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.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Big Data: Why more data is better for brand loyalty and customer experience

We've recently started talking to a brand which has around 700,000 customers in its database. They have collected lots of behavioural data, by which I mean transactional data - recency, frequency and value (or RFM) - and response data. This response data is all about what happens when the customer is sent a piece of communication, in this case an email. What they do, when they do it, where it leads. Say the database contains 30 fields. That's 21 *million* pieces of information, all tied together to create a big fuzzy room we can in effect walk around, try to make sense of, and manipulate to achieve commercial goals. 21,000,000.

Everyone talks about Big Data as if it were some kind of technological nirvana. The reality is you can gather data from a whole lot of sources and stick it all together more or less by hand, if you need to. In practise, Big Data is shorthand for the notion that if only you could mine, interpret and extrapolate all the data you could get you'd have some kind of joined up living solution to customer engagement, almost a mindmeld between your brand and a collective representation of your customer base in its entirety. Nice.

The reality is that data is an enabler, something you can make use of - not something that should make your decisions for you.

So how does this pragmatic approach work? There are a number of critical steps to take you  from having on the one hand a commercial goal and on the other some customer data. First, make sense of the data. Customer insights start with understanding what kind of data you have. In our CRM terms this information breaks down into three broad groups:

Demographic - who the customer is
- Gender, age, life stage
- Location
- Income
- Status
- Family make-up
- Education etc.

Behavioural - what they do
- What they have bought
- When
- In response to what
- How much do they spend
- How long is their 'customer lifetime'
- What channels do they use
- When do they respond most

You can see already that by combining some of this information you can infer quite a lot about the way you might want to talk to some of your customers. It is obvious that you can start to create segmentation based on demographic and behavioural data. However, this approach to segmentation may help you to be efficient (behavioural) and accurate (demographic) in who you talk to, but it often does not tell you what to talk to them about.

Taking the classic example of customers of a prize-based fantasy football league, segmenting by these two dimensions might lead you an easy segmentation based on whether the customer buys one or twenty teams (behavioural) and jump to conclusions about their financial status (demographic).

3D segmentation adds a new aspect, motivation, to the mix. If you can divine what motivates your customers then you can speak to them using motivation-based segmentation and that may actually provide the cut through that's required in a highly competitive environment.

Motivation - why they do it
- Need state
- Environmental factors

This dimension can change based on changes in the other two dimensions; for example changes in family make-up or life stage may radically alter someone's drivers for engaging with your brand.

In the case of the fantasy football league, by looking not at behaviour or demographics (which didn't appear to correlate) but by motivation, through the simple expedient of a brainstorm with everyone we could find near the meeting room we reached an insight we could test - first by checking the correlation with the behavioural data, second by sending a brief questionnaire to a standard sample. The insight was that customers bought principally because they were either motivated by passion for the game (bought a single team) or by the desire to win the prize pot (bought twenty teams).

By using this simple insight we created two segments serving two types of (relevant) content. These were then split into time-based sets based on where the customer was in the product lifecycle (new joiners, mid-season etc.) so we had six or seven simple segments.

Revenue went up 93% in 90 days. The client was The Sun.

The job of data is not to confuse or confound. The job of data is to allow you to extract simple insights that allow you to run singleminded campaigns that tap into your customers' motivations so that they want to engage with you. As we start to think beyond the age of CRM and focus on rapid growth, it is imperative that Big Data doesn't become an encumbrance. Data should be there to provide insight so you can get on with the engagement - because how you engage with your customers is the only thing that will drive your success.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Customer engagement for bars (or, teaching granny to suck eggs)

In the olden days (pre-1995), when customers knew the name of the person serving them and vice versa, life was good. Then along came the internet. People stopped going out for a drink to socialise, catch up or find a friend. We were told then that the power had to transfer to the brand, or at least the vendor. Marketing became about how you presented your brand and how you attracted people in. All the while customers were losing focus on what was attractive and turning their attention to what met their needs best… and online met their needs pretty perfectly.

So what are the best decisions that need to be made to address this change? First ask yourself: can we compete without going online? If your answer is ‘no’ then you need to assess how best to target your customers and by what means.

Social media, used largely (at least in my own life) to work out where to go for a celebration, catch-up or a noisy bit of fun. In other words, the perfect media platform to reach customers to start / maintain relationships. It’s pretty simple to make work in fact: get to know your customers by observing their behaviour (on your website, in response to your emails and/or tweets) then make sure you use those channels to say things that they want to know or hear.

However, social media isn’t the only option available. Email – today’s postcard – cost pennies to generate and send, even in relative bulk. For this kind of approach of course you need data. You could gather this at the point of sale and add it to a centralised database – which would be as simple as an Excel spreadsheet. By offering some kind of value exchange when you visit the website - perhaps a free drink next time you visit - you will be able to further your data capture which will allow you to create targeted, timely and relevant campaigns to drive sales and support your ongoing relationships.

