Author: Peter Armaly

Millennials Are Taking Over, And It’s All Right

"Millennials have replaced baby boomers as the major consumer segment, so we are seeing a change in what is being demanded. Millennials want more than price and availability; they want speed, convenience and they want to be involved in the co-creation of the product.” Steve Melnyk, Michigan State University

I’m on the tail end of the baby boom generation, and yet reading this quote didn’t freak me out or make my eyes roll. It didn’t make me feel that my sun has set or that a group of individuals long considered entitled is usurping my space and those things I feel I’ve earned. It actually makes perfect sense to me, and my advice to business leaders is this: Figure out even more ways to accommodate, leverage to your advantage, and even be led by, this generational cohort.

In some ways millennials are similar to all preceding generations. Those generations also embraced the technological advancements of their day (e.g. telegraph, telephone, television, and radio) and vigorously resisted social conventions of gender, race, religion, and class status. They pushed for change with the hope that it would provide them with more information, safety, comfort, opportunities, and convenience.

This push for change was usually an unconscious effort and mostly executed without a clear, coordinated strategy. Even this haphazard effort lead to societal evolution.

Despite those broad similarities between generations, there is ample research that shows millennials behave differently. The differences may be due to the widespread adoption of mobile personal computing devices or perhaps to the fact that young adults today attain university level accreditation at much higher rates than previous generations. Whatever the reasons, the differences are measurable and are manifesting in behaviors that are visible even in the business world and its relationships with customers.

In the interviews we conduct in our Voice of the Customer (VOC) program, we hear a lot of interesting things, but five big themes emerge that jibe with the quote above.

Millennials Insist on Flexibility

Deloitte found that 64% of millennials report being able to work from locations other than their employer’s primary site. That number is startling when compared to the way previous generations thought of the workplace. What has triggered the change?

The combination of mobile technology and the withering of the traditional employer-for-life social contract has driven corporations to respond appropriately to retain employees who feel no permanent allegiance to a company or brand. Flexible work arrangements and environments are a big draw for job candidates, and it’s about so much more than being plied with snacks and beer (although those things are not necessarily rejected). It’s about a coveted sense of control over time and space, seemingly rare commodities in today’s business world.

Citing similar pressures, the VOC members we speak with share how their businesses keep changing and that employees have to respond more rapidly to ever more time-compressed priorities. Some of these members suggested that, in order to adapt to that speed of business, it would be helpful if their vendors would provide them with the flexibility to pick and choose when they engage with or subscribe to specific services.

For example, education purchases that don’t expire would, arguably, promote faster product adoption and value realization than education that has to be budgeted for and doled out to team members on a time-limited and management-controlled basis.

Similarly, technical assistance for initiatives such as solution architecting or implementation of advanced integrations would be even more valuable if it were made available on shorter-term basis. And that would be especially so if the procurement process was as simple as “…going on to Amazon, selecting what I need, and checking out.”

We hear, “It would be nice if we could just pay for what we need when we need it.” Especially in the SaaS world, where choice and lower commitment thresholds are built into the model, services elasticity makes sense.

We’re listening.

Millennials Have Grown Up With Ease-of-Use

Who doesn’t love simplicity? Given the choice, most people will opt for a simpler way of doing something. It’s human nature, and we hear comments from our VOC members supporting that assertion:

My workload involves being responsible for solutions from multiple vendors. If I just consider your company alone, it would be great if I could just go to one site for all the information and assistance I need.

The truth is that each generation wants life to be easier. So let’s cut millennials some slack and accept that simplifying the complex is actually the definition of business optimization. Let’s embrace it and learn how we can put that drive to even greater use.

Let’s look for ways that the mundane can be automated and the tedious can be eliminated because the truth is, activities with those labels are soul crushing, and soul crushing is not a good recruitment tool. Check this Wall Street Journal article that posits ease of use and being mobile-ready as features of a workplace that appeal to millennials.

Millennials Want Speed And Accuracy

Millennials want convenience, but don’t we all? Here’s an example of a cry for help that we heard during the VOC interviews:

Our company is profitable, but like many companies, it expects more productivity from everyone. So, I can’t afford to spend time chasing down open service requests, let alone researching whether I should even open them in the first place. The best scenario would be for vendors to build failsafe products. More realistically, it would help if they could just get all the critical information I need on one website so I could figure things out for myself.

What is called out here is convenience and, in this case, isn’t speed its synonym? With loyalty a difficult thing to come by, and to sustain, for businesses, it’s critical that services organizations focus on delivering accurate information in a way that saves the customer time.

This Coresight Research study contains a cautionary statement for companies when considering millennials and their penchant for convenience, “… established brands and retailers are likely to face competition from newer companies, which may target millennials’ demands more sharply.”

The VOC interviews helped convince us that this advice rings true for customers of every generation.

