Why Marketing Clouds Make No Sense

Editor’s note: Jeff Dachis is founder of One Drop and co-founder and former CEO of Razorfish. He sold Dachis Group to Sprinklr in March 2014 and serves as both an advisor and chief Evangelist at the company. 

Words matter. The way you describe something is not only a reflection of reality, but it also tells you a lot about who is doing the describing and what they value. Poets know this. Copywriters know this. And great marketers know this.

But this is a strange time for marketers. The industry is in the midst of a shift in the balance of power from companies to consumers, yet the language and, more importantly, the capabilities, we use to market have just not kept up.

Case in point: the notion of a marketing cloud, or a service cloud or an analytics cloud. These aren’t just names for software that big tech companies want businesses to buy. They’re the symptom of a problem that most businesses don’t even know they have.

Marketers are still putting their resources behind the big idea, the big campaign, and the tools and technology delivered by “You can’t get fired for choosing X’s marketing cloud software.”  But most cloud companies’ offerings are based on email silos, CRM silos, or search silos or other single-channel core competencies.

Brands are buying technologies built on obsolete ideas of how to market their products. While customers today are demanding a customer-centric approach from companies wanting to do business with them, few of these companies are taking a hard look at what is needed to move beyond traditional marketing silos (email, print, mobile, web analytics, etc.).

Ubiquitous bandwidth, mobile computing and big data are ensuring that customers today are even more empowered. They’re more vocal, more demanding and more fickle. They want a great product at a great price with a great purchase experience and a great post-purchase experience.

And when their stockholders are looking, CMOs use all the right words: “We put the customer first.” “We’re becoming a customer-centric organization.” “We’re implementing a 360-degree view of the customer.”

But they’re not actually doing it.

Organizations try to deliver an amazing experience at every possible touchpoint, whether it’s an advertisement, a retail interaction, or a customer support interaction, so it’s baffling that everyone is running around buying marketing or email cloud software.

The key to delivering great integrated brand, product, retail and service experiences to consumers is to focus technology, human resources and workflows around how to meet the needs of consumers at every single touchpoint of your brand. Customers care about the complete experience they have interacting with a brand, from the first advertisement they see to the last support call they have, and to the next time they buy your product.

Servicing that total engagement requires a new kind of technology, as well as an integrated and more human approach to giving people what they want, when they want it, and where they want it. When companies think about engagement in these terms, they move beyond marketing as a department and embrace marketing as managing consumer experiences and as a way of doing business.

We need a new infrastructure that focuses on the holistic brand experience of the consumer.

Companies like Sprinklr, Hootsuite, Hearsay Social and Spredfast, backed by over $2 billion in investment from the likes of Battery Ventures, Accel Partner, Felicis and Austin Ventures, represent the new breed in marketing. They help brands move beyond delivering customer experiences based on the channel — or business function — through which they encounter the consumer.

Instead, they can deliver a consistent, remarkable experience that drives preference and purchase in a world where pre-purchase consideration is no longer driven by reach and frequency, but by excellent consumer experiences, advocacy and amplification across every touchpoint seamlessly.

And I’m not the only one who believes this. The four companies listed above have raised over $550 million in funding between them, and Sprinklr recently crossed into “unicorn” territory with a valuation of $1.17 billion.

Most marketing clouds are glorified email marketing platforms and web analytics packages focused on performance marketing — a model where a brand pays for measurable results like email open rates, clicks or leads. Performance marketing works fine in the middle or bottom of the funnel to convert people from thinking about your brand to taking some sort of action with it, but this only represents about 10 percent of global marketing spend.

Meanwhile, the upper portion of the funnel, where brand marketers drive pre-purchase consideration and where 90 percent of marketing spend resides, remains untouched by the massive revolution in consumer behavior and technology.

The concept of an experience cloud is new. Brands should be able to build preference, influence purchase intent and drive performance metrics no matter where their customer chooses to interact with them. It’s time to organize your marketing (and the technology that supports it) around the customer’s experience.

Marketing departments are segmented by nature, and when different teams fail to coordinate with each other, or when they don’t communicate with their customers across channels, they fall into silos. Today’s connected consumer doesn’t relate to these separate silos. We relate to an integrated experience that is centered around our needs, the way we live our lives, and the ways we want to connect and engage with brands.

But it’s clear that this isn’t obvious to the world’s marketers because they aren’t relentlessly focused on being customer-centric.

Marketing that focuses on either print, television or digital media offers a view of a highly fragmented media landscape that is giving way to a world of digitally integrated omni-channel experiences. We need a new infrastructure that focuses on the holistic brand experience of the consumer.

It’s exciting to see companies not only think about the future of modern marketers, but also deliver a truly customer-centric approach to marketers today. This is the future of marketing, and it’s called the “experience cloud.”