Revolution in the Attention Economy: Putting The Customer Before the Tech

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Thomas Davenport and John Beck, authors of The Attention Economy: Understanding the New Currency of Business suggested as far back as 2002 that in an information-flooded world, the scarcest resource isn’t ideas or even talent: it’s attention. They argued that companies must learn to effectively capture, manage, and keep consumers’ attention or else they’ll fall hopelessly behind.

Fast forward to 2016, whereupon our information-flooded world is reaching near Biblical proportions, the mission of holding on to attention has never been more challenging or critical. And of the many challenges marketers face in capturing consumer attention, dealing with the ever increasing number of marketing technologies available has to be the most significant.

New Yorker staff writer James Surowiecki summarized the challenge modern marketers face when he wrote that technology is supposed to make our lives easier, but too often it seems to make things harder. Few people understand the quantum shift that’s occurring in the martec space better than Scott Brinker, author of the oft cited Marketing Technology Landscape infographic.

“Not everyone in marketing needs to be a technologist, just as not everyone in marketing needs to be a graphic designer or a copywriter. But as with art and copy, tech is now an integral part of marketing’s creative and operations,” he said. “We need technology talent embedded in marketing teams, but we also need everyone in marketing to understand how that collaboration works to find, engage, and delight customers in a digital world.”

Earlier this year, gShift CEO Krista LaRiviere put the issue of marketing technology overload into context when she outlined a list of the common platforms and tools the majority of marketers have to juggle. In summary: a paid search platform, an SEO platform, a social media publishing platform, a lead nurturing system, an underlying analytics system for on-site engagement, an influencer marketing platform, a content marketing platform, an email marketing platform, a landing page system, a competitive intelligence tool, a website auditing tool, and last, but not least, a reporting or dashboard system to bring all of the aforementioned data (somewhat) together.

That’s a lot of technology for marketers to juggle. Adding to this juggling challenge, as Brinker sees it, is that the task of marketing is exponentially more complex than ever before.

“The thinking that served marketers yesterday won’t be as effective tomorrow. A major factor underpinning this complexity is this incredible disruption in the channels and touchpoints that marketers have with their audience, their prospects and their customers,” he said.

“This isn’t even about marketing technology, it’s about the steady pipeline of innovations that are appearing. Look at the Internet of Things and how this is going to change the nature of communications between marketers and their audiences. Then there’s the explosion of bots using messenger interfaces as a way to interact with audiences.

When you have these sorts of innovations arriving almost constantly they can actually disrupt marketers who can become enamored with the ‘new-new’ thing. I think the dynamic for marketers of having to understand and adapt to these successive waves of technological innovation is probably the single biggest management challenge today.”

To Brinker, a better way for marketers to navigate the technology maelstrom is to divide their marketing capabilities, technology stack and operations into two fields: “the Core” and “the Edge.”

“The Core are the fundamental operations which we know for a fact provide relationships for customers today and generate business. This is where the majority of investment should go, say 70%,” he said. “In the Core, you’re best served by using the smallest number of technologies to achieve what you want to achieve. You want to simplify and leverage these capabilities to the fullest.

At the same time, you can’t deny the tremendous disruption and innovation taking place in the market. So ideally, you should also allocate a portion of budget and resources to experimentation on the Edge. You want to look at technologies in the Edge through the lens of the customer – what new technologies and channels are consumers starting to experiment with – and be able to allocate enough resources so that your marketing team can run experiments.”

Brinker believes that marketers are better able to prioritize appropriate technologies for their organizations when they maintain a tight focus on their customers’ needs.

“At the end of the day, it always goes back to what sort of relationship you’re trying to create with the customer. What sort of services or experience can you deliver to the customer that the customer would value and would make you stand out within in our competitive landscape,” he said.

“Against that background, to the degree you can, chat to your customers and observe how they interface with your company to get a sense of what seems to be their process: where are the hurdles they run in to, what do the customer service/ sales engineers teams have to say? Collect that pool of real world customer challenges that people have and then, when looking at the range of marketing technologies, filter it through this lens and trial the selected technologies.”

Brinker suggests that by using Customer Centricity as the main filter when evaluating technology, organizations are better able to capture attention, even in a noisy marketplace.

“The determination should be a consideration of what technologies are most relevant to the organization’s core customers, and also, what technologies the broader marketing team and organization overall are able to harness today,” he said. “It’s a combination of what technologies serve the customer, but also what technologies is the brand able to effectively apply – because the biggest challenge with marketing technology is not the tech itself – but the ability of an organization to absorb it productively into its actual work.”




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