Millennials Require Communication And Feedback

Millennials want to voice their opinions and be heard. Through their behavior and the attitudes they express they demonstrate a desire to influence the evolution of product more directly. They want more of a say and that presents a conundrum for the vendor. Which is, how to create a channel for feedback. Surveys have been the traditional way that we gather customer feedback, but consumers arebusy and increasingly reluctant to fill out surveys. So, vendors are rethinking its role as the main tool for gauging customer opinions and experience.

We’re seeing increased awareness for making surveys more relevant and for being considered a good use of the respondent’s precious time. This is good. The world can always do with higher quality everything, including communications. Oracle’s Chief Customer Office manages the survey strategy and execution, and in my discussions with him, I’ve heard an acute respect for our customers’ time. Surveys are here to stay, partly because our society is against more intrusive methods for taking the pulse of customers.

But surveys, of course, even high-quality ones, are not enough. We need to create opportunities to sit down with our customers and have a conversation. Smart companies listen to their customers and that’s the primary reason we created the VOC program.

Millennials Want Transparency

ORC International reports, “Today’s younger professionals have firmly rooted opinions on what they should know about their workplaces and will ask questions to discover the answers. If they feel manipulated by their managers, underestimated by senior workers, or unfulfilled with their daily tasks, they’ll simply leave in search of another job.”

We also see this behavior in our customer community (not that we treat them dismissively) and we actually are keenly receptive to this trend toward self-fulfillment. Challenging norms and being challenged are the give and take of evolution. Smart companies embrace discussion and debate. It’s a healthy part of internal strategizing, and it makes sense that the same transparent approach should be taken with customers. After all, when it comes to product and service improvement, what is there to hide?

According to Pew Research, millennials are the largest cohort in the US workforce. Many of its members have entered senior management ranks and are involved directly in how our economies are shaped. Flexibility, simplification, speed, involvement, transparency - powerful and positive words if you consider them from a certain perspective. They shouldn’t be feared. They should be embraced as key enablers for success.

We paid attention to the research and listened to you. The outcome is Oracle's new Free Platinum-Level Support Services for Fusion Cloud Applications. The speed and flexibility you want - at a price that can't be beat. 

When segmenting customers, don’t forget your silent majority

Richard Nixon popularized the expression, the silent majority, when he used it to label the broad swath of Middle Americans who are reticent to publicly declare their opinions. To counter what he felt was a biased media, he appealed to them to emerge from the shadows and vocalize their support for his administration’s Vietnam War policy. He wasn’t the first to use the expression. In the 19th century the phrase was a euphemism for the dead, all those people who had died throughout human history. They were referred to in that way because there were so many more of them (14 times more) than there were of the living.

It’s that usage of the phrase that I find more interesting and profound. To me it speaks of respect for time and for dimensions of life and I think that the phrase can apply in the context of businesses and their symbiotic relationships with customers. As with human history, the longer a company remains in business the higher the odds that their silent majority (of departed customers) will outnumber their number of active customers. I know it’s a bleak thought, but it’s true. The challenge is in slowing that tide, to do what it takes to keep customers alive.

Staying alive

To keep them alive longer you need to know your customers and what makes them tick. And I don’t mean just by documenting a few items in the CRM. Knowing your customers requires you to be interested in their business, in the goals they plan to achieve, and in the capabilities of the people who operate the products you’ve sold. You need to know how they are progressing towards their goals and what more they need to get there.

Let’s look at some of your customers, many who will join the ranks of your silent majority

  • They love your products but think they require a lot of care and feeding
  • They love your products but you think the customer requires a lot of care and feeding
  • They love the fact that their own business is growing but they don’t publicly attribute any of it to your products
  • They love your service people but refuse to interact with your sales people
  • They love your sales people but refuse to interact with your service people
  • They love your EVP of Sales but no one else at your company
  • They love your products and your services and are concerned that your company hasn’t yet turned a profit
  • They love your service but hate your products
  • They love your annual conference and happily retweet your marketing tweets but never agree to speak to your prospects
  • They love your products but hate your service.
  • They love your products and services but their bosses have wandering eyes and are smitten by another

Besides the word “love” being in each of those statements, what else is common?

Ambiguity and contradiction

Customers are human and are fluid, and multi-directional, in the way they behave. Companies are too despite the preponderance of processes, governance, and standards. Ownership changes, priorities change, leadership changes, the employee base changes, competition grows more intense. All this leads to ambiguity and as a vendor your challenge is to recognize these situations and to deal with them in such a way that you keep the customer. Costly, you say? Yes, it can be.

Even more costly though is trying to understand the contradictions and dealing with them. Why would a customer love a company’s service but hate their products? The answer can’t be a nonsequitur such as, “because the service people are awesome.” Clearly, the need is great to dig a bit deeper and to understand why.

Hope for a brighter future

Anyone who has read my blog posts knows I always offer up the gift of information so check this out. It’s an article I urge you to read, written by my Oracle colleague, Peter Jeffcock, all about machine learning (simplified) and how it can help identify candidates for churn. I’m not being prescriptive here (that said, we’re already moving down this road) but in my opinion he offers up the best go-forward approach for Customer Success. If you want to understand your customers you’ll need to do it in excruciating detail and you’ll need to do it at scale. Machine learning. Machine learning. Machine learning.

