Rachel Alt-Simmons

1月 222015

Many loyalty programs have tags for your keychain.Just this week, I had a whirlwind experience with three customer loyalty programs that left me scratching my head
(and not necessarily feeling loyal):

Loyalty Experience#1: No value

The other day, I went out to dinner with a friend of mine. The restaurant we went to is part of a small group of local restaurants. When the check arrived, our waiter asked us if we had signed up for the reward program. Well, I had, but it was something like 10 years ago.

  • Waiter: “Do you know what phone number it’s under? I can look it up that way.”
  • Me: “Uhhh….no. I have like a bunch of phone numbers and I don’t remember which one it might be under.” (And I don’t care enough to have you run through all of them JUST to give me some points.)
  • Waiter: “Well, do you want to sign up again?”
  • Me: “Sure?” (Nooooo!)

I’m not sure what I thought would happen next. I didn’t really care about the points or rewards – I only go there a couple of times a year; and after all, I deliberately unsubscribed from their email list no less than two weeks ago. The waiter hands me an iPad: It’s dark in the restaurant, it seems there are a hundred questions, and I don’t have my reading glasses. But I signed up again, and now that I think about it, I don’t remember which phone number I put down. Shoot, now I’ll have to unsubscribe from that email again.

Lesson learned:
Actually, loyalty programs for small businesses can have a big payoff. Repeat customers and word-of-mouth marketing from your loyal customers can drive more traffic in the door and help you compete against larger competitors. But don’t be pushy and don’t ask your customers to give you too much information, especially if you’re not clear on how that information will be used.

Loyalty Experience#2: Multiple reward program confusion

The next day, I found myself at a department store. I have the store credit card and I use their coupons, so I am a loyal customer! As I was checking out, the cashier asked me:

  • Cashier: “Do you want to sign up for our new rewards program?”
  • Me: I flash my store credit card at her. “Aren’t I already in it?”
  • Cashier: “No, it’s a new points program.”

She flipped the register’s touchscreen monitor my way and I signed up while I was standing in line. I might actually use this program, but I can’t figure out why I have to sign up for it.

Lesson learned:
The only reason I can think of to have two rewards programs is that they want to be able to track my non-store card purchases and tie all my store and online transactions back to me. Companies that can align consumer transactions across multiple channels are sitting on a treasure trove of data. For example, it allows the company to make better decisions on what merchandise to carry or where to make investments in retail locations.

Loyalty Experience#3: Lost opportunity

I left the department store and headed over to one of the large chain drugstores. I shop at this store maybe once a year and do not care about the reward program.

  • Cashier: “Do you have your rewards card?”
  • Me: “No, I don’t have one.”
  • Cashier: “Well, I can use the store card to give you a discount, but don’t forget to bring your rewards card next time.”
  • Me: (But I don’t have one!)

Lesson learned: Cashiers must be really tired of customers telling them that they left their card home. It’s estimated that each US household has more than 23 memberships and more than 50% of them go unused. This is a lost opportunity for the store to engage and encourage loyalty. The larget retailer Target offers a 5% discount at the point of sale if you use their branded cards, but avoids gimmicky points and discount programs.

The punchline: Customer loyalty and rewards programs can offer great value for consumers and provide an opportunity to capture data at the point of interaction. Make sure your rewards program (1) articulates customer value, (2) defines and rewards the most valuable (profitable) customers, and (3) leverages data gathered in rewards programs to optimize decisions for the company AND your customers. Check out this joint study by SAS and the International Institute for Analytics on customer loyalty: 27% of organizations surveyed believe that their loyalty programs aren't effective. Are you one of them?

tags: customer loyalty, marketing analytics, marketing optimization
1月 092015

Like many people, I had a bit of a break over the holiday, and like many people, I did a little early Spring-cleaning during my time off. But unfortunately, my house is still messy, because the cleaning I did was electronic: After recently merging my four email accounts into Outlook, I noticed the incredible amount of irrelevant marketing emails I was receiving. I made it my mission to unsubscribe from as many of them as possible.

Email is dead

When will email marketing finally be obsolete but still quaint?

