It’s no longer about the creative pitch

Coming off an exhilarating series of presentations at IBM Amplify, I wanted to share some of the thoughts presented in my session.

Show of hands … Who here has been in the marketing business more than say 12, 15 years? If so, you know that most agency pitches to a brand client start off with a colorful and animated description of the creative execution, the characters, the setting, the tagline, the visuals. The goal of the pitch is to get the client excited about the agency’s idea.

Many agencies have closed a deal on an approach like this, and many clients have made big decisions this way. Don’t get me wrong. Telling the right story, nailing the emotional ad campaign and the creative side of marketing is critical, and always will be.

“The creative pitch is critical; it’s simply no longer the starting point.”

Marketers are impulsive; we all love the art of the campaign and the brand saying, “Yes! Bravo! I love that.” But the projected success of the campaign stops there – until the client asks, “What data led you to this decision?”

There is now more science to this art than ever, and today’s buyers are expecting agencies and technology partners to be the expert on specific insights.

The legendary Simon Sinek has a great message on “Starting With Why.” And we couldn’t agree more. The “why” – the data – had better be part of the pitch or your marketing strategy, or you’ll find yourself on the losing side of the pitch-off. 

As we move into a future where marketers are zero-based budgeting and accountable for every dollar they’re spending, the sale of the creative idea alone is on the decline.

In other words, the response to a strong creative idea isn’t always, “Yes! Bravo. I love that.” Today, it’s more like: “How many target customers are we going to acquire with this idea?” “What impact will a personalized experience have on revenues?” and “Why is it worth the investment?”

It’s questions like these that are changing the brand/agency conversation. The art of marketing alone is no longer good enough. It’s equally important that we are mastering the scientific side of marketing.  

The challenge is that there’s a massive amount of data required to answer those kinds of questions. And that data isn’t pulling itself. It’s dark, dispersed, unstructured and deep in some elusive transaction logs. It’s buried in various point platforms, and often it requires a team of PhDs to harvest the insights. 

The challenge that this tends to create in those businesses is that there’s no source of truth, no central way for leaders to get an accurate pulse on their processes or performance, and no clear way to refine their product strategies and service models. 

Something had to change.

Enter IBM. 

With the help of Watson, we created a Personal Assistant chatbot tied to all of our backend data sources, which allows our sales teams to use natural language to quickly find answers to complex client questions. 

Watson’s augmented intelligence helped us polish billions of statistical combinations into what is now our most valuable data, and Watson gave us the perfect tool to scale it.

Our Client Services team loves it, as they now have seats at the table in strategic planning with clients and can answer their hard questions.   

Clients are better satisfied, because it’s insight that has projected ROI and helps them avoid a marketing misstep.

Anyone can get the data they need using natural language questions – without the need for technical or analytical expertise. Where to start? Uncover the value of the data you have, and position it to your advantage. It’s the most significant unlock for creating differentiation.

Secondly, don’t stop your company’s quest for the key that joins your disparate data, systems and insights. It’s not the key that unlocks one door; for us, it’s unlocking every door.  Departmental silos – eroding perception as the executional vendor – is changing, development velocity is peaking, and our product strategy is finally aligning with our true value. 

You won’t find one department in any business that doesn’t benefit from quantifying their impact on every other department.

If I could pass on one bit of learning we’ve picked up, it’s that as we got better at creating, consuming and connecting our marketing data, we became better partners to our clients. And even if you’re not reading this today as an agency partner, you can realize the similar impact you might have with a little bit of vision and the right set of tools.

There are 44 trillion gigs of data out there. Chances are, your slice of that data is extremely valuable to your clients, their consumers, or to your brand. Think about how you could be using your data to stay one step ahead of your clients’ expectations.  If you can automate it, you might even find yourself two steps ahead with an extra day of PTO.  That’s when you’ll know it’s working. 

See this and more articles from HelloWorld on IBM Think Marketing