Is Speed Dating a Viable Marketing Strategy During Digital Transformation?

Embarking on a digital transformation can be compared to adopting a speed dating strategy. You might “meet” a whole lot of prospects a whole lot faster, but if your behavior is product-centric instead of customer-centric, you’ll simply succeed in inoculating a lot more people to your charms a lot faster.

Imagine you have a friend who has had no luck at dating. Instead of looking into the reasons why they’ve had bad luck and changing their behavior, they tell you they’re going to start speed dating. Twenty dates a night! Surely they’ll have some luck! But the same behavior, 20 times faster, means 20 times the same results — even in marketing strategy. Embarking on a digital transformation can be compared to adopting a speed dating strategy.

You might “meet” a whole lot of prospects a whole lot faster, but if your behavior is product-centric instead of customer-centric, you’ll simply succeed in inoculating a lot more people to your charms a lot faster.

A marketing digital transformation requires deploying, adopting, and coordinating the technologies and programs to enable you to communicate digital content over digital channels with your customers and prospects. The behavior change that must go hand-in-hand with digital transformation is that of becoming customer-centric in how you engage, and the content with which you engage.

Why Customer Experience Drives Success

Take Uber and Lyft, for example. Cars with drivers still take you from A to B in exchange for money. So it’s the same service as regular taxis, right? Wrong. If all Lyft or Uber did was enable you to digitally order up a cab with your smartphone, it really wouldn’t have changed the customer experience. But Lyft and Uber disrupted the transportation industry by changing the ordering, the visual tracking of the vehicle, the payment, the tipping and the rating of the drivers. They changed the entire customer experience, and ultimately bankrupted the Yellow Cab Company. These weren’t direct outcomes of a digital transformation; they were the outcomes of building a business that put customer experience first. Digital transformation was a means to that end.

The point is that we need to embark on a digital transformation and decide the aspects of it we wish to prioritize, based on the customer experience we want to achieve and the behaviors of our company we therefore need to support. And if you thought deploying digital technology was hard, try changing behaviors!

Pop Quiz: Are You Customer or Product-Centric?

How do you know if your customer-perceived behavior is customer-centric or product-centric? Here’s the pop quiz:

  1. Is your website organized primarily by product/services/solutions?
  2. Does your site include more pictures of products or satisfied customers?
  3. Does your 1-800 number ring through to a phone tree or a human being?
  4. Can the service rep see your entire customer record while on the phone?
  5. Do you have a preference center?
  6. Do you segment your communications based on where people are in their buying journey?
  7. Do you use personas for segmentation?
  8. Do you plan and develop content based on personas and prospect information needs at each stage of the customer buying journey?
  9. Can your sales development reps (SDRs) and sales reps see all of the digital interactions prospects have had with your company?
  10. Does marketing have a defined role in the onboarding of new customers?
  11. Do you identify and treat loyal customers differently?
  12. Do you have reports and dashboards that measure marketing performance after the close, including onboarding, adoption, value delivery, loyalty and advocacy?
  13. Do you have an executive responsible for customer experience?
  14. Do you measure the quality of customer experiences other than by revenue?

This list should make it clear that getting to great customer experiences is much more complicated than fiddling with GUIs. It is a company-wide initiative, where marketing has a leading role. Marketing’s job is to help customers and prospects buy more by delivering great customer experiences in all stages of the buying journey.

WARNING: There will be plenty of resistance to this behavior change.

Embrace Customer Intimacy

Twenty years ago, I spoke with the CIO of one of the largest video store chains in NA. I asked him why they didn’t cut a deal with the USPS to allow customers to return the videos for free via mail, because they had sturdy plastic cases with the store address on them. His response was that a majority of their profit came from “late returns,” so they didn’t want to change it. I shared with him that a profitability model predicated on a bad customer experience would not end well. Today, all 6,000 stores are closed.

So don’t be one of those firms that thinks deploying a marketing automation platform or email platform empowers you to spam 100,000 people with one click. Don’t dream that if you build a product- centric website “they will come.” Don’t inject yourself into social media conversations with self-promoting materials. Don’t believe that marketing technologies are narrowly focused lead generation.

Instead, decide what improvements you can make to the customer experience this year, and plan changes to your behaviors in marketing, sales, support, operations and finance. That will drive the digital transformation requirements and priorities and prove that blindly deploying martech will not lead to better dates.

Read more about operationalizing the customer experience.

Digital Developments in B-to-B Event Marketing

Event marketing has long been a staple in B-to-B, where the face-to-face conversation enabled by a trade show or corporate event plays a valuable role in launching or deepening a business relationship. But these days, business events are taking off in new directions, empowered by advancements in digital technology. I’ve been keeping an eye on some of the new developments, and happily share a few here.

Event marketing has long been a staple in B-to-B, where the face-to-face conversation enabled by a trade show or corporate event plays a valuable role in launching or deepening a business relationship. But these days, business events are taking off in new directions, empowered by advancements in digital technology. I’ve been keeping an eye on some of the new developments, and happily share a few here.

Harnessing attendee word of mouth. Event organizers can help registered attendees spread the word about upcoming shows with tools like Plancast, where members share news of their plans-both consumer and business-with friends and fellow social network members.

A private social network for attendees. Both Pathable and CrowdVine offer tools to help show organizers create a private social network, where event attendees can post their photos and profiles, search for connections and make appointments with people they’d like to meet at the event. This takes a lot of the randomness out of networking and lets attendees use their time more efficiently. A boon for exhibitors, who can interact with attendees in advance and follow up with them later, in a dynamic virtual environment.

Events designed for both virtual and live audiences. Some companies are moving in the exciting direction of “hybrid meetings,” where live content is concurrently streamed online, engaging both attendees on site and people at their desks. To pull this off, considerable advance planning is essential, says Pat Ahaesy, of P&V Enterprises, a NY-based event agency. “The hybrid event needs to be rehearsed and staged, with high definition video cameras. Speakers must be trained on how to engage with both audiences. And the content has to be terrific.” But the benefit is huge. You get double the audience, plus an archive of content that can be repurposed for years of additional value.

“Smart card” badges for richer data capture. Show badges built with “near field communication” (NFC) technology are gaining attention from organizers and exhibitors alike. Instead of scanning, exhibitors tap visitor badges using a mobile device, and the data uploads to the cloud in real time. So the post-visit message stream can begin right away. The attendee badges can even be loaded with money (remember, this is the technology behind Google Wallet) and followed up with a message like, “Thanks for coming to our booth. Have a macchiato on us!”

Bob James, head of marketing at ITN International, shares another interesting application of the technology: The satellite manufacturer Harris Corporation knew they’d have a busy booth at a recent show, and they were concerned that they might miss connecting with some important prospects. So they set up 22 self-serve kiosks around the booth, where visitors could tap their badges, request a case study or video, and indicate what kind of follow-up they’d like. A neat way to expand the reach of the booth staff.

Program book on your smartphone. I am always vexed at being handed a heavy conference guide to lug around, so I really appreciate the ShowGuide technology from RiverMatrix, which moves the entire show program off my shoulder and onto my phone. That’s including sessions, speaker bios, maps, the works.

Virtual events. After years of experimentation, virtual events still struggle to enter the mainstream. A study by the Event Marketing Institute says 93 percent of senior executives polled find value in virtual events. But Exhibitor Magazine’s survey suggests that 60 percent of businesses have yet to try a virtual event, even a webinar. Making the trade-off between the value of face-to-face contact and the cost savings of online interactions remains a challenge for B-to-B marketers.

Digital is making events faster, cheaper, better. What new digital developments are you seeing as part of the business event marketing mix?

A version of this post appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.