Friday, 14 March 2014

We’re in the Age of CRM, so what’s next?

I recently spent the day at the Institute of Direct & Digital Marketing, teaching marketers from the NHS, entertainment, travel, financial services and education sectors about eCRM. The format of the day's course deliberately – because of the variety of industries – avoids detailed best practise, as one size clearly cannot fit all. The focus is on the framework. More particularly on three frameworks: customer journey planning; capability assessment and prioritisation; and business case development. This is well-trod ground for me, I've been teaching this course for around ten years, and I lecture on this to Hult International Business School's Masters Degree Program.

One thing that I've observed over the last few years of teaching eCRM masterclasses is that the recession which started in 2008 kicked eCRM – and CRM – way up the agenda. Provable marketing has taken over. And the clients we've worked with who started out at the geeky end of things are now the marketing directors, precisely because they have been able to demonstrate the commercial results and advantages of rigorous marketing strategies.

During this revolution, creativity seems to have taken a back seat to data, segmentation, analytics, infrastructure and million pound notes. Retention programmes must resonate with a brand's consumers and customers. They have to sing in harmony, and where possible enhance and amplify, the creative direction set out for the brand.

This creative direction, the tone of voice, look and feel and integrity of vision and values, is the context and instruction for how all communications must work. By focusing on the practical, technical, commercial and process aspects of marketing it's a shameful reality that occasionally these things get lost in the drive for results and ROI. Creative thinking provides the glue for all of marketing. Over the last few years, as CRM has blossomed, the most successful programmes have been produced by clients and agencies that have deep creative capability - not as lead, that's for the brand agency, but as interpreters. Why? Because interpreting brand values for the kinds of channel eCRM now makes use of – social media, email, mobile, direct – takes clever interpretive abilities that are execution-oriented. The great creatives take the grand work of the advertising partner and deliver it to individuals on the ground, during the customer journey, matching it to the consumer's transient need states as they travel along the relationship with the brand.

CRM is established as an equal partner to advertising, where it has effectively become the engine room of marketing thinking. It took eleven years. It's time marketers looked up and worked out what the Next Big Thing is.

I don't think it will be any surprise that it's already shaping up to be about partnering, collaborating with and accompanying customers for their entire lifetime, in every channel, in ways that are relevant and – critically – appropriate. CRM implies retention, data, direct, pushing customers along the journey we have defined for them. The new approach requires creative engagement enacted by the brand following the customer, not the other way round.

It requires multichannel or omnichannel thinking, holistic relationship building. It's called Total Customer Engagement and it's been here already for a few years. It is the next big wave. When you've got eCRM or CRM sorted (and you will need to have it nailed down before you can start) you can take a few short steps to transform it into the next big driver of your business as the economy dusts itself off.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Underwired redesigns Travelodge website

Travelodge has re-launched its website, designed by Underwired the specialist eCRM and customer engagement agency and delivered by the brand’s in-house IT team. The new website provides customers with significantly improved functionality and ease of use. The project is part of Travelodge’s £223 million brand investment programme which is being rolled out this year. 

The new look complements Travelodge’s new room design which launched earlier this year.  

The website delivers improved functionality to ensure customers are able to find and book what they need quickly, whether directly or via the company’s mobile site. Travelodge’s website receives 1.2 million customer visits every week and sees up to 1,500 bookings made every hour at peak times. By simplifying and clarifying the home page, the new website ensures that customers get a quick and straightforward experience – all designed to make the Travelodge journey easier, increase sales and reduce drop-outs.

Jason Holland, Creative Director, Underwired, said “Travelodge is one of the most iconic hotel brands in the UK and we are thrilled to have been able to work together on this exciting website redesign. The website makeover is part of a significant, nationwide brand investment programme for Travelodge and so it was vital that we really got under the skin of what the new website needed to offer customers.

“The journey involved in taking the brand through its website redesign, which is integral to Travelodge's business, has been fantastic and is a major step towards making the customer journey much simpler, clearer and leaves the user with a positive and memorable brand experience.

