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.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Gilt's Founder Answers 4 Questions for Marketing Innovators

We are launching 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 concentrating on this help improve the customer experience?
  4. How will concentrating on this help improve the overall effectiveness of marketing?
The 4 Questions for Marketing Innovators feature will be a periodic blog. Please send your feedback and ideas for people you would us to interview to ernan@erdm.com This inaugural blog will focus on Alexis Maybank, Founder and Strategic Advisor of Gilt.

Alexis Maybank In 2007, Alexis and a founding team conceived of and built Gilt, and in doing so, revolutionized the landscape of luxury ecommerce and the way millions of people shop online.

Alexis also serves as Director for National Audubon Society and for Girls Who Code. Alexis, together with Gilt co-founder Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, is the author of The New York Times bestseller book, By Invitation Only: How We Built Gilt and Changed the Way Millions Shop.

Gilt is an innovative online shopping destination offering its more than 9 million members access to top designer labels, at significant discounts and exclusive local services and experiences.

We caught up with Alexis at the recent DMA Annual Conference, where she was inducted into the DMA Hall of Fame. Here are her marketing insights;

  1. What is one marketing topic that is most important to you as an innovator?
Adding a "face" in the faceless world of the Internet.
2. Why is this so important?
Online we think about how we create a differentiated look or fulfill a unique promise to a customer.
However, it’s equally as important to consider how we make our business relatable and identifiable to the consumer.
Technology can be intimidating, sites with a blur of offerings and pages upon pages of content can be overwhelming.
Customer loyalty is generated not just through an excellently executed customer experience, but also through a deeper connection to what the customer feels personally for your business.

At Gilt, here’s how we approached it. As we set out to build this deeper personal relationship with our customers, my cofounder Alexandra Wilson and I put ourselves out there and made sure we interacted directly with our base on many fronts.

Firstly, each city we visited for personal or business travel we'd meet our 10-20 top customers. We heard first hand what they loved about Gilt, what they would like to improve.

The conversations soon turned to recommendations on travel destinations, favorite restaurants and even to our families or common passions. We realized that by having the two of us engage directly and frequently with our members, we started building a recurring dialogue with our customers, or in other words that “Face" we needed to emerge from that anonymous world of the internet.

We began to foster that dialogue in both small ways and in large ways. Smaller ways included series of local events in key cities where we could speak to hundreds at a time; we inserted personally signed thank you notes in all outbound boxes; and we made sure we too answered customer support calls and emails regularly.
At scale, we kept the conversation consistent across our social footprint, speaking to followers and friends alike about the same topics our customers enjoyed discussing in person. And importantly our customer support voice and tone also had the same cadence. We established a consistent voice and put in place key policies that sustained these practices, like having no time limits on customer calls or giving advice on any topic our customer wanted, regardless if it entailed an imminent site purchase or a hotel recommendation in a new city.
Our customer accommodation practices were geared to this same empathic, friendly relationship. These and many other examples of the touch points with the customer were carefully thought out and consistent with who we were as a founders. We built a relatable "face" to the business, one that the customers could relate to, define and ultimately root for due to their deeper sense of connection to our brand.
3. How will concentrating on this help improve the customer experience?
By creating that recognized, trusted brand, the customer feels they have someone in their corner.
The right policies, advice and friendly person on the other side of an email and phone call builds confidence in the service and offerings the customer can expect.
Now it’s not always possible to have a couple of senior members of the team that can be out there and really embodying and shaping your company's brand.
If that’s not feasible, I have given the following advice;
1) Have you taken the time to solidify your company’s values, or even it’s mission and vision? What drives the operating principles of your organization? Having these understood, documented and shared broadly help unify an employee base and lead to greater consistency in how your clients and customers interact with you, the company.
2) Secondly, if you think of your brand, what type of person would s/he be? How would s/he present herself, what characteristics would she have, and what would she care about? To me, these, and others, are useful exercises that inform many of your key practices and policies that are critical to bringing your brand to life in trusted, animated and consistent manner. They can help create a relatable face.
4. How will concentrating on this help improve the overall effectiveness of marketing?
It's difficult to engender loyalty and a personal connection from customers in a strictly online world, however it's critically important to try. With all the noise and distractions online, and without the benefit of that personal handshake or eye contact, it's harder to create a relatable, lasting bond with a person. If you can achieve it, you can establish a truly original brand, a sense of personal connection. Through the relationship we at Gilt established with our customers, we could confidently, empathetically and personally open a window to the fantastic for our customers each and every day.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Disney Finds Magic In Reciprocity Marketing

