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Technology is the Tail, Not the Dog

20 years ago at the 1997 WWDC Steve Jobs famously said that “you’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back towards the technology - you can’t start with the technology and try and figure out where you are going to sell it.”

It was true then, and it’s true now. Technology is the tail, not the dog.

Take, for example, Griffin Technology’s $99 Connected Toaster - a Bluetooth-enabled device that aims to prevent you from screwing up toasting bread by making it app-controlled. It’s a solution looking for a problem, and a perfect example of what happens when you focus on what you can build, rather than what you should build.

Jobs was talking about products - computers and printers, but the same thing can be said broadly for marketing technologies (and Bluetooth toasters). Too often, companies invest in MarTech based solutions primarily on their own business needs, and then build the best experience they can with the technology they have. The customer journey is dictated then by the confines of what their shiny new platform can do - not by how that journey should feel, or what “incredible benefits” (again, Jobs) the company can bring to the customer.

You can’t make marketing technology decisions until you first make customer experience decisions, and this is why having a full line of sight into the end-to-end customer journey is so vitally important. Journey mapping is not just a list of consecutive touch points. When done well, it’s an emotional story arc that informs those touch points, and the technology that enables them.

Personalization, machine learning, and artificial intelligence are going to continue shifting the MarTech landscape, and give marketers unbelievable new opportunities to engage and learn. But these are still only tools. They are a means to an end. And business outcomes will only be as good as the experience strategy that informs what technology is deployed, and how it is optimized to make the customer journey as smooth as possible.