90: Lucie De Antoni: Startup alchemy, mixing data literacy and attribution with empathy and collaboration

What’s up folks, today I have the pleasure of sitting down with Lucie De Antoni, Head of Marketing at Garantme.

Summary: Lucie talks about how AI is a game-changer in SEO and content, but it’s no substitute for a data-literate team and clear KPIs. She emphasizes that attribution needs planning, not afterthoughts. Small startups have the freedom to experiment, which is their edge over larger companies. But don’t let martech make you forget the human element—empathy and emotional intelligence are key. It’s a no-nonsense take on making martech work for you, focusing on strategy over tactics.

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About Lucie

  • Born and raised in France, Lucie got her start in event management before joining AirPlus International, the financial subsidiary of Lufthansa. At AirPlus she wore both marketing and communications hats, at local and global levels
  • She stayed in the travel market moving over to HRS Group, an eComm company focused on hotels distribution where she got a taste of Growth marketing
  • Recently she was Head of Global Marketing at Jenji, one of the leading expense management tools where she managed an international marketing team across various functions
  • Lucie is also a Marketing Consultant working with early stage startups through Station F, the biggest startup incubator in France
  • She’s a mentor at Women in Tech network as well as WILLA supporting women and mixed teams
  • Today she’s Head of Marketing at Garantme, an insurtech focused on real estate agencies

AI is Missing Human Creativity and Emotional Intelligence

When Lucie was asked about the rapid advancements in AI and the looming question of whether it could entirely replace marketing roles, her answer was a measured one. Yes, AI is making waves in various industries, including marketing. It’s great for automation and can handle a variety of tasks that were previously manual and time-consuming. But don’t start thinking it’s time for marketers to pack up their desks just yet.

According to Lucie, the real barrier for AI lies in mimicking human creativity and emotional intelligence. Marketing isn’t just about numbers and algorithms; it’s also about connecting with people on an emotional level. You’re telling stories, crafting narratives, and essentially understanding what makes your audience tick. And that’s where AI falls short. As of now, AI lacks the ability to truly understand human emotions and to use that understanding to create compelling stories or campaigns.

Lucie emphasized that this limitation is actually good news for marketers. It means that while some tasks might become automated, the core of what makes marketing genuinely effective—the human touch—is something that AI can’t replicate yet. In her view, this complex blend of creativity and emotional insight is why marketers are still very much needed in the business landscape.

Key Takeaway: Lucie argues that while AI can automate many marketing tasks, it can’t replace the human elements of creativity and emotional intelligence essential for effective marketing. In her view, the inability of AI to connect emotionally and craft compelling stories is a limitation that keeps marketers relevant. So, even as AI transforms the industry, the core value marketers bring isn’t going anywhere.

How NLP is the Robot Chef Cooking Up a New Flavor of SEO

When asked about new categories or areas in martech that excite her due to AI advancements, Lucie got straight to the point—SEO and content creation are the game-changers. Not just because they’re trendy, but because they’ve been persistent challenges for marketers across industries, whether you’re a startup or an enterprise. Lucie candidly shared her experience with SEO; it’s a field where you think you’ve finally cracked the code, only to find out months later that your results are still lackluster for the amount of effort you’ve poured in.

This is where AI, particularly natural language processing, is starting to rewrite the rules. According to Lucie, it’s the technology’s ability to produce high-quality, relevant, and personalized content at scale that’s truly groundbreaking. Teams can now churn out market-matching content without the human resource bottleneck. It doesn’t replace the human touch, but it does elevate it, allowing teams to focus more on strategy than menial tasks.

But it’s not just about churning out content. Lucie emphasized the role of AI in data-driven decision-making. With AI-powered tools, you’re not just throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks. You can now conduct market research, adapt your content strategy, and even adjust your editorial line. This is particularly invaluable in SEO, a field that’s not just about numbers but also about understanding market dynamics, content quality, and the right toolsets.

Lucie also made an interesting comparison between SEO and SEA/SEM. While SEM is primarily about numbers and budgets, SEO requires a more nuanced approach. It’s not just what your competition is doing; it’s also about the content you create and the tools you use. AI is now setting the stage for a much-needed evolution in SEO, enabling teams to be more effective and strategic.

Key takeaway: Natural language processing through AI isn’t just a ‘nice-to-have’ feature for your content and SEO strategies. It’s become the edge that cuts through the noise, enabling not just automation but actual quality at scale. Forget the manual grind; AI allows you to adapt in real-time, revolutionizing the way you approach SEO from a problem to be solved to a game to be won.

