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Ernan’s Insights on Marketing Best Practices

Monday, December 15, 2014

3 Questions You Need To Ask Now For 2015 Success

Cutomer Thinks Article by Ernan Roman
Featured on CMO.com

Right now is the time to re-evaluate your marketing in terms of the new expectations your customers have developed in the past 6 months. What new insights are they providing regarding what they want—or do not want—from your customer experience, communications and company interactions?

Preparing for 2015Here are 3 key questions to ask right now. The answers will ensure that you take the smart actions for success in 2015.

1. Are You Ignoring Key Customer Segments? 
You could be missing out on new business because of perceived brand positioning. Take stock at year-end to audit your overall brand message and determine whether it is moving you toward your full potential--or limiting your growth.

Case in point: Buffalo Wings & Rings, a chain of 55-plus sports restaurants in the U.S. and abroad, has spent the past couple of years refining its image and brand appeal to women and families in order to reach a larger universe of customers.

As part of that effort, the brand embarked on a total redesign of its locations. Specific changes included soundproofing the restaurant area to reduce noise from the bar, where sports events are broadcast; adding cushions to seats and benches for more comfort; and relocating games for children away from the front door and the bar area.

In addition, Buffalo Wings revamped it Web site to give customers the ability to interact, get information, and become part of a community. "We wanted to create a new experience for the sports and wings category... Your brand is created by customers and how they use you," said Buffalo Wings chief executive Nader Masadeh. Added Diane Matheson, director of marketing, "[We] wanted to refine the brand and strengthen the concept with a distinct point of view." Results: This year sales have grown 12.5 percent to $72 million. Next year, the company plans to add up to eight new stores in the U.S. and 10 overseas.

2. Are You Communicating Effectively?
Different types of customers have different preferences for communication. Just because you have a communication method available does not mean it’s the best option for your core customers. So pause now to challenge your assumptions regarding content, clarity of communications, sales channels, and preferred customer media. This will provide insights regarding key improvements for 2015.

Also, consider: Per Voice of Customer research conducted by our firm for client MassMutual, the majority of customers indicated that they want proactive and customized communications that are personalized by their needs and life stage.

Case in point: Multibillion-dollar telecom service provider CenturyLink needed to understand why its call centers were receiving such a high call volume. It discovered that its own processes required customers to call multiple times to establish or modify service. To solve this pain point, CenturyLink revamped its processes. It also developed a new system, called Digital Dialogue, to integrate more than 35 disparate systems from multiple communication channels, and transformed the CenturyLink Web site into a seamless self-service experience.

“We’re trying to give customers better information. ... If we can give customers information before they have to ask for it, they feel that we’re having intelligent dialogue with them, and that we’re on top of things,” noted Lindsey Pardun, IT principal architect at CenturyLink. “And if we do need to talk to them, we can have a much more efficient conversation.”

Results: In the first two months after the launch of Digital Dialogue, 187,000 calls were automatically routed to the right agents.  

3. Do You Have An Effective Retention Strategy?
A recent Retention Science study noted that only 23% of marketers track the rate at which customers churn, less than 40% track customer lifetime value, and, not surprisingly, 70% believe their retention marketing efforts are average, poor, or need improvement. In dollars and cents, an Adobe study found that online retailers would double their revenues if they retained 10% of their existing customers. Instead, 80% of marketers were using their digital marketing budgets to acquire new shoppers.

Case in pointGroupon realized that its initial business model of daily deals and a bombardment of email with heavy discounts did not turn out to be a sound strategy. To better retain customers and give them a reason to come back, the company had to rethink its relationship with both its business partners and end-user consumers.

Groupon is now focusing on its online marketplace, reducing reliance on email, and improving relevance. It encourages subscribers to search for deals and explore its marketplace (a pull strategy) instead of relying on email (push strategy).

The company is also creating a tablet-based operating system for merchants called Gnome, which empowers it to improve customer retention by better managing transactions, keeping track of customers to launch specific marketing campaigns, and simplifying the whole process of redemptions.

While the company is not out of the woods yet, its efforts are paying off. Groupon saw 23% revenue growth to $751.6 million in Q2 2014, with a 29% rise in global gross billings. The total active customer count rose by 25% year-on-year during the quarter, with North American customer count rising by 18%. The North American transactions percentage resulting from search was 24% in the third quarter, compared to 9% in the same quarter last year.

TakeawaysThe needs and expectations of your customers are changing with astonishing velocity. Now is the time to:
  • Investigate where your missing opportunities are hiding, and develop new strategies and methods of presenting your company to new customers.
  • Understand whether your communication avenues are effective and make necessary changes to embrace customer needs and resolve pain points.
  • Strengthen your customer-acquisition plan. Don’t rely solely on recruiting new business.