A healthy change is taking place: Consumers are demanding that brands engage them in conversations versus one-way blasts.Disney Marketing
But for this to be effective, both consumers and marketers have to change previous behaviors.
» Consumers have to recognize that to receive more relevant and personalized communications, offers, and experiences, they need to provide deeper personal or business information.
» Marketers have to recognize that to competitively differentiate, they have to provide significantly more personalized communications, offers, and experiences. However, true personalization is based on much more than traditional transactional data. Marketers must earn the right to collect increasingly deeper levels of preference-based data.
How is this accomplished? With trust. According to the 2014 BrandSpark Most Trusted Awards, “Across categories when considering [a] purchase of a new product, shoppers consider it extremely or very important that it comes from a brand they trust.”
Trust is the basis for obtaining deeper engagement with customers. It is a cycle:
Trust makes customers receptive to a reciprocity-based exchange of data in order to receive enhanced experiences.
The improved customer experience reinforces trust.
That, in turn, enhances trust.
Now customers are more motivated to provide deeper additional information.
Marketers can now engage customers in a deeper level of reciprocity-based interaction.
And the cycle continues, based on ever-deepening personalization and value.
An exciting example of reciprocity-based marketing is Disney’s MagicBand bracelet app. In return for the collection of consumer data, Disney offers guests the ability to “enter the parks, unlock Disney Resort hotel room[s], and buy food and merchandise. Plus, [the] MagicBand gives FastPass+ access to all the experiences selected online.” Users of the band and app can receive an email or text message about availability of reservations or rides noted as being preferred experiences.
In terms of data collection, MagicBands link electronically to an encrypted database of visitor information. The bands contain a radio frequency identification (RFID) chip that allows for the collection of intelligence that is coupled with guest input into the My Disney Experience app and Web site (input is voluntary.) All of this data gives Disney valuable information about customer preferences, which are then used to provide high-value experiences.
The Disney value proposition is in sync with findings that have emerged from Relationship Research our firm has conducted regarding what customers expect in a reciprocity-based relationship:
Trust: The marketer can be trusted to deliver on a fundamental brand promise.
Listen: The brand will listen to customers’ needs, suggestions, and concerns.
Deliver: The brand will provide communications and experiences relevant to customers based on their individual preferences.
Key Takeaways
Following are four key takeaways for implementing reciprocity-based marketing strategies:
It is not customers’ responsibility tell marketers what they want. Marketers must ask--and then respond with reciprocity-based customer experiences based on feedback.
Competitive differentiation is rooted in the ability to deliver offers, communications, and experiences based on the exchange of deep customer data and preferences.
Multichannel reciprocity-based marketing addresses the customer experience across all touch points, departments, locations, and company levels.
A high value, reciprocity-based customer relationship needs to be maintained throughout the life cycle of the customer, not just during the points of initial sale or add-on sales.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Use Human Data to Provide True B2B Personalization

Game-Changing Marketing Trends Article by Ernan Roman
Featured on CMS Wire

An enormous shift is occurring in how B2B customers think about engagement and relationships. Customers expect marketers to achieve relevance by providing personalized communications based on their individual preferences, rather than continuing with irrelevant “spray and pray” marketing blasts. It’s this new way of thinking that’s unlocking the true potential of human data.B2B - Personalization