Extending the life of your customers is vital in today's hypercompetitive business environment where your customers have plenty of alternatives and the cost of switching is so low. Examine your customer base and understand the steps you should take to sustain them. Don't let your silent majority grow unnecessarily.

Register for Modern Customer Experience 2018 here

Want more tips and tricks to know your customer better? Join other marketing professionals, industry influencers, product experts and Oracle executives to learn how you can use the entire marketing ecosystem to impact customer experience. Join us at Modern Customer Experience 2018. ModernCX’s Modern Marketing track offers more than 200 expert-led sessions  geared to help equip you with new skills you can immediately apply to your work.

See you in Chicago:  here.

Sifting Data to See the Customer

In a world awash in data about a person’s behavior, their characteristics, and their likes, how can marketers ensure the work they do doesn’t lose sight of the individual? Before you answer, consider this statistic from Analytics Week:

Data is growing faster than ever before and by the year 2020, about 1.7 megabytes of new information will be created every second for every human being on the planet. 

As a marketer, does that stat make you want to run and hide? Confronting and leveraging that type of volume is definitely a challenge. To be clear though, there’s no returning to the days of operating models that depended on someone’s gut instinct; data is here to stay as the method for finding the truth. But the more we rely on data in the context of measuring buyer engagement or the customer experience the more we run the risk of detaching ourselves from the reality of the person we are measuring. It’s like running up against the laws of physics. Just as how black holes grow so massive they consume all matter within the range-  including light, data about an individual can be collected to the extent that the actual person becomes abstract or almost inconsequential, as nothing more than a dot on a dashboard. Funny, the more we know about an individual and insert them into a process, the less we see them as individuals.

Marketing’s problem(s)

How can that conundrum be overcome when the following is true? In order to pursue revenue goals, marketing organizations are pressured to create multi-dimensional aggregate personas of buyers and customers so that any subsequent campaigns can be based on statistical averages that produce messages or content that are empirically (hopefully) more relatable, more appealing, and more personal (although that’s increasingly a loaded word) to the target group. More of those types of qualities equals more revenue. Or so goes the prevailing school of thought. In any event, vast amounts of data are required and it is not always within marketing’s span of control. Even when all the data sources are identified and access is granted it’s a rare marketing organization that has the sort of skills required to make enough sense of it all to drive meaningful insights. Now we have a skills problem and a data problem. And if you think about it a bit more, we have an ethical problem looming too. Once you have the combination of abundant data and advanced analytical skills, you have the means to build unconscious bias into your processes. Remember the individual we discussed? They’re getting further away.

Methods to help

Marketers have a tough job in front of them. Ann Handley of MarketingProfs touched on the challenge in this piece. So did Econsultancy with this one. Both pieces talk about empathy being the key to bridging what I’m calling the individuality gap. The thinking is that if a buyer feels the seller understands them and the experience they are having seems genuine and of value, then they will be more apt to purchase. But what is empathy? Here’s a definition from The Atlantic that sounds mysteriously like the one described in much more excruciating detail in this academic paper from Stanford University. This is a good starting point. Empathy, at the very least, means the customer is in your thoughts. But is that good enough?

Getting closer

We should go beyond empathy and feel something like compassion for our target audience. Compassion, according to UC Berkley, literally means “to suffer together.” Pretty stark language when we’re talking about customers but if we’re honest, sometimes suffering is the accurate word to use to describe their experience. So, instead of just being empathetic by putting ourselves in their shoes and imagining them interacting with our brand, our website, and our emails, we should, as best we can and more importantly, observe real buyer/customer experiences.

For marketers to build compassion into processes perhaps they need to rise above the data and do two things.

  1. Understand the value in finding the individual in the data, described neatly in this non-marketing article from Psychology Today.
  2. Assimilate the message of this story published recently by NPR. It’s an illustration of how being the customer (patient, in her case) afforded her the opportunity to truly understand their experience. And also in her case, it was real suffering. She took her near-death experience at the hospital in which she worked and eventually helped change the doctor-patient model to be more compassionate and personal.

For marketers, as I said, data is here to stay and so is scale. Those do not have to be sacrificed. Marketers can and must leverage the data to increase scale but they can also emulate the doctor’s experience when she became a patient by doing the next best thing in their own line of work. It’s not realistic to expect marketers to call buyers and customers directly. Typically, the role is not positioned to have that level of contact. They can, though, sit down with their services and support colleagues, those people who work closely with real customers. Gather critical stories from them about what they observe in their customer community. What are the day to day concerns of customers? What do they like most about your company? Least? What about competitors? There’s a vast amount of information contained in the heads of your colleagues that, from my observation, rarely if ever, gets captured in a CRM. That’s not a knock against them. The same can be stated about sales people.

Empathy, compassion, whichever word you choose, they will both get you moving in the right direction of ensuring that while you’re touching more of the world with your messaging, you’re not doing it from the vantage point of the equivalent of 40,000 feet.