Use these final few weeks of the year to reflect on how much you don't know about customers’ evolving needs and what you must change to maintain relevance and competitive differentiation. Use multiple methods to learn from the voice of your customer and then act on those insights. The wisdom of the customer is unfailingly correct.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Pitney Bowes SVP Marketing Answers 4 Questions for Marketing Innovators

We recently launched a new feature of our widely read blog Ernan’s Insights on Marketing Best Practices.

It is called: 4 Questions for Marketing Innovators The goal is to provide a quick read filled with meaningful insights from marketing thought leaders.
Each column will feature one innovator who will address 4 questions;

  1. What is one marketing topic that is most important to you as an innovator?
  2. Why is this so important?
  3. How will the customer experience be improved by this?
  4. How will this improve the effectiveness of marketing?
Please send your feedback and ideas for people you would us to interview to ernan@erdm.com


Bill Borelle
Bill Borrelle is the SVP and leader of Integrated Marketing Communications at Pitney Bowes, a global technology company offering products and services that enable commerce.
From data-driven marketing services to shipping and mailing products, the company is a leading provider of location data and provides the data that enables billions of social media check-ins every day.
A Board Member of the DMA, Bill’s roots are in direct and data-driven marketing, leading client relationships at Wunderman and Digitas. Before joining Pitney Bowes, Borrelle was Chief Executive Officer of mcgarrybowen New York.

1. What is one marketing topic that is most important to you as an innovator?
Location data. Unlocking the potential of using location data in marketing to engage with consumers with greater relevance and impact.

2. Why is this so important?
Since the beginning of time for Marketers, it is "context” that makes our messages relevant and actionable. I believe that “Context is King”, and have believed that since we began to use the term "Contextual Marketing". Contextual Marketing is a form of targeted messaging where the content of the message is directly relevant to the channel; perhaps the topic of a print publication, or relevant to the editorial content adjacent to the ad on a website, or relevant to a social media conversation, or even relevant to your customer’s online behavior. It’s fundamental.

So now, with 2/3 of Americans with smart phones and 74% of consumers who have smart phones saying 'YES’ to location-based services, we have a new form of contextual marketing that uses the real-time location of your customer to deliver a relevant, impactful message. So imagine intercepting your customer, through your company’s app, at the moment that they are near to your location with a real-time offer? Or perhaps, in the financial services category, knowing that your customer is in a real estate office, suggesting a home loan offer opportunity? It is mind-boggling if you let go and imagine all the new opportunities that we have as marketers with location data.

3. How will the customer experience be improved by this?
There are two scenarios where location data improves the customer experience. In a 'pull’ scenario, the customer is reaching out to you, through your app, to get information.

Where is the nearest branch? Can you direct me there? What retailers near where I am right now will let me use my rewards points to redeem? What movie theatres near me are playing a particular movie I want to see? We all know these examples well, because we live them, and it has become second nature. More and more, through the apps of banks, airlines, retailers, communications companies, opportunities to simplify life or save time or improve an experience are all being introduced using location data as the foundation of that improved experience.

For Marketers, it is the "push” scenario where there is untapped potential to improve a customer experience. Location data and automated real-time push messaging is often not built into existing CRM systems, so we are seeing our clients who use Pitney Bowes location data beginning to be very creative in not only the data that they use but also how they apply this data to deliver an unexpected, spontaneous message of relevance that engages and drives behavior. When we give our customers, with full transparency, the option to choose to share their location information in exchange for better service or a price advantage, the majority will say "YES".

4. How will this improve the effectiveness of marketing?
One notable advance that location data uniquely provides is driving action in the physical world using digital technology. There is no other method to immediately intercept a customer in real time, via a 1:1 customer tailored message, to drive an immediate physical in-store purchase. It's a great example of this new phenomenon, sometimes referred to as “phygical” marketing, where you use digital technology and data to drive a purchase in a physical environment, such as a retail store or a restaurant. Note, of those who are loyal to many apps on many mobile devices i.e. the “truly mobile engaged consumer”, the vast majority have their phones engaged while they shop, or eat out, or travel. We have a captive audience, and the only hurdle is our ability to meaningfully drive the right high-value message. In a nutshell, location data delivers relevance, and relevance drives revenue and results and relationships.

When used for research purposes, location data can help you better understand your target by analyzing the patterns of their movement on the planet. For example, do they commute to work every day? Do they travel internationally? Do they frequent a competitor's retail store more than yours? This is another great way to make your marketing programs more effective.

Remember that there’s location and then there’s location intelligence. It’s not sufficient to know the geographic coordinates of your customer on a map, you need to know what's around them. And that is where the layers of location data come in for Marketers to create impact in ways never before possible. This is a great opportunity for data-driven marketers.