I’m sure that you’ve noticed that many websites ask for your email address before you view any of their content. This is where the trouble starts. If I’m just browsing, I might be interested in a single article or post, but I don’t really want a long-term relationship with the content provider. But once you’ve provided that email address, you suddenly find yourself attached to what seems like zillions of emails from organizations you’ve never heard of (oh yeah, that’s because they sold your email address to other providers). The default option for many websites is to sign you up for every email subscription that’s available and then it’s your responsibility (that’s right – YOU!) to determine whether the content is relevant or not. Even if it's a company that you like doing business with, you're likely to be bombarded with content. I’ve seen some organizations where the marketers are actually incentivized on the number of emails (or "leads") that go out, not the quality of the lead or the relevance of the content to a target audience.

The industry term for this effect is “contact fatigue,” which is what led me to my electronic housecleaning. Too many irrelevant messages clogging up my very important inbox. But email is still an important marketing and communication tool if the message is meaningful to your customer!

  • In a 2014 global executive study by Quartz Insights, 60% of executives read email newsletters as one of their first three sources of daily news information; news apps came in at just 28%.
  • According to a study by McKinsey, email is still a more effective way to engage with customers and prospects than social media: 91% of US consumers use email on a daily basis. Email conversion rates are three times higher than social media and average order rates are 17% higher.
  • Forrester Research estimates that the number of marketing emails sent out in the 2013 will be close to 850 billion. In a recent user experience review of 98 email marketing programs, 94 received failing scores. Primary improvement opportunities included the subscription process, the ability to share content, mobile support and preference management.
  • Marketing service provider Experian found that email personalization lifts transaction rates and revenue six-times higher than non-personalized email, but 70% of the brands in their study fail to personalize email messages. Sixty percent don’t give customers the option to select the types of emails they want to receive.

There’s obviously a lot of room for improvement. Online retailer Gilt sends out more than 3,000 personalized variations on their daily sales email. Each message is tailored based on user preferences, browsing and transaction history. By getting the right message to the right customer, they were able to increase customer engagement by getting them to view other product categories; lift conversion rates for women predicted likely to shop in the men’s section; and increase new member purchase conversion rates.

My inbox is a little emptier today, but I would like to hear from you. Make it your New Year’s resolution to send me more relevant emails!

Editor's note:

Recurring themes for marketers over the last few years include both the demise of email marketing, and the enduring importance of email. So when Rachel first submitted this post, a red flag went up for me about the title - I could have sworn I'd seen it before.

Unbeknownst to Rachel, on November 18, 2010, we published this post by Kelly LeVoyer: Email is dead. Long live email! And even after several hundred billion emails over the last 5 years, both Rachel's and Kelly's viewpoints on email are relevant.

Let's zero in on Rachel's point about finding a better way à la Gilt's example - using analytics like marketing automation is how to get there. How about it?

tags: customer analytics, direct marketing, email marketing, marketing automation
12月 232014

When we talk about digital customer services, it’s all about creating online self-service capabilities for our customers. This is great for everyone! We’ve made it easy for the customer to get what they need; it’s cheaper and faster for organizations to deliver the service to the customer. Need a copy of your receipt? Want to know where your package is? No problem! Over the past decade, many companies have moved to self-service models that promote convenience, accuracy and speed for most normal, everyday transactions. But what if you don’t have a normal, everyday problem? Companies are taking three basic approaches to digital service strategies:

No Humans Available

How hard is it for your customers to get service?

How hard is it for your customers to get service?

Many of the big e-companies won’t even post a contact number on their site (or at least put it in an obvious place). Just try and find a human to talk to at Facebook, eBay, Twitter or Uber, for example. Most of these sites will first route you to the FAQ board (they want to help you help yourself), the community board (get other community members to help you), push you through the digital equivalent of a call center IVR (press 1 for this, press 2 for this, etc.). You get to the end of what seems like an infinite decision tree of questions and you still didn’t get the answer you were looking for. And if none of that works, maybe – just maybe – you’ll be allowed to submit an email to “customer support.”

Okay, this isn’t all bad – after all, people do ask a lot of dumb questions, but most online “Help Centers” aren’t very helpful if you don’t know how to ask the right question in the first place. Use at your own risk.

Unhappy Humans as a Plan B

Are your service reps THIS cheerful?

Are your service reps THIS cheerful?

I just went through this process with a newspaper I subscribe to. Just last week they served me with an account cancellation notice. The credit card tied to the account had expired four months earlier. I received no notifications that the card had expired, and they let me run up a tab before sending the cancellation notice.

