Some of my recent blog entries around best practice in customer engagement collated and published as an eGuide.
The link is here and opens SlideShare in a new window.
Having a business strategy that centres around the customer is great, but only when the whole organisation believes and lives this ethos does it truly drive customer engagement.
World-class businesses have a mind-set of providing great experiences for their customers. This mind-set permeates the entire organisation from their front-line operations to the back-office processes and throughout their propositions and services.
They embed their customer-focused vision and strategy into their business culture so that it influences everything they do to best engage with their customers. These businesses recruit and retain the right people that best fit with their vision and values to build high-performing teams that are empowered to do what’s right for the customer. Ultimately, every business decision and customer action is framed in the context of how it aligns with the vision and delivers the strategy.
In essence, their ethos is their competitive edge in the marketplace and maximises the opportunity to engage their customers.
When it comes to marketing strategy, every business is different. You have to be: It’s a key part of your USP. However, some businesses are better than others in applying the marketing process because of their focus, how evolved their capabilities are, and the level of resources they make available.
From experience the most effective marketing businesses are the ones that focus on the customer, use insightful data to inform every decision and invest resources to exploit opportunities that best meet their customers’ needs. They have evolved their marketing capabilities to enable them to engage their customers with the most relevant products and services through the most appropriate channel at the most opportune time that yields the best result for both the customer and the business.
Getting to this level is not an easy journey. Established businesses may have amassed years of knowledge, skills and capabilities, but ensuring their data, legacy systems and thinking stay ahead of the game takes significant investment. Younger businesses might be able to leap-frog straight to the latest thinking, but the experience to truly exploit it doesn’t come cheap.
First steps: Direct Marketing and Automation
Businesses often start out with simple direct marketing techniques to select lists of prospective or existing customers that meet a short-term demand to drive (e.g.) increased sales. These lists can be produced using simple database tools and specialist technical resources, but as the number, complexity and speed of discrete campaign requirements grow, it quickly becomes a difficult problem to govern and remain agile so, marketing effectiveness can plateau.
The first major evolution is to invest in fit-for-purpose marketing automation tools that increase efficiency by helping the marketer to govern the overall activity schedule, embed test and learn techniques to help improve future targeting effectiveness, and manage the creation and execution of multiple, simultaneous activities to keep up with demand from whichever parts of the business are shouting loudest to meet immediate targets.
It is at this point that many businesses find their marketing effectiveness reaches another plateau and they get stuck just keeping up with business-as-usual. Marketing automation tools are good at ‘pushing’ campaigns that are driven by the business’ agenda and marketing calendar, but they’re not so good at being customer-friendly – e.g. was there a missed opportunity to do something better to engage the customer at a more opportune time and maximise customer value?
Being more customer-centric: Decisioning
To evolve further means overlaying a ‘pull’ approach where activity is driven by customer need and behaviour. Business rules and predictive analytics are applied through a decision engine to determine which, of all possible actions, is best in any given situation, often in 'customer time' during a transaction or interaction.
This personalisation process usually considers, for each individual customer: whether they are eligible for the action; whether it is the right timing; whether it’s the right level of relevance and appropriateness; whether it would generate the right outcome; and what the relative priority is in achieving the business goal.
Consequently, businesses tend to arrive at the third plateau of marketing effectiveness when the complexity of managing this decisioning process becomes too great: The number of different situations or actions has grown significantly, or overarching goals and constraints such as budgets, capacity or targets are inappropriate to apply at a customer level.
The next generation: Optimisation
The last evolutionary step is to optimise each decision to maximise the overall objective, such as return on investment and profitability, while satisfying all constraints, such as budget spend and enhancing customer engagement. This involves sophisticated algorithms to trade-off the different decision factors in each action to determine which best meet the overall objective while satisfying the constraints.
This might sound complicated…and it often is, but the pay-off is the business performance uplift it can provide, which can be significant. It also provides true, top-down control over marketing activity so, for example, flexing the decision factors provides an opportunity to explore different ‘what-if?’ scenarios and see which gives the best mix of business and customer benefits.
Keep moving forward
Whilst making optimal decisions could be the ultimate evolution, marketing effectiveness can still reach a plateau because your data, predictions and actions can quickly go ‘out of date’ in today’s marketplace: Every customer is different and has constantly evolving needs and interests that someone will be able to satisfy.
Consequently, the most important tools in your toolbox are insight and agility: Continually testing new ideas, actions and situations with customers to learn what works and what needs refining (or discarding) and then quickly adapting the capabilities of the business to generate value for your customers.
Consumers are savvier: Digitally educated and able to actively avoid irrelevant marketing efforts by, for example, skipping past TV commercials, opting out of marketing, screening their calls, using ad-blockers and filtering spam.
World-class brands ensure that everything they do is relevant to ensure they reach each customer in the most effective way.
They start by listening to what their customers are saying and observing what they do and how they do it, which they garner from deep insights they have access to within their business and market.
These insights provide them with full understanding of the unique circumstances, behaviours, needs, wants, interests and other characteristics of each of their customers in the context of the market and the abilities of the business.
This deep level of understanding enables them to predict the influence of different actions on each customer, adapt their marketing strategies accordingly and then create the most meaningful content and messages to engage them.
Finally, all marketing activity and outcomes are tracked in detail to ensure correct attribution of success to the original investment.
Analytics is about discovering meaningful patterns in data to generate insights which get to the truth of ‘what’, ‘how’, ‘who’, ‘when’, ‘where’, ‘why’ and ‘what if’? For world-class brands, data is the lifeblood of their business. They form a holistic view of their market, operation and customers from all available data sources, both internal and external. The data is used to derive insight that drives everything from where the business should be heading, to how it should get there and what it should do along the way.
Insight informs and challenges the way the business thinks about their customers, propositions and routes to market, driving strategic value creation across the business. For example, spotting emerging customer trends, simulating econometric influences and guiding proposition development. Insight is also used to drive decisions throughout the customer experience. For example, in pricing, creating relevant content and creating early event indicators, such as churn triggers. For world-class brands, insight powers their business by giving them confidence in doing the right thing to maximise their customers’ engagement.
Consumers want personalised, responsive and high quality experiences when engaging with brands.
World-class businesses fulfil this by being customer-centric and putting customers at the heart of their business. Everything they do starts with the customer by listening and then adapting to their needs.
The business forms a clear vision that ensures the best possible experience for their customers at every touchpoint, as well as behind the scenes. This vision is translated into a strategy that focuses all of their resources and capabilities to realise the vision and maximise the customer lifetime value.
Simple, well-designed journeys are mapped out to define the ideal experience for the customer through different business touchpoints. A roadmap is used to provide high-level sign-posting of how the strategy will change the organisation’s operation and how the customer, and business, will benefit along the journey.
Having this focus ensures world-class businesses are organising around their customers’ needs and delivering the experiences that best engage their customers.
Content is all around us, waiting for us to consume it everywhere we go, any time of the day or night. Technological advances have enabled more messages to be created more quickly than ever before and make them available through any medium that can serve it up to its intended audience. The constant strive for market share and downward pressures on budgets and time have encouraged use of cheaper channels to reach as many customers as possible.
The problem is that consumers are now inundated with impersonalised, generic and meaningless messages and are also more savvy, digitally educated and able to actively avoid your marketing efforts. They are uninterested in traditional outbound one-size-fits-all messages, skip past TV commercials, opt-out of marketing, screen their calls, use ad-blockers and use spam filters.
Message relevance is now paramount: consumers expect personalised, responsive, high quality experiences when engaging with brands. They want you to listen and adapt to their needs and deliver meaningful content when they are most receptive…and you need to do it profitably.