Marketing automation will create a world where brands will know what you need before you do. However, there will always be a temptation to go one step too far.
Exploiting the power of big data, we're told, will deliver the marketer's holy grail and a promise of untold riches; delivering a VIP experience to consumers across all the channels they use. That means giving your customers a personal service highlighting the things that interest them via email, online, social media, mobile or geo-location.
Armed with the right tools, businesses are already analysing big data to predict what we’d like even before we’ve thought about it. Data is mined as we go about our daily lives and our behaviour is analysed —interactions made online, over email or through our mobiles. Put through a recommendation engine, our needs can be predicted then electronically addressed wherever we happen to be.
The technology that makes this happen is already here. Marketing automation is acting as the glue that binds these elements together, helping marketers shift from manually creating campaigns to fully automating the majority of their communications with customers.
Take lifecycle marketing — technology is used to manage and send out emails or messages at calculated times using predictive technologies; sending the right messages at appropriate times:
All of these are automated marketing activities, which are executed in the background and based on a series of events. Created once then forgotten, an automated marketing engine manages the whole process.
In the case of abandoned shopping carts where a purchase had not been completed, the automated marketing engine knows to send you a reminder some hours later, telling you how and where to pick up from in order to finish your purchase.
Automated marketing engines can be set to manage multi-step or single-step triggers; automating tasks so customers can be treated as individuals.
Of course, small businesses may not have the resources to exploit big data. But the principles remain the same. Overuse of email, for instance, with broad messaging that is neither timely nor relevant can harm your firm’s reputation. Persistent offenders will, at the very least, be unsubscribed and could be reported as spam.
A more focused approach — using audience segmentation and relevant communication — will pay dividends, not just by reinforcing positive brand but by driving more sales.
Fast forward and imagine a world where businesses can reach you anywhere with a message to buy based on what you had been doing. Just around the corner there are a clutch of new technologies that will give marketers the opportunity to reach consumers anywhere and anytime.
Augmented Reality systems could open the floodgates for imaginative marketers and brands to bombard us with messaging 24/7 and potentially intrude in our private lives. But is it inevitable that someone might go a step too far?
It’s all about exercising restraint. Avoid bombarding people with what is unnecessary. Marketing automation with big data is going to deliver the actionable intelligence to tell us what we want, when we want but, if used correctly, it will also keep a check on that step too far.
John Fleming is marketing VP at Emarsys, the global provider of email marketing solutions and services.
Brian Solis is the author of Engage and The end of business as usual. In my view, he is one of the best in social media and marketing. His latest book— What’s the future of business (#WTF ) — is an extension of his first two books and it expands on the constant feedback loop or what he now calls the experience loop or Dynamic Customer Journey (DCJ).
There is an unforgiving technology revolution, which is raising customer expectation to new heights. In the future, everything is experience. Not an experience, the experience.
The future is total recall. Your brand is the sum of the experiences. For an average purchase, ten sources (mostly online) are checked. Customer feedback is the most prominent source. Every experience is logged, communicated and shared by Generation C — the connected generation — not as a demographic, but as a way of life. How are they talking about your business?
Generation C will share their experiences on a wide range of channels and media. So you will need to engage. Engage across all those channels and along the dynamic customer journey. Within that there are what Solis calls “moments of truth”; not only when customers are buying but also when they decide that they are happy or not happy with the buy and during the period when they are using the product or service. In the future, the medium is not only the message, the medium is the experience.
The always-on moment of truth platform is your brand. That is where the marketers need to focus. Which makes #WTF a marketing book, not a social media book and in some ways is very similar to “The old rules of marketing are dead”.
We give marketers a lot of stick. A lot of them are useless. New marketers need to walk in the shoes of generation C and map out the experience loop across all technology, across all the communication channels, across all touch points. They need to embrace the new metrics — loyalty, positive endorsement, advocacy, reviews and referrals — and engage with their audience.
The dynamic customer journey must be consistent with the brand you want to project.
If you follow Solis’s advice you will still be the CEO, but also now the Chief Experience Officer. If not, you might be the Chief Executive Officer of a dying business.
When most firms in your industry look pretty similar (actually almost identical) then why should people bother to buy from you when they can buy from the competition?
Most service firms, PSFs (Professional Service Firms) and businesses in general make life very difficult for themselves.
The really small ones have no idea how to run a business; they spend most of their time struggling to find clients; the larger ones may be more successful but also struggle to keep clients in an ever-changing world where the clients, competitors and staff seem to be constantly changing their behaviour.
Professional services firms think that the key to success is their technical skill-set; however, they don’t understand:
Most “professionals” have been trained to be technically excellent but no-one has told them how to run a business.