Four things needed to be fixed: update credit card, pay outstanding balance, reinstate account, and continue service. Only one of these transactions could be completed on the web. I also discovered that home delivery and online subscription services were separate. I first attempted to fix all of my problems online, which turned out to be impossible. I caved and called customer service. After navigating an irrelevant IVR menu, I spent 15 minutes on hold before reaching a surly customer service representative. Everything got fixed, but really? Are my expectations too high?

Self-Service with Real Humans

Isn't it so much nicer when they're both cheery AND helpful?

Isn't it so much nicer when they're both cheery AND helpful?

One of my favorite examples of an organization that does this well is Progressive Insurance. Their online auto insurance quoting process takes about five minutes. As you go through the process, their rate-quote engine makes calls out to external data sources and predictive pricing models in real-time. If you have questions at any time during the quote, you can click-to-chat or call a customer agent. Your online information is saved in-session and the customer service reps can see where you are in the quote process without making you repeat any information. They’re there if you need them, but not if you don’t (and they’re pretty darn cheerful if you need assistance).

The reality today is that most businesses are technology driven, so digital services must become part of a company’s DNA. Digital service design is all about understanding what services the customer wants and then enabling technology to allow the customer to complete that service. It’s not about disintermediating humans from the process, but using technology to facilitate positive and profitable customer interactions.

And if your customers are not getting the service they want, they might just air their grievances on social media: #customerservicefail.

tags: customer service, Digital, real-time decisioning, social media analytics
12月 102014

I recently worked with a company (we’ll call them ABC, Inc.) on a customer segmentation strategy. This particular organization has a predefined set of marketing campaigns that they would send to all of their customers. There was no differentiation in the messaging or channel. Accurate targeting - like playing darts.

We created a number of predictive propensity models and teased out some really interesting segments in their customer population based on their likelihood to do something (buy more products, be more loyal, etc.). As in…people who are more likely to be more loyal are (1) over the age of 40, (2) female, and (3) live in an urban area. They also hate direct mail and love shopping on the Internet. You get the point.

In theory, now that I know who’s more likely to do something, I can target that population with more relevant messaging. Ta-da! I have a data-driven marketing strategy! Not so fast…

The NY Times recently posted an article about the trouble with too much segmentation and not enough creative in political campaigns: “The Big Data era of politics has left some campaigns drowning in their own sophisticated advances. They simply cannot produce enough new, effective messages to keep up with the surgical targeting that the data and analytics now allow.

ABC, Inc. was faced with the same problem. We identified four distinct segments in one of the propensity models. To effectively target those segments, each would need different messaging across different channels. The complexity of their marketing campaign strategy just quadrupled! This is a simple example, but you can imagine what happens as they create more propensity models and segments.

There are three main components to a campaign:

  1. The ability to segment your population,
  2. The message and medium, and
  3. Channel or context.

There’s no point in creating segments if you can’t align relevant messaging, media and context. In addition to investments in analytics and technology needed to support segmentation, organizations must equally invest in the message and the medium.

Just because you can create tons of micro-segments doesn’t mean that you need to. In ABC’s case, we combined the propensity scores with the segments so that we could prioritize and identify where we could have the biggest impact. The short-term plan included a series of targeted messaging for two segments, with plans to expand to four in a phased approach. This gave them the time to develop and test new messaging as well as build out their capabilities for managing multiple campaign workstreams.

If you’re just starting to use segmentation strategies in your marketing programs, don’t overwhelm yourself with complexity. As you identify the relevant segments in your business, look for high-impact opportunities, but remember that your creative messaging will make the difference. As a political campaign director in the Times article said:

“We’re at the point where everyone can afford the Ferrari
[the data and the tools] –
it’s a question of  who’s the better driver
[the creative message].”

And the good news is that you don't have to choose. Make sure you have the Ferrari, and be the better driver. Let me know what you think.

tags: big data, Campaign Management, customer segmentation
12月 042014

For marketing analysts, one of the beautiful things about digital advertising is it’s “trackability.” Every interaction on the web generates a piece of data, so in theory, you know where and when your ad was seen, who clicked on it, and any subsequent conversion.

