customer intelligence

3月 242012

We recently held a half-day session devoted entirely to search marketing that gave us an opportunity to cast a wide net internally about this very important topic. I learned some new things and also had a few moments where it seemed the obvious was being presented, but sometimes even "hearing the obvious" can be valuable because it prompts you to make new connections and draw useful conclusions. That was the case for me.

Search engine marketing vs. search engine optimization

When considering search, it’s helpful to remember the distinction between “search engine marketing” (SEM) and “search engine optimization” (SEO).  SEM is the focus on increasing website visibility in search engines through paid placement and optimization, whereas SEO deals with website improvements to climb to the top of organic search. Simply put, SEM is paying to associate your web content with terms and phrases so your web page shows up in the paid suggestions at the top of the page in search results (or along the side of the page). SEO is giving your web content the best chances of showing up near the top of the page for a given search term or phrase. You earn SEO with relevant content and with a plethora of techniques relating to keywords, links, URL structure and others that I won't delve into here. Both areas are important and are mutually-reinforcing, so paying attention to both is key.

Search – it’s what we do

Search is important simply because so much of our everyday lives are spent online. When online, we search, we find, we read, we react, we comment, we share. Even in the middle of our browsing session, we might open another tab to search for something related or simply loop back to search when needed. Quite simply - it's what people do online. And because of that, if we are not already doing this, we marketers need to rethink every aspect what we do in terms of search.

Search compels marketers to change

Of course, marketers still need to focus on our target market(s) and do all we can to understand what they need. When broken down to discrete activities, our work entails many things (not in any particular order): listening, responding, offering, inviting, engaging, studying, analyzing, segmenting, reading, writing, designing, creating and so on. From that view, what emerges is that the most important interactions with our target market involve content in some form and that's why search matters so much. We might understand how our new whitepaper relates to the business issues, but can our target market make that same connection? Let's hope so. Using search marketing techniques are ways to boost that likelihood.

Search reinforces Marketing 101: Know thy customer

Understanding how our content might be searched for is how we help our market connect our content to their issue. Content can be images, descriptions, PDFs, podcasts, videos, webcasts, webinars or updates. Even Tweets, Facebook posts and LinkedIn updates are all content. The new world of digital marketing enables new ways to reach customers with great content. We can also measure our effectiveness in many ways, but it also has empowered the customer to tune you out if you’re irrelevant to them. So content is king, but only as long as the customer agrees that it reigns or they go searching elsewhere to get what they need.

An equally bad outcome is that they never find you because you’ve not adjusted the way you do things to fit the new rules of search-driven digital marketing. The rules are simple, but equally important – keywords, tags, page layout and other factors of good search-driven marketing all stem from what the customer prioritizes.  Get them wrong, and you won’t even show up when they ask for what you can offer.

Whether tuning you out or simply never finding you, either case is a disconnect that is eminently preventable and it highlights the importance of understanding the customer.  It’s come full circle back to Marketing 101, folks, but with a twist – so pay attention and understand how the twist impacts how you are going about marketing.  The stakes for getting it right have never been higher (and they’re equally high for getting it wrong).

Use SAS to get full customer profiles

So a complete customer profile has never been more important, and SAS Customer Intelligence solutions give you the ability to get full customer profiles and make the most of them. For some great stories of how our customers understand online behaviors, please visit our customer success stories for Customer Experience Analytics. Please let me know your views on search and its impact on marketing.

tags: customer experience analytics, customer intelligence, relevance, search
2月 172012

Wired had an interesting article recently, discussing how “Darpa,” the US Department of Defense’s (DoD) research agency, is requesting proposals for implantable biosensors. Darpa is interested in the application of this technology for “real-time, accurate measurements of ‘DoD-relevant biomarkers’ including stress hormones, like cortisol, and compounds that signal inflammation, like histamine.”

One need only think about how such information could be advantageous to a military overseeing the field of combat to realize why there’s serious money and intellect behind this.

Technology Innovation In The Public Sector

The marketer in me, immediately started thinking about the commercial applications of biosensor technologies that we could one day see.  “Blasphemy” you might say, “the government would never let such a technology propagate to commercial interests.” Well, let’s consider some of the technologies first pioneered by government interests, which were later commercialized:

  • The Internet - Kick started by Darpa mandate to interconnect the US DoD's main computers with the Pentagon
  • Global Positioning Systems - Created and realized by DoD
  • Mobile Phones -Has origins in ship-to-shore radio telephony pioneered in World War 2
  • Computer Chips - Texas Instruments pioneering work in the first integrated circuit was heavily influenced by a U.S. Army micromodule concept linking ceramic squares (precursor to silicon wafers)
  • Satellites - The Soviet launch of Sputnik 1 triggered the space race, and has led to our orbit being littered with thousands of satellites we interact with in communicating, consuming content, or seeing our houses on google maps.

Consumer Implications

It seems to at least this author that the public sector has a pretty terrific track record of fueling innovations that are eventually embraced by the private sector in ways we couldn’t have imagined. And in fact, there's already evidence of this bleeding into the private sector in a field aptly called neuromarketing, which is overlaying the science of  interpreting physiological responses to stimuli, with the practice of marketing.