Do you know which questions to ask in order to yield relevant customer data? Once you have that data, you need to know what to do with it. Download this guide to Maximize Your Marketing to learn how to use the right data at the right time to drive real results.

Connecting at scale: is it possible?

If you’re in marketing, there are days it feels like the most enviable occupation in the world and on others, the most accursed. This is a logical condition since, historically, marketers have been both praised and vilified (think of the series, Mad Men) for the work they do to manipulate their fellow humans and in trying to steer their buying decisions one way or another. Under the intense glare of fraud and privacy concerns in the Internet age, the applause and the brickbats are equally deserved. The vilification though is funny because while our societies have for the better part of a century complained and fretted about the manipulative nature of advertising and marketing, we’ve also emotionally invested in the stories that were told and the images that played out in front of our eyes. In many cases, we love what we see and we act on it. Does manipulation work, then? Yes, of course but we would prefer to call it something else. It sounds better, and more constructive, to call it influencing. Terry O’Reilly of the CBC has a rich source of material called, Under the Influence, which I highly recommend.

Influencing and influencers

By Influencer Marketing, I am not talking about celebrities selling stuff on social media. For the purpose of this blog, I want to talk instead about the countless technical possibilities that exist to help marketers understand, and influence, their customers’ wants and desires. The marketing automation product landscape seems to be as crowded as the beach on a hot summer day and the focus of much of that community of solutions is to try to influence buyers over social media, email, and websites. For marketers, it’s exciting, confusing, and terrifying all at once. However, is it possible that all of the solutions are missing something? This report by The Journal of Advertising Research purports to prove that the most effective advertising campaigns, in terms of stimulating an emotional connection, are actually a combination, and a coordination, of television and those other vehicles. It seems that the human brain while attracted to, and increasingly addicted to, participation in the online world, still fundamentally responds best to television imaging. Does that information upset any notions of how all old technology must always make way for new? It seems the world is too complicated to draw that conclusion and so too is the human brain. Marketers are going to need even more science to handle complications. And that’s another thing that’s funny. The more scientific we become with our marketing approaches, the more critical it is to understand the emotive power of the human brain.

Artificial intelligence

Digging beneath the surface of any subject can sometimes reveal more than you want to know but it also typically reveals greater understanding. That’s why as we continue to evolve our marketing practices, it’s important to incorporate methods that accelerate our ability to do more but to also do it in a way that gets us closer to truths. Just as we conduct A/B testing to discover the best tactics for attracting buyers, it’s worth the effort to try and go even deeper in trying to understand the buyer’s preferences. Test the channels, test the combination of channels, monitor the buyer’s activities, look for patterns, connect the dots, make decisions based on associations. Ah, forget it. Marketers will not be able to do that at scale. That’s why AI holds such promise. It’s the only way marketers will be able to do their job more effectively. There’s a statistic making the rounds that by 2025 there will be 100 billion connected Internet devices, about 12 devices for every human. Not only will there be a lot of humans, there’ll be a lot of ways for those humans to communicate in some form or another. If you’re a data nerd, it will be more your time than ever before.

Open up and be introspective at the same time

To be successful in the future, marketers are going to have to develop methods for touching buyers and customers in ways that connect with them at an emotional level. It’s the same phenomenon we are witnessing now with a desire for longer-form content. Humans are desiring authenticity and messaging that connects with them at a personal level. That’s the trick and the challenge for marketers and if we are going to be successful in the exploding world of multi-channel messaging on new technologies and on old, we’re going to need to be open minded about how our processes work and how our technologies enable us to be nimble. If we can achieve that, then those will be days we’ll feel we’re in one of the more enviable occupations in the world.

If you would like some practical tips for bringing AI into your marketing, don’t miss:  

Adaptive Intelligence: Practical Tips for Bringing AI into Your Marketing

Resistance to Reason: Why digital transformation is thwarted

There’s a scene in Cormac McCarthy’s book, All the Pretty Horses, in which the main character, John Grady, plays pool with his boss, a wealthy Mexican ranch owner. The reader feels tension because John, a transplanted Texan cowboy, has been covertly dating the owner’s daughter and it’s not clear whether the owner is aware. At the end of the story, It becomes clear that he does indeed know of the relationship because of a short story that he shares with John. The story is of his sister’s long ago and ill-fated romance with a revolutionary, a romance that went against societal norms. Both the sister and the revolutionary had been educated in Europe and were influenced by non-traditional notions such as, "people can be improved in their character by reason". They believed they could defy tradition, since the wealthy class did not cavort with those who weren’t members, and fulfill their desire for a long-term relationship. At that time (early 20th century), in that place (Mexico), and in that stratum of society (upper class), it seems that character was not something to be developed, no matter how reasonable the rationale for it may seem to an outside observer. Character was something that was a product of one’s station in life and reason was not accepted as a driver of change. The scene ends with the owner saying to John, “Beware gentle knight, there is no greater monster than reason."

Why Is There Resistance to Reason?

