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.

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.

Why Capabilities Trump Skills in Digital Transformation

There are hundreds of skills a marketing department could need. The real question is, “What capabilities do we need in order to do digital marketing effectively?” By considering capabilities instead of unique skills, we turn digital transformation into 10 or 20 capabilities we must acquire instead of 200 skills. For CMOs this is the best approach for building the organization.

A CMO embarking on the digital transformation of their marketing department recently asked me to prioritize what skills they needed for their fast-growing company. The question reminded me of the time I asked my friend Dan Wolff, some 35 years ago, where exactly on a mogul (front, back, sides or top) I should be skiing in order to master the skill of mogul skiing. His answer was simple. “You are asking the wrong question.”

There are hundreds of skills a marketing department could need, from copy-writing for blogs, video editing, podcasting, data analysis, budget management and public relations all the way to campaign design. The answer would not have been apposite. The real question is, “What marketing capabilities do we need to acquire in order to do digital marketing effectively?”

“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, link downloads the pdf). By considering capabilities instead of unique skills we can think about the problem in terms of 10 or 20 capabilities we must acquire instead of 200 skills. For CMOs this is the best approach for building the organization.

The Technology Capabilities You Need for Digital Transformation

For the sake of brevity let’s narrow the list of capabilities down to those related to technology, and ignore strategy, reporting and analytics, customer, content, people and process related capabilities. We will tackle more of the capabilities for building an effective marketing organization in future posts. Here are five core technology capabilities marketing will benefit from acquiring:

  1. Technology awareness is a marketing capability that identifies current and emerging technology that will help marketing achieve its objectives. It involves defining clear organizational needs, matching potential technology, educating team members as to potential benefits and formalizing a role to own this process.
  2. Revenue Marketing Architecture is the capability that defines the collection of software components that are combined into a service-oriented reference architecture that support marketing in achieving its objectives. It includes the proper integration and optimization of the components, enterprise process and workflow, and overall system governance.
  3. Planning, Selection and Implementation is the capability that defines the process for planning, selecting and implementing a Revenue Marketing Architecture. It includes conducting a proper evaluation and needs analysis, developing use cases and measuring performance.
  4. Vendor Management is the capability that maximizes vendor relationships and enables organizations to control costs, optimize technology, increase performance, drive service excellence and mitigate risks.
  5. Technology Adoption is the capability that ensures the adoption or acceptance of a Revenue Marketing Architecture that drives business results.   It includes communication, strategic planning, senior leadership commitment, project management, training and education and business process re-engineering.

Some might debate if these particular capabilities should live in marketing operations or in IT. There is no simple answer to this. For large organizations, where IT is focused on large initiatives, security, governance, data architecture at a corporate level, then it behooves marketing and sales to acquire their own technology capabilities. Keeping it close to marketing will enable the team to fully understand the business requirements and move with the agility that marketing requires. It does not obviate the need to work with IT on the integrations into other corporate systems and in adherence to defined standards for data, security, vendor selection, licensing terms etc.

Delivering on each of these capabilities requires certain skills, knowledge and experience. It may require multiple people just to deliver on a single capability and in other cases a single individual may bring two or more capabilities. The key is to focus on capability acquisition, and not simply hire people because they have desired skills. Contemplating digital transformation at the capability level also facilitates discussions around what to in-source versus what to out-source.

5 Steps to Acquire the Technical Capabilities

Steps to digital transformation by technology capability acquisition:

  1. Examine what you want to accomplish in becoming more proficient at digital marketing.
  2. Document the capabilities that this will take in technology, content creation, demand generation and reporting at a minimum.
  3. Consider if you can educate existing staff to help them provide these capabilities.
  4. If time or focus is of the essence, determine which capabilities can be outsourced temporarily or even permanently.
  5. Write the job descriptions and goals for the individuals in terms of the outcomes that will be delivered once the capability is in place. Look for people who have delivered these capabilities and outcomes before.

On a final note, I did learn to mogul ski. Dan’s advice that day stuck with me. He shared that the secret was to be able to ski anywhere and everywhere on a mogul. That skill enabled you to make each turn when it was due, regardless of where you were on a mogul. And isn’t that what agile marketing is all about, making rapid turns when they are due, because you have an effective capability to execute regardless of the environment?

Marketing’s New Role in Product and Service Delivery

This is the first in a series of posts about the three greatest challenges facing marketing organizations in 2018: Becoming more accountable, undergoing a digital transformation and evolving to put the customer experience front-and-center.