So think about Darpa's work progressing far beyond reading stress levels in troops, and a future where our heart rate, hunger, blood sugar, stress level or weight, can be streamed in real-time. Think about that information flowing somewhere, an iPhone, an app, a social network.  Invasion of privacy? Not to consumers who demand it. Heart rate is invaluable to those training for a marathon. Understanding blood sugar levels can be critical to diabetics. Weight is something millions already monitor each day, especially this time of year.

Marketer Implications

As valuable as that could be to consumers, what do you suppose that information could be worth to a business? What’s it worth, to McDonalds, to know the exact moment you are hungry? Or to Weight Watchers, when your Body Mass Index spikes after eating that Big Mac? Or to Budweiser, when you are craving that beer to wash down that burger? Or to your doctor, who has told you to drink more water, and less beer?

Model of machine-brain interface allowing me to type this blog & order pizza by just thinking about it. Courtesy (April 19, 2010)

Now, this is about the creepiest scenario I can think of, and may indeed be far-fetched. But we need only to reflect on how today, many of us willingly exchange information about ourselves about where we work, what we purchase , where we live where we eat and who we are friends with. In each of the ways we willingly give a piece of our identities to the cloud, we expect value in return, such as easier professional networking, discounts on premium coffee, real-time appraisals of your home, good reviews on where to eat, or streamlined communications with your friends. That's the quid pro quo arrangement marketers must continually reconcile with consumers.

Customer Data Explosion

The challenge for marketers is that with each new channel, insights about their own customers are not ebbing in volume, they have been flowing. When Facebook was started, Mark Zuckerberg was thinking about easing the friction involved in making friends (and friends with benefits), not about enabling businesses to have "friends". When twitter started, it probably seemed ridiculous to think about an explosion of social media analytics software monitoring brief bursts of text as a means to better understand fast evolving consumer preferences.

But apparently, companies like Ford and Zappos, have seen beyond the intended use of these platforms, to profoundly change how they market to their customers. They see these new channels as another way to listen to, leverage insights from and engage with, their customers. These companies, and others like them, who establish foundations in culling customer insights beyond just who we are, and what we buy, to add value to their consumers, while better humanizing their brands serve as bellwethers on how businesses can restructure their operations around increased insights available in emerging technologies. Future successes in business are no doubt rooted in some of the imaginative marketing practices happening in immerging channels today. As long as they aren't creepy about it.

And who knows? It might not be so bad to be a consumer of the future. Hunger pain one minute, instant offer for pizza from my favorite restaurant the next. I could get used to that. As long as I “unfriend” my doctor first.

tags: biomarkers, customer analytics, customer intelligence, facebook, google, Ideas & Trends, social media analytics, twitter
2月 092012

Greetings! My name is Kelly Miller and I am a marketer at SAS, focused specifically on the health care industry for 8 years now.  And what an intriguing industry it is!  Technology and market demands have led to dramatic changes, and now that health care reform is driving innovation, it's become even more interesting (it’s also one of those industries that happens to affect every single American). My role at SAS is to manage field marketing campaigns and generate leads for the health care team, and I'm part of a larger group of marketers that cover multiple industries, personas and solutions.

Being part of that larger group enables me to borrow best practices from my peers in industries like retail, financial services, pharma, etc.; but until now, I didn’t realize just how much health care would need to start imitating the marketing practices of those other industries. As I look back at some of our marketing plans for health care from several years ago, the end goals really haven’t changed all that much. In addition to enabling customer retention and marketing optimization, SAS solutions still help health care organizations detect fraud, improve outcomes, gain efficiencies and cut medical costs. SAS’ top goal is still to help our customers provide better care at a lower cost. But until now, customer intelligence just didn’t play a big part. With health care reform, that may change - consumers will now play a far more significant role in the health insurance decision-making process…and insurers will need to embrace tools that help them understand and engage with individuals.

While the Affordable Care Act will expand access to coverage to millions of Americans, there several provisions that will go into effect simultaneously on January 1, 2014, creating the potential for disruption of insurance markets in many states. Along with this new layer of regulatory complexity, there’s a HUGE degree of uncertainty facing insurers. Millions of new individual purchasers will enter into the market. Some employers may consider “dumping” their health care plans. Consumers will demand tailored products and services, going against the former one-size-fits-all mentality of health care. With all the controversy and ambiguity surrounding reform, what health insurers should know is that to be successful in this unfamiliar retail environment, they must quickly develop the ability to connect in a way that drives value for the individual, rather than for the group purchaser.

Health plans will need to make better use of their data - but do they have the capabilities to join the masses of other consumer-centric companies that trust their data and use it to drive business decisions? First, many insurers just don’t have much experience with data-driven marketing efforts. The extent of their consumer-directed marketing activities is typically limited to initiatives that drive acquisition and program engagement, or are focused on just a few methods of outreach. Second, their business model was never built around what consumers want or what they are willing to pay for; instead, it has been structured around what employers and consultants think is best.

