating a strategic approach

Omnichannel outreach is one area of marketing where AI-enabled tools are game changers. Some 92% of enterprise decision-makers surveyed by Twilio say their organization is very or somewhat likely to expand digital communication channels post-pandemic. And more than half already added new marketing channels during the pandemic. 

Data and analytics tools are essential for marketers looking to improve performance because increasing marketing channels is difficult to do manually. But increase channels, they must! In today’s digital-first marketplace, businesses must figure out how to market on more channels or get left behind. 

“Channels just continue to pop up all over the place,” said Scott. “I spend pretty much all day, every day, just trying to pay attention to all the new innovations that are happening in marketing and tech, and I can’t even keep up with them.”

This pace of change means it’s a mistake to try to market through all or most channels at once. Start by thinking through what matters most strategically to your business and customers, then put 90% of your effort into those things. The right marketing analytics will help humans understand where they’re seeing the most ROI on their efforts and double down on those. 

Joining human discernment and targeted power

It’s the humans in the “augmented marketer” equation who will get to choose how to best deploy the exciting new tools. In such a fast-changing and turbocharged field, it’s easy to feel as if you have to leverage every tool available. But a better strategy is figuring out how to direct your energy strategically. 

“Try not to be overwhelmed about it; I assure you that every single person I talk to feels that overwhelm,” said Scott. “It’s not you; it’s the industry. There is so much happening. Go back to those principles of really focusing on a small number of things that can have a big impact.”

Big impact, after all, is the end goal of augmented marketing. Joining your human discernment with the targeted power of marketing analytics tools gives you the ability to do remarkable things. Once you embrace this new approach, your marketing will never be the same. 

 The right data is the key to a successful growth marketing program.

Learn how

Writer Katherine Gustafson has over ten years’ experience covering a wide array of topics for Visa, Adobe, the World Wildlife Fund, and more. Her work appears in TechCrunch, Slate, Forbes, Business Insider, and Huffington Post, among others.

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