Brands Need to Keep Engaging – Don’t Just Stop Because of Crisis

We are in extraordinary times – and it’s only prudent to recognize this. While the Fed may be doing everything possible to keep our economy afloat, we likely will remain in limbo until a public health victory is apparent. It’s time to take stock of what we do on behalf of our brands and clients, to immediate effect.

Among thousands of businesses these past two-plus weeks, many of us have effectively handed our marketing decisions over to finance and accounting. Which means, if you’re not producing an immediate revenue gain, you’re probably being cost-reduced to the bone, if not entirely out of work. Such is the illiquidous, flash-frozen effect of COVID-19 on our economy. We’ve lost more U.S. jobs in three weeks than we did during the expanse of the Great Recession.

Cash is in crunch, and though The Fed may be doing everything possible to keep our economy afloat (will it work?) we likely will remain in limbo until a public health victory is apparent. That could be months. It may yet take longer to resume growth – and who knows how business and consumer behavior may have changed by then? We are in extraordinary times – and it’s only prudent to recognize this.

It’s time to take stock of what we do on behalf of our brands and clients, to immediate effect. There is much work to do.

Marketing Must Continue … With Prudence

  • Every pharmacy, drug store, food store, and big-box retailer – and the agencies that support them – should proactively communicate store safety measures, and elevate “conveniences” such as shop-online-and-pick-up-in-store to the preferred method of distribution. This is an opportunity to build consumer and brand trust.
  • For financial marketers, the need to connect with consumers right now regarding savings, budgeting tools, and capital preservation should be a high priority. Make it happen.
  • On television, I’ve seen the messages of optimism from the likes of Walmart, Toyota, and Ford. (Post your inspired ad in the comments section below to share, please.) We need these messages right now. Beyond our own mortality, we will emerge on the other side of this. Brands need to be megaphones for hope and empathy. And certainly not insensitivity.
  • Perhaps TV spending is too steep for many brands’ budgets. In my email inbox, my favorite restaurants offer meals-to-go, my coffee house enables virtual tips for unemployed baristas and healthcare workers, and nonprofit organizations are postponing their live fundraising events with an online ask for the here and now. Needs don’t stop, in fact, the chronic has become acute. For those of us who can afford to help, there’s a collective mood to give. There are reasons to keep relevant communication appropriately flowing to audiences.
  • My previous post addressed data quality. Let me repeat: all those mobile and data visitors to your sites right now must not go unrecognized. Ensure you have a data and tech plan to identify (perhaps in the form of free registration, analyze, and engage accordingly.
  • Respond to the Census. Yes, do it for democracy. But we in the marketing business also know how invaluable Census data is to the economy, and the strategies we map for our brands.

So, yes, we’re all facing a flash freeze. And marketing-as-normal needs to be re-calibrated. So let’s re-calibrate … show our CFOs the likely payback, and let’s get going.

 

 

How to Make Actionable Sense of Customer Sentiment Analysis

Creating a better customer experience is a top priority for most businesses, with 72% of companies saying improving CX is their No. 1 goal, according to data from Forrester. However, figuring out what drives a better user experience is a total guessing game, unless you take a deep dive into customer sentiment analysis.

Creating a better customer experience is a top priority for most businesses, with 72% of companies saying improving CX is their No. 1 goal, according to data from Forrester. However, figuring out what drives a better user experience is a total guessing game, unless you take a deep dive into customer sentiment analysis.

Understanding the responses and reactions that customers give out after using your products can help your brand immensely. Of course, conducting market research and surveys, and gathering feedback from customers are all small but essential steps toward improving your product or service, as well as its user experience. However, these reports are mostly a whole lot of confusing numbers and statistics; they offer no action plan or recommendations, or even insights on what to do next.

Making actionable sense of the numbers can be tricky, especially if there are no clear problems or opportunities that were identified through your research.

So, what should you do? Let’s go step-by-step.

Pinpoint Common Threads in Customer Reviews

While it’s typically a company’s first reaction to try to remove negative reviews that could deter future customers, these actually may be your best resource for fixing hidden issues.

About 25% of consumers have left a review for a local business because of a bad experience, but this doesn’t mean that 100% of these reviews are helpful to either companies or other customers. It’s best to turn to a reliable system here that can sift through emotionally exaggerated (and practically useless) or downright fake reviews and uncover valuable information that could point you toward better solutions.

A review platform, such as Bazaarvoice, allows brands to collect genuine ratings and reviews from customers, respond to their questions and concerns about their products, display moderated content created by customers on social media, and even implement a product sampling program based on the reviews you’ve collected.

Similarly, an interaction management tool, like Podium, gets you in the game earlier, helping you connect and interact with prospects on multiple channels. It enables team collaboration on lead generation and nurturing, as well as solving customer problems, leading to a consistent customer experience.

Customer Sentiment Analysis image
Credit: Podium.com

More customers tend to leave reviews with brands that use customer review management tools. This results in more data for your sentiment research, eventually ensuring better targeting and success of your product marketing campaigns.

Watch out for repeated keywords throughout these reviews, such as issues with customer service, packaging, delivery, or pricing. Looking for patterns in your customer reviews lies at the core of identifying the problems and coming up with solutions.