Catriona Kempston, Travelodge Sales & Marketing Director, said: “The Underwired teams’ eCRM expertise and track record made them an obvious partner for us as we continue to roll-out our £223 million brand investment programme. The refreshed website offers customers a whole host of new functionality at their fingertips, as well as a fast and easy booking journey with lots of great visual content.”

The new website communicates some of the latest changes to the Travelodge proposition, including the company’s food and beverage offering, as well as the new bed - the Travelodge Dreamer - which is being rolled out across the company’s hotels.

The new site also features an enhanced corporate section for business customers, following the company’s three-fold growth in corporate business custom. The new features include a dashboard, which allows business customers to rebook frequently used hotels and add a corporate rate to their search results.

Travelodge pioneered the art of selling budget hotel rooms online when it became the first UK hotel chain to do so in 2001.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Navigating Big Data

Tesco famously has ‘segments of one’. Which is lovely of course - but they had to buy a data company just to make sense of the data so they could get there. Most of us don't have that luxury. But it doesn't mean we can or should ignore data, even if it looks like it might become unwieldy.

Some brands haven't yet realised that the power in a brand/customer relationship has shifted from the marketer to the marketee. Clearly however social media and the ability to share every thought, spoken or unspoken, with friends and peers and even the whole wide world means that the brand perception is out in the wild. It's been let loose. No longer is the way your brand is represented in your control. It's in the expressions of passion, ire, indifference and ephemerality of the digital ecosystem: Facebook, Pinterest, Snapchat, Twitter, Vine, even email. It's transmitted by mobile, stored on the web, and available to the world.

Your job as a marketer is to understand that this revolution has already happened. And to take advantage of it. If you can do it successfully you can catch up with the wild thing your brand has become, and even gain competitive advantage while your peers wrestle with boards who just don't get that they're no longer in control.

Scary thought?

So what do you need to do in order to flip the situation around? Well, part of the problem is the notion that we can regain control. I don't think we can. What we can do however is map how consumers behave, and indeed how their attitudes will shape how they behave in the future. By going down this route rather than trying to gather the brand in, you can extend the brand into the customer's territory, give them more control by enabling free interpretation of the brand's essence. And that takes not only courage, but data too.

Customer insight is the product of data. The three dimensions of segmentation (what we call 3D Segmentation) are:

  • Demographic - who the customer is;
  • Behavioural - what they do and have done;
  • Motivation - why they do it. 

Demography is slow moving, so we use it as a kind of snapshot to describe people. It means we can target them accurately. Behaviour is retrospective, but we can observe behaviours and trends and make extrapolations based on probability and this gives us propensity models. This means we can target them efficiently. The final dimension is about motivations, attitudes and 'need states'. Sports brand ASICS leverages this in its MyASICS loyalty programme: by understanding why a runner runs, we can talk to them in terms that resonate… the desire to be fitter, or to win, or to raise money for a cause. By talking to its customers about those things that address their motivation, ASICS creates extreme loyalty, increasing sales. Worldwide. And MyASICS is served by a website, and emails, and mobile. All of which feed back data so we can hone the programme.

These days the various digital channels are so well established that the mechanisms that allow you to track a customer in their journey in one can easily be joined with the mechanism in all the others. It means we can effectively create a joined-up process to track a customer across all digital channels as they weave about their daily lives. This ability extends even to the real world - we work with clients who have incorporated data from electronic point of sale (EPoS) systems into their customer view, so we can attribute till sales to pay per click (PPC) campaigns and journeys via every imaginable digital touch-point.

And it's not that difficult, and you don't need to buy a DunnHumby or a data team to do it. The concept of rapid prototyping has been very successfully applied to creating online customer labs and pilot programmes. For instance, brands like Bupa have used it incredibly effectively to build online communities at very low cost before making decisions about major investment (my agency, Underwired, created Bupa's Carewell using this rapid prototyping approach – saving the client around £150,000).

