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Why not always hit the bull’s eye? Modern approaches to marketing.

A few days ago I was having a drink in a café on the Drava bank, watching a child of about 5 throwing a Frisbee. He had a delightful time, as the spinning toy swooshed among people every now and then, nearly bringing down the glasses on one of the tables. The game came to an abrupt end after the neon yellow toy accidentally ended up stuck in the branches of an especially tall chestnut tree.

A few days ago I was having a drink in a café on the Drava bank, watching a child of about 5 throwing a Frisbee. He had a delightful time, as the spinning toy swooshed among people every now and then, nearly bringing down the glasses on one of the tables. The game came to an abrupt end after the neon yellow toy accidentally ended up stuck in the branches of an especially tall chestnut tree.

The adults heaved a sigh of relief, letting the child go fend for himself. And he did. First he threw a few sticks up the tree, and when he ran out of those, he tried with rocks. He was clever to find that a fistful of projectiles has a better chance of hitting the target than just one, and you can imagine what followed: the café was showered with rocks. A few of them hit the windows, and one expertly landed in a cappuccino, sprinkling a horrified lady. This incident was of sufficient scale that the clever child received the help of his father and the waiter with a broom.

Is this a story that we can learn something from? It certainly is. First: in order to succeed, one must first consider things well, then take good aim, so as to minimize the missed targets that can cause damage and ill will.

The same thing applies to modern sales. The difference is in that rocks do not have any inherent measuring device, while modern sales do. They also have artificial intelligence, the cloud, and the support of other modern technologies. I know, now you’ll say that we operate in a sensitive field. The energy sector is not an industry where you could experiment with new features without harm.

That’s true. It is also a highly specific area where the cards have mostly already been dealt, and every potential new customer is sought after by a big team of providers who are carefully combing the market, and offering plenty of benefits to convince them to switch. This is also a technologically careful field, where new products and services must first become established and obtain trust before they can come into daily use. The same applies for banking and insurance.

But let’s first take a look at how most of them go about finding new customers. In modern sales, defining target groups and perhaps geographic areas can hardly pass as exact measurements. It’s true that we are able to send a mass, and perhaps also a personalized email, to everyone, but the issue arises when direct contact must be established with potential customers. Even though employees at the lowest rung of the corporate ladder are the ones dialing the phones, even their time is precious. And even more so their motivation. This is an important factor of success and impact in sales. After a few dozen cold shoulders even the most experienced salesperson can lose some fervor. And let’s not even get into the ill will of the customers who were unnecessarily pestered with an offer they might not even need.

For the past few years things have been changing, and technologies of the future can help us in practically any area. As mentioned, artificial intelligence is among these. Even in sales, which has long since ceased being an isolated island in a company. Some time ago they had to begin coordinating with marketing, and for the past few years also with, shocker, the IT department. Until recently these were treated as just a support service to other activities, but lately the tables have been turned. The tasks of the information engineers do not just comprise setting up and maintaining infrastructure, as they are much more directly involved in all the company’s activities. This especially applies to sales.

The latest digital tools, for example machine learning, can effectively connect data from business databases with the data that companies have in their enterprise resource planning systems (ERP) and customer relationship management systems (CRM). This lets them provide the sales department with a focused list of potential customers. Artificial intelligence will gradually, after we also equip it with feedback from previous sales campaigns, be able to learn where the real targets of our company can be found an become increasingly better with time. No matter how futuristic and incredible this may sound, it already has the best answer to the question of who to address and when.

The tasks of a modern CIO are becoming increasingly more specific, and their influence within companies is gradually growing and will continue to do so in the coming years. The department they run will be the one that becomes responsible for the Frisbee to fall directly into the arms of the sales team upon the first throw.

That is why IT departments have been going through not just a digital, but a complete transformation for the past few years. The processes that somebody else can do instead of those key employees who are already tasked the most will have to go to specialized employees as soon as possible. Switching to the cloud has for the past decade made it possible for even the busiest IT employees to free up their hands, allowing them to focus on more important and specific tasks. Especially the kind that brings direct benefits to a company, and naturally means cooperation with sales. Yes, of course I’ve heard of negative experiences and a bunch of cases where trust in leased and remote services ended badly, to say the least. Yet every, even the most successful technology of today, has a period of adolescence, a period full of false starts and turns, which then develops into a mature age, when it finally brings the promised benefits to the owner.

Today we can say that the connection between the cloud and artificial intelligence is on the march. Also in marketing. Even in those fields that show a completely healthy, conservative attitude towards new developments. Healthcare, banking, energy, and other sensitive industries are on the cusp of new opportunities that can help them find business contacts and speed past the competition. However, the opportunity is real only when we are among the first to grab it.

This moment is now.

And as for anybody who disagrees for any reason, I call on you to throw the first rock. Go ahead and try to hit the Frisbee on your first attempt, why don’t you.

David Miško, CCO, Stroka Business Group

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