The era of the Connected Marketer: 5 questions for Michael Becker
Michael Becker is a Co-Founder & Managing Partner for mCordis, a mobile and connected marketing strategic advisory and marketing educational services provider, and The Connected Marketer Institute, a leading community helping the industry serve connected individuals, at scale, on the individual’s terms. He is also a strategic advisor to Assurant Solutions, Predii, Phoji, FunMobility, and Privowny. Michael previously worked with the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) as both a board member and Managing Director, and he was the co-founder of iLoop Mobile, a leading messaging solutions provider. Michael was awarded the 2014 Marketing EDGE Edward Mayer Education Leadership Award for his commitment to marketing education.
This month, we got the chance to sit down with him and chat about the future of marketing to increasingly connected individuals.
Verto Analytics (VA): What’s your background – what do you do?
Michael Becker (MB): I’m a passionate business and marketing evangelist, educator, and student. I bring people together, share data and insights, and seek out opportunities to assist those around me so that we may all achieve our respective professional goals. In other words, through the lens of Malcom Gladwell’s Tipping Point, I’m a Connector and a Maven.
I’ve been involved in international business development and strategic marketing for over 25 years. During this time, I’ve been actively involved in the mobile, messaging and mobile marketing industries since their inception. During the 90s, I helped build one of the world’s first social media and eBook self-publishing and commerce portals. While at Hewlett-Packard, I supported the first satellite-based mobile-telecoms business, Iridium, in 1996. I later co-founded iLoop Mobile (now Archer), one of the first text-messaging SaaS business in the United States. In 2013, I co-founded mCordis, a mobile and connected marketing strategic and educational advisory firm with Paul Berney. Last year, the mCordis team and I introduced a new approach to marketing, The Connected Marketer, and a new trade community, The Connected Marketer Institute (TCM Institute).
In addition to my work with mCordis, I’m an avid marketing and personal data economy educator and student. I’ve written and co-authored a number of books, including “Mobile Marketing for Dummies” and “Mobile Marketing Essentials.” I currently teach marketing at National University and am on the faculty of marketing for the Association of National Advertisers. I sit on the board of trustees for Marketing EDGE, a fifty-year old non-profit with the mission to help prepare college students for vibrant careers in marketing. And lastly, I’m a doctoral candidate at Golden Gate University. I’m studying the factors leading the rise of the personal information economy, which will soon evolve into a global, multi-trillion-dollar market that will enable individuals to actively manage and benefit from the exchange of their personal information directly with companies.
VA: Tell us about The Connected Marketer. What is the guiding principal, and why did you found the organization?
MB: By 2020, the era of the connected individual will be upon us. By then, the average person in a developed market may have as many as ten connected devices associated with them personally. Their household may have as many as 50 connected devices by 2022, and by 2025, there will be no escaping connectedness: 75 billion-500 billion connected devices and related services will come online and permeate every aspect of the world around us. All of these devices, connections, and their related services will produce unprecedented amounts of data, especially data related to individuals (aka, personal information). And each individual’s social and commercial engagement expectations will have changed irrevocably and forever. As a result, the basis of competition, business practices, the nature of products and services, and the approach to being of service to individuals will follow suit.
Businesses, especially those within the marketing function, must garner the necessary trust to serve in the era of the connected individual. It will be important for them to adopt key principles; we believe connected marketers should focus on creating value for and with people, not from them; to serve them as individuals on their terms. As a result, we’ve developed the Connected Marketer framework, as illustrated below, to help businesses frame their efforts around adhering to the Connected Marketer principle.
VA: What’s changed for marketers over the last 5 years?
MB: Business and marketing have changed more in the last five to ten years than they have in the last hundred. Significant advancements in technology and data science have spearheaded these changes. On a macro level, we’ve been witnesses to fundamental shifts in people’s commercial and media consumption expectations and behaviors. We’ve watched the majority of audience attention and marketing dollars flow to the GAFA companies (Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple).
