Leveraging Technology in Marketing with John Sime


On the eleventh episode of Retain: The Customer Retention Podcast, Lauren DeSouza speaks with John Sime, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Shopify. They discuss John’s beginnings working in a hotel and just how much it parallels his current work in marketing. 

John is a Senior Product Marketing Manager at Shopify, a leading global commerce company, providing trusted tools to start, grow, market, and manage a retail business of any size. He is a product and technology-focused marketer, whose work has spanned e-commerce, consumer packaged goods, and tourism for B2C and B2B businesses.

Marketing Tools are Useless Without a Good Tools-Person

Imagine that you have just bought a brand new guitar, one of the best guitars ever made. In fact, this is the very guitar Jimi Hendrix used to perform ‘Hey Joe’ using only his teeth. If musical instruments could talk, this guitar would have you and your friends gathered around a campfire, listening to its stories with utmost enthusiasm. The things it has seen, the songs it has played – they are the very essence of its existence. You go to pull it out of its case, carefully as not to yank and potentially damage it. Its stratocaster shape and matte green aesthetic is everything you ever dreamed of. You put it on your lap, staring at it long and hard, when suddenly that initial feeling of exhilaration dissipates the minute you realise…

You haven’t the slightest clue how to play guitar. And just like that, it has become but a useless, materialistic display in your home. 

This is how John Sime thinks about marketing and the abundance of technological tools at our disposal. He argues that, although CRM platforms and data analytics are unquestionably useful, and even essential for the success of customer retention, you have to know how to use them properly. Otherwise, just like Hendrix’s guitar, they will become obsolete. This is why we can’t rely too much on technologies, as the best asset we have is the one that is able to learn, grow, and adapt: our brains. If we don’t train ourselves in how to read data and what to do with it afterwards, then all we’ve really exercised, at the end of the day, is futility.

Analytics are no more than road signs pointing you in the right direction, but if you don’t know how to drive, it’ll take you way too long to get there.

“I don’t think technology is the answer,” says John. “The best CRM platform or the most comprehensive source of data is really just a tool. Without a big idea or creativity, strategy, or direction, all that stuff is on its own. I mean, the best guitar in the world is useless unless you have an amazing song to play on it.”

The Ambiguity of Marketing

According to John, marketing can be an ambiguous and unpredictable business, rarely giving you a chance to take your foot off the gas, even with the data available to you. But that fast-paced, constantly changing, and adrenaline pumping sensation can be a good thing if you allow it to be. It can pry open and spill out the creativity lying dormant in your brain, opening you up to a whole new load of ideas. It can point you in the right direction and clear pathways covered in thick fog. And it can help you devise clever strategies that only chess grandmasters can conjure.

“Sometimes the challenges with marketing are also that are exciting about marketing,” he admits. “Nothing stays the same, and nobody knows what they’re doing – and I mean that in the most loving, optimistic way possible. That’s what’s awesome about [it], we’re all, to some degree, making it up and there’s so much change so quickly. But that can be a real challenge, as you can never just take your foot off the gas.”

This very ambiguity allows you to think outside the box and get creative with your marketing strategy and ideas, so embrace it rather than letting it worry you. You may come up with ideas that are completely out of the ordinary. You may make parallels to past experiences that no one else can make, but as long as you embrace the improvisational aspect of it all, you’re destined to do great things. Afterall, Jimi Hendrix, the man who played his guitar upside-down and with his teeth, was famous for his idiosyncrasies.

Listen to this episode of Retain: The Customer Retention Podcast to learn more about John’s view on marketing, as well as why reading the room before selling to your customers is so important.

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