To follow up a successful #RampUp2017, we invited Lewis Gersh, CEO of PebblePost, the inventors of Programmatic Direct Mail®, to talk about the importance of remembering the human element in a digital world.
What did you learn about marketing technology 2016 that you’ve brought to your work in 2017?
This isn’t something I learned so much as something that many people seemed to have forgotten—the importance of accountability. But that’s changing, and can only be good for our industry. I’m talking, in part, about restoring the healthy tension between the CFO and the CMO.
For a while people just accepted runaway spending on digital because, you know, “Oh, it’s innovation.” But somewhere along the line people also began to accept things like arbitrage and outright fraud as part of the cost of doing business. We’re pleased that as 2016 went along, it became more about transparency with agencies, about addressing fraud issues, about respecting the user experience, including user privacy. So accountability is a hot area.
What role do you see technology playing for marketers in 2017?
As a blanket statement, I’d say that marketing technology will move from the foreground to the background.
Ideally, marketing technology should be nothing more than a tool that enables marketers to reach their goals. Unfortunately, in recent years “using technology” became a goal in itself. It’s like when America transitioned to the automobile from the horse-and-buggy days. Suddenly everybody wanted a car. Yes, an automobile could make travel a lot faster and more efficient, but only if you knew where you were going and stuck to good, well-marked roads.
Today, too many marketers jump in their cars and accelerate down those untested, sometimes muddy trails without a plan. They need to step back and reassess their goals. Are they getting the right message in front of the right users at the right time? Can they tell which needles moved and by how much?
It’s complicated, and as people move around different platforms and different channels, it’s not even as simple as boiling it down to mobile vs. desktop. Even if you isolate mobile, the user is on social media, they’re watching video, they’re reading email. So you have to account for different platforms and different channels even on a single device.
How do you think people-based marketing is changing the way marketers strategize?
If a marketer consciously has to make people-based marketing a strategic choice, they’re already in trouble. Really, is there another kind of marketing? If you’re not marketing to people, then who are you marketing to?
Too often, by focusing on things that can be measured digitally, marketers fail to capture the way people actually buy things. Before trying any new strategy, marketers should ask themselves how they would react if they were on the receiving end of it. Because if you really want to practice people-based marketing, a good place to start is to bring your own humanity into the process.
Lewis Gersh is CEO of PebblePost, guiding corporate strategy and vision at the company with over 19 years of board and executive management experience, and was a speaker at RampUp 2017.