People love buying from an expert — whether you are an accountant, a homeopath or a plumber. And because everyone will know and see you as the expert … they will ask you to do the work and they will pay a premium price!
And there are two additional things that an expert does:
The interesting thing is that these attributes all interlock. Once you clarify your specialisation then you can walk and talk and write about it (using the same case studies or examples) to confirm your expert status. Each element of the “expert model” supports the others.
Experts present themselves as an authority or source of knowledge. They present themselves as “positioners” (where they set out to adopt a specific position in the eyes of the customer) rather than “prospectors” (who are chasing work and clients).
The purpose of most expert activity is to command respect rather than to hustle for business. Often, experts take an education-based marketing approach to attracting new clients; and this education includes giving away valuable information and advice rather than giving a sales pitch.
The mindset of the successful expert is that:
Most people are happy to run with the pack. However, in this age of mediocrity you only have to be 5% better than the competition to stand out … and if you stand out then people remember who you are.
Robert Craven is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut. Robert shows directors and owners how to grow their profits. As well as running the Directors’ Centre, he is a keynote speaker and the author of business bestseller Kick-Start Your Business. His latest book – Grow Your Service Firm – is out now.
There are many elements to a brand.
They all need to work harmoniously in the machine that is your business. We have identified the five key components that, when functioning properly, will connect your brand with it’s audience.
Digital, analogue, environmental.
Wherever seen, used, discussed or heard, your brand needs to be consistent. All this matters.
When talking about your brand, you need to be clear who you are. This prevents confusion for stakeholders, therefore increasing engagement.
Whatever you offer it needs to be talked about through the most appropriate channels. Make yourself heard above the whirring and clanking of your competition.
Once your brand is out there in the business world, don’t be afraid to evolve and adapt. Start it up and never stop.
It’s vital that your team functions as a unit, embracing your brand values, vision and aims. Inspire them to bring their own career goals in line with your brand, ensuring success for all. With all these in place, there’s that can’t-quite-put-your-finger-on-spark that every successful brand has.
This can be a man, a mind, a machine or a means.
Yours is there to discover.
A lack of time and money mean that many small businesses are neglecting valuable marketing opportunities. This infographic from Pitney Bowes illustrates the SME marketing gap.
Every now and then you get a business book that hits the spot. One that makes you think, puts things into a different context, with some compelling and well thought through concepts on how to improve your business.
The Connected Company by Dave Gray is one of these books.
There is a great “reset” happening. We have a system problem. 80% of our economy is service-based. However, if you look at how we organise our businesses, most of them are based on manufacturing principles:
The problem is that services, by their nature, need a very different approach. Delivering services is an interactive process. Dealing with unpredictable clients, who may have unreasonable demands and rising expectations. The question you need to ask is — is your company designed to deliver customer delight?
Less than one in ten companies are exceeding expectations. Service companies are the most hated companies in the world. Three out of every four clients don’t trust you. Ask yourself — how many companies that you deal with do you love? You can probably only mention one or two. That is an indictment of all of us.
On top of the service revolution, businesses are dealing with increasing pace of change. You need to run at your fastest to stay at the same place. To move forward you need to run faster than the fastest. We have reached a complexity tipping point.
You need to have a hard look at your own organisation. How close are you to your customers? Do you treat your staff as idiots? (Idiots can’t solve problems.) How eccentric are your activities at the margin? How strong are your shared values and culture? How decentralised are you? How adaptable are you? Do you make good profit or bad profit? Is your organisational structure linear?
If you want a hard metric, here is one: what is your Net Promoter Score? On a scale between one and ten, how many of your customers would recommend you to others? The Net Promoter Score correlates with revenue growth in businesses.
In a fast-changing, customer-centric world you need a different type of organisation. You need to create a flexible adaptive system that can self-organise around the clients. Here is how it can be done:
More and more companies are doing it. And not just the smaller companies — although there is no doubt that this approach is an opportunity for small business.
Take Nordstrom. Its employee handbook consist of one paragraph:
“WELCOME TO NORDSTROM. We’re glad to have you with our Company. Our number one goal is to provide outstanding customer service. Set both your personal and professional goals high. We have the great confidence in your ability to achieve them. Nordstrom rules: Rule #1: Use your good judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules. Please feel free to ask your department manager, store manager, or division general manager any question at any time.”
Split the companies into the smallest parts possible. Apply the two-pizza rule (if you can’t feed the team with two pizzas your team is too big). Remove all bureaucracy. Re-examine your purpose and passion. Create happiness. Become self-organising. Start small — begin with a pilot pod outside of the organisation. Let go.
I am not sure if I do this book justice. You need to read it to get the real sense that connected companies are the future. Which is why I have bought a batch of copies to give to our clients. A must read. Compelling!