Use Smart Segmentation

Customers never fit into the one-size-fits-all category. Even if you cater to a small niche or if your product has a very specific use, there will be subsets, segments, and cohorts, all influenced by varying demographics and regulations, who could affect opinions of your business. This is why smart segmentation is important when reviewing customer sentiment analysis.

Again, these segments may need different targeting strategies, depending on whether your company is a B2C or B2B entity.

B2C

B2C marketers need to look at the:

  • age:
  • location:
  • income: and
  • in-the-moment needs of their customers.

B2B

B2B marketers, on the other hand, need to address non-personal variances, such as:

  • company size:
  • budget; or
  • objectives.

By pairing demographic and quantitative data, customer sentiment may make more sense and provide even deeper insight than before. For instance, customers who are motivated by finding the best deal may say that your shipping costs are too high; whereas, customers with FOMO may be ready to pay extra for next-day delivery. When you have multiple datasets of behavioral data that you can compare against one another, your team can understand how to cater to various customer segments by understanding their motivations.

Note that customer “segments” vary from “profiles” or “personas.” They are not as specific, and typically only focus on one or two variables rather than a list of unique qualities. There are countless ways to segment your audience, so be sure to find the segmentation model that best fits your business.

Customer Sentiment Analysis photo
Credit: MeaningCloud.com

Identify Engagement Intent

Understanding the “why” behind your customer’s actions will shed some light on their sentiment reactions. Your expectations always influence your experience, so a customer’s engagement intent could play a part in their response.

The rise of search as a marketing channel has made it clear that there are essentially four engagement intent categories that consumers fall into today:

  • informational;
  • navigational;
  • commercial; and
  • transactional.

Each of these steps correlates well with the traditional AIDA sales funnel model.

Informational

The first is searching for information on a particular subject that may or may not be a problem for them. These are typically prospects who are just entering the marketing funnel. They simply want to know more, so if your website does not offer the information they are looking for, their interest in your brand or product will not develop at all.

Navigational

People in the navigational category are looking for a specific product, service, or piece of content. This group knows what they want, and they will be easily frustrated if they can’t find it.

Commercial

The commercial investigation intent group is interested in buying, but they just aren’t quite ready yet or aren’t convinced that your product offers the best solution for them. They fall just above the action segment of the sales funnel and are often looking for the last bits of information before they make a purchase.

Transactional

And finally, the transactional group has the intent to buy. They have already made their decision to buy a specific product; however, any hiccups in the buying or checkout process could deter them.

Identifying Engagement Intent

Of course, identifying their engagement intent is a little tricky, especially after the interaction has been completed. But with some digging and martech tools, there are ways to figure out the motivations behind every brand-customer engagement.

One of the clearest ways to identify engagement intent is through carrying out intent research, attribution modeling, and analyzing their behavior on your digital property. If they just read a post on your blog, chances are they were looking for more information on a topic related to your industry. If they clicked an ad and filled up a form on your landing page, they are probably interested in availing themselves of your service.

Once their intent has been identified and understood, it will be much easier to understand their sentiment post brand engagement or product usage.

Experiment With Changes

Finally, the only way to make customer analysis actionable is to, well, take action. However, just switching things up without constantly analyzing the results will only put you back at Square One.

Many marketers rely on A/B/n or multivariate testing strategies to compare different changes, whether it be in the design or layout to an entire product or service experience. However, A/B testing can be a long and arduous process that yields murky results. It may even mislead you, if you over-rely on seasonal or contextual variables. Unsurprisingly, AI technology has been a huge help in the A/B testing realm by improving the accuracy and reliability of the process, resulting in few conversion opportunities lost.

AI-based algorithms are able to gather and analyze massive amounts of data at a time. They can compare results of multiple tests against each other simultaneously at various interaction points along the buyer journey.

Tools like Evolv use machine learning (ML) to find which experiences and customer journey paths work best (make profits) for you and nudge customers down those paths accordingly. You can set up experiments on your landing pages with goals and KPIs, and let the algorithm tweak the UX for each customer by presenting various combinations. The data from these experiments help you understand how satisfied the customer is with the interaction, and also develop new hypotheses to keep testing further or make decisions related to product development or service delivery.

The Way Ahead

By understanding the root causes behind your customer’s reactions and feelings, you can go as far as to influence sentiment, improve brand loyalty ,and encourage advocacy. Always be looking for overlaps and commonalities among complaints. This will help you avert PR disasters, deliver exceptional customer service, and stay ahead of the competition.

Use sentiment analysis to understand where your customers are coming from by segmenting them and uncovering their intents at every interaction. Finally, track the effects of all your initiatives and take action responsibly to ensure they stay delighted at all times.

Building a Center of Excellence for Customer Engagement — Part 2

This is Part 2 of a two-part posting on how to create and organize a center of excellence (CoE) for demand generation and customer engagement. In this post, we will discuss the inputs and outputs to the CoE and what driving for excellence means, in practice.

This is Part 2 of a two-part posting on how to create and organize a center of excellence (CoE) for demand generation and customer engagement. In Part 1, we highlighted that one must define the capabilities that will exist within the CoE and talked generally about the people involved. In this post, we will discuss the inputs and outputs to the CoE and what driving for excellence means, in practice.

CoE Inputs and Outputs

So let’s say you’ve decided to create a Customer Engagement CoE, within marketing, and they will drive all your inbound and outbound campaigns, engaging with prospects and customers. You already concluded which capabilities you will need in the team in order to execute.