We’re about 70 years on from the time of those characters and yet it seems like many companies today treat reason much the same way society treated those lovers. Against the natural forces of science, experience, and emotion that surrounds them and bubbles up from within, companies resist change. Despite ample proof and despite the knowledge acquired from advanced educations and years of career experience of their employees, many companies seem to see reason as too disruptive a force, as something to be avoided, thwarted, or stopped altogether because it threatens the way things are, and the way things have always been. How else do we explain the slow embrace by companies to adopt a data-first approach to digital transformation than to conclude it threatens too much of how a company conducts its affairs (its culture), how it got to where it is (its story/history), the degree to which its stakeholders understand and even recognize risk (multi-dimensional thinking), and how its leaders view their time as stewards and, too often, their propensity to slide towards hubris? It’s a sad reality that for those companies taking their time to understand, plan, and execute a comprehensive digital strategy, they are inevitably also, and perhaps unwittingly, committing their companies to eventual irrelevance and decline in the market.

What Results from Resisting Reason?

Too often we see companies resisting reason and finding themselves stuck in an old-fashioned model where, for example:

  • Marketing takes direction from product management about what it should communicate to the market
  • Sales relies too heavily on cold contacting (calling, emailing) without sufficient contextual or business knowledge of the target customer
  • Support and Services wait until their customers trip up and fail when using the products before becoming engaged
  • Product teams design from a base of too little data about the unknown customer’s needs, wants, and desires

Modern companies with modern leaders shouldn’t allow these behaviors to perpetuate. Modern companies understand that the path to success lies in data that can be used to surface business insights and to:

  • Drive automated processes
  • Dissolve, and (finally) make obsolete, organizational silos
  • Recognize and reward truly efficient, engaged, and productive employees
  • More accurately project and attribute financial costs and assets
  • Deepen and strengthen a buyer or customer’s positive opinion of the company’s products, services, and brand.
Is This a Utopia?

No. There are companies that are behaving in the ways outlined above. It’s possible to achieve these results but it does take precious time, a considerable amount of coordination, and stellar transparency from the leadership team. But what’s the choice? To not transform means eventual failure. Successful companies are accelerating away from the pack and, arguably, are already uncatchable.

This Altimeter research report on The 2017 State of Digital Transformation offers up some pretty bleak findings on this topic.

  • Meager digital literacy within businesses is restraining the scope and extent of innovation to respond to consumers’ new expectations.
  • Often when companies do invest in digital-transformation initiatives, they are viewed as short-term cost centers with very limited budgets and other resources, not the long-term investments they must be for long-term success.
  • Many company cultures are risk-averse, and their leaders do not feel a sense of urgency to compete differently, despite global consumers’ embracing smart telephones and the Internet for more than a decade.
  • Politics, egos, and fear are the main obstacles to achieving the collaboration and solidarity needed within companies to make the changes digital consumers want.

We also observe these same findings from the vantage point of our practice. But it’s our belief that these obstacles are not impossible to overcome. It takes courage, yes, and persistence but the first thing it takes is an acceptance of, and an openness to, reason. The reason for transforming is everywhere we look. It’s everything we want in our experiences as consumers. It’s everything we should expect to see emerge in our demanding and rapidly evolving societies. It’s natural and inevitable.

Maybe monsters are occasionally misunderstood.

Are you read to introduce reason and change into your company? If you're ready to get the most out of your data but don't yet have a data management strategy, don't hesitate any longer. You can use Maximize Your Marketing: Eight Questions to Ask as You Introduce a Data Management Strategy to get started! 

Maximize Your Marketing: Eight Questions to Ask as You Introduce a Data Management Strategy

Featured Image Credit Source: Pixabay

Dear marketers: An open letter about the other side

Marketers, suppose for a moment that you’re not who you are. Suppose instead that you’re a Customer Success Manager (CSM). Suppose you have to think of the customer differently, from a different perspective than the one you normally have. You have to think of them as someone who already knows your company (albeit, to a limited extent) so you don’t have to educate them on that point. They know the promise of your product and have already decided to fork over hard-earned dollars to invest in it so there’s less need for you to convince them of its merits. So what is it now that you’ll focus your energy and creativity on as a CSM?

CSMs Ensure the Customer...

  1. Is onboarded as effectively as possible for each of the products they license.
  2. Receives the right service they need at the right time.
  3. Methodically marches towards increasing business value for each product.
  4. Is occasionally consulted with about their progress towards maximizing that value and about how they are feeling about the business relationship they have, or don’t have, with the company you represent.
  5. Knows well in advance that they are approaching a renewal opportunity for the subscription/license and that you’d like to work with them to make it as much of a non-event as possible.
  6. Understands that there are other products from your company that might help them achieve their stated business goals if they are willing to consider additional investments.

CSMs Execute By...

