Every year brings a new crop of nominations for the Oracle Markie Awards, now going on its 14th year, and there’s very little that makes me prouder than reviewing the dozens of nominations in the many categories within sales, marketing, service, and commerce. Not just because the nominees are Oracle customers, but because of their eagerness to push innovation and to share the best practices they’ve developed through these awards.
These best practices refute the idea that marketing and sales are more of an art form, driven by intuition, inspiration, and creative genius, than a structured way of doing things with a right way and a wrong way.
The nominees for the Markie awards exemplify how the best companies use data – not hunches -- to drive decisions. George Anders, a senior editor at LinkedIn, makes the point that our intuition “can be wrong as much as 90% of the time.”
1.) There’s a science to sales and marketing
The Markies are a celebration of the idea that there’s a science to sales and marketing – that there’s a right way to use real-time segments, a right way to use audiences, a right way to design and measure campaign effectiveness, and to use machine learning to prescribe next best actions for marketers or sellers.
The more automation is used in marketing, and the more our customers experiment with machine learning and other emerging technologies in the context of sales and marketing, the more they’re discovering patterns of success that are as recognizable in the front office as they are in the back office.
2.) What do you do when your customer is the innovator?
It has become a truism in our industry that customers are the innovators – but where does that leave the enterprise?
Today, there is no shortage of signals coming from our customers – they’re telling us with every mouse click, email open, survey response, purchase – and decision not to purchase.
They could be telling us, for instance, that they want to book two hotel rooms at a resort, and that they have two children under 10 years of age. They’re also telling us they don’t want to travel very far from home because they’re not willing to take an airplane. They may have told us in the past that they weren’t interested in outdoor activities like camping and hiking, but given the current environment, they’ve changed their mind.
The resort company’s job is to suggest someplace within driving distance, with nature trails and kayaking nearby, and a very hygienic hotel suite with adjoining rooms so the adults can have some alone time while still keeping their kids within earshot.
In other words, the company’s job – it’s only job – is to curate an experience based on the signals it gets from the data its customers are giving it. For the privilege of giving us access to their data, customers are telling us they expect exceptionally personalized service, and that’s something only possible at scale with the right application of technology.
3.) Borrowing from across the hall
Another lesson I’ve observed is the sudden disappearance of the “not-invented-here” syndrome. Organizations tend to mimic (not to say copy) from their peers, which makes sense if you buy into the idea that your particular industry offers experiences that are dramatically different from any other.
But that’s seeing the issue from the inside out; seen from the outside, consumer experiences are homogenous across the board. Did the company understand my needs? Did the person I dealt with help me solve my problem immediately, in a single interaction? Did the recommendation they made correspond to my needs?
What we’re seeing today is that organizations are looking at the best ideas for solving problems and providing service, irrespective of the industry that is adopting it. And this makes sense as customers, like employees, don’t see themselves as retail customers or hospitality customers or education customers. They see themselves as individuals, and the organizations that treat them as individuals are likeliest to build a long-term relationship with them, irrespective of their industry.
4.) It takes a village
If it takes data to make smarter decisions, you can probably guess that it takes a multitude of tools to get this science right. It takes inputs from a variety of sources, including traditional outbound marketing campaigns, reams of data coming in, the ability to store and analyze that data, and the ability to analyze and to make suggestions in real time.
That requires an effective suite of applications all working together, creating the kind of efficiencies that today’s market requires.
It also requires an effective network of partners, which is why this year we’ve added two new categories to our awards, as a shout-out to the great Independent Software Vendors and Systems Integrators in our industry.
In congratulating the finalists and winners (you can see them listed here), I can say that I’m already looking forward to next year and the furtherance of science-based marketing.