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MarTech is massive, but good marketing follows three simple rules

Laurence Parkes, CEO at Rufus Leonard, explores the unchanging basic rules of marketing that emerged from this year’s MarTech Summit, 18th & 19th November.



By Laurence Parkes

When signing up for a conference about the converging of marketing and technology, I was admittedly apprehensive that I would have to sit through hour after hour of tech platform sales pitches. But I came away from this year’s MarTech Summit surprised and optimistic.

Although all the research suggests marketers have become preoccupied with MarTech and data, it does seem the community hasn’t forgotten the basics. Even as the MarTech landscape grows more and more complex – with 8,000 solutions and counting – it became clear throughout the summit that marketing still follows three basic rules:

#1: Marketing requires empathy 

During a case study on Boots UK, the question was posed: why should brands expect loyalty from customers when the brands themselves aren’t loyal in return? If truly loyal, brands would always be there to support customers when needed. In this vein, Pete Markey, Chief Marketing Officer at Boots UK, and his team have placed a large focus on empathy in the brand’s communications strategy. Case in point: their summer partnership with ITV’s Love Island inspired viewers to discover Boots products on the show, then made it quick and simple to buy them off-screen. 

Empathetic marketing can also start from within. A great example of data empowering the people at the forefront of the brand was given by Dutch retailer, HEMA. They provided their in-store teams with key information about the current most popular products on their website, who then used this information to promote those products at the front of the store. This small initiative promoted a total sales increase of 3% – a huge amount for such a big retailer.

Cassius Taylor-Smith, Marketing Director at real estate company Colliers, gave the clearest description of how they have used MarTech to drive empathy. Their two biggest MarTech tools are both internal: a client intelligence tool and a social selling tool. Using these tools, they create valuable content and use network marketing to disseminate the content out to current and prospective clients. They also judge success based on the level of enthusiasm the internal teams have for adopting new marketing tools. This overall approach to enhancing the ability of Colliers’ people to sell has seen them become the fastest growing business in their sector. 

Nicely summarised by our own client, Mark Liversidge, Chief Digital, Technology & Experience officer at The Student Hotel, an empathetic approach to technology can be outlined as: “Tech for transaction; human for interaction”.

#2: Referrals rule!

Kevin Sugrue, Global Strategy & Insight Consultant at Similarweb, took a deep dive into the consumer behaviours and digital data behind the many changes the last two years have brought. According to Similarweb, smaller brands in many categories (for example, beauty) have struggled to thrive as they relied on physical sampling. With people unable to go into stores to try the products, referrals (e.g. influencers) have been the fastest growing digital media channel. Elsewhere, it was interesting to hear that 90% of new customers from global property developer Smart City come from social channels. 

We also learned it’s even more important to “be more cat” – marketing with confidence and knowing your brand’s worth. Rather than desperately spending time and money selling to disinterested prospects, be confident in your value and craft content that demonstrates said value, inspiring customers to choose you.  

Once you’ve generated interest in your value, make sure you understand the individual you’re selling to. Both Colliers and international law firm Bird & Bird use Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Conscientiousness (DISC) profiling of key prospects to ensure they’re selling to them appropriately. 

#3: Identify the value exchange 

Nick Watson, SVP, global experiences solutions, at Cheetah Digital talked about the need to “Always Be Collecting Data” (ABCD) but specifically highlighted the power of zero party data: that which the customer has willingly given in exchange for some value. Nick advocated using that data to add more value by creating highly personalised customer experiences.  

Mark Liversidge also proposed an added E to the list – for “Environmentally”. With The Student Hotel’s first-hand knowledge of Gen Z consumers, he advised that people are increasingly aware of the carbon footprint of storing data and want business to be responsible for how much they gather on these grounds, as much as they do on privacy grounds. 

Another reason to be optimistic was the QR Code – a phoenix we’ve seen rise up in the last couple of years. Once deemed the laughingstock of the marketing world, the seamless integration with phone cameras means QR Codes can now deliver on their original claim to reduce the barriers of connection. Brands can now use them to offer help to customers and create deeper relationships, as Boots UK is with its Christmas ad airing on Sky.

In summary, I was excited and intrigued by the many MarTech solutions exploding onto the market, and it will be a very interesting landscape to watch as the marketing world continues to evolve at an ever-increasing pace. But as Rufus Leonard are the experts in building category-defining brands, it was reassuring to learn from businesses that prioritise service to their customers, and what remains constant in those examples are the core principles of efficient marketing: remember the value of your product or service, remember you’re selling to people, and remember to incentivise them to return. 


Marketing follows three basic rules:

  1. Marketing requires empathy

  2. Referrals rule!

  3. Identify the value exchange 

Laurence is Rufus' CEO and leading industry voice on how organisations can drive sustained competitive advantage through differentiating digital experiences. He is also Founder and Chair of the BIMA Digital Leaders’ Network and Co-chair of the Alliance of Independent Agencies.

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Laurence ParkesCEO



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