  1. Understanding why the customer bought the product(s) and what business problems they were trying to solve.
  2. Recognizing the fundamental value proposition of each of the products in your company’s portfolio and bringing that knowledge to bear during the life of the client’s engagement, as appropriate.
  3. Understanding at least the basic mechanics of how each product works and be ready to communicate about these to the client, as required.
  4. Knowing whether each product can be integrated with the other and whether by doing so it offers some sort of exponential business value. You proactively communicate on this point with the client, as appropriate.
  5. Monitoring the health of each account in order to head off any negatively trending product usage, support issue, licensing challenge, and overall customer satisfaction challenges that might imperil future renewal or expansion decisions.
  6. Nurturing the client with proactively proffered content that is relevant and timely to where they are in their adoption of the product(s).

Okay, marketers, you can leave that CSM role now and don your marketing cape once again. What do you think? Looking at that list of CSMs’ responsibilities and means for execution, are there any that strike you as areas in which you might be able to help?

I believe the answer is yes based on your:

  • Experience with technology-based client outreach campaigns
  • Ability to measure the effectiveness of such campaigns
  • Proficiency to target the right people at the right time with the right message
  • Potential to generate excitement with people you’ve never met

To deepen the appreciation Marketers and CSMs should have for each other let’s do a comparison. As a Marketer, you measure your effectiveness by scoring yourselves on qualified leads, your contributions towards successfully closed sales deals (revenue attribution), market growth, and brand protection. CSMs score themselves on successful customers (based on product adoption and achievement of goals), contribution to customer retention and growth, and customer satisfaction (primarily using NPS and CES, which ask “would you recommend?” or “have you recommended?”).

Do you see the similarities between the two positions? Their target audiences perspectives are what differentiate them, right?

Recognize That It Is a 2-Way Street

Once you begin recognizing ways to help out CSMs with their work, it’s only reasonable to wonder how they are helping you. CSMs...:

  1. Share knowledge of the extent to which customers use your company’s products. The triumphs, the disappointments, the expected pace of achievement, and many of the mistakes that can lead to failure are also valuable information to spread. Their well of knowledge should fuel your efforts to craft the most authentic and accurate content for prospects.
  2. Build customer references and collect advocates by ensuring that the customers have received their expected return on investment and feel good about the company and its ability to help them solve real business problems. If CSMs do their job, yours is simplified.
  3. Collect feedback from real customers and systematically put this data into the product management processes. While that is not strictly within the realm of control of marketing, marketers directly benefit from product management’s subsequent delivery of products that more precisely address specific business challenges.

When we discuss transformation with clients an important subject we probe with them are their organizational boundaries, or what many people refer to as silos. Many view silos as almost impossible to overcome and with exasperation, they seek to find other means for transformation. They believe silos can only be dismantled if C-level executives agree to surrender control over their respective domains, something that is only a pipe dream. I suggest that there is another way to look at the problem.

As McKinsey has reported, real transformation occurs at the individual level. As an individual contributor, one way you can help your company’s effort to transform is by educating yourself about the role your counterparts play in the customer’s journey. Reaching out and opening a dialogue with them might surface opportunities for mutual assistance and organically alter the way your respective organizations think.

Sometimes the most significant change originates from the frontline. As a CMO there are many pressures beyond the results of your frontline. To create a Modern Marketing Organization, download the CMO Solution Guide for Building a Modern Marketing Organization today! 

CMO Solution Guide for Building a Modern Marketing Organization

Utilize Data to Accurately Measure Customer Values & Make the Right Moves

Marketers collect data for a variety of variables, attempting to understand their customers. Data about revenue, industry, wallet, interests, adoption, the experience they’re having, the engagement level, and their prospects for growth. Together, variables in these categories lead to one simple, and rather obvious, conclusion; customers are not equal. This presents challenges, of course. To help provide better guidance around that confounding reality you’d think the metric, Customer Lifetime Value (LTV), would be a strategy that marketers might look to employ. After all, LTV is intended as a means to allow for more-accurate prioritization of customers, based on their potential value to the vendor that they have over their lifetime. Knowing this critical piece of information provides the opportunity for the vendor to deliver precise and appropriate levels of attention that match a customer’s potential contributions to the vendor’s profit.

Hear Out Uncle Actuary

Sadly, though, LTV isn’t very sexy. LTV is the guest at a party who everyone bores of quickly. It is the actuary uncle who corners you at a family wedding with earnest, logical arguments for why you need to think differently about spending and saving. Buy value, not sizzle, he says. Invest in quality and for the long-term, he intones, because you need to be serious about shaping the kind of life you want to have when you’re old. You nod in agreement but deep down you’re thinking it’s too much work. Your eyes wander the hall. Where’s the bar? You know he’s right but the subject makes your brain hurt.

Know Yourself & Your Customer

Marketers, it is hard, but listening to Uncle Actuary is also a smart business move. Knowing where you, as a company, want to be in two or five years (let alone thirty or forty) is important in understanding how to make the most intelligent decisions of how to spend today’s limited time and budget. Knowing where you want to be as a business in the future means you need to develop a strategy for keeping and growing your highest value customers of today. Knowing their value over time will assist you in making the right decisions about how to keep your best customers, especially the ones who might eventually become authentic advocates for your company.

