I vividly remember a lunch with my friend, David Meerman Scott – author, digital, speaker extraordinaire and recovering CMO. At the time, David was working out some ideas for his soon-to-be best-seller Real-Time Marketing & PR and I was chief marketing officer at Eloqua. Together, over some delicious chicken vindaloo and naan at David’s favorite Indian restaurant, we riffed on the future of marketing.
We imagined a fantasy world where marketers were surrounded by screens overflowing with real-time data. Marketers’ offices resembled trading room floors.
David’s vision was influenced by his first job – on the trading floor of a Wall Street investment bank in the 1980s. In that world, David saw first-hand how technology enabled real-time trading where instant information triggered split-second decisions. Traders crawled through data, news, and even weather forecasts to gain an edge. Any edge. They were poised and ready to pounce with big bets, based on real-time information, when the moment was right.
My own real-time vision had been shaped by my years as CMO at Eloqua, helping to build marketing dashboards for CMOs just like me. Real-time marketing was just getting started in 2009. There were just some early social media dashboards, CRM and Google alerts. Frankly, those early efforts at real-time dashboards were dwarfed by countless marketing Powerpoints and never-read marketing plans.
As David likes to say, “What counts today is speed and agility.” I’m here to tell you that the “fantasy world” David and I discussed has now become very real for many marketers. Including me!
Here’s a picture of me at my desk at Lattice Engines, a Big Data software company. Take a look at the screens behind me.
Marketing data is crawling across the screens behind me in real time – campaigns, pipeline, conversion rates, web traffic, social media and more. The dashboards answer questions like:
- What was the unsubscribe rate from that new campaign?
- Which version of the email performed better – the one with the orange button or the blue button?
- What deals are stuck in the pipeline for more than 60 days?
- Which reps had the lowest win rates this year to date?
- Is Twitter sentiment for our brand trending up or down?
- What % of our customers at Dell are using Lattice right now? How does this compare to yesterday, last week or last month?
- How many unique visitors came to our site today? Where did they come from?
Wall Street trading floors have changed a lot since David first worked there in the 1980s, particularly with the emergence of “algorithmic trading.” Algorithmic trading determines the specifics of the order – timing, price, and quantity of the trade. In many cases, trades are executed without human intervention.
In 2001 IBM published a paper demonstrating that algorithmic strategies could consistently out-perform human traders. The IBM team wrote that the financial impact ”…might be measured in billions of dollars annually.” Traders can no longer keep up with all that is knowable about a company or market. Wall Street has hired “quants” to write algorithms that crawl through the data, figure out what trade to do next, and then execute it. The value on Wall Street has passed from the traders to the quants.
More recently, Watson, the supercomputer, proved that he could beat the best player in the world at Jeopardy!. Ken Jennings, the most successful human contestant in the game’s history, acknowledged his loss to Watson with a written response to the tournament’s final question: “I, for one, welcome our new computer overlords.”
Alas, my real-time marketing world is without algorithms. There are no bots to crawl through my data. I have to do that. I do not (yet) have a data scientist on my marketing team to write algorithms and execute my next brilliant marketing action – launch a campaign, alter a PPC bid, change the size of a button on the website. I have to do that.
It is not a question of “if”, but “when” algorithmic marketing emerges. Just as the quants on Wall Street and Watson on Jeopardy! came calling, the future for real-time marketing is software that harnesses the power of Big Data to deliver better marketing in real-time.
“There is no point in collecting and storing all this data if the algorithms are not able to find useful patterns and insights in the data,” says Jon Kleinberg, a computer scientist at Cornell University. “But the software is scaling up to the task.”
Brian Kardon is the CMO for Lattice Engines, responsible for the company’s market positioning, demand generation, thought leadership, and integrated marketing to ensure strong connections with customers and constituents. Prior to Lattice, Brian was a driving force behind Eloqua’s explosive growth and leadership in the Revenue Performance Management sector. Before Eloqua, Brian was Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer at Forrester Research, where he helped turn the brand into a leader in the technology research sector. He also served as CMO at Reed Business Information, the largest B2B publisher in the world. Brian received his BS and MBA degrees from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.