Riding the Data Wave for Agile Martech Decision-Making

When asked about the significance of data in today’s martech landscape, Lucie doesn’t hesitate to emphasize its pivotal role. AI, machine learning, automated lead scoring—none of these buzzwords matter if they’re not grounded in solid data. But what does it mean to be truly data-literate in this space? For Lucie, it starts with internal alignment between the team and the overall objectives of the company. It’s about asking the right questions, not just to your team but first to yourself. If you can’t substantiate your marketing strategies with data, you can’t expect to instill a culture of data-driven decision-making.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to data literacy. According to Lucie, the path depends on multiple factors, including the company’s structure and the maturity level of the marketing department. Therefore, her first piece of advice for team leaders is straightforward: prove the importance of data-driven decisions to your team by asking the right questions yourself. Once that mindset is in place, the next steps involve setting clear marketing objectives and KPIs that are both specific and measurable.

The mission doesn’t stop with setting KPIs; it extends to continually scrutinizing them. As Lucie points out, SEO is a prime example where you could have a plethora of KPIs, but what’s the point if you’re not evaluating their relevance? Data literacy is not a static achievement; it’s an ongoing dialogue that requires regularly reviewing and analyzing performance metrics to make real-time decisions that impact your business.

Finally, Lucie encourages leaders to maintain an agile approach. A data-informed culture isn’t rigid; it’s adaptive. When a project takes an unexpected turn, don’t be afraid to adjust your KPIs and your strategy. This flexibility not only fosters a data-driven mindset but also becomes a lesson your team will carry into their projects.

Key Takeaway: Data literacy isn’t about collecting KPIs for the sake of having numbers. It’s about purposeful metrics that feed into agile decision-making. Being data-literate means you’re not just gathering data, but you’re agile enough to adapt your strategies based on that data. It’s not a checkbox but an evolving skill, crucial for both individual projects and the overarching company strategy.

Walking the Data Asteroid Field with SQL as Your Space Suit

When quizzed about whether SQL skills should be a staple in the marketer’s skillset, Lucie offers a nuanced view. It’s not about everyone on the team turning into SQL pros; it’s about fostering specialized expertise. SQL and other data-query languages offer a gateway for some marketers to evolve into a new kind of expert within the team. Why? Because most in-house data teams are often too tied up with finance to focus on marketing. So, if you’ve got someone in your corner who can navigate SQL, you’ve got a leg up.

In Lucie’s experience, data teams are often spread thin, prioritizing departments like finance over marketing. When you foster SQL expertise within your marketing department, you’re not just adding another tool to the kit; you’re driving the entire team forward. No longer bound by the constraints or availability of in-house data experts, a marketing team with SQL knowledge can dig deep into the data that matters most to them, transforming strategies and outcomes.

But let’s be clear: lacking SQL expertise isn’t a dead-end. If your team doesn’t have these skills, it doesn’t mean you’re stuck. It just means you’ll need to seek that expertise elsewhere. Maybe it’s time to consider bringing in some new blood—people who possess these increasingly valuable skills.

To Lucie, the ideal scenario is one where in-house marketing pros possess this expertise, liberating the team from the constant need to borrow time and skills from other departments. But even if SQL remains a foreign language to your team, the future still holds possibilities. With advancements in AI, the data landscape is changing, potentially making it easier for marketers to interact with data without becoming SQL literate.

Key Takeaway: SQL skills may not be a must-have for every marketer, but they’re far from a vanity metric. These skills can turn a marketer into a specialized asset, capable of driving the department forward in a data-centric world. Whether you build this expertise in-house or seek it externally, the ability to directly interact with data is becoming increasingly non-negotiable.

Lay a Strong Attribution Foundation with Meticulous KPIs

When asked about the role of attribution in marketing—specifically, should every marketer measure the true impact of their campaigns, not just vanity metrics—Lucie dived into the complexities that make this seemingly straightforward task anything but simple. The topic isn’t new; it’s been hounding marketers since the dawn of their careers. But the urgency for answers has only escalated. Lucie noted that measuring impact is vital for internal validation and strategic refinement. Without numbers, you can’t demonstrate your value to stakeholders or make data-driven adjustments to your strategies.

The challenge, Lucie pointed out, is that there’s no one-size-fits-all method. It’s contextual, depending on a variety of factors, from the company’s focus to the industry norms. A requirement for any campaign, though, is to establish clear objectives and key performance indicators from the get-go. Lucie enforces this with her team, not because she’s a stickler for rules, but because she believes it’s foundational. “You need to understand why you’re launching a project and why you’re going to spend weeks, hours, whatever on it,” Lucie insisted.