Next, you need to consider the inputs and outputs to this organization very carefully. Why? Imagine a baker is determined to be excellent, the best in the county. They are going to master the best cates around. They will test different ingredients, ovens, temperatures, cooking times, blending methods etc., all to arrive at the perfect cake. If the ingredients were to change in composition every week, would that stymie the baker’s attempts to achieve excellence? Of course. So for our customer engagement team, if there is no defined process for submitting campaign requests, or offers, or personas, or buying journey maps, or campaign and event calendars, or communications cadence and governance rules, they will not be able to hone their results. They will do their best to manage the chaos, but don’t expect them to achieve continuous improvement.

The outputs will, of course, depend on the capabilities you put in the CoE. Let’s assume for a moment you put the email platform power users, the inbound power users, the SEM/SEO, social media, and event managers all in here. The obvious output is, of course, great customer engagement and MQLs/SQLs. The other outputs include:

  • Content requirements to the content group
  • Content engagement results to the content group
  • A campaign calendar
  • MQL/SQL results, broken down by product and region
  • Technology, process, data, and reporting requirements to the marketing operations team

Driving for Excellence

So what does it mean to drive for excellence? We could just put a demand generation team together instead of creating a CoE, so what’s the difference?

Putting a team of people together, all driving for a common business outcome, does not make them a CoE. Creating a managed services team does not make it a CoE. The CoE label is earned if you direct them as follows:

  1. There is an expectation of excellence from this team. They will have precisely defined outcomes and goals. These will be measured and reviewed regularly.
  2. They will have a maniacal pursuit of excellence in the delivery of their outcomes. A strong QA ethic. And if the inputs do not conform to the defined process and expectation, the task is not accepted. For example, a campaign brief or blueprint is submitted with missing details, perhaps missing copy or assets, it is rejected. Nothing is allowed to interfere with the precise operation of a customer engagement machine that is being fine-tuned for perfection.
  3. There is a burning need for continuous improvement. There is experimentation and multivariate testing. The best practices are carefully documented and rigidly followed. There is continuous education for all team members. They are to become the elites in the industry.
  4. The team is empowered to task some measured risks, to embrace innovation, and to operate in an agile fashion.

Conclusion

It is likely that a new team will not become a CoE overnight. It may take months to define the inputs and outputs and the processes behind them, so that the quality becomes consistent. It may take time to find people who are passionate about continuous improvement and open to experimentation. New ways of rewarding performance may be required. But the extra investment in creating a CoE, instead of just forming a group, will be returned in much higher-than-average results.

How to Build a Center of Excellence for Customer Engagement — Part I

This is Part 1 of a two-part posting on how to create and organize a center of excellence for demand generation and customer engagement. Different definitions for a center of excellence, or CoE, have circulated for some time.

This is Part 1 of a two-part posting on how to create and organize a center of excellence for demand generation and customer engagement.

Different definitions for a center of excellence, or CoE, have circulated for some time:

  • In academia, where the phrase was coined, CoEs are sometimes called a “competency center” or “capability center.” A CoE brings together people from different disciplines and provides shared facilities/resources.
  • Business CoEs are sometimes defined as a team that leads others in the organization in a particular area of expertise; whether that be technology, skill or discipline — providing leadership, best practices, research, support and/or training.
  • Additionally, if leaders don’t define “excellence” with KPIs and output metrics, then it’s not a Marketing Center of Excellence, it’s just a skilled group.

Gartner defines a CoE as “a physical or virtual center of knowledge, concentrating existing expertise and resources in a discipline or capability to attain and sustain world-class performance and value.” Gartner then proceeds to state that this breaks down into four elements. Let me paraphrase those here:

  1. CoEs need to focus on a tight scope, defined around a specific capability
  2. Define the location of the CoE (physical vs. virtual)
  3. CoEs should optimize and leverage resources internal to the organization, not external vendors or agencies
  4. Have a focus on pushing beyond standard performance norms. (i.e., Drive toward excellence in the chosen capabilities.)

This is a good list, but it feels a little incomplete. We need to further differentiate a CoE from a simple organization chart department, or managed services group, or council. What are the characteristics of a Revenue Marketing CoE?

  1. The Revenue Marketing CoE is based on a set of related capabilities. What is a capability? “A capability is a unique bundling of skills, knowledge, and resources that facilitate the execution of business processes, and are what ultimately contribute to sustainable competitive advantage and superior performance.” (Day, 1994, opens as a PDF).
  2. The CoE has a clearly defined mission and charter
  3. The CoE has a defined structure and borders — i.e., what are the inputs and the outputs. And related to this, there needs to be a definition for how the broader organization interoperates with the CoE
  4. The CoE is chartered to drive for continuous improvement and curation of best practices; thereby, achieving excellence
  5. The CoE has a significant impact on the competiveness of the organization, and a strong ROI

Capabilities

Let’s start with the capabilities, what should be in the Customer Engagement CoE, and remember — just because you move a capability in here, doesn’t mean that it can’t also exist outside the CoE … content creation, for example. To build a CoE for customer engagement, you will benefit from the following set of capabilities, at a minimum:

  • Demand management
  • Program management
  • Campaign management (inbound and outbound)
  • Best practices management
  • Customer journey and persona management
  • Operational outcome reporting
  • Customer experience management

There are other capabilities that could optionally be added:

  • Campaign content operations
  • Marketing technology operations (i.e., the folks who build inbound and outbound campaigns)
  • Data analysis and analytics/reporting

So, at a minimum, you might have job titles like these in the COE:

  1. Demand Generation Managers; AKA, program/campaign strategists
  2. Power users for all channels (email, social, paid media, events, etc.)
  3. Customer data tzar, possibly also good for reporting analysis and segmentation
  4. Content creative and copy writing
  5. Content strategist
  6. Inbound admin/guru and MAP/CRM admin/guru, especially for config and reporting
  7. Campaign Managers; AKA, project managers for campaign design/execution
  8. Traffic managers for handling all the asset production and workflows

You may choose to implement a customer engagement CoE that extends beyond the walls of marketing and, in doing so, needs to include representatives from sales and support. When you consider that a focus on customer experience is a company-wide mandate and cannot be executed by marketing alone, then creating a customer engagement CoE that can serve the broader organization makes sense.

Hopefully, this discussion on capabilities in the CoE got you thinking, and you are asking yourself:

“Whoa, would I put content/creative types in there?”

“Would I put social, paid media folks in there?”

“ Would I put the campaign strategists/designers in there? I mean, what if I have field marketing?”

“Jeez, Kevin, keep it simple. Why not simply make a CoE out of the Marketing Automation Platform (MAP) power users, put them in HQ, call them a CoE, stick it under Marketing Ops and call it good?”

Not so fast. Is the latter really a CoE? Do they represent one or more capabilities in the way we defined capabilities above? No. Are they in one location, yes. Can they strive for excellence in building, sure. But they cannot measure their results based on the business outcomes, because so much is out of their control: the quality of the design, the offers, the data, the metrics. So, they make it on three of the four Gartner criteria, but fail on No. 1. Do they represent one or more capabilities? You could argue that this is semantics and that “MAP usage” is a capability. Not so fast (again). Remember Day’s definition of a capability?

“A unique bundling of skills, knowledge, and resources that facilitate the execution of business processes…”

Does building a campaign all by itself rise to the level of “facilitates execution of a business process”? No. Nor will it “contribute to a sustainable competitive advantage.” But it is part of the customer engagement process where we can hope to gain competitive advantage. And now we get to the crux of the discussion: We cannot determine if a CoE is right for our organization until we have agreement on what the required capabilities might be.

A COE is the right way to organize a team and, thereby, increase marketing effectiveness, when these conditions exist relative to the capabilities and people:

  • Capabilities:
    • Specific Revenue Marketing capabilities can be provided by a small or modest-sized group
    • Grouping these capabilities and the individuals together will be synergistic
    • The returned value to the organization in driving to excellence in these capabilities is high
  • People:
    • A modest-sized group of specialists, who may be skilled in completely different areas, and all share common goals or business outcomes for their skills, can be grouped together under one leader.
    • This group can be united as one and manically pursue excellence in the delivery of those business outcomes.
    • The team is empowered, embraces innovation, has a bias for action, and operates in an agile fashion

There are, of course, other criteria to consider before electing to invest more and create a CoE, instead of simply organizing as a group. They include a detailed specification of the CoE inputs and outputs, what driving for excellence actually means in practice, and having a well-defined mission and charter. All this and more will come next month in Part 2 of this blog post.

4 Customer Experience Lessons From Your Wait Staff

It’s not very often I give a 40% tip at a restaurant, and it’s not because I’m cheap. But the other night was a different kind of customer experience, with lessons for marketers about successful customer engagement strategies.

It’s not very often I give a 40% tip at a restaurant, and it’s not because I’m cheap. But the other night was a different kind of customer experience, with lessons for marketers about successful customer engagement strategies.

It was a crazy night and hard to find a restaurant that could take our party of seven. We were stressed and so was the wait staff, who had plenty of reasons to be stressed and just go through the motions to get the job done.

This young man was different. He replaced the stress of the night with a calm smile. He asked about our evening and totally empathized with our “issues,” never mentioning his own. He told us in advance that the cook was a little behind but he would do his best to get us served quickly.

He noticed we were hungry and it was late so while our order was being processed, he brought us a complimentary appetizer; nothing expensive, but enough to tide us over. When he brought us our order, it was faster than we expected  given the crowd, and it was clear he had listened to our special needs, made sure that everything was just as we asked it to be, and had even gone a step further to make sure my gluten-free daughter was not exposed to any gluten indirectly.

And throughout dinner, he checked in. With a smile. And asked how we liked our food, did we have any other needs or even suggestions? His conversations were relevant and cheerful to the point that we left feeling like we had made a new friend.

It was a pleasure to leave him a $40 tip.

Waiting tables may seem like a simple process that is simply a routine. Yet there are a lot of insights to gain here for customer engagement strategies and success. Let’s change this scenario to a sales call:

  • You have a customer who is stressed, tired and needs a solution soon.
  • You have a big backlog or a long queue of customer orders.
  • Timing is critical for this customer and, if you can’t deliver, they may go elsewhere.
  • They have some very specific needs that have to be met with precision.

Implementing What We Learned

So how do you “serve” them to get them to purchase,then to satisfaction and loyalty?

Recognize upfront and immediately a customers’ stress, anxiety, and needs. Empathy for those needs and issues goes a long way. We connect with people who are like us, understand our pain and concerns, and give us even a little hope that they will be resolved.

