Author: Nicola Cooper

How Can Marketers Achieve Personalization in 2018?

Despite personalization being lauded as a best practice principle for years, many brands still struggle with the implementation. Recent research conducted by McKinsey revealed that just 40 percent of personalized messages actually feel personal to the recipient. This isn’t surprising as personalization is complex, and businesses are complex. Most importantly, brands are just at the starting gates of personalization.

However, any savvy marketer will agree that, in the age of the hyper-connected consumer, delivering a personalized experience is the key to bridging the gap that is growing between a customer’s expectations and the customer experience reality that brands can deliver.

With that in mind, many businesses have successfully set up the basic hygiene factors and dynamic profiling for personalization. In addition, they have been able to run a few campaigns. The challenge is now getting fully up and running and successfully maintaining personalization.

The latest Maxymiser Customer User Forum tackled this very subject of how to achieve personalization in 2018. Kate Loren, Consulting Services Manager, and Steven Coulomb, Consulting Services Manager, Oracle opened with this question, “Given we are all customers, why do marketers find personalization so hard?”

What we learned? As marketers, we think in segments and channels and want customers to generate revenue. As customers, we don’t care about segments and just want an easy and relevant experience.   

What it all boils down to is emotion and connection. In fact, a quote from American poet Maya Angelou sums it up well; "I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

As customers continue to grow in digital maturity, the customer experience gap will get wider So, it is imperative to focus on how to achieve personalization now. And it is all about the ability to align people, data, and processes.

During the forum we heard from industry experts and speakers on how they have implemented personalization and aligned people, data, and processes. And here are some of the key lessons and out takes.

Abby Francis, Online Marketing Manager, Carphone Warehouse Online Solutions

  • Challenge yourself to make personalization something that drives ROI rather than just another marketing buzzword.
  • Some customers don’t want to know you are monitoring their behavior ,so you need to ensure the experience you create is natural.
  • Test small experiences to see the effect. If the results are positive, you can see the potential impact on the bottom line. If the results are negative, you can showcase the revenue saved by testing rather than conducting a formal roll out.

Terry Rydzynski, Head of Optimisation (CRO), Camelot

  • Reassess the current measurement model. Most businesses will have the measure learn loop model. Ask whether your business should evolve this or change it completely.
  • Build KPIs on a macro and micro level to ensure you are truly measuring all levels of personalization on the business.
  • Use GDPR as a reminder that marketers are responsible for delivering relevant content.

Abdul Hamid Ebrahim, Associate Director, Transformation Services, Oracle

  • Personalization cannot be truly successful unless it transforms the business. Change management is required. And start with the small ‘t – “Incremental improvements in an organization’s digital marketing efforts driven by the adoption of particular technologies that significantly impact the achievement of its goals.”
  • Whether you know it or not, your senior leadership is talking about personalization. So, take the chance to be proactive and engage wider business to get their buy in.

The forum ended with the question, “What are you most excited about over the next 12 months when it comes to personalization?” The answer really focused in on unlocking data and linking it together so you can truly see that personalization is making a tangible difference to the bottom line. To do that, success in a new era of personalization requires marketers’ to plan, structure, and align around the customer.

There is nothing more important than creating exceptional customer experience to help rebuild trust and build a strong brand reputation. Download Customer Experience Simplified: Deliver The Experience Your Customers Want to learn how to craft an outstanding experience for your customers​.

Customer Experience Simplified

3 Storytelling Tips for Marketers in the Age of Social

Humans love telling and hearing stories. From children’s nursery rhymes to week-long box-set binges. Stories define who we are and how we understand the world. And that is why storytelling is one of the most powerful ways to breathe life into a brand. It helps give products and services an identity.

Many think marketers have always been storytellers and that they truly understand what it takes to create an emotional, authentic connection in the stories they tell. Maybe, but the world of marketing and storytelling has entered a new era.

The traditional sales funnel has been circumvented by consumers’ use of social media channels to interact with brands. And social media and messaging services such as Snapchat and Instagram have risen to prominence in recent years, launching tools such as Instagram Stories.

Instagram launched Instagram Stories in August 2016. By the end of 2017 the service had in excess of 300 million daily users. An impressive metric that also explains how social has changed the pace and depth of storytelling and has become central to effective marketing in 2018. This new era of social storytelling means a brands’ fans and customers now get to engage with the company in a far more emotionally entertaining and informative way.

So, what are three simple steps marketers can take to tell their story and connect with their audience in this new world in a credible, interesting and believable way?