The issue becomes further complicated in the fast-paced startup environment, where emergencies are frequent and quick launches are the norm. However, Lucie warned that knee-jerk marketing can backfire when it comes to long-term attribution analysis. If you rush into campaigns without first laying out your objectives and KPIs, you may later find yourself trying to retrofit your attribution models to make sense of data that was never correctly targeted.

Lucie concluded by emphasizing the importance of working collaboratively across departments, especially with leadership. Attribution isn’t just a marketing question; it’s a company question. “One day, it will be on your table,” Lucie cautioned. Planning ahead saves not just time and money but also, potentially, your motivation when the data starts pouring in and questions from the C-suite begin to multiply.

Key Takeaway: Lucie urges marketers to be meticulous in campaign planning, set clear KPIs, and keep a long-term view for attribution metrics. The complexities of attribution require strategic foresight, cross-departmental collaboration, and a focus on hard numbers over vanity metrics.

The Marketing Attribution Rabbit Hole

When asked about the value of attribution in marketing, especially for smaller startups, Lucie’s perspective was as straightforward as it was nuanced. Yes, attribution is important, but the real issue is resource allocation. In her view, small startups should first assess if they have the internal bandwidth to effectively establish, operate, and monitor an attribution model.

Lucie brings up a valid point about the multifaceted roles of marketers in smaller outfits. One marketer may wear multiple hats, dealing with everything from content creation to lead generation. In such resource-strapped conditions, diving deep into attribution models might not be the best use of time. She cites her experience managing B2B and B2C personas in her company in France. The approach to nurturing leads and generating them varies between these two segments, and so does the attribution model. The company was large enough to invest the time and effort into these distinctions, but a smaller team might struggle.

Her advice leans on pragmatism: if your team is just you and maybe one other person, then perhaps there are other battles worth fighting first. Attribution in such a setting might become a quagmire you can’t afford, both in time and resources. For Lucie, attribution is a topic to consider in-depth only when your team has grown large enough to sustain the mental and operational load it requires.

In other words, Lucie suggests a sort of graduated approach to attribution: start simple, and as your team and resources grow, then advance into more complex systems. The key is to not let the pursuit of the perfect attribution model become a hindrance to executing on other critical aspects of the business.

Key Takeaway: Attribution isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, especially for small startups. Before you go down that rabbit hole, consider whether you have the resources to both set up and sustain this kind of system. Sometimes, other battles are more worth your time.

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Why Startups and SMBs Are a Playground for Martech Creativity

When Lucie was asked to weigh in on Scott Brinker’s notion that startups and SMBs are fertile ground for martech innovation, she didn’t hesitate: a resounding yes. For Lucie, startups and SMBs offer the freedom to build, experiment, and adapt. Unlike larger corporations, which often involve bureaucratic roadblocks, startups allow marketers to be agile and creative.

The liberty to be experimental, Lucie points out, is priceless. She contrasts her experience in larger companies where decision-making often feels like a labyrinth. Even in a subsidiary with 1,500 employees, she found the layers of approval suffocating. Her creativity felt shackled, a far cry from the dynamic environment of smaller organizations. In startups, you’re granted the space to “launch, to adjust, to measure, and then to adjust again and again.” It’s an iterative process that values creativity and experimentation, crucial traits for effective marketing.

Lucie also highlights the size of teams at early-stage companies as a pivotal advantage. When you’re part of a small team, you’re inherently a multitasker. You learn by doing, and in doing so, you’re enhancing your creativity. But she cautions that this kind of environment isn’t for everyone; it’s something “you need to decide with yourself.”

So while it may seem like larger organizations have the advantage of more substantial budgets and resources, don’t underestimate the nimble flexibility and creative freedom that smaller companies offer. Lucie’s experience indicates that if you’re the type of marketer who wants to try, adapt, and learn continuously, then the startup ecosystem is where you’ll thrive.

Key Takeaway: Startups aren’t just about bootstrapping and tight budgets; they’re creative playgrounds for marketers who want to experiment and adapt without the cumbersome red tape found in larger organizations. Choose wisely based on what ignites your creativity.

