On Episode 60, we have Tiesha Miller, VP of growth and marketing technology at iCrossing. We start our discussion about a couple of words in her title, then dig into how she advises clients to utilize technology, how GDPR and other legislation in the offing will affect the business, and also what trends she’s tracking (hint: voice is gonna be big).

Episode Links

  • iCrossing — iCrossing has been unleashing brand potential for 18 years. As an agency owned by Hearst, we have access to the most valuable ingredients for effective marketing: insights, talent and audiences.
  • Auto, voice, and TV technologies amplify the marketer’s dilemma — Our jobs as marketers continue to intensify and become more complex. Yet, we still need to deliver on short-term sales while building future strategies. Balancing the two in today’s environment is a dilemma exacerbated by the landscape of ever-proliferating technology, sophisticated and oversaturated consumers, and more and more complex playgrounds to engage customers.
  • How to see past the promises of advanced data management and get what you need — Adopting a cloud solution is about as easy to grasp as quantum physics, but it’s become a necessity as marketers grapple with a fragmented consumer landscape: People are interacting with brands at physical stores, online, via voice, over the phone, in-app, chat, email and on social. Data across these channels has historically existed in silos, which is not ideal for brands trying to figure out who their audiences are and how to best serve them.

Cover image from Flickr, public domain.

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Read Full Transcript

Mark: Tiesha Miller, welcome to Confessions of a Marketer.
Tiesha: Thank you for having me.
Mark: Well, it's great to have you here. Your title at iCrossing uses two interesting words: “growth” and “technology.” How are the two related in our business?
Tiesha: They're really intricately intertwined. So, when we look at how we approach and our servicing clients at iCrossing, we consider ourselves to be a performance partner or growth partner. So, we look at one of the things that we're doing? And we're moving forward on behalf of our clients that are really going to hit performance metrics that isn't to take anything away from the creative pieces of the work. All of that is table stakes.
Tiesha: But as we're making decisions and strategically moving forward with clients, it's really important to stay tight to what those growth goals are and that we're hitting them, and the bets that's we're making are based on data, which is really interesting. And often, the biggest bets that we're making are around technology. So when you look at the marketing technology space, it is vast, it's nebulous, and it's often, a big ticket item.
Tiesha: So, how are we kind of connecting those two in terms of making the right decisions about what investments to make? And then after you make the investments, how to integrate them, how to put the right people and process around them to meet? And all the inservice and kind of that performance and growth goal.
Mark: Yeah, and the landscape for marketing technology as a category is dizzying. There are just hundreds of logos on those images of what's available in that space. It's unreal how many options there are.
Tiesha: It really is the chief martech infamous charts. The evolution of this space is really fascinating and I think it makes it intimidating. It's one of the great spaces we can play as marketers when we look at marketing technology capabilities is to say, "We're going to have the right set of experience. We're going to have the right depth of folks within both our walls and with our network," to start to have those conversations about what's viable that's out there.
Mark: Yeah. And technology has kind of taken over marketing in the past decade or so. I know in companies where I've worked, marketing is one of the biggest consumers of technology in a company. Sometimes though, it seems like it's there just for the sake of it. So, how do you advise clients to utilize technology to achieve their goals?
Tiesha: Yeah, I think it goes back to kind of that growth positioning again. So, when we're looking back at what is going to be the best next investment for you? That we're looking at what are the business goals against it? Do we have confidence that it can meet that? they can't be numbers that you kind of make up out of nowhere. And there is.
Tiesha: I can say, having been in this business for almost a decade and been inside the walls of some of the world's largest companies, there's been a lot of this work all learning digital together, and it is changing the world every single day.
Tiesha: And it just flipped it upside down in the past 10 years. Several times over is how were we making the right investments in technology? Well, I guess I'll go back. As we see inside those walls, what often had happened along the way was first, kind of evolution was working to build something homegrown.
Mark: Yeah.
Tiesha: The second evolution was working to figure out what to do with this kind of massive homegrown stuff that is scaling and that doesn't use all of the most modern technology that I'm seeing out there now. And then, as I've spent a lot of time looking at this, I've seen mistakes, I've seen stuff that hasn't scaled. I'm just going to purchase this because it's been sold to me as out of the box. Then, it's going to solve everything under the sun.
Tiesha: And then, not understanding that there's such this important middle layer top operationalizing the tech that you've purchased, and then also looking at the people and process around it. So, there needs to be change management and the right resources and education and all of those pieces, that you can't just throw millions of dollars at a technology and it's going to create magical marketing success. There's a real process and thoughtful application that needs to happen.