Focus on the Stories Fans Want to Hear

Brand marketing is no longer about long, general, anonymous stories about the company. Instead it is about quirky stories about the brand, about the people working in the company and about the customers.

For stories to stimulate strong feelings and inspire the imagination, there has to be a strong connection between the teller and the audience. Take the Gatorade campaign that offered a special filter that simulated Gatorade being poured onto your head (Gatorade baths are synonymous with winning.). The feature was popularized by tennis legend Serena Williams, and the campaign let fans experience the joy and have a ton of fun.This type of lively social storytelling helps set brands apart from their competition. The story has to be based in reality – and it also has to be delivered, or told, in a way that is entertaining, engaging and memorable.

Look for the Visual

Stories can be told in multiple visual and interactive ways, using new technology tools such as Snapchat Filters or Instagram Stories. This means that more often than not the focus is using imagery, video and interactive features to tell your story, instead of (too many) words.

For example, don’t forget about the value of b-roll content. If your story is set in a restaurant, you should mix in clips of people having dinner and the food to add context and depth to your social story and adventure. Offer consumers a visual layer of information that doesn’t need to be explained through words.

Authenticity Has Never Been More Important

Brands have long been judged on authenticity, but they have never found their stories so shoulder-to-shoulder with the likes of everyday people. With that in mind, brands should not waste time and effort in manufacturing a so-called authentic brand story. Instead look internally and invest in employees and empower them to share their stories.

Overall, remember to focus on the stories that your fans want to hear, and tell the best stories about the people and situation behind your company’s services and products. That way, you grab your audiences’ attention, provoke their interest and convert them to action.

Plug Social Media into Your Modern Marketing Machine.

7 Practical Building Blocks of a Strong Email Deliverability Strategy

Email marketing is a powerful way to connect with people with many marketers still counting it as their primary channel for lead generation. In fact, there are 658 billion emails sent worldwide a day and 7.6 million emails sent every second. However, how many of these emails are engaging, relevant and drive a CTA?

The latest Responsys customer User Forum tackled this very subject hearing from Oracle Marketing Cloud experts on email marketing in today’s environment. Kim Barlow, Director of Strategic & Analytical Services EMEA at Oracle opened the day by stating life is getting harder for the marketer as they strive to remain a legitimate brand that provides compelling content and a CTA, rather than settling for irrelevant bulk emails that hit the spam filter.

Creating email marketing content that successfully engages your audience is no mean feat. Especially when you consider one of the biggest challenges is deliverability. The process from launching a message to getting a customer’s inbox has significantly evolved over the past 10 years from batch and blast to hyper-personalisation.

“What is important is that over this time a marketer’s ability to reach prospects’ inboxes has become tied to reputation and engagement,” as Kevin Senne, Senior Director, Global Deliverability and Justin Crivelli, Senior Manager, Global Deliverability at Oracle shared.

And ISPs now play a crucial role in reputation. They are working hard to make the inbox a great experience and have an active role in protecting their customers from receiving unwanted or unsolicited emails. What is interesting is that each ISP has their own way of calculating what reputation means to them. However, if there is doubt about a brands reputation, this results in deliverability problems where ISPs can temporarily block emails. And this can take 2 – 3 weeks to resolve.

ISPs use a variety of tools to process and track all inbound emails – both on an IP and domain level. However, there are key factors ISPs look for when it comes to reputation and deliverability in the inbox:

  • They now look at a brand as a whole. So while your department may be doing the right job, another department may not and this will still damage your reputation

  • Key reputation indicators are spam traps, volume, complaints, bounces and engagement

  • When it comes calculating reputation, each IP address receives its own reputation and new IPs are treated with higher scrutiny due to lack of history and deliverability

  • Consistency is key as ISPs measure reputation over time

  • ISP’s factor in an individual recipient’s interactions like opens, clicks, scrolls, and filtering

While there is still no way to know what a brand’s specific reputation is at any ISP, we know that reputation measurement will continue to evolve. ISP’s like Google will put more and more data together including traffic from your website, SMS messages and social presence - Gmail recently allowed users to setup non-Google email addresses using IMAP.

So how do marketers achieve a good reputation and what are the practical building blocks of a strong deliverability strategy?

  1. Implement a rigorous and ongoing regimen of reviewing the quality of lists and databases. The biggest single contributor to deliverability success for this is the opt-in process which will exclude invalid email addresses and spam traps, qualifying new subscribers.

  2. Offer customers a preference centre to manage subscriptions to fine tune content of messages and prevent churn and email fatigue by offering frequency control options.

  3. Consistently review send patterns as a sudden increase in email volume could be an indicator that your mail server has been compromised by a spammer. 