We’re also witnesses to the rise of the big data economy. As this economy continues to grow, the competition and valuation of companies that are currently based on products and services will shift to being based on the ability to provide on-demand, real-time value informed by automated, data-driven business models and infrastructure. On the micro level, a variety of trends are impacting business strategy, execution, and marketing:
- Advertising is giving way to engagement
- Actuarial data modeling is giving way to actual data modeling
- Segment-based marketing is giving way to profile-based marketing
- Mass communications are giving way to individual communications
- Desktop is giving way to mobility, which in turn is giving way to cross-device connectivity
- Rented media is giving way to owned media
- Broadcast channels are giving way to direct individual engagement
- Ownership models are giving way to access models
- The qualified self is opening the door for the qualified individual (aka, consumer, shopper, etc.)
- Regulatory models are moving from general protections to respecting the digital sovereignty of the individual
- Permission-based marketing will soon give way to informed access-based marketing
- The personal information economy is rising up and finding its place alongside the big data economy
VA: Marketers have more data about consumers and customers than ever before. But what are they missing?
MB: It feels like the majority of the marketing machine is still trying to hold on to the era of advertising, flooding the market with cross-channel promotional content and messaging in the hopes of grabbing an individual’s attention. Look at the flow of today’s advertising dollars: marketers have given up on serving individuals. Instead, they’re relegating themselves to being tenant farmers as they commit 70% or more of their marketing dollars to Google and Facebook. We need, and can, do better than this.
Marketing has become a data- and technology-driven science. Big data, especially consumer and customer data, is the buzz word of the day. But the majority of companies lack the infrastructure, personnel, skills, policies, and practices to effectively capture, consume, process, and deploy comprehensive data-driven marketing experiences for the mass market, let alone for the individual. Marketers must learn to adopt new perspectives and skills. Non-linear thinking and creativity will be paramount for success. Leading businesses and marketing teams will need to develop core competencies in working across organizational silos, mastering data and application interfaces, integrating systems, and building out marketing technology stacks.
It is also critical that marketers take a step back and begin to reframe their contribution to the practice. If they’re not careful, many marketers will be outsourced to the algorithm within three to five years as the repeatable marketing practices, especially media and adverting, are commoditized and run by programmatic and artificial intelligence. Data collection and application should not be the end goal for the marketer. Rather, marketers should focus on generating insights and being of service to the individual. For example, some marketers may find that storing personal data is more of a liability than an asset. Instead, it may be more effective to source the data they need to serve individuals directly from individuals, on-demand, rather than continuing to base their marketing insight on generalized assumptions and third-party models.
VA: Who are some of the “Connected Marketers” you admire and some of the companies engaging well with consumers?
MB: The Connected Marketer concept is new: it is a new way to frame and re-frame the world around us, the practice of marketing, and business execution. But even though the practice of connected marketing is new, there are a few companies that embody the spirit of executing and enabling our approach, such as Rapha, Sephora, ICON Health and Fitness, T-Mobile, Walgreens, CVS, The Gallo Winery, and Nielsen, to name a few.
I often single out Starbucks. Not only have they placed the individual at the cornerstone of their business, for years, they’ve recognized that success is about creating compressive experiences that serve the individual “inside and outside the four walls of their stores,” as founder Howard Schultz has said. They excel at embracing the four primary tasks and the four human dimensions of The Connected Marketer approach. Moreover, they’re not shying away from technology. In fact, they recognize that technology is critical to serving the individual at scale. A great example is their Pay & Go service, which allows consumers to order coffee through the Starbucks app and pick it up in store without queuing. The service demonstrates Starbucks’ ability to meet the needs of connected individuals through a service that merges and synchronizes physical and digital experiences and solves a crucial problem for the individual: we hate queuing.
Amazon is another organization to follow closely when it comes to successful connected marketing. The company has mastered the continuous effort to personalize the experience for the individuals they serve. Their home page contains as many as eight points of personalization for signed-in users. In addition, the development of Amazon Prime and Amazon Dash services greatly reduces friction for users, matching another of the four key tasks of The Connected Marketer approach. Finally, the Amazon Go retail trials clearly illustrate their mastery over the seven layers of connectivity, yet another key pillar of the Connected Marketer approach.