Customer Experience

Mind Meld

A marketing expert explains the best way to get into your customers’ heads.

by Kate Pavao

May 2016

Who understands today’s marketing landscape better than Andrea Ward, vice president of marketing for Oracle Marketing Cloud? After all, her job is to market a marketing system to marketers (mind = blown).

What’s her first piece of advice? “Understand what’s important to your customers,” says Ward, “not only what your products can do for them, but also the type of relationship they want to have with your brand and what your brand represents for them.”


Here, Profit picks Ward’s brain about how technology can help marketers better connect with customers, and the skills they need to make sure their brands stand out.

Profit: How has technology changed marketing?

Ward: Technology is allowing marketers to have a completely different role in directly engaging with customers and driving the customer experience. Consumers are personally connected to their devices, so brands need to be able to connect personally with consumers through their technology. This means marketing teams have become much more technology savvy.

First of all, marketers need tools that can orchestrate engagement across both digital and human touchpoints. So they need something that can both automate interactions but also respond to data that a system is capturing in real time. It also means that across all of these disparate touchpoints, marketers need to be able to identify an individual as being the same person whether that person engages using an email address, through the IP address of a mobile device, or in a store with a credit card in hand.

Profit: How can the cloud help companies be more effective with customers?

Ward: One of the big differences with the cloud is how easy it is to use the cloud to solve a specific use case for a business. The cloud allows marketing leaders to make better decisions around how to engage with customers, how to measure impact, how to adjust, and how to try something and then iterate quickly.

But you need integration of customer data. Oracle Marketing Cloud connects all of a customer’s experiences and orchestrates interactions depending on behaviors and what marketers know about them. Oracle’s marketing platform uses an ID graph that determines a person’s identity no matter what digital name he or she engages with.

Oracle’s marketing platform includes analytics, testing, and targeting to help marketers understand how consumers are responding to marketing activity, based not only on who they are but also on their digital body language. So marketers can serve up a better experience in real time.

Profit: How can marketers use data to know their customers better?

Ward: Oracle’s products—for example, its financial systems, its customer relationship management systems, and its marketing automation systems—collect a lot of data. And if marketers capture that data, manage it, keep it current, and put a practice around it, they can get a clear picture of their customers.

Marketing is now a line of business that is more in charge in terms of technology decisions, in part because marketers are now a revenue driver for organizations.”

But that picture gets even sharper if marketers figure out how to get at different types of data. After all, customers are not spending the majority of their time with one company. So it’s difficult to get a complete view of who they are and what they care about by relying solely on the data that sits within one company’s systems. Third-party data can give marketers more information about customers’ purchase behaviors and also about what they care about. Do they like motorcycles? Do they love to travel to Fiji?

Marketers need to think about the partnerships they can leverage and how they can share information about customers in a secure way that really defines the data around those partnerships. Oracle’s marketing platform can make those connections and significantly change the experience for customers. By being able to focus in and identify a target, marketers can deliver more-relevant experiences, and they can significantly impact the performance of the money they spend on marketing.

Profit: Besides being tech savvy, what skill do you see today’s marketers needing most?

Ward: By offering a cloud solution, Oracle has given marketers much more power. Marketing is now a line of business that is more in charge in terms of technology decisions, in part because marketers are now a revenue driver for organizations.

Marketers are now able to target customers more effectively and engage with their ideal customer in more-relevant and contextual ways. They are able to convert business to revenue across media and drive customer loyalty through a better brand experience.

Leadership skills are really core for today’s marketers. Marketers are driving change in their teams to take advantage of new technology. But even more importantly, because marketers own the digital touchpoints across the customer experience, marketers also need to be leaders for their companies or organizations. They might need to ask, “How do I get a seat at the executive table when, traditionally, marketers haven’t had a voice there?”

Photography by Shutterstock