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Can Predictive Technology Replace Your Marketing Team?

Kylee_Hall_LeadspaceIn this special guest feature, Kylee Hall of Leadspace reflects on the question – have we set ourselves up for a humans vs. the machines dystopia and why there will be need for human intuition to supplement the tremendous growth of predictive software? Kylee is the Senior Director of Marketing at Leadspace. Previously, she lead product marketing for B2B analytics companies focusing on web, mobile and retail analytics platforms. Her experience spans from small start-ups to large enterprise companies including IBM. She holds a B.B.A. in Marketing from The College of William & Mary and an M.B.A. in Econometrics and Statistics and Marketing Management from the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago.

Over the last 10 years, we’ve seen a tremendous explosion in marketing channels, along with a torrent of audience and engagement data pouring back from these channels. To our benefit, the evolution in digital technology and Big Data have created an almost overwhelming amount of insights about who, when, where and how we should be reaching our audiences for maximum impact.

Of course, mere humans can’t possibly keep pace with the 24/7 engagement opportunity and the deluge of data, which requires marketers to rely heavily on automation to make smarter, better targeted selections—so much so that, in some cases, the automation tools actually make the selections for us.

Thanks to predictive technology—auto-retargeting and real-time buying, among others—this heavy reliance on marketing automation has many in the industry worried. Could predictive technology make certain marketing roles obsolete? Might some companies start replacing some their incredibly talented marketing experts with massive compute power and data analytics experts?

The fact is that someone—a human—still has to make decisions and execute on those channels based on all of this data and analytics. While predictive technologies can go a long way toward helping us to identify the right audiences, algorithms can only go so far in helping us understand and connect with them. It takes a human to craft that message or creative piece, and then interact with the individual once you’ve snagged their attention. We’re nowhere near the ability to automate the creative process.

Not to mention that audiences are increasingly on hyper-alert for canned, computer-generated, “spammy” messages. As consumers, we’ve become so bombarded and overwhelmed by digital clutter than any hint of automation prompts some recipients to immediately trash what could otherwise be the most valuable and relevant content.

To combat this phenomenon, marketers must now use their creative skills to find ways to demonstrate a more personal approach. For some, that could mean reverting to “old-school” tactics like direct mail because, as the volume of postal mail has diminished significantly, mailed materials have become surprisingly more valuable in attracting recipients’ attention because it is so unexpected.

In fact, the trend toward automated predictive technology is actually making humans even more vital in the marketing process. Not only is creativity a uniquely human trait, but so is the ability to build personal relationships. As digital technology proliferates, fostering a more thoughtful, meaningful connection is increasingly valuable. While predictive technology can help us cut through the masses to find those specific individuals with whom we should be connecting, it cannot make those connections for us. By leveraging the efficiencies of automation to find prospects, we can now spend more time cultivating relationships with them.

Not only is predictive technology making human talent more valuable in the marketing space, it’s also creating entirely new roles and job opportunities. There is a fast-growing need for so-called “super analysts” — data analysts with a marketing focus who possess the perfect balance of left-brain creativity with right-brain analytics skills to analyze marketing data, derive insights and take action to address marketing challenges. This talent is exceptionally hard to find right now, because this type of training isn’t yet standard curricula in marketing schools around the country.

So, while some marketers are busy wringing their hands, worried they may soon be replaced by computers, there’s a tremendous opportunity for forward-thinking professionals to expand their skill set and embrace the data-focused trend to stay on top of the next wave of marketing.

 

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