A Shift in Strategy

Gone are the days when B2B prospects and customers would sort through piles of spray and pray “stuff” to uncover the few relevant messages. They expect marketers to find them and provide relevant offers and communications based on their individual needs and preferences. This means that marketers must develop bold new strategies that achieve the delicate balance of requesting in-depth data in exchange for providing the value of significantly improved customer experiences.
That is why after careful research, The UPS Store repositioned itself as a small business peer to peer company which made it more relevant to its target audience. Its research showed that 90 percent of small-business owners would prefer to do business with other local business owners. The UPS Store targeted this small biz niche and carefully crafted its messaging to directly answer their specific requirements.
A marketing initiative was created to let UPS directly connect with this audience in order to provide personalized services, products and offers of real value. They launched a Small Business Solutions portal, offering resources for small-business owners and the Small Biz Buzz, an online community of more than 300 small-business owners.

An Exchange of Value  

Just like their B2C counterparts, B2B marketers are realizing that to be truly personalized, marketing must be based on more than transactional, overlay and inferential data. It has to be based on the individual customer’s stated needs and self-profiled preference information.
However, developing a program to gain progressively deeper levels of self-profiled data must start with a foundation of trust. Per findings from Voice of Customer research conducted by ERDM, B2B customers and prospects are willing to provide trusted brands with meaningful information in exchange for more personalized offers, communications and experiences. We call this exchange of value the “Reciprocity of Value.”
This Reciprocity of Value, built on trust, is the critical aspect of both B2B and B2C data-driven marketing. It is trust, and a perceived reciprocity, that will motivate customers to provide the preference-based information needed to drive truly relevant, engaging communication.
Keep in mind:
bullet Trust is the foundation and basis for obtaining deeper levels of personalized, preference-based data.
bullet Marketers must earn the right to obtain deeper levels of preference data by delivering on the promise of truly personalized communications.
bullet Marketers should strive to build sustainable relationships with customers based on trust, commitment and reciprocity, from the initial prospecting phase to every aspect of the customer lifecycle.

Microsoft's Move Beyond the Product

To better connect with B2B consumers and develop a relationship program that transcended product transactions, Microsoft sought to gain a deeper level of customer understanding. Through VoC research with Microsoft’s SMB business consumers, key factors for improvement in personalization were outlined:
bullet Understand my unique business needs.
bullet Create user levels based on business size, industry and product focus and then create targeted content based these levels.
bullet Develop a relationship program based on the user’s unique needs, not Microsoft’s.
bullet Request user feedback at every touch point. And use that feedback to evolve the customer experience and provide relevant content and communications.
After a comprehensive program of gaining data through a preference-based, easy-to-navigate opt-in process, Microsoft developed ways to deliver on the promise of an enhanced experience. Customers received a welcome email, monthly personalized e-newsletters, and ongoing personalized offers and training.
The results were powerful:
bullet Opt-in rates up to 95 percent.
bullet Open rates greater than 50 percent.
bullet Response rates performing in the double-digits.
bullet Revenue increase of 2 times.
This is what the Reciprocity of Value looked like:
Customer Benefits Microsoft Benefits
Deeper level of personalized experience
Customized communication, training, and services
Improved information relevant to business needs
Opt-in Profile information to drive personalized content and communications
Ability to analyze web and email interaction behaviors
Improved Cross sell/upsell opportunities
In summary, earning the in-depth “human” preference data that drives personalized marketing is an essential strategy for B2B marketers looking to go from transactions to a long-term, value based relationships with customers.