When paying for clicks, how many of them are from bots?But what if the online advertisements you were paying for weren’t getting to your target audience? Or what if robots were running rogue on the Internet and hijacking your impressions? Robots?? Bots – software that performs automated tasks - and Botnets – basically robot code that coordinates with other bots across a network – are bad news for consumers and advertisers.

The bad bots generate false impressions and clicks. Really bad bots can create phony user profiles and enter information into web form fields (anyone who has a blog and doesn’t turn on their spam filter will know what we’re talking about). They infect our computers. They redirect traffic to phony sites allowing the bad guys to falsely collect advertising payments through middlemen.

The “Chameleon” botnet discovered by spider.io in 2013 had infected 120,000 host machines and was emulating human visitors on certain websites, resulting in the display of billions of ad impressions. On the 200+ websites targeted by the bot, 65% of web traffic was accounted for by the bot, and resulted in an estimated $6.2 million in additional (false) advertising costs per month. Worldwide, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) estimates that 36 percent of all web traffic is generated by bots.

In addition to the problems that this causes in trying to measure the impact of your advertising message, the cost of the advertisement is based on impressions and clicks. It's estimated that corporations lose between $5-10 billion annually due to bot fraud. With an estimated more than one-third of all online advertising coopted by bots, marketers have no way to accurately manage or measure the impact and efficacy of their messaging and campaigns.

An industry consortium led by a number of marketing trade organizations has embarked on a “Making Measurement Make Sense” (3MS) project. Currently, marketers pay for online advertising space based on served impressions – which represents the number of times the ad is served to a “consumer” (and bot). The industry is trying to move towards a metric based on viewable impressions, a more accurate way of tracking whether an ad was seen by an actual person.

The challenge for marketers is that digital marketing is too critical a channel to ignore or defer until the problem is fixed. But while marketers continue to invest money in this space, they are more aggressively trying to monitor how that money is spent. Bob Liodice, CEO of the Association of National advertisers said, “When you bundle bots, click fraud, viewability and lack of transparency, the total digital-media value equation is being questioned and totally challenged.

Many organizations are making investments in digital fraud detection technologies, combining session-based analysis with big data weblogs to track down, identify and block the bots. In the meantime, marketers can take action as well: Reduce digital fraud exposure risk by identifying traditional web metrics that can easily be faked by bots (impressions, click-through-rates, completion and last-touch attribution models) and using more concrete ROI metrics for campaigns.

This blog was automatically generated by a Bot - not!

tags: adaptive customer experience, advertising, Digital, fraud
11月 192014

The higher the revenue potential, the more interesting the idea.Back in 2007, the NY Times published an article about “The Google Way.” The premise behind the Google Way is to give engineers 20% of their time to spend on new company related ideas and projects that interest them. For a while this became the management strategy du jour as every large company attempted to inject a culture of spirit and creativity into their businesses (with very mixed results).

Even Google recognized that the strategy was flawed. Large initiatives generated from The Google Way projects begin to distract them from their core business.

Taking the reins as CEO in 2011, Larry Page announced a new focus with “more wood behind fewer arrows.” Google put guardrails on how innovation time is spent: “Urgency without alignment is wasted energy.

Marketing organizations have taken a page from the Google playbook. In my previous post, I noted the disparity in organizations with marketing innovation budgets (who has them, who doesn’t), and highlighted some examples of organizations putting their innovation dollars to good use. But how do we validate and prioritize those innovation ideas, align them to our marketing goals, and execute?

Lowe’s home improvement stores is getting ready to release a sales-robot to help their customers navigate their stores more easily. The robot is a brainchild of the company’s Innovation Lab, a technology company-within-a-company. The Innovation Lab uses a technique they call “science-fiction prototyping.” Team members include profession science fiction writers! Next item in their innovation funnel is a “holoroom” that will allow customers to simulate renovation projects. Lowe’s is betting on a future where people interact with in-store and virtual technology in new ways.

This summer, Mondelez International, the maker of Oreo cookies, created a promotional campaign for their new mini-Oreo by sending one tiny cookie per household to people living in small US cities. The campaign backfired. As one newspaper columnist in Great Falls, Montana noted: It’s like [Oreo] said, “We’re sorry you have to live in the middle of nowhere – here, have a cookie.”