While challenges and obstacles can’t be overcome in a day in most cases, find a way to minimize the pain (or hunger) with a small service or added value while they wait for the full resolution. Be transparent about any shortcomings you might have for providing the products or services needed and assure customers you will do your best to meet their needs. Regardless of your business, you can almost always find something to ease the process. If your wait time is longer than normal, offer a discount for their patience, which gives them a reason to stay with you vs. shop for a faster solution.

Follow up. It is simply amazing how much money is left on the table (and I don’t mean tips) after sparking interest in your products and then not following up personally with a close. With all of the emails and ads and messages we are exposed to daily, while multitasking at home or at work, we simply do not respond to messages of interest immediately. But when someone calls us a few days later to see if we have all we need, we often go for the order, just like we often go for dessert when we had no intention to before being asked if we wanted that tiramisu or chocolate mousse vs. the fresh key lime pie?

Conclusion

Pay attention next time you have a really good waiter and watch how subtlety and skillfully they earn a good tip by following these simple steps above. Try the same kind of touchpoints in your customer journey and watch your sales and stickiness take off!

When Marketing’s Not Working, Stop Trying So Hard

We see it all of the time. The most talented athletes who kill all records and expectations in their sport. During training. But when it comes to delivering during a high-pressure, high-stakes competition, they go cold, stiff and can’t come close to the potential they have shown sans pressure. When marketing’s not working, the story’s often the same as it is for athletes.

We see it all of the time. The most talented athletes who kill all records and expectations in their sport. During training. But when it comes to delivering during a high-pressure, high-stakes competition, they go cold, stiff, and can’t come close to the potential they have shown sans pressure. When marketing’s not working, the story’s often the same as it is for athletes.

As a mom of three elite ski racers, I’ve seen it for years — among athletes young and old. And when it happens, its labeled as “over-thinking” that gets in the way of a relaxed performance driven by passion and not results. In fact, the old adage in the ski racing industry is, “Focus on results, be disappointed. Focus on passion, be happily surprised.”

If focusing on passion vs. results can pay big dividends in sports performance, can it do the same for marketing?

Think about it. Marketers are rushing to push out more content, more emails, more ads — and we work long hard hours to do this faster and better than everyone else. And then so often we sit back to watch the results, and end up disappointed or even stunned at the lack of response, even from our best customers. This tends to be the pattern more often than not.

Yet, when we launch campaigns that do not follow the rules of skills, tactics and techniques we have learned over the years, and just let go of the boundaries and set loose our passion for our brand, category or the purpose our products enable us to fulfill, we quite often experience something very different: customer engagement, response and ROI levels that exceed even our basic expectations. Much like when an athlete quits thinking of results and plays his/her game for the love of it instead of the glory, marketers quite often achieve personal bests.

Take a look at the brands that are more movements than profit centers:

  • Tom’s Shoes is one of the pioneer brands in this area. Instead of organizing and operating to make rich shareholders richer, founder Blake Mycoskie started an organization to put shoes on the feet of children living in poverty in third-world countries in which he had volunteered. His business reached $23 million in revenue in just three years, because his mission and his passion were contagious. That made his product that much more attractive, even when it was priced well over the cost of goods equation.
  • Another great example is Newman’s Own, a line of natural food products from which all profits are donated to charity. Its mission is “Newman’s Own Foundation uses the power of giving to help transform lives and nourish the common good.” And since starting in 1982, it has donated more than $530 million to charity. Giving back was a passion of founder, Paul Newman, whose personal mantra was, “What could be better than to hold your hand out to those who are less fortunate?” His products are top sellers at grocery stores nationwide, because they are good, and because the company creates good — both of which are contagious and inspire people to engage or purchase time and time again.

While many might call the above brand examples cause-related marketing models, others might join me in calling it Passion Marketing, which I define as: Building products and business models around a cause about which you are passionate, and working hard to engage others in your cause in order to make a powerful contact.

Like the athletes or performers who operate for the joy of doing what they love, and the passion to share their talents or gifts with others, when brands operate toward this higher purpose, they do better. Achieve more. And attract more people to their tribe, based upon like values and goals.

At some point, you — the business owner, marketing executive, operations lead — need to ask yourself a key question: Why do you do what you do? What about your job gives you joy? And why should others join your cause?

If you still have passion for what you do, your product, your brand, shift your focus and efforts to passing forward the joy you receive vs. the profits you are expected to increase.

If you are not getting the results you want. Stop trying so hard. Chances are, you’re over-thinking and not communicating with contagious passion or sharing the joy that keeps you doing what you do. Like the athlete, your efforts could be so routinized that they are just stiff and ineffective, even at the most basic level.

Instead, build campaigns around furthering the cause that you’ve aligned with your brand, and building a community around your cause that makes people want to be part of your brand. When you can do this, like Tom’s did with his mantra to give a pair of shoes away for every pair he sold, you will surprisingly see your profits grow in ways that routine, expected marketing efforts never will.

Does Your MarTech Stack Support Your Customer Experience Goals?

Your CEO has finally caught the customer experience fever and embraced it as the new competitive battleground! She is empowering all functions to propose 2019 budgets that induce the organizational transformation from product-centric to customer-centric. As CMO, where do you start? How do you operationalize the customer experience?

