As a Digital Marketer, I’ll be the first to admit it. We’ve failed our customers.

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Marketing used to be an Art, much less a science.

I can’t tell you when, I can’t identify a specific moment in time, but there came a point when Digital Marketers lost track of what’s important to us. We failed the people we seek to serve.

Over the past couple of years, we’ve become obsessed with tracking and measuring every metric imaginable: hits, clicks, emails, and dials.

We’ve become so focused on things like A/B testing, cold calls, retargeting, email blasts, robocalls, form fills, marketing-qualified leads (MQLs), and sales-qualified leads (SQLs), that we’ve lost track of what really matters.

We tuned out our customers, because we were so intent on listening to what the data said.

Customers were no longer individual people, each with hopes, dreams, and desires, but just dead numbers on excel sheets.

Because of this, there came a point in time, when being data-driven became more important than being customer driven.

We fucked up the most beautiful part of selling, the conversation.

The Excitement of Experiential.

I’ve always maintained that Amazon or Flipkart’s biggest competitor was never each other. It was something more humble, more rooted than that.

Your local Kirana store.

Allow me to explain. If Amazon really wanted to squeeze Flipkart, or any other e-commerce store in the world for that matter, it’s the simplest thing in the world.

The Titans of Indian ECommerce

Price your competitors out of the market.

Slash prices, hike discounts, offer cashbacks, inject a billion dollars and burn it all. Use the power of economics to make sure no one ever stands in their way again. I call it the Walmart approach to healthy competition.

But what you can’t put a price on, is something more than that. Maybe it’s something less, something intangible, something that we know we want, but don’t realize we need.

Nothing, no amount of money, no speed of delivery, no add-on entertainment package can replace the feeling of walking into your local grocery shop and have the aging, ever wise, smiling owner address you by name.

When he slides an extra chocolate into your daughter’s tiny hands for her birthday, when he listens to your wife talk about her aching joints and hands her an ointment, not based on how much money it’ll make him, or what inventory he has to clear the fastest, but on the word of his wife who had something similar or how his children made it to college and how it’s all because of you, none of that can be quantified into numbers. But God, do we fucking try to convince ourselves that it can.

We need to make business personal again.

The good news is that there is a solution to this madness, there is a method in this mayhem.

You can’t blame these companies for all doing the same thing. Marketing is like poker, it’s a zero-sum game. For every winner, there’s a loser. Every product that is bought from a company, are products that they’re not spending on the competition. It is for this reason that bad habits tend to stick in the world of marketing; if it makes money for one person, everyone else tries to copy it. Behavioral Economics calls it “risk aversion”; the phenomenon described by, “losses loom larger than gains.” The pain of potentially losing is greater than the pleasure of winning over new ones, so companies are obliged to play it safe and be repetitive.

It sucks because most marketing and sales solutions today were designed to automate business processes, and not to offer the intelligence needed to make informed decisions.

What do I do as a Digital Marketer?

Marketing and Sales have to change, we have to make it more experiential, more conversational, more human. We drown our customers in emails, calls, pop up notifications, text blasts, broken links and sign up forms. We hand them trash and try to justify our practices using numbers, claiming that the 3% from that feedback form that we’d never fill if we got ourselves, is more than anything else we did, and so we should do it six more times tomorrow.

Companies follow consumers, and as there is more of a visible outrage against these marketing practices, the more incentivized companies are to switch to something that’s working for them.

As conventional marketing dies out, more holistic, customer oriented alternatives like Experiential and Conversational Marketing have arisen, and in this moment we must answer an important question.

Do we continue to annoy our customers for their attention, or do we start anew and try to attract?

About the author

Anush Fernandes

Loves Canines, Conversational automation, and Curry. Stephen and otherwise.