While this campaign caused a PR headache, it’s obviously not a catastrophic fail for the company. I’m sure people in small towns will continue to eat Oreos. Mondelez missed the mark on understanding their target audience. Innovation must be aligned with customer insight: The data has to support to the customer, not the organization. Kraft’s social learning lab – called The Looking Glass - helps the company understand “consumers at the speed of culture.” A team of people analyze digital consumer behavior (both internal and external) and use that information to inform product and marketing decisions.

As you’re starting or expanding your marketing innovation capabilities, data-driven decisioning will shape your innovation pipeline. By analyzing customer information, you can start to weed out the good ideas from the bad. After all, who just wants one cookie??

And as customer expectations for real-time interactions increase, your need for real-time decisioning will increase. Take a closer look at how well real-time decisioning can integrate into your overall marketing scheme. You'll know every time how many cookies are expected, and also which flavor and whether they want milk with it. Let me know what you think.

tags: best practices, innovation, real-time decisioning
11月 132014

The online dating website OKCupid recently posted the results of some real life experiments that they had performed on their user community. The experiments included three tests to evaluate the influence of certain user profile changes in compatibility matching (manipulating compatibility scores, suppressing user profile photos and the impact of rating scales and photos – the cool versus pretty test). All websites perform experiments, but at what risk?

OKCupid CEO Christian Rudder posted on the company’s blog: “If you use the Internet, you’re the subject of hundreds of experiments at any given time, on every site. That’s how websites work.” He goes on to say “OKCupid doesn’t really know what it’s doing. Neither does any other website…Most ideas are bad. Even good ideas could be better. Experiments are how you sort all this out.”

Like OKCupid, more and more data-centric companies are using rapid experimentation approaches (also called test-and-learn) to better understand how consumers react to their products and services.
This not only influences product development cycles, but drives more effective marketing and contact strategies.

But we already test-and-learn!
– the marketers shout. Not nearly enough, if at all!

A recent survey by WhichTestWon.com highlighted that more than 25% of online direct-to-consumer marketers aren’t doing any testing of their site or campaigns. In B2B organizations, more than 50% of marketers are not testing. With web and mobile becoming an important and integrated component of many organizations’ channel strategies, you can’t afford to not continually (and quickly) evaluate those strategies. To give a sense of scale, web giants (Amazon, eBay, Google, etc.) may run hundreds of tests per day. While that likely doesn’t make sense for your organization, there’s a happy medium between not enough and too much.

You have the data you need to target - use it!

You have the data you need to target - use it!

As consumers become more aware, knowledgeable and self-empowered, it becomes critical for the business to engage with the consumer from their point of view:

What do they want or need?
What’s the most effective way to engage with them?
How do I entice them into my store or website?
How do I get them to come back?

There’s no magic bullet or secret sauce. But with all of the data available to marketers today, you no longer have to stab in the dark to find out what your customers will respond to. Not taking advantage of insight around what customers respond to (or don’t!) seems almost criminal.

For one organization, their marketing group uses an iterative test-and-learn process in their marketing campaigns. As the campaigns are designed and executed, results are used to continually adjust the campaigns going forward. Marketing automation tools allow them to create multiple variants of a campaign, and data analysis drives a closed-loop measurement process. Creativity still remains an essential component of marketing, but data provides the connection between creativity and meaning. So while you might not be able to “Amazonify” your test-and-learn capability tomorrow, it’s never too late to get started.

Want a "real world" example of how Marketing Automation can make a difference in these scenarios? Check out this story about Staples - the office superstore giant that also operates the third largest e-commerce site in the world. Let us know what you think.


tags: experimentation, innovation, marketing automation, test-and-learn
11月 062014

I had the opportunity recently to attend the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) “Masters of Marketing” conference. In almost every presentation, each CMO credited their success in the marketplace with an ability to take risks. With the stratospheric growth in digital marketing initiatives and a need for speed-to-market, rapid innovation and experimentation is now part of the day-to-day DNA of the marketing organization. Or is it?

Prosciutto (ham) is not to be confused with Pancetta (bacon). Capisce?

In Italy, prosciutto (ham) is not the same as pancetta (bacon). Capisce?

Tapping into the bacon-obsessed marketing segment (I’m betting the Experian Mosaic segment for this category represents 98.7% of the US population), Kraft’s Oscar Mayer brand created the Institute for the Advancement of Bacon.