Monday, September 8, 2014

5 Emails Which Drive Value and Response

We all struggle to create emails that are worthy of being opened.
We have to overcome the instinctive “Delete” reflex by our customers and prospects.
Following are 5 opportunities for emails that provide value, engagement and drive response.
1) Triggered messaging
Triggered messages (meaning those that are personalized, real time, or event related such as confirmations that are sent to subscribers in response to a specific action,) outperform generic emails. One of the reasons these types of emails are so effective is because they are relevant and personalized.
Ideas for triggered emails include:
  • Cart abandonment reminders
  • Order confirmations or shipping confirmations that include a personal thank-you with a time frame based thank you discount on their next purchase.
Additionally, according to eMarketer, for retailers, triggered emails enjoy an open rate nearly 75% higher than nontriggered emails, while clickthroughs more than tripled.
2) Transactional Messaging
According to the Experian’s “The Transactional Email Report, transaction-related emails, [prompted by] customers’ buying behavior, can provide marketers with great opportunity for improving customer service, gaining repeat sales and deepening customer engagement compared with standard bulk mailings…the average revenue per email is two to five times greater and can be up to six times greater than the all-industry average of $0.13.”
But don’t send “off the shelf” impersonal sales-based emails. Today’s transactional messaging, according to the survey is “branded, relevant and engaging...to take full advantage of the high level of customer interest and brand engagement that naturally follows a purchase.” Ideas for incorporating personalized Transactional Messaging include:
  • Re-order reminders, accessory replenish reminders, or sales alerts on products or accessories that obviously relate to a previous purchase.
  • Win-back emails for lapsed customers with personalized incentives based on buying history and preference data.

3) Engaging Email Subject Lines
Being engaging is more than just using your recipient’s name. Be relevant. Be “to the point” and deliver on what was promised within the body of the email. These, according to Christopher Lester, VP of sales at Emma, an email marketing platform, are the keys to successful and engaging email marketing.
Ideas for engaging email subject lines:
Lester advises that, “The email subject line is probably one of the most important pieces of a campaign... It's the beginning statement of the story… The email subject line is just a…way of giving the user [a] quick analysis... what is the value of the email compared to the amount of time dedicated to opening and reading the message? ...You're building relationships and making full connections... If you deliver [on] the value consistently, you will never have to beg for an open.”
4) Mixed Media Emails
Mobile is changing many of the rules for email. Marketers must now create messaging that is delivery-friendly to traditional email inboxes as well as those on mobile devices.
Ideas for mixed media emails include:
  • Today’s consumer is multi-screen and multi-device. Make sure your email messaging provides a mobile device experience that is as good as your desktop experience.
  • Be sure your landing pages are also dynamic so that mobile or tablet users can view your messaging clearly, get to forms, or be able to click with ease.
5) Personalized Emails
There is nothing more engaging than a truly personalized email that is all about you, the individual customer.
Don’t reinvent the wheel. Learn from Amazon how they have taken personalized emails to a new level. The company has the ability to analyze and personalize both online and email content based on preferences, search history and previous purchases. Amazon sends its customers personalized product recommendations that entice a recipient to purchase a previously viewed item.
According to an in-depth white paper from Amazon, “The click-through and conversion rates - two important measures of Web-based and email advertising effectiveness - vastly exceed those of untargeted content.” Recommend that you read this report to gain thoughtful insights on sophisticated and effective personalization.

Monday, August 18, 2014

7 Game-Changing Marketing Trends To Engage Customers, Build Your Brand

Game-Changing Marketing Trends Article by Ernan Roman
Featured on CustomerThink.com