Your CEO has finally caught the customer experience fever and embraced customer experience as the new competitive battleground. As a result, she is empowering all functions to propose 2019 budgets that induce the organizational transformation from product-centric to customer-centric. As CMO you are naturally elated, but where do you start? How do you operationalize the customer experience? There will be changes required in people, process, content, technology/data and metrics/KPIs. In this post we will focus on just one of these: your data and MarTech stack.

Assuming you have bold plans for how you are going to improve and enrich the customer experience as they interact with marketing, the challenge quickly becomes, “Do we have a marketing technology stack capable of supporting the types of customer engagement we want to drive?” What new platforms and tools will you need to integrate? What systems will you replace? What new data integrations will be required? Below are three questions you can discuss with your Marketing Operations (MO) team to elucidate the technology requirements for improving the customer experience.

Question 1. How Do You Measure Customer Engagement With Marketing Content?

While the question seems simple enough, getting insightful answers is not. Marketers generally accept the premise that increasing engagement of customers with our content means they value it, that the experience is good, and that this will influence customers to buy more. From the customer’s perspective, having a good experience with my content means:

  1. It was easy to find.
  2. It was in a format I prefer.
  3. It was easy to digest.
  4. It provided the insights and answers I was seeking.
  5. It left me wanting more and pointed me in the right direction.

The possible answers to question 1 are:

  1. We just look at web analytics and see which pages and content get the most traffic.
  2. We use landing pages for all assets and record visits against the customer profile in our Marketing Automation Platform (MAP).
  3. We’ve integrated video and audio streaming services into our MAP and update customer profiles based on how much of the asset they consumed (think Sprout, YouTube, Wistia).
  4. We have embedded links in our content that drive customers to the next relevant piece and we measure the usage of these links (think Pathfactory).
  5. We use a content marketing platform to increase engagement and encourage “bingeing” of content (think Uberflip).
  6. We bring our content to the social platforms and blog, but drive the consumption back to the platforms where we can record engagement (and track where they came from using UTM parameters)
  7. All of the above

Question 2. Is Your Marketing Technology Stack Set Up to Support a Holistic Lead Management Process?

Does it mirror the customer journey map? Does it support tracking new customer acquisition and returning customers?

Many organizations originally set up a lead management process from the seller perspective, with it using the typical stages of new, engaged, MQL, SQL, Opportunity attached and Closed Won. Guess what, this is not customer-centric. The customer relationship does not end with “closed won.” A customer-centric approach will encourage and enable your sales and marketing teams to improve the customer experience at each stage of their buying journey. Imagine overhauling this process in the MarTech stack so that the stages are: unaware, aware, consideration, evaluation, decision, onboarding, adopting, value realization, loyalty and advocacy. Knowing what stage the buyer is in enables marketing and sales to precisely target them with the right content at the right time. The possible answers to Question 2 are:

  1. We have not implemented a lead management process in our MAP/CRM systems.
  2. We have the basic lead life cycle model defined, but the stage changes are manual.
  3. We have automated the lead management process stage changes from new to closed won.
  4. We have implemented in the technology a holistic customer lifecycle, based on the buyer journey, that includes new customer acquisition stages and existing customer expansion stages.

Question 3. Does Marketing Have the Data to Engage With Customers on Behalf of Sales, Operations and Customer Support?

Does it have that data at the appropriate stages in the buyer journey and with the right content for that stage?

Marketing has mastered the communications channels, owns all the digital properties and social channels, and creates all the engaging content for all buying journey stages. It is moving beyond just being the organization that helps sales find new customers. Marketing has the ability to be the customer communications service to the entire company, and in so doing becomes the organization most in the spotlight for providing great customer experience. So if marketing is going to communicate with new customers in the days and weeks after their purchase, or when contracts are up for renewal, or for customer support surveys, or reward loyalty, is the data available to them to automate this? The possible answers to Question 3 are:

  1. Marketing and sales systems do not have a bi-directional flow of data.
  2. Marketing and sales platforms are integrated, and marketing can see exactly where buyers are in their buying journey with sales.
  3. Marketing can see what customers bought, how often they buy, and when, and automate direct communications on multiple channels with customers as a result.
  4. Marketing can see customer support and operations interactions with customers, can see support contract dates and pertinent fields, and can automate communications to customers on behalf of these organizations.

Becoming customer-centric and driving great customer experiences is a whole-firm initiative and cannot be driven by any one function alone. Marketing plays a pivotal role because they own and are masters of so much of the communications technology, but it has to be integrated to enable marketing to offer communications as a service to sales, operations and support.

If your goal in 2019 is to improve customer experiences, and your answers to the three questions above are in the I, or II range, it is definitely time to review your MarTech stack, and the integrations it supports. Don’t be complacent. Determine now what it will take in the 2019 budget to enable you to lead on this important initiative and make customer-centricity a reality in the coming year.

5 Marketing Capabilities for Customer-Centric Digital Transformation

A couple of months ago we discussed what marketing capabilities are needed for a digital transformation. Let’s now address the additional capabilities required to transform a traditional marketing organization into a modern revenue marketing machine.

A couple of months ago we discussed what marketing capabilities are needed for a digital transformation. We narrowed the scope of the answer to just technology-related capabilities. Let’s now address the additional capabilities required to transform a traditional marketing organization into a modern revenue marketing machine.