No matter the industry, customer-centric organizations all seem to have one thing in common: a commitment to using customer data and predictive analytics to power the complex decisions they make on a daily basis. While marketing departments are just one of many within health plans, they are quickly becoming very significant. The question is – are health plans ready to build a deeper understanding of their members? If other industries – like the airlines, financial services, and telecommunications – could undergo regulatory changes and transform into consumer-driven organizations, who says health insurers can’t? Besides, engaging consumers in their own health and influencing their choices will no doubt create lasting value and measurable outcomes.

My goal with engaging in this blog is not only to highlight the increasing importance of customer analytics for the health care industry, but also to learn! Over the next few months I’ll share updates on the industry and how SAS is helping address the challenges. Let me know what you think by leaving a comment, or sharing my posts with others. In case you can’t tell, I love being a marketer AND focusing on health care - it ranks right up there with my love for Tar Heel basketball and Chicago adult dodgeball leagues.

tags: customer analytics, customer intelligence, customer segmentation, customer service, health care
2月 062012

In my view of things, as a (semi) professional in software product marketing focused on the needs of direct marketers, with the possible exception of “CRM”, there may be no term more abstract, than that of “campaign management”. Seriously.  I help market and sell campaign management software, yet very few know what that really means. Why is that? We all get mail, some of it actually targeted, some more of it unfortunately mistargeted, doesn’t anyone think about how that stuff makes it to our house?

Even Wikipedia, my go to source on all things abstract, has one entry on political campaigns, and a separate entry with only a few paragraphs on the term, mostly dealing with automated dialing systems (I'll be fixing that shortly).

So the experience of reading Forrester Research biennial gospel of what it calls, the “Forrester Wave: Cross-Channel Campaign Management (PDF),” is like experiencing a glass of water after months in the desert (or in my case, a cold beer before Super Bowl kickoff). Beyond Forrester and Gartner, few independent voices are really talking these days about campaign management in a substantitive way, what with all the chatter around “SOCIAL”, “CRM”, “INTEGRATED MARKETING” (OK, admittedly some of that is my own). For any of you, who like me, used to work in direct marketing, and actually, managed campaigns, do yourself a favor and read this report.

Forrester's process is actually pretty interesting. Imagine you are a software vendor, and have to do the following:

  • Explain in great detail, what it is that makes you exceedingly qualified to be in this space
  • Prove it with references who will talk about their experience using your software to solve real problems
  • Prove it with more references who will fill out surveys about how they use your software to solve real problems
  • Prove it by articulating a vision of the future of campaign management using your best “thought leader” voice
  • Prove it by showing real software, working through real marketing scenarios, delivering real results, in a live on-site session

It don't want to say its grueling, but I am currently lacking a synonym more apt than grueling. Regardless, by going through this process, Forrester simultaneously educates the greater marketing community on essentially the state of campaign management, while also delivering what is in essence, an evaluation of how each software company is doing relative to its peer group. Here’s an analogy: They are like the annual Consumer Reports car issue, but instead rating new cars, they are rating campaign management software.

I won’t spoil the story (OK a hint, I'd be writing about something else if we did poorly), but in reading through the research, here are some themes I observed:

  1. Campaign Management, ain’t just about managing campaigns anymore – The sheer breadth of capabilities they researched shows they weren't evaluating companies in their ability to pull lists of customers, they were evaluating how software could help run every aspect of a marketing organization's operations. Apparently, if you want to compete in today’s cross-channel campaign management marketplace, you need to account for setting up marketing plans, consolidating customer information, being able to analyze it, being able to manage offers, across channels, optimally, in real-time. No one in interested in hiring staff to glue a dozen different systems together to help a marketing department run. So helping a company pull a list of households from a postal code and orchestrating the blast of a catalog isn’t really going to cut it anymore to compete in this space.
  2. Conversations must be managed centrally, in a…you guessed it, Cross-Channel Campaign Management platform – I am paraphrasing that bit, but the point is the same. Many of the customers polled as the basis of this research, say that newer channels such as social and mobile, need to be centrally managed, to ensure consistent communications cross channel. And what all of that means, is that campaign offer can be a direct mail, or it can be a tweet, or it can be a text message, or it can be a call center representative soliciting with a specific offer. All must be accounted for in one system of record.
  3. Campaign Management is still not mainstream – One stat jumped out at me.  Only 40% of marketers surveyed by Forrester were using some sort of campaign management system. For all of talk about 360 view of the customer, enabling 1:1 dialogs, having personalized offers for your customers, the reality is, most marketers have no such system to pull this off.

These were some of my takeaways, but again, feel free to draw your own conclusions by reading the report.

To close, I’d be remiss in not mentioning how truly humbled and excited many of us at SAS are by the validation much of this research means to our own, nearly ancient history (in the technology world time) in this space. In many ways, tracing SAS’s advancement in this space, parallels the ever increasing importance of Customer Intelligence being the glue which binds the integrated marketing management processes of some of the best run marketing organizations on the planet. For those of us Customer Intelligence lifers who have been preaching the gospel of customer centricity, Forrester’s research reads like a solid “Amen”.

tags: Campaign Management, customer analytics, customer intelligence, forrester, research