What is your favorite activity outside of work?
I like to run. Power up the pop music, and escape on the West Side Highway in New York City overlooking the Hudson River. Nothing like it.

Monday, November 17, 2014

3 Ways Customer Listening Powers Marketing Effectiveness

Cutomer Thinks Article by Ernan Roman
Featured on CustomerThink.com
Today customers can make sure that their voice is heard like never before. And, if marketers don’t have measures in place to listen, they are turning a deaf ear to potentially significant problems and missing out on essential insights for improving their customer experience.

NASCAR Following are 3 ways to leverage customer listening and examples of how companies are putting these strategies into action.

1. Realize that Customer Listening (and Responding) is a 360-Degree Commitment.

Engagement with customers includes business partners who are also the face of your brand. So, how every aspect of your brand listens to the voice of your customer and responds is key.

For example, NASCAR made the decision to revamp its marketing and listening in five key areas. But that’s not where it ended. NASCAR also encouraged its business partners and drivers to do the same.

“We developed an industry action plan,” stated Steve Phelps NASCAR CMO, “… A plan for digital and social, a plan for driver star power–and within each plan, [we came up with] a number of different action items … [In an] effort to be thought leaders who provide the best available experience to our fans. We strongly encourage those across the entire landscape of the sport to embrace digital and social media — from drivers and teams to tracks and corporate partners.”

With new technologies NASCAR is boasting 6,000 tweets a minute, 565,000 posts per day and one million posts per event.

2. Customers are More Than Numbers, They are People, Talk to Them … (And listen.)

Data gives you a good view of what customers are doing. However, it is not going to tell you why or give you the emotional factors like a conversation. Personal interactions can be more valuable than all the big data you will ever collect.

Starting in October, Flow and Columbus Business Solutions, a telecommunications company serving the Caribbean, asked customers to tell them how they felt. Michele English, Columbus’ executive vice president and chief customer officer noted, “Our plan is to significantly enhance our customer ‘listening’ systems and ensure that feedback is integrated into our daily decisions and connected to our customers’ experiences across the organization… we have to design and implement [operational processes] to ensure that every customer touch point in the organization can support our customers’ needs efficiently and effectively… We now look forward to more customer feedback. “

The Company designed an easy to use online customer survey and sent communications to customers to encourage them to complete the survey and tell the company what matters.

3. Make Conversation (and Listening) Easy with Social Communities

Online communities enable the exchange of ideas in discussion forums, polls and social media. They provide brand information, mitigate problems and provide opportunities for a collaborative two-way conversation.

Southwest Airlines launched a Listening Center to monitor its online communities using a keyword-based listening tool that pulls in mentions from social platforms. The Listening Center monitors insights in real time to quickly identify issues and immediate engagement opportunities. Customers can connect their Twitter handles to their Rapid Rewards frequent flier numbers to get personalized services. Southwest Airlines also leverages the Listening Centers to send apology letters for delays, find new opportunities for engagement and implement company-wide customer care.

Alice Wilson, social business advisor for Southwest’s marketing organization notes that sharing the information collected is the key to listening success. “The customer feedback means something different to each [department] and can inform each group in a different way…From a social care standpoint, [employees] want to help assist and resolve. But somebody from the marketing team may be looking at that [data and ask], how do we alter communications to help these future situations?…The point is not to keep it as a silo.”

Keys to Effectively Listening to the Voice of Your Customer:
  • Listening should be at the heart of your marketing strategy.Listening lets you understand the “why” of what your customers are doing and experiencing so that operational issues, communication, and experience can be overhauled for a more positive overall brand impression.
  • Learnings from Listening Needs to be Shared with Every Part of your Business. Having data without acting on the implications does nothing for your business. Set standards for how the insights from your listening programs are regularly integrated and shared with all departments so that changes and actions are put in motion to respond to customer needs and comments.
  • Meaningful Dialogue Based on Listening. Develop authentic, honest and direct conversations based on listening, which lead to meaningful connections and two-way dialogue.
  • Use Listening to Develop Strategies. Once you launch programs to listen, develop means for incorporating these learnings into new strategies that address the issues identified in customer conversations. Put in motion ongoing review of the data collected through listening programs so that you have a clear roadmap that delineates what customers are expecting, their pain points and their current/future demands.
  • Listening Objectives Must be Established. If you don’t know how you are going to listen, you will not be able to hear what your customers are trying to tell you. Whether you have the means to set up a full scale listening center, a social monitoring program, a survey, or a call center monitoring program, know what you are implementing and how you will regularly harvest and utilize the insights.
In summary, customers have a lot to say and they want you to listen. The good news is that customers generally have valid concerns and smart advice to offer. Marketers and customers will both benefit if the marketer creates multichannel ways of listening to customers and processes for acting quickly on their input.