This is the first in a series of posts about the three greatest challenges facing marketing organizations in 2018:

  • Becoming more accountable
  • Undergoing a digital transformation
  • Evolving to put the customer experience front-and-center

The first few posts will center on accountability. It would be easy to dive into what KPIs we should have, how to measure them and so forth, but before we go there let’s define what marketers are accountable for in 2018. Analysts report a big gap between the expectations of accountability and the ability to measure it.

76% of marketing organizations are accountable for a P&L, but marketing accountability goes beyond just the profit and loss numbers, doesn’t it?
76% of marketing organizations are accountable for a P&L, but marketing accountability goes beyond just the profit and loss numbers, doesn’t it? | Credit: Kevin Joyce

5 Basics of Marketing Accountability

During our lifetimes marketing has been responsible for the following:

  • Gathering customer requirements and defining the product and service set
  • Helping create and retain customers with demand generation programs, events, social, etc.
  • Increasing brand equity
  • Managing technology and channel partners
  • Empowering the sales channels with market data, prospect data, competitive data and sales tools and collateral

With the exception of demand generation, it is difficult to pin revenue contribution on the other responsibilities. However, something else is at play here. Marketing’s role is evolving, and there are areas where we are being held accountable that are not on the list above.

Marketing’s Evolving Role

Organizations have always looked to marketing for help with communications. Marcom was a standard block in every marketing organization chart, and indeed public relations, press releases, creation of collateral and event management are already included in the five basics listed above. However, the need for customer communication is growing.

The number of channels that customers and prospects use to communicate with us has grown from in person, telephone, fax and events in the 90s to include: email, chat, a variety of social channels, YouTube, podcast channels, websites, blogs, user forums, etc. And which function in the company is most familiar with and engaged in these channels and technologies? Marketing.

Now, before you dismiss this as just an expansion of channels used in the existing demand generation and brand equity responsibilities listed above, consider this. Companies are using marketing to communicate new customer welcome messages, customer feedback communications, license renewal messages, satisfaction surveys, availability of training videos, programs to increase customer adoption, etc.

Are You Embracing Digitization?

We talk about digital marketing as the channel through which marketing is deployed, but that’s what it meant a decade ago. Today, at many top brands and marketing agencies, digital marketing isn’t just what they do, it’s what they are.

Every now and then you see these studies about who is or isn’t a “laggard” in some marketing technology. I always found the term a bit manipulative — after all, one man’s laggard is another’s smart shopper — but when it comes to digital transformation, or digitization, I think there’s something to it.

We held a webinar yesterday with Workfront on “3 ‘Digitization’ Trends Shaping Modern Marketing,” where I spoke with Workfront’s Brandon Jensen, Alanna Peet of Accenture and Jennifer Johnson of Informatica. And while they had slightly different viewpoints on digitization, they all said one phrase the same: “You have to embrace it.”

And some of our viewers clearly have not embraced it. So they asked about how to make their organizations more digital … And I have to say, they were a little hard for any of the speakers to answer, because their companies already were fully digital and had been for years.

What exactly does that mean? Well Johnson described how new hires at Informatica start on a Monday, and on that first day they’re given their laptop with all the apps they’re going to use and all the logins and permissions they need. That laptop with those apps contains probably 90 percent of what would have traditionally been in the office for an analog worker.

Now, they still have an office — this is not about working remotely — but the whole marketing job has been digitized.

We talk about digital marketing as the channel through which marketing is deployed, but that’s what it meant a decade ago. Today, at many top brands and marketing agencies, digital marketing isn’t just what they do, it’s what they are.

And it’s not just how the marketing workers interface with the company and their work, it’s how customers interface with those companies as well.

As we talked yesterday, what became clear was, to successfully connect with the connected consumer, it doesn’t just take digital marketing as a tactic or ad channels. It takes embracing the digital world and the tools and everything you can do with them.

Peet’s number one tip, and we came back to it several times, was that through digitization, you can be automating many of the slow, repetitive tasks that burn your time (and burnout your nerves). Data entry, message responses, testing … all of these tasks and more could be automated. This can save you an enormous amount of time and energy that would be better spent on the creative and rewarding (both for you and your employer) aspects of your work.

I admit, I have not embraced digitization as much as I probably could. There are a lot of things in my day to day (and all of Target Marketing’s day to day) that are not automated and probably could be. And that has me thinking as well.

Peet suggested you think about those little annoying tasks and actively identify things you’d like to automate. I bet you can quick make a list of a dozen. If you can automate even half of those, wouldn’t it make a huge difference?

So I ask again, are you embracing digitization? If not, you could be missing out on the marketer’s equivalent of the industrial revolution.