"Have you tried our app?" This was the opening line I recently received from a local grocery store chain. Innocuous at first glance and if you didn't know any better wouldn't be given a second thought. A quick keystroke and the email was deleted forever, never to be thought about again. But I did give it a second thought, and a third. Because I realized the painful truth about what had actually just happened. I understood what this seemingly inconspicuous email represented.

This simple marketing email spoke volumes to me about the marketing and internal workings of this grocery store. It told me a tale of broken and disconnected company struggling to understand their customers and yet failing to have any level of visibility into their lives. This one message said even more though. It told me they didn't know who I was, where I was, or what I was doing in their store. In truth it told me their marketing department was tasked with an impossible undertaking - identifying and growing a customer base...all while being blindfolded. 

We all know how difficult it is to perform tasks with a blindfold on and as far as I know there's only two times when this blindfolding is a good thing, playing pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey at a birthday party, and when considering lady justice. Marketing departments didn't make the list.

In fact, marketing should have the best possible insights and understanding into their users because this is how they are able to market effectively. But with a single email on a Saturday morning I realized just how difficult this is for many companies to understand. Broken tools, multiple separate systems all leading to disconnected data; this is the true life of a marketer today. How completely sad, and how overwhelming for the person simply trying to do their job.

Curious how I know this and what led me to this conclusion? Simple. I visited the grocery store, discovered savings available for "members only" on a variety of product stickers and proceeded to go to the App store to download their app, from within this app I created my account, setup my profile, selected coupons, added items to my shopping list and then used the app during the in-person checkout at the register. See the problem? If it hasn't dawned on you yet, re-read the first line of this post.