Forget the Single Customer View and its squillions in Capital Expenditure; rope together several separate systems based only on those components you actually require to do the job of proving return on investment (ROI) and use it to monitor customer behaviour in response to the insights you generate from simple data analysis. In my experience six or seven segments gets the job done - segments of one are for when you're already at the outer extremes of wringing profit from data and not when you're mid-shift towards putting your customers at the centre of the brand universe.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Last night I found myself crying in my car at the traffic lights

Mandela was my hero. For a significant part of my youth I campaigned - in the way teens do - for a cause I believed in.

I became politicised when I was 12. I spent my teens marching for CND, and with the Anti Nazi League. On Saturdays I was usually either on a march or outside the South African embassy. Mandela was my, and our hero. I spent time in wooden-floored halls listening to men with thick accents in balaclavas.

I wore an Artists Against Apartheid patch on the sleeves of my coats and got terrible stick for it at school, though I didn't help myself by being vocal about my views. I painted AAM panels on leathers and I wrote to Katherine Hamnett when she designed an AAA T-shirt and wore the one she donated when I did sponsored events proudly.

My focus for my white London teens was the Anti-Apartheid Movement, and Mandela a beacon for justice, humanity and tolerance in a Thatcher-riven, suss-driven south London youth with black friends when mixing was pretty unusual.

Last night I found myself listening to a programme on the radio about the Hindu concept of renewal, when it was interrupted withe the long-expected news. And I cried, there at the lights, in my car. Mandela, humanity personified: thank you.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Do One Thing Well

Marketing is a collection of lots of activities, all working or acting together, sometimes in concert, to fulfil several roles. These include brand awareness, prospecting, engagement, conversion, retention, generating advocacy and so on. Often we want all our marketing to do all of these things. But the reality is, great communication is about being single-minded.

This singularity of purpose is obvious when it comes to a TV advert because you've only got thirty seconds to make a point. For instance,doing an advert which first makes the consumer think "ooh, cute puppy", then offers a discount, then states how many sheets there are on a toilet roll and then finally a message to visit the website to sign-up for points, alongside the obligatory Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat logos, would of course be ridiculous. It’s the same with a magazine display advert. For each one it either needs to be about the brand or a single call to action. Simple.

So, why do we not treat email like this too?

There are two dimensions to this way of thinking. The first is really, really simple: the more stuff you ask the email recipient to read, evaluate and discern their choice of call-to-action response, the less they will be able to respond. This is because there is more choice, more confusion, and more time is required.

Inevitably, in these instances, people will either choose the middle option (basic Goldilocks psychology) – which tells you nothing about their real values or propensities – or they will defer the decision altogether (which in sales terms is a 'no'). So you should make the choice simple: do, or don't do. Or: pick this one or that one (that's the assumptive version).

Email marketing should therefore be short, to the point and present only one or two choices. This will maximise impact and increase response rate. You will also be seen to be efficient, clean, straightforward and direct; the simple choice compared to your competitors. Think of the emails you get from Apple (if you're a customer), which are single-minded and clear to the point of asceticism; which is ironic really given how much an iPad costs.

I mentioned a second dimension. We’ve already talked about how any given email needs to have a single purpose and therefore simple, easy to parse content. However, now we need to consider the role of an email in a long-term email-driven relationship. This adds ‘time’ into the mix.

This is where we dive into the principles of customer engagement strategy or ‘CRM’, where each email is designed to move the relationship on from where it is, using knowledge gathered from where it was, to where you want it to go next. In other words, we know that to build a logical customer relationship takes a series of incremental steps, and CRM-oriented email campaigns can do this really efficiently. But, because each of these steps is discrete and purposeful, it is imperative that each step is delivered as effectively as possible.  Each message must be single-minded in its purpose of preparing the customer for the next contact. For instance, the sole purpose of one email may be to make the customer think you're nice. This might be by saying, "thank you" after a purchase. This is a good tactic, because if the customer thinks you're nice, they're more likely to read your next email.

So, single-mindedness must be an attribute and quality of every email you send. Each email can do many things and have many messages in it, but none will be effective. By doing one thing well, you will get the best response to an email, and ultimately the best possible result for your email marketing campaign.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Is Social Media more so a function of e-Marketing or CRM?

(Reposted from the awesome Quora)

Depends on the goal, and who is spending the money.

