Earlier this month I had the pleasure of participating in a Google Hangout sponsored by our partner Neustar on the topic of marketing to customers, not devices. This is something I’ve spoken a lot about in my time in marketing and especially during my time at Marketo. The industry has moved beyond the concept of business-to-business interactions or even business-to-consumer; today, it’s all about business-to-human interaction, or, as this particular discussion series is named, human-to-human interaction.
In the hour or so that I spent with my esteemed fellow panelists, there were a multitude of interesting insights, but I’ve boiled it down to five pillars to share this knowledge with you.
It’s About Long-Term Interaction, Not Short-Term Transactions
The most successful companies are those that look to build long-terms relationships with their customers, not just market for the sake of the quick sale. Today’s consumers have so many choices, short attention spans and are constantly getting bombarded with marketing messages. Ultimately, they will pay the most attention to messages and brands that resonate personally. Marketers that engage customers with individualized messages, in a manner relevant to them, will see the most success i.e. transactions.
This concept can be overwhelming if you’re a large enterprise company connecting with thousands, even millions of customers regularly. Luckily, we finally have the technology to complete these humanized interactions at-scale. The marketers who can lead their companies to connect with customers every step of the journey will win.
Pick Your Technology: Think Empirically, not Emotively
This idea of being with your customers at every step of the journey is critical. If you’ve looked at the marketing lumascape recently, you’ve noticed that there are hundreds of technology solutions and potential partners, with new options appearing every day. What this means is that marketing teams have the flexibility and power to choose the solutions that best fit their needs along whichever point in a customer’s journey. Their ultimate goal should be to fuel what I refer to as the “virtuous engagement cycle”—a look at the complete customer journey that results in acquiring customers faster, keeping them longer and converting them into advocates for your brand, who in-turn influence new prospects.
Smart marketing leaders will only invest in technology that provides measurable ROI at these different stages. For example, if your team needs to grow pipeline, invest in the product that is going to generate the highest volume of opportunities , not just ones that are best suited for driving inbound marketing leads. In other words, technology that drives complete value vs. interstitial value. We have the luxury of choice, and it is imperative to take the time to determine what the right technology partners are for ourselves and ultimately our customers.
Show Me the Money: Value, Not Vanity
Speaking of ROI, marketers in the last decade or so have prided themselves on vanity metrics—clicks, engagements, website visitors, and so on. This is an improvement from the mass media campaigns of the past, but modern marketing needs to be aligned toward how much revenue it is driving for the business, as I’m sure your CEO or CFO would agree. This goes hand-in-hand with the ideal of choosing the best technology partners, because you need the right tools that will measure ROI in the way that’s most beneficial to you.
It’s all about the cha-ching! Focusing on driving revenue is the best way to align with with your CEO or CFO and even your sales teams in a B2B context. Simply put, how can you demonstrate that marketing is moving the needle and contributing positively to the company’s bottom line?
Opti-channel vs. Omni-channel
You’ve probably heard the term omni-channel, but what about opti-channel? Omni-channel is somewhat an utopian concept about reaching your audience across all potential avenues–web, social, email, mobile, print, TV, etc. A customer rarely engages across every channel. But opti-channel is about understanding how–i.e. via which channels–the customer prefers to engage in. Then, the task is optimizing your communications to create a seamless and unified experience across them all as a customer engages with your brand.
I call this continuous context.
The best way I can illustrate this is by referencing my Netflix account. Let’s say I’m watching The Shawshank Redemption (one of my favorite flicks) on my iPad while I’m on the road, but I don’t quite finish the movie before I get home. Later, when I have a moment to finish watching, I log in to my account via my TV, and there’s the movie ready for me to view right where I left off. Not only that, but Netflix is full of suggestions for what else I should watch based on my past activity and preferences. It’s not feeding me advertisements for some movie I’ve already watched, it’s trying to continue the conversation by providing personal value. Imagine doing that as a marketer! That’s what we now have the technology to do.
Balancing Art and Science
For marketing, tomorrow will be about the Einsteins as much as it will be about the Picassos. What I mean by this is that the marketing leader of tomorrow will need to be as much a scientist as an artist. Marketing will always be about connecting to build relationships with your audience and doing it in an emotive away, but the trade has evolved so that we now need to understand data and use it to guide our actions. Data is the key to what’s working and what’s not working and it is imperative that we pay attention and adjust our interaction strategy accordingly.
If you haven’t seen the weather reports, the data blizzard is coming. Humans are about to hit 19 billion devices. That’s 19 billion streams of data and 19 billion ways to respond. The most important thing will be finding the beacons in the blizzard; what data really matters and what will best inform your actions to meet your goals. To make it through this storm, you’ll need technology that not only tells you how your current programs are doing but that will also predict what your customers will be doing in the future. A good metaphor for this concept would the Google self-driving car —in this case, you just pick the destination where you’re headed and the car’s system processes massive streams of data and does all the self-driving to get you there, anticipating the route and road hazards ahead of time; Marketing systems will do the same—you pick your destination and goals, and the system does the all the complex processing of data to get you there, listening and adapting as you learn more.
That’s All, Folks
So there you have it. At last we have the technology available to treat every customer like a real, live human, not just a B or a C in the business-to equation. As marketing leaders, let’s get out there and drive these humanized interactions. At scale.