Their digital marketing program includes an integrated social media, website and mobile bacon app for iPhone (and a few lucky people who won the “bacon dongle” that attaches to your phone and had has a bacon-smell atomizer). Their latest campaign is the The Great American Bacon Barter, which you can follow on Twitter @BaconBarter.

This pig is not amused.

Not amused by all this fuss about bacon.

Kraft also turned a nationwide Velveeta cheese shortage (during Superbowl time, no less!) into a marketing extravaganza…the Cheespocalypse…by creating an entire social media strategy on the fly to connect Velveeta cheese lovers with available in-store inventory. Now that’s innovation!

Deanie Elsner, CMO of Kraft, attributes her team’s success to “Agile Marketing.” Their agile marketing framework includes three pillars: data, infrastructure, and content. In her ANA presentation, Deanie noted that they were sitting on almost two decades of consumer data within Kraft (that's big data by any standard). They tapped into that data to build out micro consumer segments – they’re currently managing 500 proprietary target segments that help them facilitate a one-to-one conversation with the consumer. With so much first-party data available, they’re able to tap into that information to drive more relevant engagement with consumers.

As engaging as their marketing campaigns are, it’s not all about the creative: Data and measurement underlie every decision they make. They treat innovation as a discipline, not a free-for-all. And just because you innovate, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to get it right every time. Companies like Kraft aggressively use test-and-learn approaches to shape their go-to-market strategies. Their agile marketing framework allows them to execute quickly, and their culture of innovation encourages risk taking. But how do they know what campaigns will work? Deanie’s team mines customer data – in fact, if they predict you won’t eat bacon, you won’t see a bacon ad.

According to a 2014 Gartner survey, 83% of marketing organizations set aside roughly 9% of their annual budget for innovation. That sounds pretty good – except that Forrester Research puts that number at only 11% of marketing organizations. There’s obviously a gap in there. Our observation is that innovation needs more focus in marketing, and data-driven innovation in marketing is still at the ground level.

Mmmmm….do I smell bacon?

tags: ana, Association of National Advertisers, bacon, big data, innovation
5月 132014

Maybe you’re like me – you work with (or within) a lot of large companies with big marketing departments. Everyone is crazy for “customer intimacy,” but what exactly does that mean? As much as I preach about knowing and understanding your customer – they end up as an aggregate: a persona…a segment...a model score. Maybe that’s the best we can do in large companies because there are potentially millions of customers to be “intimate” with. But it doesn’t feel very intimate, does it?

My husband works for a small specialty olive oil and balsamic vinegar retailer. The store is locally owned by a passionate husband and wife team – they developed a love for the products many years ago on a trip to Italy and found a way to bring it back to the United States. They’ve been successful enough to launch a second location next month. With the launch of the second store, the owners are putting a more robust point-of-sale (POS) system in place, replacing an older cash register system. A state of the art POS system does a bunch of neat things – it helps with inventory management, tracks popular items, and acts as a customer relationship management (CRM) system.

My husband, who has no interest in technology, marketing and whatnot, said to me last night: “I’m so excited about this new POS system because finally I can keep track of what our customers have bought.” He continued, “So many customers come back in a couple of months after their purchase and say – ‘I really want more of this product, but I can’t remember the name of it.’” Then he got all excited: “And if we have a new type of product and I know what my customers like, then I can let them know it’s available!” Secretly he’s thinking: “Then they will come to the store and we can talk about food and cooking!” – A shared passion among his customers and co-workers.

This conversation was enlightening for a number of reasons:

  • All about the customer: Without explicitly knowing it, my husband’s desire was to provide relevant products and information to his customers. This included helping them to remember what they had bought in the past, When a customer asks: “Was that the basil- and lemongrass-infused oil I liked or just the basil??” he will have the answer.
  • Cross-selling: Or he might say “I know you love the basil oils – we have this new basil and sun-dried tomato combo – want to try that?”
  • Up-selling: “I see you bought the small bottle last time and it’s a favorite of yours. If you buy a bigger bottle, we can save you money.”
  • Fact-based decisioning: In dealing directly with the customers, my husband anecdotally has a sense of what is popular and what people will like. The POS system will help prove it – what’s popular, what needs to be reordered – in order to anticipate demand. "That will help our customers from being disappointed when we don't have something they want in stock," he says. "Now we'll have a better sense of what customers will want and when to put it on the shelves."
  • Being proactive: “Wow,” he says, “now I can send them an e-mail when we have a new product in that I think they would like!” and “Maybe I can even send them a reminder every couple of months to come in and refill their bottles!”