Given the need for speed and agility, a critical priority for marketers is to reevaluate your current marketing strategies to determine if they are achieving two key objectives; competitively differentiating your brand and engaging customers across the multichannel mix.
Lays - Do Us A Flavor
Here are 7 game changing marketing trends you need to consider as you reevaluate your strategies. As you read these trends you’ll see that they address these key customer needs and expectations:
  • Empowering the buyer to become an active participant in their experience
  • Increasing relevance
  • Increasing differentiation and engagement
  • Solving problems and needs.
#1 Extreme Creativity
Extreme creativity is now required to help you achieve competitive differentiation in an increasingly cluttered and distracted market.
To target business decision makers and reinforce their message of big technology and big data to increase efficiency, GE used extreme creativity in the form of popular Sci-Fi movies in their “Brilliant machines” campaign. The TV spots use creative approaches to show how GE can solve major problems. GE also launched an innovative social campaign which generated 200,000 social engagements across #GEInstaWalk posts, 3.5 million unique viewers and over 3,000 new followers to the GE account.
#2 New Technology
There is a constant stream of new technology to enhance user experiences at every touch point. What’s key is to understand how your specific customers want to use technology to improve their experience with your brand.
HDFC Bank, winners of the Gartner CRM Excellence award, used technology to unify sales, service, and relationship management processes for a concerted CRM experience across all channels and devices, including branch, internet and mobile banking. This integrated, technology-based solution covered more than 40,000 users and its entire 3400+ branch network. The bottom line is that this new use of technology resulted in many improvements including reducing customer complaints by 30%.
#3 True Personalization
According to the 6th Annual Personalization Consumer Survey “consumers expect and desire personalization throughout their online shopping experience. And, 83% see value in being recognized with personalized experiences across channels.”
LE TOTE, an online shopping platform that launched in 2013 breaks new ground in the online fashion shopping experience through true personalization. The company’s personalization algorithm presents merchandise to each customer based on their supplied personalization elements such as measurements, age, location, as well as the items placed into their online “dream closet.” It has achieved rapid success because it provides a uniquely personalized online shopping experience.
#4 Leveraging the Power of Community
The power of community has taken consumer participation to a whole new level by empowering traditionally passive buyers and turning them into active brand contributors.
A powerful example is Quirky, which provides potential inventors with an online “store” to bring merchandise “made by real people” to audiences of “real people.” The concept of empowering the community to vote on which new product ideas have potential and should go into manufacturing, resonates. This community wants to participate in every facet of the process; from idea to development, marketing and ultimately buying these products. This very active community of over 200,000 people is able to vote, rate, and comment on potential new products.
Other notable community marketing campaigns are Lays, “Do us a Flavor”, Crocs social media contest (to vote on new products) and Sharknado2 ‘s fund raising efforts. All of these work because they actively engage fans by allowing them to become participants in the experience. Additionally, it gives brands relevant consumer insights about market preferences.
#5 Embracing the real customer journey
The path to purchase of your buyer is one that every business needs to understand in order to offer necessary education and a seamless experience. Understanding the path to purchase lets you make it simple and easy for people to do business with you.
Online travel site, TripIt believes that the customer journey is not a series of events, but a continuous experience. “It’s about the journey we’re on with the customer,” director of marketing Elisa Haidt. The company gives customers a way to make real-world journeys easier by organizing a trip into a master itinerary. A recent promotion for customers with one-year anniversaries offered a trial version of the premium version which resulted in a 900 percent increase in adoption because it integrated the buying journey into the fully-rounded customer experience.
#6 Multiscreen communication
Whether BtoB or BtoC, customers are accessing content on a multiple screens. According to new data from Usablenet; mobile traffic to BtoB sites will soon outpace B2C traffic and 52% of business people reported that they are using mobile devices to research products for their businesses.
Microsoft Advertising’s Cross-Screen Engagement study found that 68% of consumers engage in “content grazing,” multi-tasking using several devices at once. This leaves marketers with the challenge of rethinking how they present marketing messages so they deliver a good user experience no matter how the customer is digesting online content.
At this year’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity the company showcased a campaign by Lexus using Microsoft solutions for a multi-screen consumer experience.
#7 Location based marketing
Though this trend is still somewhat controversial, there is no doubt that location-based marketing is here to stay. The ability to use location to target consumers with messages based on not just who they are, but where they are, opens up tremendous opportunities for marketers.
An innovative example is Livedeal.com a geo-based deal engine that connects merchants and consumers via a mobile marketing platform. The service lets 8,000 restaurants publish over 10,000 deals “real-time” and “instant offers” to nearby consumers, who download the app to use the service. The company recently ran its first media awareness campaign which increased traffic by nearly 250 percent, showing that consumers are warming up to the benefits of sharing their location info in exchange for a discount at a nearby business.
Additionally, many online location-based price comparison services, have embraced the popular consumer trends of location-based mobile shopping as well as the phenomenon of “showrooming” (checking prices on a mobile device while in a brick and mortar location.) RedLaser, lets shoppers access current deals at local stores or scan the product’s barcode, to discover if a better price is close by. This works because rather than being targeted, customers are offering up their location to seek out helpful information.
We live in exciting times. Innovation is marketing’s best friend. We hope you’ll think about how these 7 marketing trends can transform the quality, relevance and ROI of your marketing.