Overreliance on Martech Versus the Human Touch

When Lucie was asked about the tech-obsessed state of modern martech and its impact on the human side of things, she pointed out a compelling dilemma. Sure, tech allows us to scale, personalize, and even automate processes. However, it’s creating a dependency that can diminish human-to-human interactions. Lucie shared a revealing anecdote: she often finds herself turning to AI tools like ChatGPT for brainstorming, instead of engaging with her team. While it’s convenient, she recognizes that it’s not necessarily a win for the ‘human’ aspect of her job.

Lucie also hints at an ironic twist. While technology promises efficiency and time-saving, it can ironically also consume more time than expected. Especially when you’re trying to get a tool to do exactly what you want, you might end up missing the forest for the trees. The tech ends up dictating your agenda, pulling you away from strategic thinking or collaboration with your team.

According to Lucie, finding balance starts with self-assessment. Before you dive into a new tool or platform, ask yourself two crucial questions: What exactly do you want to achieve with this technology, and what decisions would you rather make yourself? These questions can act as guideposts, helping you delineate between tasks that truly require human ingenuity and those that can be automated or assisted by technology.

Her observations suggest that while the tools may be novel, the real challenge is age-old: balance. Just like in any other aspect of life, finding the right mix between automation and personal touch in martech is a journey. It involves not just understanding the capabilities of technology but also acknowledging and respecting your own skills.

Key Takeaway: While technology offers incredible capabilities for scale and efficiency in martech, it can also serve as a crutch that diminishes human interaction and creativity. Striking a balance between the two is essential, and according to Lucie, that starts with asking yourself the right questions.

Why Teamwork and Empathy Are Your Best Oars in Marketing

When Lucie tackled the subject of empathy and emotional intelligence in an era overrun by AI and tech, she made no bones about it: Managing expectations is critical, especially if you’re at the C-level. According to Lucie, you might be tempted to just tell your team, “ChatGPT can handle that,” but the reality is, AI can only do so much. Honesty about what you can and can’t do is key, whether you’re dealing with the board or your marketing team.

But what really got Lucie fired up was the value of soft skills like empathy and collaboration. You can always ramp up your technical chops, but emotional intelligence? That’s a different animal. Lucie believes that some aspects of marketing—like content or communication—require a different level of empathy than, say, product marketing. Tech skills may get your foot in the door, but it’s your emotional intelligence that allows you to understand and connect with the people in front of you, and that’s not something you can pick up from a how-to guide or software tutorial.

Interestingly, Lucie doesn’t consider empathy something you can easily acquire or augment; it’s either a part of you or it isn’t. It’s what distinguishes different kinds of expertise within marketing. Some roles might lean heavier on technical prowess, while others might prioritize the ability to connect and collaborate.

In sum, the balancing act between hard and soft skills isn’t just a trendy talking point; it’s fundamental to succeeding in today’s martech landscape. As Lucie sees it, that interplay is going to shape not only how we interact with technology but also how we interact with each other in a professional setting.

Key Takeaway: In a world eager to automate, Lucie underscores that the truly irreplaceable aspects of marketing boil down to soft skills like empathy and collaboration. These aren’t just ‘nice-to-haves,’ they’re central to how we effectively do our jobs in a tech-saturated environment.

The Theater of Mentorship with Room for Two

When asked about how soft skills have evolved throughout her career, especially in tech, Lucie was quick to point out that the conversation itself has changed. In her eyes, soft skills are not just a fad or a buzzword—they’re recognized as essential, even in tech-centric roles. This recognition prompted Lucie to invest in active listening training, a choice she considers transformative for her approach to marketing projects. Listening isn’t just hearing; it’s about being present, asking the right questions, and valuing the perspective of the person talking. This change didn’t just impact her; it also influenced the level of collaboration she achieved with her teams.

Lucie also emphasized the power of mentorship, particularly among women in tech. Whether in the U.S. or France, Lucie believes mentorship offers invaluable, culture-specific insights that can’t be found in any book or online course. It’s not just about tools; it’s about the depth and richness of lived experiences, collective wisdom, and yes, emotional intelligence. In Lucie’s experience, mentorship has significantly adjusted her viewpoint on marketing projects and has even influenced her career trajectory.

Lucie was clear that mentorship isn’t about a one-way flow of information. The goal isn’t just to absorb; it’s to exchange, to engage emotionally, and to collaborate. It’s this human-centric approach that makes you more than just a marketer but a well-rounded professional capable of understanding various cultural nuances and adjusting your strategies accordingly.

In a world fixated on artificial intelligence and data-driven decision-making, Lucie brings us back to the irreplaceable power of human connection, of understanding and valuing the person across the table or on the other end of the Zoom call.