CRM is (should be) about understanding where the customer is on their journey through life, with some appreciation of the trajectory they are on (in terms of behaviour, demography and attitudes, possibly defined momentarily by where they came from and how they are currently influenced); in turn this allows marketers to decide what to say next to influence their behaviours and attitudes to develop additional value.

With that approach, social media is or could be (ideally you should test several channels to see which one delivers the behaviour change most effectively) one possible channel to deliver that 'next message' in the intertwined customer journey and brand journey.

Looking at it like that it becomes straightforward to set KPIs and measure results. This in turn makes briefing experts and suppliers very easy – they no longer have to be particularly creative, nor do they have to compete for budgets against other channels, because their role is tightly defined and they have to recognise they are just one of many touchpoint executors with (sets of) defined goals.

The other way of doing it is to try and box some stuff into 'e-marketing'. If you're not yet at the stage of evolution as a business or as a marketer that you are able to think in strategic terms then social becomes tactical and is all about the creativity of the idea in creating competitive advantage for the supplier in increasing its share of the budget of the various other e-marketing activities.

I really hope the first approach is the one your firm is aiming for ;)

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Total Customer Engagement

Social media seems to have changed the way we look at things as marketers. I’m not saying social media is the centre of anything - certainly it shouldn’t be seen to be important as a channel in its own right, but it has shown brands that the consumer has a powerful say. The voice of the customer has been given weight, and in fact the advent of social media has brought into sharp relief the fact that what the customer says can propagate rapidly, sometimes changing the course of brand perception.

The customer could even be said to have power over a brand’s destiny that is out of the marketer’s hands. The notion that brands may have to react to the preponderance of opinion, gathered in the social sphere in plain public view (as opposed to hidden in one to one correspondence or at the dinner table or in the checkout queue), is novel and for some quite startling.

Digital has delivered a real shift in power, and we as marketers are having to react to - and not drive - this. Marketing is no longer about telling, it’s about listening. As, of course, it should be.

Listening is enabled by digital channels and these are of course not constrained to the social channels like Facebook, Twitter and the others. Listening is facilitated at every touch point, from B2B’s cornerstone of reverse IP lookups to Google’s AdWords, from the landing page to the shopping basket, through eCRM and the email or mobile-driven comms we use to engender loyalty and ultimately advocacy (back to social). Digital has empowered us by giving us the ability to understand how customers behave throughout their digital life, and map that to touch points and moments of truth as they apply to the intersection between their lives and our brand stories.

But marketing is much more than just digital. Consumers’ lives are not wholly lived online. Some of the critical touch points happen out there in real life, in store, at venues, walking down the street. So it is imperative that as marketers we understand that we need to meet our customers, create those intersections, wherever and whenever they are most appropriate.

This idea of Total Customer Engagement requires joined-up thinking. It requires an understanding not only that customers have behaviour, but that they have behaviour that shifts over time and according to venue, digital or not. And this plays back to the central power shift. As marketers we must recognise that the customer journey is not a journey we put our customers into (though of course this thinking does stem from the more perceptive eCRM agencies), it is a journey we need to identify - that the customers are on in their own right. Our job is to understand their needs states, their attitudes and their paths, so we can meet them. Our role as planners is to map them, and to target our comms cleverly, both in terms of venue or channel and the appropriateness of message type given their mind state at the moment we engage.

The power has shifted from the brand to the customer, therefore we can no longer broadcast and hope. We have to be precise and this requires two things: the ability to gather and interpret data (whether digital or not), and the ability to serve a coherent brand story in whichever channel is most able to serve the purpose of a relevant interaction. In turn, this requires us to be able to manage multiple marketing disciplines - and that may indicate where the real shift in thinking lies.

As marketers we can no longer afford to think in terms of social, or digital or traditional marketing. We have got to think about customer marketing. We need agencies and suppliers who are happy to work together, not as specialists with specialist strategic offerings, but as coherent deliverers of a unified customer journey, one which matches the customer’s pace and place.

Total Customer Engagement is a new way of thinking about marketing - one that Forrester identifies in terms of marketing as mediation rather than execution. It’s the way of the customer. And it’s the way of the future.