In a world where big marketers focus on customer proxies, aggregated views and personas, it’s a nice reality check to get in touch with what marketing can do to drive true customer intimacy and deepen customer relationships at a one-to-one level. I would be excited to be their customer. But what energized me was my husband's passion for being able to create true customer intimacy.

tags: customer centricity, customer intimacy, data management, personalization
5月 022014

As marketers, many of us work in siloed organizations. Some companies organize around products, other companies organize around functions, and still others around geographies (and even some can make silos out of all of those areas together!). The organizational structures, processes and systems supporting these silos keep us from seeing the world around us and prevent us from understanding the bigger picture, or as I like to put it, “seeing the whole.”

The discipline behind “seeing the whole” is called systems thinking. A system is a group of components (or in the case of our organization: functional areas, products, geographies) that interact and influence each other. But buried deep in our silos, we lose sight (or have no line of sight) into how those interactions and influences pull towards or against each other. I remember way back in my career, working for a company where I was so distant from what the “line function” of the organization, that it didn’t make a difference to me whether the company manufactured cars or issued insurance policies – my job would be the same. Unfortunately, that may be a prevalent mode of thinking for many marketing professionals, especially in larger companies.

That example refers to being distant from the product – even that perspective is short-sighted. If we lose sight of the company’s mission and vision, we will never have line of sight into why it’s important, much less who it’s important to – our customer. So we have to break down these silos and become systems thinkers from the customer’s perspective: How does our organization align to support the customer? What is the role of marketing in this world of the customer?

This perspective is more critical now than ever. We live in an era of heightened customer expectations and instant gratification. The customer expects us to know who they are, anticipate when they will want/need something, and respond to that demand with relevant, personal offers or messages. Yet that isn’t new – customers have always wanted relevancy and personalization, they were just at the mercy of the companies they were doing business with. In this new era, where many of our goods and services are commoditized, most things can be purchased or found with the click of a button. The balance of power has shifted towards the customer.

A world filled with commodity products implies that price becomes the differentiator between companies, yet differentiation isn’t necessarily about the cost of goods. Many customers choose to do business with a company because of convenience (the company understands how the customer wants to interact with them) or relationship (the customer understands who they are and what’s important to them). But when a company can’t present a single face to the customer, the customer’s need for convenience and relationship/affinity won’t be achieved.

We return to the problem at hand: Shifting away from organizational silos to a customer-centric perspective is a long, hard journey. Remember that most companies have decades-old organizational structures, technology systems, processes, etc. built around the old way of doing business. The infrastructure does not support (or promote) a systems-thinking view of the customer. Reorienting and mobilizing staff, integrating technologies and data in new ways, and designing new service processes requires significant organizational, financial and time commitment. Fortunately, many companies across a wide variety of industries are beginning the journey.

While it may seem daunting, there are incremental approaches that can be taken throughout the transformation. Specifically, process and quality improvement techniques are being evolved to support the customer journey and allow you to view internal organizational and marketing processes from the customer’s perspective: The Value Stream. Customer value streams represent all of the steps that go into delivering a product or service to a customer. Value stream mapping is a great exercise, because for many organizations, it’s the first time that they’re bringing internal groups together to discuss the different interactions (looking at it from an end-to-end process perspective, not through the lenses of organizational or functional silos).

Customer experience mapping takes a slightly different twist on the value stream approach. In this activity, the entire customer lifecycle is mapped, and all interaction points between the customer, company and suppliers are identified. Value stream mapping can be used after that exercise to identify and assess the current state of people, processes, technology and data associated with that customer experience. Making the customer experience journey visible helps the organization identify and prioritize areas for marketers to target to improve or streamline that experience. Taking a systems-view of customer experience is the first step towards creating relevant and profitable relationships between the customer and company throughout the entire customer lifecycle. Pretty soon you’ll be getting to: “Dear Customer: We know you! Welcome to the family. All the best, Marketer.”

tags: customer centricity, customer experience, customer profile, organization