Monday, August 4, 2014

5 Tips to Boost Native Advertising Effectiveness

There’s good news for marketers when it comes to consumer acceptance of contextual advertising. Consumers have come to terms with these ads... but only if the content is relevant, authoritative, and trustworthy.
Watch Orange is the New Black on Netflix
According to a study Edelman/Berland, Getting In-Feed Sponsored Content Right: the Consumer View:
» 86% of consumers feel that online advertising is necessary to receive free content online.
» 60% of consumers are more open to in-line ads that tell a story than ones that simply sell a product.
» Relevancy (90%) is the top factor in sparking interest in in-feed sponsored content, it is the top factor in the ultimate success of this type of native advertising.
Online entertainment company, Netflix has embraced the concept of native ads in a big way with a series of campaigns that has presented different content applicable to targeted audiences in varied media. It ran a contextual native ad campaign which discussed the popular TV show, “Orange is the New Black” on the New York Times website. Based on the positive results of the New York Times campaign the company decided to ramp up on native ads with an initiative on Wired which discussed TV viewing habits over the years. Netflix is using the articles to reach digital audiences looking for good storytelling—and then reinforce the message of a subscription-based entertainment service. 
Both campaigns had the intended result—shares that helped the company reach an even larger audience beyond the original viewership. And while there is some discussion over which outlet ultimately netted the bigger catch, both avenues together resulted in approximately 140,000 shares. But that is not the whole story, because the posts were also viewable on social media such as LinkedIn and Twitter. The average time spent on the ads topped a desirable 3 minutes.
5 Takeaways to Boost the Effectiveness of Native Advertising
1. Be Transparent; Own up to owning the sponsored content. There is a fine line between the “advertorial nature” of native ads and actual in-your-face in-line ads. But customers are just beginning to understand the concept of native advertising so to earn viewer trust, brands need to be upfront that the content being published, while relevant, is advertising with a message.
2. Fit In; Understand the look, feel, and format of the media you are using, so that your native ad fits what viewers expect to find on the site. As mentioned earlier, being disruptive rather than informative is a sure fire way to ensure that your native ads won’t work.
3. Keep VoC Front and Center; As in all marketing listening and understanding what customers want from you is key to delivering content that will be accepted and embraced. Fill a need with your native ads or be entertaining in a manner that fits the personality of your key customer.
4. Be a Good Storyteller; You want your native ad to go viral, so present a good story that viewers will want to share.
5. Be You; consistency across all media is key. When you are not true to your core brand message (no matter where or how it is presented) it is confusing to consumers who know you for who you are. If you are going to go in a new direction then be upfront about it so readers can go with you.