  4. Focus on email design and structure. Always above the fold, every recipient should be able to answer the following three questions whether or not images are blocked - Who are you? What do you want me to do? Why should I do that?

  5. Less content, less size – more focus, more relevance. Keep your subject line between 35 to 50 characters long, avoid spam keywords and include 2 - 3 CTA’s in the email.

  6. Regularly monitor deliverability and audience engagement. Do not ignore engagement patterns in your base and monitor unique open rate by ISP, hard bounce rate, soft bounce rate, spam compliant rate and inbox placement rate.

  7. Test, test, test – the mantra of user-centric marketing.

In todays’ environment, marketers understand that they have 2 – 5 seconds before a customer decides if the email is relevant. As Markus Frank, Head of Strategic Services, DACH at Oracle concluded at the User Forum “Deliverability is all about whether you are a modern customer-centric marketer.”

Download this Email Deliverability Guide for Modern Marketers for more pro tips on orchestrating and delivering marketing messages that are relevant to individual preferences and behavior.

Going back to basics to achieve true transformation

Transformation has become an archetypal buzzword. Its connotations are hardwired into technological change, but there’s more to it than simply plugging in a new platform or solution and hoping for the best.

To demystify what transformation really means for global organisations, the latest Eloqua User Forum heard from Oracle Marketing Cloud experts and leading brand marketers on how to align people, process and technology to transform a company and drive long term success.

Opening the discussion, OMC’s Associate Director of Transformation Services EMEA, Abdul Hamid Ebrahim, tackled the language of transformation. “Often we talk of big ‘T’ transformation, it revolves around ‘market disruptors’ and the ‘pace of digital change’. This is too generic. In fact, we ought to be focused on small ‘t’ transformation, where incremental improvements to an organisation’s marketing efforts, driven by the adoption of particular technologies, significantly impact the achievement of its goals.”

With that in mind, what is the three-step process to transformation and true alignment?

1.  Choose your model

Often this is referred to as an orchestration. In symphonies, a composer writes sheet music, a conductor conducts the performance, and musicians play their instruments. This represents the centralised model of alignment.

But it’s important to use an organisational structure that works for you. “There’s no right answer” as Kim Yeatman, Senior Demand Centre Director, Clarivate Analytics shared. “For us, a purely centralised model simply places too much pressure on our team of specialists”.

So, should the organisation be more like an improvisational jazz band? There is a chart that outlines the basic melody but musicians improvise what they play and riff off one another.

“We considered a dispersed model at length, but the training requirements involved with offering regional teams that level of autonomy are substantial.” In the end, Clarivate Analytics opted for a hybrid model, “What works for us is offering the freedom to these teams to build campaigns that they know will resonate locally, but keeping that final authorisation to the experts.”

Once you have chosen your model, the next step is to align company executives. Their endorsement will be vital in driving the change through different regional teams and structures.

2. Standardisation

Broken and undefined processes result in inefficiencies, wasted time, and ultimately, wasted money. So, processes for campaign creation and execution, content creation, reporting and analytics and lead management should all be defined, documented, assigned owners, and have built in accountability.

For Rosemin Patel, Head of Digital & Marketing Operations EMEA, Ricoh Europe, one of the biggest challenges was the sales and marketing alignment. “Historically, leads had been handed over as business cards or even just attendee lists from events. People and process is important – making sure sales appreciate the value of new marketing technology and how leads are now qualified is essential. Their involvement here gives them a sense of ownership.”

This is equally true of the IT team. Technology and data integration is essential for transformation efforts to extend consistently throughout the organisation. Without any involvement, the IT team will continue to look at the world through their IT lens, it’s important to get them on side early, host workshops and consultations so they’re happy new systems make sense.

3.Training and refinement

It’s critical to invest the time and money into training your team and developing their skills and expertise around the model you chosen, processes you have built and platforms you purchased. But it is crucial to think beyond just technical training. Professional and strategic training are equally as important.

However, upskilling can be tricky to win investment for. As Abdul pointed out, the CFO of your organisation will likely express concern at the thought of training a marketer only to have them leave the company. While perfectly valid, a far more compelling problem occurs when marketers aren’t trained and they stay.

The days of setting an annual plan in motion and letting it play out with few adjustments are gone. Technology gives new tools every month and it is imperative your organisation is set up to respond in an agile way. This sits at the heart of small ‘t’ transformation. It’s not just a survival tactic, it’s the key to competitive advantage.

If you enjoyed reading this, you don’t miss Abdul Hamid Ebrahim’s blog The Big and Small ‘T’ in Digital Transformation.