Xero CMO reveals why we need to automate to achieve greatness

Andrew Lark discusses the significance of amplifying digital marketing strategies to stay competitive

Xero CMO Andrew Lark on moving outside your marketing comfort zone
Xero CMO Andrew Lark on moving outside your marketing comfort zone

When it comes to achieving greatness, marketers need to embrace more than just the five pillars of digital marketing transformation – participation, proximity, prediction, play and purpose. They need to embrace automation.

Speaking at Marketo’s Nation Roadshow 2015 in Sydney, Xero CMO Andrew Lark, said there have been radical shifts in e-commerce business and digital behaviour as a result of the cloud.

“Those who have been smart enough to move to the cloud fast, have a natural predatory advantage,” he said. “And the proliferation of mobile has really impacted that.”

Our mobile devices are no longer just a phone, but a life engine and a lens on the world, he told attendees. And more people spend time on their devices than all of the web.

Despite the radical transformation of mobile technology, barely a third of businesses have yet to run a fully optimised mobile website, they’re not operating mobile landing pages and they don’t have mobile downloadable functionality.

“I think that is the challenge for most marketers,” he said. “You actually have to live as the customer does. Today, when we look at marketing automation software, you start to realise the only way to scale is to embrace automation huge elements of the marketing function.”

According to Lark, we’re entering a new digital marketing era of sensory automation, with around 50 per cent of today’s data is generated by sensors.

“You look at the average customer journey of retailers in the US, those functions are now hugely automated,” he said. “As marketers you should be fascinated by how other people sell products.”

Moving forward, he said the challenge is how to adapt to this significant shift in traditional consumer buying patterns as everything is automated.

“One of the core functions of a modern marketer is managing change,” he said. “You have to be the change agents.”

Yes despite this inherent fact, so many businesses fail to adapt and change quickly enough and as a result, become annihilated by their more digitally agile competitors.

“Take the traditional bookstores,” he said. “They all saw Amazon coming and thought, oh well we’ll just get new carpet. Customers love us. Why change?

“To make marketing automation work for your business, you need to be experts in driving change in your people, culture and in your entire environment, otherwise it’s largely for nothing.”

Read more: CMO50 #3: Andy Lark, Xero

As a result, Lark said you need to start looking at these marketing automation platforms as ways to change the way we do business, not the way you change marketing.

“In our experiences, beautiful products plus great experiences build powerful brands,” he said. “But really, how many people actually make stuff on your team? Are more than half of your team making stuff, or are they managing stuff. Usually the ratio of managers to makers is entirely out of whack.”

For Lark, marketing automation is not just a vehicle for marketing, but a vehicle for enhancing and building product. In this new world, the only way marketing works is if you invert it and have more makers, more content producers, more videographers, more designers and more writers, he said

“You’ve got to get rid of this huge layer of middle management we’ve built in these companies, that largely manage the third parties who do the making,” he added. “Otherwise marketing just becomes a huge crutch for the business. Because if you look at the winners out there like Amazon, they have seventeen to one engineers versus the traditional bookstore.”

His advice was the best thing you can do is burn your budget every few years and start again, reallocating to the new world.

“It involves breaking up with agencies, breaking up with contractors, but as soon as you get in the habit of doing it every two years, you’ll soon realise why you’ve stopped allocating your budget to things like television ads.”

He also suggested to listen to your audience and drive participation, generate amazing content and embrace customers as creators.

“Give your customers an incentive to build content,” he said. “More content is generated by customers than it is by Coca Cola. Start to build your own media vehicles and start to engage.

“And the majority of your marketing should be via video, he added, the computer screen looks like a TV, so use it like a TV.”

Ultimately, he said we need to embrace mobile and all its capability to leverage marketing.

“Your brand value and experience will ultimately be defined by your technical aptitude in the market and how good the technology experience is in the market,” he said. “It is a major, major source of differentiation today. If you’re not good on your apps, your site or your customer’s experience as a whole, you’re dead.”

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