Key Takeaway: Lucie’s heavy emphasis on active listening and mentorship isn’t a side-note; it’s a roadmap for professionals in tech. The message is clear: AI can crunch numbers, but it can’t mentor you, listen actively, or give you a fresh cultural perspective—those are skills you need to cultivate, and they’re more valuable than any algorithm.

The Harmony of Pursuing Passions and Setting Priorities

When asked how she manages to stay happy and successful amid a diverse career and personal pursuits like yoga, Lucie didn’t hesitate. Her personal motto revolves around doing what she loves—both professionally and personally. It’s not about multitasking or ‘hustle culture’; it’s about introspection and alignment. When she encounters tasks she’s not fond of, she pauses to evaluate why and strategize on how to turn it into a positive experience.

Time management plays a crucial role, and Lucie doesn’t treat it lightly. Gone are the days of working at 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. for tasks that can wait. Lucie has refined her skill of prioritizing tasks and identifying what truly matters at any given moment. This ability to sort the essential from the trivial has changed her approach to work and life balance.

But it’s not just about time; it’s about people. Lucie highlights the impact of surrounding oneself with the right individuals, ones who support and enrich your journey. Relationships can serve as a pillar, bolstering your strengths and aiding you as you face challenges head-on. According to Lucie, crafting a fulfilling career is a blend of recognizing your strengths, facing challenges, and aligning your day-to-day choices with your values and aspirations.

For Lucie, achieving happiness in her multifaceted life boils down to a simple, yet rich, formula: find the right people, balance priorities, and follow what brings you joy. These are not isolated elements but a cohesive package that fuels her daily motivation.

Key Takeaway: Lucie’s roadmap to happiness and success isn’t about work-life ‘balance’ in the traditional sense. It’s about work-life harmony, where your passions fuel your daily motivation, time management safeguards your well-being, and relationships enrich your journey.

Episode Recap

AI is rewriting the playbook for SEO and content creation, and it’s about time. Lucie cuts through the noise, pointing out how natural language processing can make high-quality content accessible without turning your team into a content sweatshop. You get to swap tedious tasks for real strategy. But hold on—AI isn’t just a content machine. It’s your new strategy partner, helping you move past gut-feel marketing to make data-driven decisions. The kind that lets you adjust your SEO game based on market dynamics and content quality. It brings an unprecedented finesse to a field that’s been hard to pin down.

Yet, AI and all its promise don’t mean jack without solid data literacy. And data literacy isn’t a buzzword—it’s a culture. Lucie makes it clear that you’ve got to start from within. Know your objectives, align your team, and start asking the right questions, both to yourself and your data. Because KPIs aren’t a set-and-forget thing; they’re a dynamic dialogue. In Lucie’s words, it’s a journey of constant review, adaptation, and yes, a bit of agility. Especially in a fast-moving environment where, let’s face it, stuff happens. So, it’s not about setting KPIs; it’s about living them.

Attribution? It’s not a luxury; it’s a necessity. But Lucie warns it’s not one-size-fits-all. In startup chaos, don’t get trapped into launching campaigns without clearly defined objectives and KPIs. Attribution should be planned, not reverse-engineered. It’s the sort of thing that ends up “on your table” sooner or later. And by that time, you better have your metrics aligned, or prepare for a grilling from the C-suite. For small startups, don’t dive into the deep end without knowing if you’ve got the bandwidth. It’s a resource game. Make sure you can play it.

And don’t overlook the freedom that comes with being small and agile. While big companies may have big budgets, startups have something money can’t buy: the freedom to experiment. Lucie’s experienced both sides and makes it clear; in a startup, you get to launch, measure, adjust—rinse and repeat. You’re not confined by bureaucratic chokeholds.

Finally, the tech-human balance is real. Over-reliance on martech can turn you into a robot, missing the woods for the trees. Lucie admits she’s felt it, leaning on AI for brainstorming over team collaboration. She advocates for a thoughtful approach—know what you want from tech and what decisions you want to own. Soft skills aren’t secondary; they’re essential. Lucie doesn’t mince words here—empathy and emotional intelligence are irreplaceable, especially in areas like content and communication.

There you have it. Lucie unpacks a lot in a short span—AI, data literacy, attribution, the power of small teams, and the delicate tech-human balance. It’s a goldmine for anyone serious about cutting through the martech hype to what actually matters. Don’t miss this episode. It’s real talk, no fluff 👇 🎧

Follow Lucie and Garantme 👇


Intro music by Wowa via Unminus
Cover art created with Midjourney

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