Don’t Lose Your Humanity in the Pursuit of Digital Leads
Leave it to Stephen Spielberg to predict the future of marketing. And its challenges.
In the 2002 movie, “Minority Report,” Chief Tom Anderton (Tom Cruise) is on the run. He has transplanted the eye of another into his skull so that he can get past secure retinal scanners. While fleeing the authorities, he runs into a Gap store. The scanners pick up his retinas and a 3D hologram display greets him:
“Hello, Mr. Yakamoto! How did those assorted tank tops work out for you?”
As marketing automation has gotten more sophisticated, have we been striving for Spielberg’s vision? Should the tech take our place?
Surely no marketers in fictional 2054 anticipated that a customer would transplant the eyes of another.
Here, stuck in our reality, how impersonal is our communication? How many stumbles and errors give away that our messages are computer-generated, not handcrafted?
The Rise of the Machines
I have to constantly remind myself that a human being will actually read what I write. Sure, I want to impress the bots, use the right words to prompt a greater email open rate, or be pithy or ironic with my call to action buttons. However, someone is investing their time in what I’ve crafted. I genuinely want to serve that human. Our solution will help them become stronger and market their product and service better.
Think back through the last few marketing meetings you’ve held.
How much time was devoted to discussing email open rates, the number of downloads, and conversion rates?
On the other hand, how much time was devoted to talking about your actual customers and leads, their needs, and how to best reach them?
If you’re not spending an equal amount of time talking about real humans as you are on the tech you use to reach them, I encourage you to add a discussion about your clients and prospects to your meeting agendas.
Technology’s Best Role in Marketing
In their new book, Marketing 5.0, Hermawan Kartajaya and Phillip Kotler, the father of modern marketing, acknowledges that AI and automation are required for modern marketing because the market is moving faster than ever.
“Technology can and must be leveraged for the good of humanity. Marketing 5.0, by definition, is the application of human-mimicking technologies to create, communicate, deliver, and enhance value across the customer journey.”
The book, however, warns us that we must not apply technology where technology shouldn’t go. Too often, we task our programs to take our place in serving our customers. Perhaps our teams are stretched too thin or we feel we must squeeze every dime of our investment from our platforms.
This graphic gets to the core of that message.
As leaders, we ensure that the individuals making up our teams are in roles that maximize their strengths and mitigate their weaknesses. We must begin to see technology as a team member and do the same. Our platforms can’t pick up on the mood of a buyer. Only we can do that. Technology can’t suss out the real reasons a company needs your platform. You must place humans—well-trained, empathetic, customer-focused—at that critical juncture.
Humanity as a Brand Differentiator
My first full-time employer had a customer-first ethos like no other. On my first day, I heard the phrase, “Always be the last to say thank you.” I didn’t know what that meant. I was just an ambitious kid who wanted to get the job done. I wasn’t concerned with the human side of my work. Slowly, over the next two years, I saw the ethos come to life.
The customer service team fielded thousands of calls and letters a day. A four-inch binder took center stage on the desk of each rep. At the front of the room, a series of large binders crowned the bookcases. The representatives were charged with not just acknowledging the phone calls and letters but genuinely responding to them with deep answers. The binders on their desks contained official answers to the most frequently asked questions and the binders on the bookshelves contained every carefully worded answer to every question they had been asked in the previous 20 years of existence. Representatives were held accountable, not for the speed of the phone calls or the number of letters they replied to, but for the depth of their caring and response to the callers.
But even more than that, the phone calls would end in a grown-up version of “you hang up first.”
The representative would say, “Thank you for calling today.”
Inevitably, because they had been so well served, the caller would say something like, “No, thank you for finding the answer to my question.”
Then the rep would reply, “Thank you for being a part of our organization.”
This would repeat and repeat until the representative was the actual last one to say thanks.
It happened in the mail, as well. All the letters closed with gratitude. A percentage of those who received answers would send thank you cards—and sometimes flowers or elaborate handmade gifts—and the representatives would return a thank you card. That process would repeat until the customer didn’t reply anymore.
Now, 25 years later, I get the point of the exercise. In 1991, in the infinite wisdom of a 20-something, I thought it was a waste of resources and came off cheesy. Now, I see that this practice created two things.
- In the heart of the customer, “thank you” created an unwavering sense that “I am important. I matter to these guys. I’ll be loyal to them because they’ve done much for me and they really appreciate me being a part of their company.”
- For the representatives, instead of it being an exercise in manipulation or a contest of wills, it truly fostered an appreciation for the customer and, more than that, helped them remember at all times that the customer came first.
The advent of technology hasn’t changed the ethos; it’s changed the speed the reps can find the answers and respond to the customer.
What ethos drives your marketing? Do you strive for empathy?
Striving for Symbiosis
Machines can’t do what that customer service team did. Sure, they can route the emails and the form responses to the right person, trigger an email reply, drop someone’s name into a nurture campaign to provide more content, and prompt an SDR to give them a call. But those automated sequences won’t build raving fans. Neither will taking surveys. Making your customer the hero in your story will.
“Always make your buyer the hero.” We remind ourselves of our ethos at the end of every podcast episode. Every closed deal is not about our bottom line. Sure, we’re elated to make money. That’s why we’re in business. But we know that in the course of the next six months, our customer will see their business with greater clarity, communicate sharper messages that reach their “heroes,” and discover greater unity and cohesion within their teams. We celebrate the future success of our customers because they are our heroes.
Don’t lose your humanity in the pursuit of your digital leads. Care for and get to know your leads. Let the technology help you accomplish it, not take your place.