Monday, July 21, 2014

5 Tips for Using Customer Data to Deliver High Value

Customers have learned that in order to have a more customized experience they need to provide the data to drive those high-value communications and experiences. However, the burden is on marketers to become better in delivering on that expectation in order to give customers a reason to supply the necessary data.
Values for Customer
In a recent study by Consulting firm Emnos, it was noted that shoppers want relevant solutions – tips and advice that will simplify their lives, save on time, and deliver information. However, 83% feel that retailers are not providing sufficient information and resources.
This should be a wakeup call to marketers to do more than just collect data. They should use customer information to provide a clear and obvious improvement in the customer experience.
This fact is reinforced by a recent survey from data insight company ClickFox, which stated that about 32% of consumers said they're most willing to share personal data if they feel loyal to a brand.
Data influences every decision that Avis Budget makes, from product, to distribution, to communication.
With records from 40 million customers, finding data to analyze wasn’t an issue, it was how to structure the use of data that was the challenge. Understanding the value of the “total” customer through data helped the company to determine communication strategies and helped to differentiate customer service solutions.
Jeannine Haas, CMO, Avis Budget Group stated, “...we look for ways to infuse the customer experience with data… It helps us organize our contact strategy..., which in turn increases [its] effectiveness ... The most critical achievement of the project may be the “single view” of the customers...Information is consolidated into a web-based dashboard that the front-line customer-facing employees can access.”
The company used data technology to get a single 360-degree view of its customer by applying a segmentation strategy called 'customer lifetime value.' They looked for ways to infuse the customer experience with intelligence Tim Doolittle, vice president of CRM, Avis Budget noted that “Differentiation today is based on customer service and customer experience... We lacked an organized process and analytics infrastructure to leverage our data assets, to improve marketing ROI and the customer experience and to drive long-term customer value...”
“...We've added win-back and peer prospecting for a total of six segments, and that's how we organize our contact strategy group. That approach has increased the effectiveness of our contact strategy, in many cases above 30% over control.”
5 Takeaways for Using Customer Information to Drive High Value Customer Experiences
1. Use Data to Provide Useful Information - Make it easy for shoppers to understand that you’re collecting data in order to give them a better experience.
2. Use Data to Solve Problems - Identify issues and solve problems based on customer input and customer communications.
3. Positive Experiences Drive Customers to Share Data - Marketers need to continuously provide excellent customer experiences because this is what proves knowledge of customers as more than a transaction--but as a person.
4. Use Data to Actionably Improve Customer Communication - Due to lack of customer insights companies are often only able to provide generic responses, leaving the customer feeling more frustrated. Personalize communication, responses, and experiences.
5. Don’t Just Collect Data ... Use it as a Tool - Look beyond the last click, or the most recent search, to provide an experience that covers a consumer's entire purchasing journey.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

5 Smart Social Community Strategies That Boost Sales

Business 2 Community
By Ernan Roman
Reprinted from: Business 2 Community

The Challenge: Social media has evolved into more than just another advertising channel, with communities transcending traditional social media channels. To make the most of these new opportunities, marketers need to learn what it takes to drive sales through relevant and targeted conversations.
Strategy One: Be authentic to your brand… and to customers
Online CommunityEvery brand that succeeds on social media does so by achieving a consistent voice that’s authentic to its core message. By connecting with a responsive social audience through communities, meaningful conversations become building blocks for achieving sales objectives. For example, CLIF Bar in keeping with its message of fitness has joined the People For Bikes initiative, which is consistent with its brand message, and provides a way to directly interact with their proven customers.
Per Eric Nystrom, Director, Social Media Services Group at Dell, “In today’s world people are not interested in talking to brand spokespeople or marketers. They are interested in connecting with empowered employees and subject matter experts. Social is about relationship building”.
Strategy Two: Connect through communities
Social communities resonate with customers and let brands connect on a deeper level via viral conversations which can far surpass the reach of a singular post on a social wall. As a matter of fact, social interactions now go beyond traditional social media into mobile experiences, television events, webinars, chats, and more. Two-way interactions enable customers to become part of the brand because they can gain answers to questions, address objections, and understand brand value. Coca Cola took advantage of the recent World Cup with the goal of creating the most inclusive FIFA World CupTM Coca-Cola campaign… ever. Emmanuel Seuge, Vice President Global Alliances & Ventures stated that, “…we set out to create the most inclusive and participatory FIFA World Cup™ ever. … we gave fans from all around the world the unprecedented opportunity to be a part of the greatest soccer stage of all… “
Strategy Three: Really understand how your customers connect
Turns out the way people interact on social media is similar to that of real life. In a joint study by the University of Georgia, Pew Research Center, and Social Media Foundation it was discovered that when people interact in social media they create patterns of social interaction. Identifying the specific groups of people talking about you, lets you understand who they are, what they are saying, and what connects them to your brand.
Strategy Four: Know where to find your customers and how they communicate
Additionally, the same study found that when marketers, target key meaningful communities they also zero in on key conversations, key words, and hashtags being used about the brand.
Gatorade reached out to its core customers with a “Beat the Heat” campaign that let them connect with their key groups of customers with a message of safety and health.
Strategy Five: Understand what information customers need
Sears has created Shop Your Way Rewards which gives customers a place to find product information, ask salespeople questions, and share recommendations.
According to Eric Jaffe, Senior VP “In the grand scheme of things, social media is …about building engagement and promoting conversations… around our brand…. We are focusing around the members, and building relationships with them that go beyond what they purchase from us…. Groups, especially social communities, are the most valuable to retailers….Highly engaged members end up spending more and — more importantly — shop more frequently.”
5 Takeaways that boost sales through social communities
1. Engage consistently in a manner that that reinforces your core brand message. Make sure that every channel delivers a reinforcing statement that helps customers move towards a purchase.
2. Understand which groups are the most valuable to your sales objectives. Not all consumers or social audiences have a purchase intent. Understand what social avenues best address buyers’ needs for actual purchase information.
3. Do what it takes to address consumer needs. Put in place strategies that let actual staff members interact with potential buyers so that they have access to the brand and have the resources necessary to move forward with a purchase.
4. Empower consumers to strengthen their voice. By giving your customers a platform you are empowering and respecting their voice.
5. Deliver the latest information, news and trends about your brand. If customers do not fully understand why they need to buy, they won’t go down the purchase journey with your brand. Social communities let existing customers and potential buyers understand what you are offering and your brand’s value proposition.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Multichannel Engagement; 6 Requirements and 3 Takeaways