“A capability is a unique bundling of skills, knowledge, and resources that facilitate the execution of business processes, and are what ultimately contribute to sustainable competitive advantage and superior performance.” (Day, 1994).

5 Core Customer-Related Capabilities Marketing Must Acquire:

  1. Buying Journey Management is the capability that maximizes the sales and marketing activity with its buyers at all stages of their buying lifecycle, resulting in stronger customer relationships, increased revenues, profit and competitive advantage. This buying journey repeats itself with every purchasing decision. This capability is not simply about defining the buying journey; it is about aligning your content and marketing activities so they align with where the buyers are in their journey. Have you defined your customer journey? Have you mapped your content to the journey?
  2. Content Operations is a capability that supports the production, collection, management, publishing and measurement of customer or prospect-oriented information in any form or medium. Marketing manages content to support successful execution and optimization of multi-channel programs and campaigns. Content operations is a factory that collects requirements from demand generation, product marketing, and sales. They publish a production calendar. They are experts at content curation and understanding the best media for each message by segment.
  3. Customer Engagement is the capability that maximizes the relationships between sales/marketing and prospects/customers through the stages of the customer lifecycle. Too many firms simply pour out blog posts, newsletters, and promotional emails without actually measuring the level of engagement they are driving with each touch. Achieving a high level of engagement with your content and offers requires deep understanding of what messages and content works with which persona in which part of their buying journey, through what channel, and in what medium. The expectation is good engagement produces good conversion rates in your funnel. How good is your team at engaging prospects? Do you measure it?
  4. Customer Knowledge Management is a cross-functional capability for collecting, organizing, sharing and gaining insight from market and customer information, which drives stronger customer relationships and results in increased revenue, profit and competitive advantage. Back in the day, when direct mail was king and email was a novelty, we said the success of a campaign was 60% predicated on the quality of the data, 20% on the quality of the offer, and 20% on the quality of the packaging. We may have shifted the bulk of our campaign communications to digital channels, but the rule still applies. If your customer data quality is poor, don’t expect campaign miracles. Your customer data is an expensive asset that you have acquired. It depreciates at 2.1% per month (source Marketing Sherpa). Effective management of your customer data is a core capability in digital marketing success.
  5. Persona Management is the capability that develops, manages and optimizes semi-fictional characters to represent the different customer types that might use a company’s products or services. Personas need to go beyond job titles in B2B, because otherwise you are simply describing a segment. Modern marketing technologies enable us to gather, assess and adapt to people’s behaviors. Good personas therefore reflect the person’s goals, needs and decision-making behavior. Persona management means you recognize that personas are not static and need constant updating and refinement.

Delivering on each of these capabilities requires certain skills, knowledge and experience. You can outsource some of these capabilities to agencies or train your internal team to fulfill them.

4 Steps to Digital Transformation by Customer Capability Acquisition

  1. Assign someone to be your data czar, even if it is only part of their role. Have them create data quality dashboards.
  2. Define one or more customer journeys with the help of sales and map your content to the journey stages. What are the gaps? Build a plan to eliminate the content gaps. Create a content calendar. Now start planning your engagement based on the journey stages.
  3. Start measuring customer engagement with your content, events, offers, ads and all digital properties. What content is driving more engagement or minimal engagement?
  4. Finally, define personas, map the content to the personas, and start to collect data on your prospects so you can learn their persona and start to improve how you communicate with them!

Customer experience is the new competitive battleground. Shift to greater customer centricity in 2019 by investing now in the five marketing capabilities described above.

Measuring Customer Engagement: It’s Not Easy and It Takes Time

Here’s what’s easy: Measuring the effect of individual engagements like Web page views, email opens, paid and organic search clicks, call center interactions, Facebook likes, Twitter follows, tweets, retweets, referrals, etc. Here’s what’s hard: Understanding the combined effect of your promotions across all those channels. Many marketers turn to online attribution methods to assign credit for all or part of an individual order across multiple online channels. es as the independent variables.

Here’s what’s easy: Measuring the effect of individual engagements like Web page views, email opens, paid and organic search clicks, call center interactions, Facebook likes, Twitter follows, tweets, retweets, referrals, etc.

Here’s what’s hard: Understanding the combined effect of your promotions across all those channels.

Many marketers turn to online attribution methods to assign credit for all or part of an individual order across multiple online channels. Digital marketing guru Avinash Kaushik points out the strengths of weaknesses of various methods in his blog, Occam’s Razor in “Multichannel Attribution: Definitions, Models and a Reality Check” and concludes that none are perfect and many are far from it.

But online attribution models look to give credit to an individual tactic rather than measuring the combined effects of your entire promotion mix. Here’s a different approach to getting a holistic view of your entire promotion mix. It’s similar to the methodology I discussed in the post “Use Market Research to Tie Brand Awareness and Purchase Intent to Sales,” and like that methodology, it’s not something you’re going to be able to do overnight. It’s an iterative process that will take some time.

Start by assigning a point value to every consumer touch and every consumer action to create an engagement score for each customer. This process will be different for every marketer and will vary according to your customer base and your promotion mix. For illustration’s sake, consider the arbitrary assignments in the table in the media player, at right.

Next, perform this preliminary analysis:

  1. Rank your customers on sales volume for different time periods
    —previous month, quarter, year, etc.
  2. Rank your customers on their engagement score for the same periods
  3. Examine the correlation between sales and engagement
    —How much is each point of engagement worth in sales $$$?

