Ernan’s Insights on Marketing Best Practices

Monday, December 19, 2011

2012: Year of Preference-Driven Multichannel Marketing Breakthroughs

PREDICTION: Marketers who deploy their multichannel marketing mix at key points in customer’s lifecycles with the company and per customer’s individual preferences will win. Those who don’t will just be creating multichannel irritation.
Marketing Paths in 2012Brand Paths in 2012
For some brands, this will be the year of multichannel breakthroughs. For other brands, the next twelve months will be another painful period of trial and error -- mostly error.
Per recent Voice of Customer research we conducted with major BtoB and BtoC marketers, customers want brands to use an integrated multichannel mix that engages them to share their preferences regarding offers, alerts, frequency of contact and media preferences. Using this integrated multichannel mix, marketers can provide relevant communications…at key points in the consumer's lifecycle with the company.
Thriving in 2012 ... and Beyond
To thrive in 2012, assume that both "old" and "new" media will play a role in your customer's personalized multichannel mix.
Elements of a preference-driven mix include online, social, direct mail, print, broadcast, narrowcast, and all the possible person to person "touch points," including both face to face and phone interactions. As an excellent Epsilon study, The Formula for Success: Preference and Trust, referenced here, put it:
"Consumers use and trust certain communications channels more than others. This means that marketers need to understand which channels resonate most at various points in the consumer purchase cycle and incorporate a cross-channel strategy that leverages data and technology to communicate on a one-to-one basis.... Our study suggests that brands should use a variety of mediums to build relationships, starting with trusted channels like direct mail, then layering the message to re-enforce it through other channels."
This multichannel mix must be deployed at key points in the customer’s lifecycle with your company and per the consumer's individual preferences ... or you will lose ground in 2012!
Four Takeaways for Marketers
arrow Trust your customers to tell you: Gather Voice of Customer (VOC) research-based insights regarding how your customers define a truly personalized multichannel relationship, and which communications are most relevant at key points in their relationship lifecycle with you.
arrow Understand the behaviors that equal "engagement": Use VOC insights to understand what range of actions from your side drive engagement from the consumer's side, such as recognition, personalized rewards, the opportunity to share their point of view, the chance to enter a contest, etc.
arrow Be media agnostic: Offer both "old" and "new" media options your customers can select to satisfy their media preferences.
arrow Measure it. Track the results carefully over time. What matters is not how many eyeballs or fans you have. It's what people are actually doing ... and buying!

Monday, December 12, 2011

"The Customer Is Always Wrong"

THE CHALLENGE: We invite retention problems, loss of market share, and loss of good will when we consistently ignore big problems that gall our consumers ... and assume that they must be wrong when they complain.
Although this challenge affects all marketers in all industries, I want to illustrate how important it is by looking at an industry that everyone is familiar with, as a consumer: The airline industry.


Passenger Seating IssuesMost US air carriers have inadequate policies for dealing with issues arising from being the seatmate of a "passenger of size”.

They start with the assumption that customers who complain about this are probably wrong.

They tell their employees to deal with these problems on a case-by-case basis, trusting that their (overworked) front-line service people can sort it all out. They can’t. This leads to absurd situations like the one pictured here.

The bottom line: Far too many US airlines inconvenience and humiliate larger passengers and their seatmates. The horror stories here include this PR disaster on USAir, in which a passenger was forced to stand for seven hours during a flight because his seatmate took up two seats ... and a travel nightmare recounted in a recent Dear Abby column in which a customer was sandwiched between two "passengers of size" for three hours.

Ask a sampling of passengers about the best way for airlines to solve this problem, and you will hear a clear consensus: People who take up two seats should be charged for two seats ... ahead of time.

Back in 2002, Southwest listened. It is the only major US airline I could identify that has such a policy in place. The Voice of Customer feedback I am hearing personally and reading online indicates that was the right call ... and that the rest of the industry needs to do a better job of engaging with its own customer base on this issue. Notice that Southwest is number one in customer satisfaction the US airline industry!
Are we asking our customers the questions that will help us uncover the most irritating problems they face ... and their possible solutions? Are we listening carefully to the answers we hear?
Management’s job is to create a culture that values customers, a culture that does not start with the premise that the customer is always wrong! We must recognize customer value and have systems in place to listen to, and act on, the feedback and needs of customers.
Check to see what industry leaders and other players are already doing to address the problems that irritate your customers most. If they're doing a better job of listening ... catch up!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Holiday Blues: Lost Opportunities, Knee-Jerk Discounts

Holiday ShoppingTHE CHALLENGE: As the holiday season kicked off, online and offline marketers wasted millions of precious opportunities to engage with customers, capture preferences, and build the foundation for a year-long relationship. And most marketers relied too heavily on discounts.

Using discounting alone to drive purchases is not a strategy. It's an addiction. The result is a downward cycle: The only compelling reason for a consumer to visit the company’s store or web site is to get another discount ”fix.” The retailer becomes more and more dependent on discounts. The low-loyalty, low-information cycle deepens ... until someone else offers a better discount!


For too many consumers, the beginning of the holiday season began with too many hassles and disappointing experiences.

Case in point: I am a long-time customer of Sheplers, the iconic cowboy outfitter. I called the company Get em in get em out last weekend to order some shirts. While the recorded auto attendant was folksy and appealing -- “We’re just as busy as cows at a salt-lick” -- the reps were curt, transactional, and could not answer the simplest questions.

The mindset: "Get 'em in, get 'em out!” What a lost opportunity.

Here are 7 questions to help marketers move beyond the purely transactional "card-swipe encounter" this holiday shopping season.


Don't get distracted by how many times you were able to take an order this year compared to a year ago. Move past the "knee-jerk discount" business model. Start by asking your team:

Question# 1: How much information were we able to gather about our brand new customers? Can we connect a specific buyer to a specific purchase? Will we be able to send relevant, personalized communications to this new customer based on capturing their preferences and interests?

Question# 2: How many of the people we sold to recently were repeat customers? How do we know? How could we increase that percentage?

Question# 3: Did we generate referrals of friends and family members? How many? What would make it easier for consumers to use social media channels to tell people in their "circle" about their buying experience with us?


Ask each customer to respond to a few very brief questions so you can provide them with ongoing value, as defined by their individual needs/interests. Many will be happy to respond! Let the others disengage instantly if they choose. Your questions should cover these four key points.

Point # 1: Would they like to receive additional information, useful tips, or promotions regarding the product(s) they just bought? (Start with this simple question. It's easy to say "yes" to.)

Point # 2: Are there other products in the store/catalog/web site about which they would like to receive information? (If you don't ask, you'll never know!)

Point # 3: Is there any friend or family member they would like to send this information to? (Measure the number of referrals this question generates!)

Point # 4: Can we keep in touch? (As a result of offering value, you have earned the right to request the consumer's email address!)


How many more engaged current and future customers could you generate now and in the months to come ... just by asking these questions?