[Future of Work Ep.5] The Future of Marketing with Zach Braiker: Personalize, Personalize, Personalize

Measuring data is important, but understanding how the data can be used to help companies make better decisions is even more important.
By Claudia Virlanuta • Updated on Jan 4, 2023

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Episode highlights:

  • Measuring data is important, but understanding how the data can be used to help companies make better decisions is even more important. Personalizing your messaging to each customer is the name of the game in the future of marketing. To do so, marketers must visualize every nuance of a brand's interactions with customers in order to learn what matters most.
  • Marketing teams should be able to easily access important data from multiple sources. As different industries have different amounts of liability in terms of what data they can use and how they can use it, using data effectively implies deciding which data is relevant and using it to get a complete 360-degree view of the customer. 
  • To build a strong brand, companies need to focus on the key drivers that are important for their customers. Knowing which data they must focus on should help companies tell a powerful story and increase the brand’s value while keeping marketing costs manageable.
  • As the need for increased ability to personalize the message for each customer grows, companies will need to think of strategies to safeguard their customers’ privacy.


Transcript (edited for clarity)

Claudia: What is the last thing that you learned that got you excited and why?

Zach: We have an amazing group of summer interns from business schools and undergraduates from liberal arts and most of them are nicely balanced – for example, maybe they have a minor in dance and an MBA that they're pursuing – and I had a chance to learn about them, their backgrounds, their passions, their interests and what motivates them. They are so diverse! One of them is in India full time, one of them is in South Korea right now. Three of them are in the US, they come from different sensibilities, they have different passions and different interests. And yet there is a common thread about caring for one another, doing good work, and making things in a post-pandemic era of uncertainties: “Do I work from home?”, “Do I work from a structured environment?”, “Do I take a gap year?” - all of that has come to the forefront, and learning about them has gotten me excited.


Claudia: How do you see the marketing world's use of data right now?

Zach: First off, just because you can measure data does not mean it is meaningful. That is an expression, but it is also true. What is most important are the things that help us make better decisions. Whether this is in healthcare or whether this is in other businesses, understanding that data actually has a direct bearing on decision-making is really important. Whether it is agencies, in-house or big companies, they sometimes want to flood you with KPIs and different kinds of data and show you all the things that can be measured. But the discipline that we need is to understand how those things level up to key decision-making points. If we think about one facet of an organization, let's say marketing, how does their data work in conjunction with the data of other departments?  For instance, in account-based marketing, or ABM, finding ways of sharing [data] where sales and marketing can work together, with common terms and common understandings to go after key accounts. Or, even in our work, what we have experienced is when engineers are trying to understand customers, they do not say “I need information from product people” or “I need information from marketing people”. They say, “I need information about the customer”. Knowing who owns that information and whether or not marketing is responsible for that information, those are the decisions that people are trying to face right now: who owns customer information, who owns customer data. Some of the data is quantitative and Excel-sheet-worthy and other is survey-based and anecdotal. We are trying to create full stories inside of a company, and marketing should know its role in not just the data component, but also in using data to tell powerful stories that impact decision-making. In the future, the data needs to mean something more.


C: What do you think is missing in terms of marketing teams’ ability to use data effectively?

Z: When different teams are on the same page about the value of data and the ability to use data, that means they are using their data effectively. Different industries have different amounts of liability in terms of what data they can know and how they can know it. For instance, from a perspective of a firm, we have clients in healthcare and we have clients in consumer packaged goods. We have clients that value using a CRM in B2B marketing for tech, for example, and they want to know every single touch point. They are using tools like 6sense and Alice, and a lot of powerful B2B tools that do an exceptional job. Everyone is on the same page and the data is gold. But then there are other instances where we have clients that don't even use a CRM. They don't do any information to track customers other than retargeting and advertising, but there is no kind of sense throughout a customer journey, or what data matters at different points. What would be important in the future would be just to understand that during a customer's life cycle, there are different points of contact. Those points of contact will inform how we reach and how we serve those customers. That information does not just stick with marketing, it gets submitted to HR for an employer's brand. It gets submitted to sales. It gets submitted to the overall experience and that even though the customer's experience might be linear, there is a lot of different people in different silos that we can break that all use this information to form a bigger picture with more people participating in how they serve the customer.