After you’ve done this preliminary scoring, do your best to isolate customers who were not exposed to specific elements of the promotion mix into control groups, i.e., they didn’t engage on Facebook or they didn’t receive email. Compare their revenue against the rest of the file to see how well you’ve weighted that particular element. With several iterations of this process over time, you will be able to place a dollar value on each point of engagement and plan your promotion mix accordingly.

How you assign your point values may seem arbitrary at first, but you will need to work through this iteratively, looking at control cells wherever you can isolate them. For a more scientific approach, run a regression analysis on the customer file with revenue as the dependent variable and the number and types of touches as the independent variables. The more complete your customer contact data is, the lower your p value and the more descriptive the regression will be in identifying the contribution of each element.

As with any methodology, this one is only as good as the data you’re able to put into it, but don’t be discouraged if your data is not perfect or complete. Even in an imperfect world, this exercise will get you closer to a holistic view of customer engagement.

3 Success Factors to Insights-Driven Automation

Most marketers do not have a technology problem. In fact, we’ve crossed the chasm of a few years ago, when technology could not keep up with marketers’ vision of customer engagement. Now, we have so much technology, we can’t utilize it strategically and we struggle to integrate it.

Most marketers do not have a technology problem. In fact, we’ve crossed the chasm of a few years ago when, technology could not keep up with marketers’ vision of customer engagement. Now, we have so much technology we can’t utilize it strategically, and we struggle to integrate it.

At the same time, marketers do not have a data problem. There is more data than we can manage or use wisely.

Marketers do have an optimization problem when it comes to using their technology and data to generate meaningful insights. Many of us struggle with how to prioritize our integrated marketing technology, practices and teams in order to generate the kinds of insights (a key output of many of our technology and data solutions) which will move the needle for the business.

There are three factors to this challenge.

  1. Analytics must be integrated with campaign management.
  2. Content must be created to solve problems.
  3. Insights must be scored and prioritized.

First, We Have to Get the Analytics Closer to Our Outbound Messaging. Personalization is the key to successfully creating relevance for each customer, so the analytics can’t happen off to the side. It has to be integrated with our IMM/campaign management solution so that each customer and prospect will be connected with content that is important, and available at a time that will resonate.

We can pretty easily automate our marketing response to insights. Programmatic buying has been around for many years and is expanding beyond search to Web display, ad re-targeting and campaign management (outbound) solutions. The rise of the DMP (or DSP)—platforms which allow utilization of consumer data across websites—provides great benefit to marketers looking to serve customers and prospects as they interact with any combination of owned, earned and paid media. This is helping us identify the anonymous and known people in our marketplace. Yet, the insights from interactions with branded messages across the ecosystem are not yet accessible fast enough or completely enough to allow marketers to be nimble in serving customers. We have to get these programmatic insights back to the main IMM “hub” and the campaign messaging platforms.

We need automation to also serve the process. Marketing operations efficiencies like workflow and social CRM require these insights at scale. While truly integrated IMM on a single platform is nirvana, the marketing technology landscape is huge. Real engagement often requires a few tools that will work together.

Second, Our Content Creation Machines Have to Focus More on What Sells and Our Brand Purpose. Too much content is created simply because it’s interesting. That is not a high enough bar. If your product is water, then the content needs to be all about fire. Content has to create need and speak to the “Why” of what you do, not the “What.” Why brands produce a product is usually about vision, value, need and satisfaction. Look at those heartwarming Super Bowl ads—do Dove products make you a better dad? No. But the brand is about being true to yourself and to celebrating your own personal values. So the advertising content worked.

If 2015 has a theme in marketing, it’s got to be personalization. Of course that means something different now than it did 10 years ago, when we first started really considering what is possible with custom-branded experiences. Effective personalization now means curating the content that will resonate with each customer’s individual needs. Automation technology makes this possible through content blocks and integrated native advertising units.

Third, We Need More Discipline About the Types of Insights That Will Help Us Do More Effective Marketing. I’ve always found in marketing analysis that certain demographics have clear preferences in tone, pace and language when interacting with a sales rep or brand. We can capitalize on these preferences to increase sales and connect the right rep with the right type of customer.

One way to solidify the discipline is to have some sort of mantra or brand promise that is very clear, and so all analytics work can strive to generate insights that are true to that brand promise. Remember the Coca-Cola’s Content 2020 Manifesto? Auditing your landscape of opportunity and focusing on the areas that have the most impact on revenue and market share will help you identify the kinds of insights that are most meaningful for your business.

Granted, this task is complicated by the fact that much of our data is channel-specific and measures the effectiveness of campaigns against previous campaigns. We need more insights around the impact and engagement of individual customers. Silos are still present, and organizational structure can severely limit marketers’ ability to learn about the customer-level engagement. One way to bring the team together is to score insights as they are applied to the business (much as we score leads). Did this move the needle? Have we improved our reach or response? Are key audiences engaged? It’s not just a volume game, but an engagement game with priority, high-value customers.

With these three success factors in mind, marketers can use the technology they have in a test and learn methodology to help better understand how automated insights can grow the business. Once the key drivers are identified, we can start to also assess current technology and pare down the options for improving the integration and efficiency of your organization.

Are you automating the use of insights that help personalize the customer experience? Please share your success factors in the space below.