5 Data-Driven Strategies to Feed Your Customer Obsession

The digitization of our culture and marketplace has made it even more important for marketers to be customer advocates. Every bit of content we create, every retargeting campaign we develop and every customer journey we attempt to map … all this must be tied to superior and engaging customer experiences. It’s the only reason marketing exists.

The digitization of our culture and marketplace has made it even more important for marketers to be customer advocates. Every bit of content we create, every retargeting campaign we develop and every customer journey we attempt to map … all this must be tied to superior and engaging customer experiences. It’s the only reason marketing exists.

This Forrester Research recently claimed that companies obsessed with customer experience are more profitable and see higher growth. Consider Amazon, Nike or Mercedes Benz, where innovation is part of the culture. Consider how an obsession with innovation at Apple and Google translates to customer delight in their products. For the rest of us, it may be harder without that kind of a culture behind us, but frankly, there is no longer a choice for marketers: Each of us must adopt an attitude of obsession with customer satisfaction. Then, we need to employ a systematic approach to optimizing everything we do toward customer value. The key question to ask at every point in your day, “Is what I’m doing adding real value to a large number of high-value customers?” If not, change it or dump it.

Like any change, in life or business, it starts with attitude. If you don’t work for a customer-obsessed company, can you successfully meet the demands of your market and rise above the competition? At a minimum, companies must embrace that digital and customer experience is everyone’s business—great ideas and the seeds of change can come from anywhere, regardless of title, but do need to be cross-functional and valued to blossom.

It’s time to make this transformation personal. Consider how you can use the technology you have to adapt the customer experiences that you do control, and demonstrate success to the rest of the organization. This proof of concept approach is a great way to get more budget, too. Incremental change is great—improvements to a campaign for next time or an adjustment to the timing for a triggered message are good starting points. However, more is needed.

We must re-think the customer experience across an ecosystem, and not just a set of interactions with owned media or branded touchpoints. Collaborate with other suppliers and influencers to focus on digital efficiency so that you can react in “right time.” Right time is an alternate to “real time” that recognizes that immediacy is not the most effective reaction in all situations. This is especially true since the customer journey is non-linear.

Thinking differently can be difficult inside an organization—especially if you are successful. Often, good ideas are limited because of the way we ask questions about our customers or our marketing programs. A research experiment with third graders provides some proof of why creativity goes beyond tactical application of cleverness or humor. (The video is about two minutes long.)

The project gave two groups of third graders the same assignment—to make a picture out of a triangle. When the assignment was narrowly defined, the pictures came out nicely, but not that different from each other. When the assignment was not defined, the pictures came out wildly different—and much more creative!

Don’t just wait for disruption to come to your industry—learn to disrupt your own business. Truly aim to understand whatever is blocking your path to innovation and customer connection. Consider some of these strategic elements that can help you break free of legacy patterns and test new ideas.

1. Use the Data You Have to Zero-in on Key Segments. Use microtargeting to really get to know your customers. Dig deep into customization and personalization opportunities to find the small, yet potentially profitable subsets of your market and niche offerings.

2. Separate the Signal From the Noise. Being able to do so is a powerful intoxicant: If I can just repeatedly do that one perfect thing that will really drive our business forward, I’d dominate our market and be a hero. Problem is, identifying that one perfect thing is very hard. Marketing analytic models may be more accessible than you think—and perhaps are no longer a luxury, but an imperative for understanding the customer needs—and predicting future behavior. Bring these practices closer to the campaign management and segmentation strategy—and give your analytics teams a seat at the table. Consider some of these key questions that analytics models can answer:

a. What dynamic forces are affecting my customer and how effectively am I changing to meet these changes?
b. Are there new market opportunities developing that I can take advantage of and become the industry leader?
c. Would this new product be interesting to our current customers? What must be true for customers to feel pain? Who are our most valuable customers, and over time? What outside factors impact customer loyalty and retention?
d. What are the characteristics of our best prospects?
e. Which marketing messages and campaigns are contributing, and when do they contribute during the lifecycle?