C: How important would you say it is for marketers to be data-savvy in the future and to what extent? What do you think is the best way for them to get there?

Z: Being data-savvy is very important because it helps you to know what data matters. There are so many places where you can get more data than you need. And there are so many tools that help you visualize and find out every nuance of every possible interaction to ever happen. There are certain pieces of data that are more important than other pieces of data. There is always a discrepancy between the haves and the have nots in terms of the size of the budget and the report. I have seen incredible reports, whether it's heat maps, zip code targeting, or mining for very particular kinds of information - these services are expensive and they are difficult to come by if you are a smaller company. That's where you need to know what are the key drivers that you want to focus on. You must build a significant brand, that means something to a group of people. The more you can tell a powerful story and you can test whether your brand means something, [and that] the meaning is consistent over time – that is the data that I will be looking for.


C: If you were to imagine a point in time in the future, what do you think will be fundamentally different about the way marketing teams approach their work?

Z: I believe that there will be more and more abilities to personalize messages so that at different places and stages of a customer's journey, you can reach them with different messaging that is relevant to that unique customer, whether it's by zip code or preference. On the other hand, as we think about the increased ability to personalize, we have to think about the increased need for privacy. These two realities coexist. We are going to have to get smarter about how we respect privacy, and maybe provide customers and others with more benefits for giving us information that they willingly give to us so that we can serve them with incredibly relevant and helpful information as they're making decisions. But I also think that for some brands and some organizations marketing with influencers [for example,] is still not crystal clear. There are still areas in which the FTC, which regulates how we work with influencers, has some gray areas. The industry has progressed a lot, as we see people leveraging TikTok and Instagram influencers more and more. The rules will become better and better and tighter and tighter in terms of how we use influencers, not just in B2C marketing, but in B2B marketing as well.


C: What is a cool project or initiative that you have been working on lately? Is there anything that you would like to share with our audience?

Z: I can tell you without disclosing the client’s name - we were working with a country in the middle east: the country and the government was our client. We were also working with the World Bank on this initiative and the country was not being seen by the rest of the world in the way that it would like to have been seen by the rest of the world. It wants to be seen as a place that has great technology, an educated workforce, powerful and curious youth that can do a great job in working with global companies. And ultimately, they want to attract more business from places like the United States, where their tech talent and engineering talent can help the US and other countries succeed, as India has done such a great job and other places like Estonia in the past. What this involved was starting by saying: ’’Let's carefully understand the present state”. Let's analyze the way things are right now. Let's talk to people, both in the country and out of the country to get a sense of what the perception is. Then let's create an aspirational narrative about what the country wants to become. Let's look at the gap between the aspiration and where the country is and take some real steps to mend the gap. And then after we do that, let's put together a very clear plan of saying here's where you should invest in your people, in your processes, in your approach, that can help you achieve that aspirational narrative, and then make it specific into a timeline and a budget and roles and responsibilities and behaviors. Now, do that during COVID, in a different time zone, for a different country, when many of the people in the country, unfortunately, we're afflicted by COVID and others in the government changed rules and responsibilities. Then actually get to a finish line. That to me was very exciting, very challenging. It was meaningful work. I appreciate our colleagues, but it had branding, marketing, storytelling, metrics, and multiple marketing channels all involved in this big Herculean effort.


Claudia Virlanuta

CEO | Data Scientist

Claudia Virlanuta

Claudia is a data scientist, consultant and trainer. She is the CEO of Edlitera, a data science and machine learning training and consulting company helping teams and businesses futureproof themselves and turn their data into profits.

Before Edlitera, Claudia taught Computer Science at Harvard, and worked in biotech (Qiagen), marketing tech (ZoomInfo), and ecommerce (Wayfair). Claudia earned her degree in Economics from Yale, with a focus on Statistics and Computer Science.