[GUEST POST] DS at Home December: People at the Center of Everything


People at the Center of Everything

Three lessons from Digital Summit at Home December about placing people at the core of your processes

This article and recap of our Digital Summit at Home December event graciously contributed by Mary Anne Matos, Marketing Specialist and Instructor at Johnson City Community College.

Marketing professionals have likely heard about the need to be customer-centric for a while now, but this year, with all its twists and turns, made it clear that it has become critical. If people are not at the core of what you do, no matter what that is, you are doing it wrong. This theme shone brightly throughout the December 2020 DS at Home agenda.

Seth Godin hit the nail on the head during his keynote speech. While to many, retail therapy is still true, “capitalism is wearing a lot of people out. Shopping doesn’t bring joy – belonging does.” As marketers, we play a huge role in whether our customers feel like they “belong” within our brand. And how do you create that sense of belonging? Worry not! DS at Home gave us lessons on how to tackle this.

Lesson 1: Belonging starts in the office

Allison Fishman, Global Brand Director at Dremel and RotoZip at Bosch emphasized that people who are happy at work produce more, produce better, and produce more efficiently. Focus on…

  • Self: Think long and hard about your values and determine what they are. Then, locate yourself.
  • Positive leadership: Determine where others are individually and as a team. Encourage the strengthening of individual relationships within your team.
  • Individual relationships: Hold one-on-ones and treat that time as sacred. Avoid canceling or moving them around. Use voice and video, not text messaging or emails.
  • Daily connection: Do stand-ups that have a purpose. For example, Fishman’s team has quick 15-minute standups that have a theme: Monday Mantras, Tuesday Projects, and Thursday Accomplishments. Figure out what kind of themes work for your group. Occasionally, nix or scale up the stand-up and do a team-building activity instead!

Lesson 2: Be Empathetic

In her session, Michelle Huff, Chief Marketing Officer at UserTesting, reminded attendees to take the time to understand your customers, and then put them at the core of your decision making.

  • Adapt to customer needs: How customers find, interact, and purchase from you has changed. Ask customers to allow you to watch them use your apps, sites and prototypes. Bring the customer’s voice into your processes early on, so that you not only “build the right thing” but also “build the thing right.”
  • Understand who your customers are: Go beyond demographics – think about what they say, think, do, and feel. Conduct “empathy interviews” to help you understand needs, behaviors, attitudes, reactions, and feelings.
  • Scale empathy: Empathy is not a “one-and-done” process. Allow regular time, both as teams and individuals, to observe and analyze, and share learnings. Set “empathy hour goals.” Test, survey, and analyze data while bringing your human insights into that as well. As Jeff Bezos once said, “Good inventors and designers [and marketers] deeply understand their customers. They spend tremendous energy developing that intuition. They study and understand many anecdotes rather than only the averages you’ll find on surveys” – Jeff Bezos, Founder/CEO of Amazon

Lesson 3: Don’t just be diverse, be inclusive

In her excellent session, Crystal Marie McDaniels, Senior Marketing Strategy & Insights Managers at Duke Energy Corporation

“Diversity is a fact. Inclusion is an act.” Being an inclusive marketer is more than making sure that you portray a variety of skin colors on your marketing pieces, it’s making sure that diversity is considered, understood, valued and incorporated into your daily work. So how does one go about doing this?

  • Figure out the dimensions of diversity that are relevant to your brand, products or services: Understand the difference between race and ethnicity, but also consider all of the dimensions of inclusion: gender/gender identity, sexuality, geographic/national roots, race/ethnicity, religion, language, age, abilities, education, and socioeconomic status. Figure out the ones that are the most important to your audience and find opportunities to align with the needs of those communities, as well as ways to highlight, celebrate and include those groups. Nike’s “You Can’t Stop Us” campaign is a fantastic example of this.
  • Learn your audience beyond the numbers: Identify the people who are the best fit for your products and services. What are they like? What channels do they use to consume content? Where do they get their news from? What is their prevalent style of storytelling? What values matter the most to them? Get to know them. Attend events that matter to them. Consider developing a customer panel.
  • Employ diverse voices: Diversity in the workplace unlocks different perspectives, brings out creativity, and allows you to better check biases. It’s good for business too. According to Deloitte, an industry-leading auditing and consulting company, organizations with inclusive cultures were 6 times more likely to be innovative and agile, 8 times more likely to achieve better business outcomes, and twice as likely to meet or exceed financial targets.
  • Make your world more inclusive: Consume content that portrays realities outside of your own. Seek out inclusive and diverse media.

Bring it all together! Take all of the lessons above, define your culture, and discover your people. Seth Godin also addressed this in his keynote: “People like us do things like this. That is the definition of culture… Work hard to build a story that people can find solace in.”   Once you know and understand the “people like us” and know the “things like this” that they do, you can create authentic solutions that truly fulfill a need.


Mary Anne Matos is a Marketing Automation Specialist and Continuing Education Instructor at Johnson County Community College (JCCC), in Overland Park, Kansas. Matos has over 15 years of experience in education, events, and marketing and has worked in both the US and Brazilian markets. She holds a bachelor’s degree and Radio and Television from Faculdade Cásper Líbero, an associate degree in Marketing Management from JCCC, and is about to start her master’s degree in Integrated Marketing Communications from the University of Kansas. Headshot courtesy of JCCC.