Andy Lark: Ditch legacy marketing thinking, go with data

Well-known Australian CMO and marketing technologist says modern marketers must be creative technologies with an eye on the data prize

Andy Lark
Andy Lark

Beautiful products and great experiences are the key to powerful brands, Xero’s CMO and well-known marketing technologist, Andy Lark, claims. To get there, marketers need to become “creative technologists” who embrace a set of “power laws” driven by platforms, data and real-time customer engagement.

Speaking at the Teradata One marketing connect event in Sydney, Lark said it was time to “call bullshit” on the legacy beliefs held by marketers.

“I would argue the most adept marketers in the world don’t fit any traditional definition of marketing – they are first and foremost creative technologists,” he said. “In this connected era, if marketers can understand tech and where tech is going, you’re well ahead.”

The question then, is how to change embrace new data-driven ways of customer engagement. Lark called into question a host of “myths” circulating the marketing sphere today that are statistically inaccurate. The first of these is the “engagement myth”.

“A lot of the assumptions that we hold today are really quite hard to accept when you look at data,” he told attendees. “Some of your highest valued customers are your most casual, and they have no interest in engaging with you. I’m a very valued customer of my telco’s, but I have no interest in engaging with them. I just want them to be there when I need them to be there.”

Likewise, the “loyalty myth”, or belief that it costs more to acquire a customer than retain one, isn’t true, Lark said.

“We have this idea but there’s no data to support it. In fact, it’s often easier and cheaper to dump customers and acquire new ones, than serve people who ring up to complain 10 times to your call centre,” he said.

Lark also cast aspersions on the purchase funnel, saying customers are unlikely to follow any sort of linear path. “Consumer decision making is largely random, highly unpredictable and all over the net,” he said.

“We need to use this massive array of technology we now have at our disposal, to create a new set of power laws that help guide marketers to better decisions. And that is also how I think marketers can get the business to fall in love with them again.”

Read more: CMO50 #3: Andy Lark, Xero

Lark’s first law is embracing platforms, starting with those that help mine, traverse and integrate data. He noted the average Australian marketing department has more than 40 tech platforms in play.

“You are as good as the platforms you build and choose to run on,” he claimed. “You have to become passionate about technology. In fact, the first four to eight weeks of marketing training for anyone joining your team should be spent on training to use your tech and platforms. Because if they don’t know how to use your technology and platforms, they can’t operate in your environment at scale.”

Prediction is the next power law for Lark, and to do that, marketers must also go after data.

“Data won’t determine your success, but it...unless you start with data at the core, you are going to lose,” he said. “People will often talk about not having enough data, or that they can’t get their hands on it. You need a lot of data… the point is, to find a needle in a haystack, you need a haystack, not a needle.”

Marketers are largely trying to comprehend the ‘what’ rather than the ‘why’

Another problem is too many marketers just focus on mining internal data, and are not looking to what else is around them, Lark said.

“Marketers are largely trying to comprehend the ‘what’ rather than the ‘why’,” he added. “The trick is to go and find other disciplines around marketing – anthropology, sociology, psychology – and get them working with you. Because the magic is in the why. If you understand that, you can build entirely new generations of services offerings and open up new portions of the market.”

Lark’s third power law is participation, and he said storytelling is the gateway to engagement. He noted that at Xero, all of the effort goes into listening what customers are taking about.

“The listening guides the content you create,” Lark said, adding that embracing customers as co-creators is also vital to success.

The fourth law, place, is about being in the right moment when a customer needs and wants you. And that is all about mobile, Lark said.

“You either meet them where they are or you don’t meet them at all,” he said. “Largely, the quality of your brand will be afforded to you by the quality of your mobile experience.

“In the age of moments, these moments of doubt, desire and dissatisfaction matter. What we’re doing essentially is task sharing, and taking these tasks that we have to do as consumers. The mobs matter more than anything.

“You have to get into the data, you have to observe your customers, and you have to figure out where your mobs are.”

Marketers must also be willing to play and innovate using data, Lark said.

“If you have the data, it doesn’t mean you can do something. But with strong recognition and a strong culture of experimentation and innovation, people can do anything,” he said.

Finally, Lark said brands must tap into a broader meaning, suggesting purpose is the “killer app” for marketers in business.

“Don’t hire an agency to do it, hire someone inside your business to do it,” he said. “Uncover why you exist as a business.It’s not a tagline. It’s about understanding why you exist. And you need a burning platform to do it.”

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