Utilize Customer Behavioral Insights

This recent brief from Bain and Company delves into the business case for why marketers need to focus on LTV but I want to call out only one of their tactics:

“Knowing someone’s shopping history, location, media preferences and at least some of [their] expressed views would be enough information to, for instance, push marketing messages to certain websites on [their] cellphone during [their] morning train commute. If the customer follows influential reviewers, those reviewers could merit a pitch by the company.”

They argue that using informed hypotheses, based on first knowing who your customers are and knowing how much they are worth to you, and then learning how best to connect with them, becomes critical to identifying which marketing levers to pull for each — OMC solutions, of course, can help you with this.

Okay, I sense there is still concern out there. Still hard, right? Because you don’t have control over all the data that your company collects about the customer. If you work in most large enterprise companies that statement is almost certainly true but that’s why it’s important you read this piece on collaboration from MIT Sloan Management Review. They state that “Digitization demands a focus on cooperation and collaboration that is unprecedented for most enterprises.”

Digitize Around the Customer

I’ll return to a theme I touched on in previous posts. There is no choice. If companies are to survive they must digitize. To digitize successfully around the customer (attaining, making them successful, and growing them) means knowing them throughout their life with your company, regardless of which team does the touching. A customer’s lifetime with a company can be measured and that measurement can be used to your advantage, as a marketer, but only if you collaborate with other teams to get at the right data that completes the picture of that life.

Whether you decide on implementing a LTV or look elsewhere for data collection, you'll need to be prepared to sell it! Look to these Eight Questions to Ask as You Introduce a Data Management Strategy to maximize your marketing! 

Maximize Your Marketing: Eight Questions to Ask as You Introduce a Data Management Strategy

Featured Image Source: Pexels

Why Empathy Is Necessary for a Customer-Centric Strategy

Sarah is a successful marketing manager, someone who snaps alert with the alarm, happy to see the day dawn, eager to put into action that new content strategy for convincing an unsuspecting group of buyers to make the leap with your company’s product.

James is a savvy sales person, someone who is supernaturally comfortable picking up the phone and calling a random contact in the database, someone who glances at everyone in the line at Starbucks, and if your glance is rewarded with returned eye contact, even for a second, he'll strike up a chat.

Roland is an outstanding customer success manager, someone who relishes those moments when your customers achieve the milestones set on the plan that you created for them. He would rather work in the background, though, removing obstacles for customers than facing them directly, selling ideas.

What if all three employees had to do each other's jobs? How long can one fool themselves into working at something that doesn't come to them naturally? Not long, I suspect.

What If the Marketer Does Sales?

No need to call anyone. I’ll just connect all the seemingly random dots of their online behavior and send them some collateral they had no idea they needed. They’ll be wowed and buy the entire bundle. I’ll be a rock star!!

What if the Salesperson Makes an Effort in Marketing?

How wild would it be if James, a talented employee in Sales sent out an email to everyone in the database and invited them to a wine and beer tasting event. With a background largely in Sales and not Marketing, he assumed that he could just pitch solutions and the target audience would clamor to know how they can buy the stuff. How hard could it be?

What if the Customer Success Rep Tries Their Hand at Sales?

If given a Sales position, Roland would first need to first see what prospective customers bought from everyone else, why they aren’t happy, what they hope to achieve. He'd need to match their needs with what we have and help educate them on why they should consider giving us a chance. If that doesn’t work, surely being friendly with them and perhaps offering some pro bono work to demonstrate the strength of the product would! 

Doesn’t sound like a very productive use of skill sets, resources, experience, or training; does it? It's not scalable for one thing. Until artificial intelligence takes over completely, companies are going to need skilled specialists to fill each of these roles, and these roles are suited for certain personalities for a reason. But it might be worth it for a company to have people play the roles of members of other teams for a day if only to give the opportunity for the individuals to gain some empathy and understanding of the other roles. All of the roles mentioned (and others, too, like product management and support) are critical to a company’s ability to deliver on the promise of customer-centricity, putting the customer at the heart of everything it does. Without those roles, gaps would exist in the delivery of a customer-centric mission.

Without Sales, there would not be an ongoing focus to develop a base of committed customers, resulting in ongoing financial momentum for the company. Without Marketing, there would not be scaled outreach, no nurturing and building of interest, no steady systematic improvement in understanding of what constitutes the company’s ideal customers. Without Customer Success, there would be lower odds of product adoption and customer advocacy, and a lack of knowledge behind customer retention.

Break Down Barriers

These roles can no longer work in isolation. Organizational barriers are preventing true customer-centricity. The barriers need to come down and for that to happen, the roles need to appreciate each other to a deeper extent.

Empathy can be learned, as discussed in this article from the BBC, but let’s face it, it’s not a tremendous stretch for the roles mentioned to drop their natural guards for a day and get to know the roles of others.

A customer-centric strategy is a whole company strategy. There are a lot of tactics available for companies interested in achieving it, including improvements to executive communications, dismantling organizational silos, process redesign, data collection and integrations, skills development, technology adoption, and more. A low tech way to start breaking down organizational silos is to have people understand the roles that other people play. Empathy for others — it’s a soft word that can yield some hard results.