There’s an ever increasing range of media and channels with which to engage customers. And although companies know an integrated multichannel engagement strategy is a must, most still struggle with how to do this well - and how to integrate the data into a singular customer centric vision and process.
Multi-Channel EngagementFor starters, marketers need to understand that the world is shifting from forcing customers to sort through piles of spray and pray stuff to find useful communications, to a world where personalized, relevant multichannel communications find consumers based on their opt-in preferences.
The average U.S. consumer spends 60 hours a week consuming content across devices. Many channels are also delivered via multiple devices, making marketing and data collection increasingly more complex. With customers coming into companies from multiple directions, the challenge is to generate seamless, consistently high value, integrated customer experiences—no matter which medium a customer selects.
Multichannel strategies have to begin with an understanding of the requirements customers use to define “Engaging Customer Experiences”. Following are the 6 requirements that have emerged from over 10,000 hours of Voice of Customer research conducted by our firm, ERDM for clients such as MassMutual, IBM and QVC:
1. Improve the customer experience across every point of contact with your organization.
2. This applies to all elements of the media mix and all departments of your organization.
3. High quality experiences must be maintained throughout the relationship, not just when you are “selling.”
4. Customer experiences must be driven by the customer’s individual preferences regarding message, timing, frequency and media mix.
5. Preferences must drive high quality personalization of communications and experiences.
6. Absolute commitment to safeguarding privacy of preference information is essential.
A company that has used its multichannel insights to develop new marketing initiatives is Beyond the Rack, which uses customer data based on media usage to shape its future engagement strategies.
The company’s sales for mobile users skyrocketed from 10% of total revenue in mid-2012 to nearly one-third by 2014. Most recently, Beyond the Rack has revealed that their new focus centers around taking their mobile insights to set the standards for all interactions with customers.
Three Key Takeaways for you based on Beyond the Rack’s strategies:
1. Using its data to understand that 40-50% of their 12 million daily e-mails are opened on mobile devices, the company maximizes the impact of their mobile emails to make them more appealing on mobile devices. All marketers should identify and optimize the most active media channels to make them more engaging for customers.
2. Beyond the Rack continually engages with customers via contests such as its web-based model search. This gives customers an active opportunity to become a part of the brand through multiple media channels and not be just an impersonal buyer.
3. Yona Shtern, CEO of Beyond the Rack, stated that “Consumers have very different expectations of what they want you to be …. [at Beyond The Rack] we spent a lot of time figuring out who we needed to be.” Marketers need to build their media and marketing strategies around what customers want and where they spend their time.