Mark: Yeah. You have to train people, you have to kind of make some cultural shifts in your organization, and there have to be people who actually understand how the technology works in the front end and the back end, and all of that. And sometimes, that is kind of put on the back burner while at you're evaluating a cool piece of technology.
Tiesha: It is, it often is. And I think that in addition to that people, and process part of that is that no technology sits in a silo anymore. And if it is, then you're missing an opportunity to connect your data or to power it for yourself. So, are you looking at how does this integrate into my infrastructure?
Tiesha: I think if you look at the Adobe Marketing Cloud is a really good example. Those individual pieces are necessarily met to be deployed individually. There's a lot of power in the integration and logging those together. It doesn't mean that you need to buy the full Adobe suite straight out to start off with. I think that you need a thoughtful roadmap, but there are a lot of moving parts, all of your pieces of your tech step.
Mark: And then, you've got to kind of make a choice and kind of gird yourself and just go into it, right?
Tiesha: Yup. Exactly.
Mark: So, how are your clients handling things like GDPR and the California Consumer Privacy Act of last year? And talk of more privacy and data legislation in the US and around the world. How are they handling that?
Tiesha: What's been interesting within the conversations with clients is so much more it seems that those conversations are happening with marketing and business side clients. So often, some of those regulations or how the nitty gritty of power accommodating data or making sure that our security is lock tight, that's now a part of a marketing conversation, which I think is evolved over the past five years.
Tiesha: And you tend to see more of that in addition to ADA compliance. I think that there is a lot of business integrity tied into the perception, and your ability to market and you don't maintain consumer trust and overall, be successful as a business.
Mark: Yeah, so what trends are you seeing with your clients in 2019 anything really cool on the horizon or happening now?
Tiesha: Lots of stuff. Everybody's always talking data, but there is just a ton of conversations around data. Really understanding, back to those regulations, what data do I need? How do I get control of data that I had given up to other partners? Because they didn't necessarily understand what the value was. How do I make sure that I'm not just all sails, shoving everything into a data lake, where 90% of the data doesn't actually ever get used.
Tiesha: But how do we start to become more effective marketer within that? That is vast. So, there are a lot of different offshoots of that that you can take, but a lot of more sophisticated conversations are coming out of it. And then, how are we making sure that while we're delivering really great experience that is tailored to consumers that were also being respectful of that data?
Tiesha: We're not reducing trust or any of those components of the experiences that we're creating or the perceptions of the business. So, there's a lot of thoughtfulness than it. And then I'll say the other one really, Boyce is big it. There's going to be a vast majority of searches by 2020, somewhere in the 80% range that are predicted to happen.
Tiesha: By 2020, 80% of searches are predicted to be happening on Boyce. So, how are we accommodating that? And there's stuff that isn't sexy that's underneath that, that is getting sort of your tagging and data and content, and all of those pieces in orders are able to operationalize those experiences. You need to understand how people, "I'm going to speak a question," different than, "I'm going to type question."
Tiesha: So, there are some things within that that will make you really successful within Boyce, and there's some cool experiences that you can deploy. And there's been a lot of conversation and experimentation around that that's been great.
Mark: And it kinda changes the data discussion, doesn't it? Because it's a different input and to your database. Boyce is inherently different than searching in Google or somewhere else.
Tiesha: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Mark: And I think it changes also the output. So, if you're doing an ad in Boyce, it's different than doing a display ad. What are the considerations for media when you consider things are moving to Boyce, and people have home pods and Alexa and all these devices in their homes now. How does that change the way you approach the work you do for your clients?
Tiesha: So, I think it's a good, as you look at how we've kind of learned, used to be if you look how traditional marketers created content, it would be that we're going to do a TV spot, and then it evolved and said, "Well, we're going to need to take some of that video out and be able to use that in different applications online."
Tiesha: And now, we have a more integrated approach where we're saying, "Holistically, here are the different touch points that we're going to be engaging consumers," and Boyce is just another one of those. So, instead of making these pieces of content force fit into one medium based, on how we originally designed it, we're thinking about the total fine in the applications.
Tiesha: Because we're looking at how we're writing scripts, how questions might be asked, or where people would be engaged that by important questions, and things like that from Boyce that has to be a total part of the front of the campaign.
Mark: So, are you finding the clients are saying, "Hey, I want to do something with Boyce," or are you going to clients and saying, "You've got to do this"?