Sales, Marketing, and Customer Success are not the only areas that will benefit when they are used together. When Account-Based Marketing and Marketing Automation work hand-in-hand, the end result is relevant, persona-based, educational content about your prospects. Download the Marketing Automation Fundamentals guide to learn how to do this.

ABM and Marketing Automation

Image Source: Pixabay

For CMOs, It’s A Brand New World

CMOs face lots of questions. Some force them to confront the very integrity of their company’s organizational boundaries.

  • Where are the edges of brand protection responsibility for a CMO?
  • When are they allowed to relax their concern for the customer’s experience?
  • Is there a point at which they quietly hand off responsibility for brand protection to Customer Success executives, Support and Services, Sales?

The argument that a CMO's brand responsibility extends all the way out to all the experiences of the customer is a sensible one. It’s a position supported here but what if the experience the customer has is under the control of other teams led by other executives? Should the CMO care?

I think so and I’d go so far as to say that the aggregate brand experience is no more and no less important than one customer’s experience. With social media, consideration of the aggregate experience of customers is increasingly critical because one person’s experience can influence another’s and be amplified for both good and bad.

Under the increasing pressure of the digital age CMOs are compelled to align more closely and to team more seamlessly with peer executives, all focused on a mission of executing strategies through their teams that burnish rather than tarnish the brand.

Here are three vignettes illustrating various forms of brand experiences and associated challenges:

1. The Existential

A few years ago, one of the big four Canadian banks had a reputation for making poor decisions around the subprime mortgage market in the United States. The media chatter at the time was that the bank in question was the one most likely to walk into a sharp object. That’s not a headline you’d want to discuss during a Monday morning marketing meeting. Brand perception is important, even critical, depending on the industry.

Challenge: Rebuilding trust which, for a financial institution, is the most critical element of their relationship with the public. In this case, clearly the CMO would need to work in concert with the entire executive team to ensure the brand is repaired.

2. The Pernicious

The City of Toronto, where I live, has 16473 restaurants. Ranging from superb to sketchy, massive to tiny, vegan to carnivore, they represent almost every culture on the planet. They endure, however, a hellishly competitive landscape. Not every restaurant has a CMO, of course, but many restaurants are part of large conglomerates that do. Would those CMOs care about a real situation I experienced with my wife not too long ago?

We thought we’d grab a late dinner and took a chance with one of the newer restaurants where we live in the downtown core. The hostess met us with a smile and told us it would be a 45 to 60 minute wait. Rather than leave we stepped aside and I checked the availability of this restaurant on OpenTable. Voilà, there were 2 free tables and so I quickly booked one.

We stepped back in front of the hostess and told her of the reservation (less than 3 minutes had elapsed since we last spoke with her). She seated us immediately. Her explanation for not offering the table right away? They keep some tables available for online booking even if there are people physically waiting in line. Uh?

Challenge: Accommodating all customer types. For this situation a CMO would need to work with the field organizations to ensure that policies enhance the customer experience rather than detract and that what’s convenient for the business doesn’t translate into an inconvenience for the customer.

3. The Convoluted

I watch cable television only when I’m running on a treadmill and spend an inordinate amount of time switching between two news stations. With the exact same commercials repeated every seven or eight minutes it’s like being slowly clubbed in the head with a rubber mallet. The thing about digital though is there are data trails. Digital cable operators know what channel a viewer watches and they know precisely when viewers switch to another channel.

If I was a CMO at a company paying lots of money to advertise on a specific channel I’d want to know the switch rate. Information like that would allow me to better-scrutinize my investments. Beyond the investment there is the potential brand damage. Seeing the same health insurance commercial played every eight minutes makes me want to put that sponsoring company on the never-call-them list. For more depth, check out this two year old article from Think with Google that elaborates on television advertising and associated perils.

Challenge: How to balance the need to message with the very real damage that over-messaging can bring. A CMO would need to work closely with the Sales leader(s), and other executives to calibrate the messaging so as to maximize opportunities for revenue while minimizing damage to the customer experience.

The job of Chief Marketing Officer is arguably the most dynamic of all the roles in the executive suite. It must deal with the rapidity of changes in consumer preferences, technology, market conditions, and the requirement to match strategy accordingly, in virtual real-time.

Increasingly a company’s revenue is tied more tightly with its brand, and brand is more tightly tied to how well a company is able to enhance the experience of individual customers. There’s no separation anymore. When it comes to the brand there’s no boundaries for CMOs either.

And Speaking of Convoluted...

The growing number of MarTech tools available today is overwhelming. Since 2011, this number has increased by 2,567%. With more MarTech options, marketers now have better tools to help them engage customers and deliver results. The hard part is choosing the right MarTech solutions.

Download The Guide To Building Your Marketing Technology Stack to discover the most common MarTech solutions—and what questions you need to ask of any potential marketing solution provider before you commit.  

Image source: Pexels