We just arrived back in Boston from the inaugural SiriusDecisions Technoloy Exchange, an event dedicated to solving some of the complexities around the most central component to today’s function of business-to-business marketing – meeting and managing the demands that technology places on our jobs.

Some at the event wondered if a whole conference dedicated to technology was really necessary – after all, they said, isn’t nearly everything we do as marketers driven by technology these days? It certainly seems so, and many of the themes mirrored SiriusDecisions’ earlier event in Nashville. But the event did an excellent job honing in on specific challenges faced by marketing tech practitioners from hiring to internal change management, and making the very well heard point that technology itself is not enough.

Here’s what I heard:

Takeaway 1: Technology is not a strategy

There is an idea floating around claiming “technology is a strategy!” and while I encourage the intention of this, it has the potential to be completely dangerous. Having a strategy around what technology is purchased at your organization is important, sure. But technology itself is not a strategy. It’s not enough to throw a new tool at a problem and expect it to be solved.

Instead, Jay Famico and Jason Hekl in their opening keynote recommend focusing on impact to help realize what technology is driving real change vs. creating more activity. They recommend making decisions based on what’s truly needed, not buzz. This is solid advice for any marketing decision (or business decision for that matter.)

Takeaway 2: Marketers suffer from shiny object syndrome

It was made very clear across multiple presentations that marketers today struggle with shiny object syndrome as it relates to marketing technology, making me imagine the room was full of magpies – you know, the birds who are attracted to shiny things for their nests?

 

And to be honest, as one of the many vendors vying for the mind share of marketers, I’m prone to agree and try to respect this in my own sales demos and marketing campaigns. The key for me is to not promise the world – but rather be very clear about the specific issue we address and help marketers overcome. I think a bit less hyperbole, over-promising and a bit more realism can only benefit the often overwhelmed marketers buying our solutions. Put simply… by the opinionated and fabulous Jill Rowley….

Takeaway 3: The world of personas is ready for an infusion of technology

I know, this is the obligatory self-serving takeaway, but you’ve got to expect it and you’ve made it this far – so keep reading.

Our favorite session focused on operationalizing personas, led by Analyst Rachel Young with two marketers from Oracle and Siemens who have taken personas beyond a PDF (something we champion here at Cintell.)

As Rachel said, “many companies struggle to apply persona insights to innovation, content, and campaigns, and leverage this knowledge across functional workstreams.”

One strategy taken by Kelvin Gee at Oracle (read our interview with Kelvin as part of the series Habits of Customer Centric Marketers) was to build a centralized knowledge base of persona insights, easily accessible by those across his large and distributed organization.

The company, as he noted in the presentation, is undergoing a modern marketing transformation. As part of this, Kelvin sought to modernize over 1,000 global marketers doing things the old way, batch-and-blast style with product-centric messaging. One of my favorite lines of his talk compared product-centric messaging to a selfie. Love it.

“At the heart of the change is a cultural change to become more customer-centric, a fundamental mind shift.”

He used a fantastic movie theme throughout his presentation to illustrate the role of personas in creating empathy, “To me personas are like characters in Hollywood movies. They help you build an emotional connection with your audience.”

We’ll write a full recap of how Oracle operationalizes personas in a future post. Kelvin’s strategy combines data, technology, process, and people in a way that has already seen demonstrable impact within the organization.

Amy Larson, from Siemens, spoke in great detail (and with fantastic humor) on how personas are used internally in a variety of ways. This includes determining whether marketing activities were valuable – for example understanding the makeup of a particular list to understand whether contacts aligned with key persona segments. She also encouraged marketers to standardize data to speak a common unified language around contact data, and to not overcomplicate efforts related to this initiative.

Takeaway 4: It’s time to move beyond our limiting understanding of a persona

Think of personas as static, unusable documents? Think again. Analyst Rachel Young wrapped up her session with 5 excellent tips:

  1. We must move beyond the standard and limited definition of a buyer persona and start thinking of them as more actionable tools
  2. Marketers should seek to create an infrastructure that allows the right people to access persona knowledge and put it to use (music to our ears! Try Cintell persona management tool.)
  3. Personas are not one and done activities. We must validate persona attributes and “iterate, iterate, iterate!”
  4. Collaborate with sales, and seek feedback from sales on the type of personas they’re interacting with, so they may leverage persona knowledge in their conversations.
  5. Align with product – Rachel encourages product professionals to invite sales and marketing into the innovation process, as buyer insight is valuable. Think beyond the functional capability of the offering. Once you know the persona, you’re able to connect products with expressed value propositions.

 

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