Connecting The Dots At ExactTarget Connections

etconnectionsThis last week was a busy one for ExactTarget, launching new products, rebranding existing ones and being welcomed into the Salesforce.com family. These are all massive projects in their own right, but those challenges were compounded by the fact that they were putting on what, in my opinion, is one of the best corporate events out there that I have attended. Having had a few days to decompress after returning from Indianapolis, I wanted to share a few thoughts from the event.

The conference theme was “Lead from Within,” which centered on empowering their individual customers to be leaders within their own organization, regardless of position or title.

This is a great message to get out to individuals, and while it is stimulating and thought provoking at one level, I think it presents a potential challenge for marketers – connecting the dots and making it happen. ExactTarget is delivering a lot on this promise with an integrated suite of tools that helps us marketers communicate across digital mediums from email, to push, to SMS and personalized web experiences. But I think there could be something missing…how do you know what the right message is if you don’t truly know your customer?

The answer to this I found in a presentation by Shar Von Bosskirk, Forrester Analyst, in which she stressed that a critical component of the future of marketing is a centralized view of the various digitial identities that consumers have. This means across not only social properties (Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, etc.) but across channels and devices (mobile, in store, on owned web properties, etc.). Having such a view would empower marketers with the ability to access their customer demographic and psychographic profiles to deliver relevant, personalized communications and experiences.

von Bosskirk discussed how the face of digital marketing is changing. One key statistic she shared that jumped out at me was 50% of the world’s connected population will be always addressable by 2017. This is a potentially huge opportunity and paradigm shift for marketers, but equally potentially aggravating for consumers. As your customer, do I really want you as the brand (and all others at the same time) to constantly “connect” with me?  Especially if those connections aren’t finely targeted to my likes, interests and personality?

We know the answer is a resounding “no.” As my father used to say, just because you can doesn’t mean you should. However, if history is any lesson, we know that not all marketers will follow that sage advice. But I’d strongly recommend you take this opportunity to be smarter with your communications than your competitors. Ensure that your consumer welcomes your content because it is tailored to them, their time, location, device and medium they want.

Multi-channel, customer-centric marketing is upon us, the tools are here to execute and the lessons learned are growing every day. We need to charge forward as marketers to add value to our customers’ journeys with our brands, not just put up another billboard along the road.