Tiesha: It's a little bit of both. It depends on the client. There definitely is a lot of interest, in terms of should we be playing here? What do we need to do to get there? Are we sort of losing opportunity? And at times, we see based on what your target market is and what your growth goes are that this is going to be a way to really connect with consumers and get the uplift that you're looking for. And here are ways that we can run tests against it, and incrementally move into the market and understand a little bit better how to deploy it.
Mark: And what kinds of clients are interested in that space? Is it across all industries or are you finding one industry kind of showing the most interest?
Tiesha: You know, it really runs the gamut. So, I can think of clients across CPG, retail, and automotive, right now, all that are having active conversations and are testing or have already tested against Boyce though. Pretty expansive.
Mark: Yeah. It's kind of funny because in a way, it's kind of retro. It's kind of moving back to radio. It's kind of like I do this podcast and it's kind of like radio, and Boyce is kind of like, it's not a step back, it's a step forward, but it's the oral sensation rather than having visuals. So, it's really interesting to see brands move in that direction.
Tiesha: It really is. And it go to leap in my own life that it's becoming more of a habit, and they didn't think that it necessarily would; but when I'm traveling, I want to wake up in the morning and say, 'Hey, Google, what's the temperature?" Or there things right now that have become habitual that didn't previously exist. And I think that we're all going to be more integrated and Boyce being a part of our day to day.
Mark: Right. And it makes your life feel like an episode of Star Trek, because we're not just asking into the air, "What's the weather?" Or "What's the news?" And I think it's a really rich area for exploration on the next year or two. And it'll be fun to see what happens.
Tiesha: It absolutely is. I think it's in a fledgling state right now. So, we're like, "Okay, we'll ask basic questions, but what's going to be the next evolution? What are creative applications that are going to be interesting for people to explore?" And it's one of those two that we're figuring out as marketers, where would people engage? Where does it feel authentic? How would they know?
Tiesha: Because we've understood so much about what people are doing on their phones and what they're doing on desktop, but how are they really exploring in the Boyce space is another thing for us to tackle. And then, to create rich experiences, I guess.
Mark: Yeah. And there's kind of a physical connection that you have with your PC, your laptop, your phone, you're holding it, but Boyce isn't necessarily something that you, hold. It's in the room with you or in the house, but it's not something you have some kind of physical connection with. So, I would imagine that the way in which people interact with it is just fundamentally different.
Tiesha: It absolutely is. And I had mentioned it earlier, but part of what we look at is I know how someone is going to type a Google search. That's going to be different when you're speaking about it. And do we really think intellectually about that? And do we understand content in that way? Do we know how to tag it in a way that we can be responsive? And we understanding the different ways to use it?
Mark: And even the grammar that's involved. And I guess that's what you're saying about- When you type in something into Google, you can just type a series of three words that may be related to what you're interested in. When you talk to Siri or Google or any of these voice devices, you speak in complete sentences, right? I mean, it's just kind of a funny, different, funny kind of switch.
Tiesha: Right. Absolutely. And voice recognition too. So, there are accounting for different phrases for things, different inflections, and accents. Are we picking up on dialogue? So, natural language processing, are we understanding all of those various components? And then, is technology meeting- Oh. Trying to think of how to necessarily phrase this, but right now, you see a lot of voice technology picks up male voices better than it does female voices. And how recording work outs, that make some sense.
Tiesha: But is that, as your marketing things, something that you need to be sensitive to and are we understanding what the technology is behind how we're deploying these voice interactions to make sure that we're fully consider of who's going to be engaged in with it.
Mark: Because the people using the technology kind of imbue human qualities into the technology they're talking to. In the early days, you've got this GPS in your car, and people kind of fell in love with the GPS, the voice of the GPS and would talk to it. Right? That was kind of made fun of in popular culture.
Mark: And now, there's actually a relatively intelligent and member of the family that's sitting on the mantle or wherever that you can have a fairly deep conversation with about things that you want or things that you're interested in. And that to me is just a kind of our quantum leap from kind of 10 years ago.
Tiesha: Yeah, absolutely. Agreed. And that the human component that you were talking about, they are building quippy responses and things that make it feel more personable. So, what are ways to integrate that?
Mark: Little Easter eggs that you can get when you're asked Siri or Google a funny question.
Tiesha: Yeah, exactly.
Mark: Well, so I think we've concluded that Boyce is the big thing for this year and maybe for the next few years.
Tiesha: I definitely think so. I'm really interested to watch how it's going to be adopted and what interesting experiences we're going to be able to create out of that. It'll be fun to be a part of and to watch.
Mark: Wonderful. Well, Tiesha, I really appreciate you being here. Thanks for joining me.
Tiesha: Thank you so much for having me.