3. Marketing Automation Tools Are Slowly Evolving to Help You Manage These Changes, but you may need to bolt together point solutions in the meantime (especially if a big upgrade is not in your budget this year). Look to consolidate applications into a platform with data and process level integration to improve efficiency and effectiveness; work to integrate marketing technology with the enterprise infrastructure to reveal deeper insights into customers, partners and market opportunities. Here is a good reason to establish inter-disciplinary teams with IT and sales and customer service and legal to improve marketing contribution, vendor management, due diligence and governance practices.

4. Paid Placements (Native Advertising) Are Here to Stay. Spend your money on the right content and platform and understand which digital properties are performing best. Build budgets and relationships around content placement, sponsorship opportunities, syndication services and content recommendation platforms. Content marketing can’t be limited to owned and earned media if you need to reach larger and broader audiences.

5. Focus on Quality Content; we are all publishers now. Mobile will continue to dominate, so master its impact on your content and targeting. All our writing has to be compelling and adaptable across platforms, and written to the tastes of narrowly targeted personas. Automation tools help to make sure your content is repurposed with panache and context.

Clearly there’s lots of opportunity for growth in many areas of marketing success, particularly as we align our investments in areas where vendors have incentives to innovate. Scouring your budget for “past success” might be a good place to start: Given the advances in technology, will what worked in 2010 or even in 2014 work now in 2015? Please share your own tips and challenges for creating a customer-obsessed culture in your organization in the comments section below.

Melissa Campanelli’s The View From Here: What the IBM/Coremetrics Deal Means for Marketers

Arguably the biggest news of the week in the online marketing world was the announcement that IBM, the granddaddy of technology companies, will acquire Coremetrics, a leader in web analytics software.

Arguably the biggest news of the week in the online marketing world was the announcement that IBM, the granddaddy of technology companies, will acquire Coremetrics, a leader in web analytics software.

The acquisition will enable Big Blue to help its customers gain intelligence into social networks and online media sources through a cloud-based delivery model. Then, they can incorporate this insight into their processes to create smarter, more effective marketing campaigns.

“With this acquisition, we are extending our capabilities to give clients greater insight about customer behavior and sentiment about products and services, and give true foresight into their future buying patterns,” said Craig Hayman, general manager, IBM WebSphere, in a press release.

This isn’t the first time a large technology company catering to enterprises has purchsed a web analytic company in an effort to expand their online marketing offerings. A few years ago, Google bought Urchin, for example. And last year Adobe bought Omniture.

But what does this all mean for marketers? For one, it validates the growing importance of digital channels and online marketing.

“Less than a year after the acquisition of Omniture by Adobe, IBM’s announcement today represents overwhelming testimony to the value of online marketing technology as a core piece of an enterprise strategy,” said Alex Yoder, CEO of Webtrends, a Coremtrics competitor. “In today’s world, the growing importance of data-driven decision making is not a luxury, but a minimum requirement to competing in today’s markets. Businesses, governments and nonprofits all realize that facts and insight let them point their innovation and resources in the proper direction.”

While Yoder went on to say that Webtrends leads the market in open standards and detailed customer information — and that his company has seen a 51 percent increase in new business bookings year over year — he added that it will be interesting to see how the acquisition “ultimately impacts enterprises looking to understand data across the multiple digital channels that comprise today’s marketing landscape.”

Responsys, a partner of Coremetrics, said in a prepared statement that the web analytics firm has taken an innovative approach to managing and leveraging the vast amounts of online customer data that today’s companies generate, and that “IBM, as the largest business technology company in the world, is sending a strong message that these capabilities must be considered part of the core ‘stack’ required to be successful in an increasingly digital world.”

Responsys went on to say that this acquisition is “raising the bar” for the industry by helping make advanced online data and marketing solutions a central and established aspect of running a business.

What do you think about the acquisition? Let me know by posting a comment below.