We live in a world where everything is “Big Data” or data of some sort.

You see this data obsession trickle down into everything we do, especially the way we market and sell things.

Recently I was at a ticketing conference in the United Kingdom giving the keynote address on the future of live ticketing titled, “The Future Of Entertainment Is Human.”

What was amazing in the days leading up to my keynote all of the conversations I had with people from around the globe about the challenges and opportunities in the world of tickets.

There was a lot of talk about knowing your buyers better.

There were discussions about improving the experience for them when they visit.

There was a lot of interest in helping make the buying journey easier.

Which is great.

The thing that was amazing was that these conversations mirrored some of the conversations I had had with executives and leaders in other areas.

Everywhere we go, we are trying to understand and know our audience better.

Everywhere we look, we see how our customers feel less connected.

We see our communities not be as tightly knit.

This also plays out in our marketing and selling.

At every corner, we see a new “ninja” or “jedi” talk about how to maximize our SEO, our keyword placement, or some other digital technique that is guaranteed to triple our results. To “crush” our previous results.

The truth is, these optimization strategies work on a strictly practical level.

But the thing is, if you are just transacting, are you sustainable.

Because more and more, our buyers are picking experiences over stuff and connections over commodities.

In the future, our marketing has to be more about connection and less about analysis.

More electricity and less zeros and ones.

Because data is great for analysis but not great for creating connections and compelling stories.

What our marketing needs now more than ever is more connection, more humanity, and more sizzle.

Sizzle, not being something you can measure in a spreadsheet.

How can we get there?

Here are a couple of ideas:

Use Stories:

If everything is about data and analysis, where is the emotion?

If we don’t have emotion in our marketing, there is no reason to act.

That’s where stories come in.

Stories help us make sense of the world.

They help us know what to notice and what to ignore.

Most importantly, they give us the emotional energy necessary to take action.

Don’t Look At Big Group, Go Small:

We are infatuated with large data groups, but we often miss really relevant and actionable items because we are looking only for the large things.

In the 2012 election, there was a story about the Obama data team using a combination of data and message to target a specific bus route in a swing state, making ad buys to hit that specific route over and over again.

In Martin Lindstrom’s book Small Data, Lindstrom talks about how he learned everything he needed to know about how to fix Lego’s brand by talking with a kid that also skateboarded and noticed that one shoe was more worn than the other, which signified that the kid had a perfectionist streak in him and that he was part of a group that had that same feeling. Which led to the insight that the path forward for Lego lay in more complex models, not less complex models.

For us, we can look at the moments that we can delight, connect, or wow our fans and customers.

It is likely the small things that drive their amazement as much as any of the mass things. And, in those small moments, we learn a lot.

Make Your Marketing More Personal:

“The age of mass is over,” says Seth Godin.

And, as we see more and more ads being bought with less and less impact from the spend, we see this being more and more true.

The answer is not to double down on volume, but to cut back on volume and amp up the personal or the meaningful.

In Miami, the Marlins’ B2B sales team took part in a number of “sprints” where they mailed interesting or unusual items to their prospects to help start sales conversations. Things like signed balls, bases, and merchandise.

This personalization paid off as they increased their B2B sales over 300% in one season.

All of us have the chance to be more personal.

It means taking a step back and not trying to reach everyone, just the most specific.

My friend, Stu Heineke wrote a great book last year called How To Get A Meeting With Anyone. And, in that book, he said that your marketing success lies in being personal, being unique.

That’s the thing about making your marketing more about connection, connection means different things to different people. Personalization, stories, and understanding the uniqueness of your targets enables you to make that real.