Where once in the golden days a bartender would know each customer by sight, today, bar owners can know the customer through digital tracking. The internet has enabled a one-step removal of customer engagement and, in turn, this means bartenders can engage with many more customers than before. As you can gain much more information through this channel than if you were to try and speak to each one on a busy evening. Twitter, Facebook and email will become your friends – and your new way to make new friends – because by being your customer’s friend you’ll take them back to the good old days, and this could be the difference between fading away and reinvigorated, transformational growth

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

The digital conundrum

Today’s question: we’ve arrived in the digital age, everyone’s online, Blue Nile’s cleaning up on diamonds, and the whole world seems to have gone social media mad – so, should we jump on the bandwagon too? For the small family jeweller, or even the large high street family jewellery chain, it’s a question that has taxed business owners and marketers with increasing frequency over the past few years. Indeed, now that the smart phone accounts for nearly as much online traffic as PCs, and the website is almost every retail chain’s largest single store, it’s a question that has gone from one that might have been shelved until now to one that may well be business-critical imminently.

So what are the basic decisions that need to be made, how do we decide what to do, and how should we prioritise? The first is simple: the decision is based on a simple set of questions, all around threat/opportunity. Can we compete without going online? Can we gain any benefits from going online? And to answer this, the process is relatively straightforward. You need to ask yourself how you relate to your customers.

For example, are the majority of your customers one-off purchasers? If so, are they really? In other words, do they buy on several one-off occasions (wedding, birthday, Christening, Bar Mitzvah, anniversary)? And if so again, is there something you can do to keep a relationship going? Of course, retailers already do a lot of good things, from a great in-store experience, knowledgeable and engaging staff, appropriate (via self-selecting customers) range of products ... but how do you follow this up and keep in touch? Digital channels may provide one answer of course, as email – today’s postcard – costs pennies to generate and send, even in relative bulk.

If you have a few hundred customers it’s fine to do this by hand, because you can do this instantly and more or less from memory, but again digital’s power here is the ability to divide customers up into groups (husbands, over-50s, partner’s birthday in October, anniversary in May) and automatically send the right message to the right person at the right time. Simple segmentation like this can mean compelling messages, as opposed to the one-size-fits-all approach most retailers seem to take. In fact, an approach like this uses the power of digital to re-create the personal service-based relationships of old.

For this kind of approach of course you need data. The big retailers have this down pat and collect data at point of sale (age, marital status, reason for visit, products looked at and bought, birthday etc.) and add it to a centralised database (which could be as simple as an Excel spreadsheet or as big as a Single Customer View database integrated with your EPoS system). You can augment this data at the till, or by leveraging your website. To do this you might consider asking customers to visit the site and they’ll get some value exchange, perhaps free engraving next time they buy, or a free trinket (first of a collectable) for their daughter, or the chance to win something. This kind of simple value exchange gives you an opportunity to learn both about the individual and about your customers in general. This in turn gives you data from which you can start to make decisions and of course, the data with which you can create targeted, timely and relevant campaigns to drive sales and support your ongoing (if infrequently manifested) relationship.

One benefit of a relationship supported and bridged online is that you can use it to ask questions about your strategy. For instance, if you’re trying to work out if your customers might buy if you built an e-commerce site, ask them. You may be surprised, they may tell you things you never knew (“we browse in your shop because it’s friendly but we buy from your competitors online because it gets delivered to the recipient gift wrapped.” or even “My family used to come to the shop but we moved away and only get there once a year, we might buy more often if we could do it from home!”), but of course you do have to ask in the right way. Most people like to be asked their opinion though, as the implication that you value their opinion confers a sense of belonging and ownership. Your website is the perfect venue for this, especially as a simple survey can be extremely cheap to produce and promote.

The benefits may not immediately justify spending thousands (or even hundreds of thousands) on a serious e-commerce strategy. But, by creating relationships with your customers, by using cheap and easy channels like email to help bridge the long gaps between visits to your shops, you can easily develop loyalty and brand fealty, at a very low cost.

By the time you have hundreds of thousands of customers, and you start changing the purchase patterns – say frequency, or order value – of swathes of them by a few percent, you could be talking millions in incremental revenue. Even for the independent family jewellers, the difference between a declining, ageing customer base visiting spontaneously and a loyal, engaged customer base who increasingly use the internet to keep in touch, make decisions and use the web to book appointments to view and choose wedding rings, may even be the difference between fading away and reinvigorated growth.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Blockbuster, Jessops, HMV... but who's next? WHSmith, we're coming for you

Guest post by Alice Baker, Account Manager at Westgate Communications 

It was a tragic day and a clear sign of the times when a British institution like Blockbuster finally shut it’s doors. I’ll never forget the day my mum took me into the store to purchase Beauty and the Beast (a classic I might add) on VIDEO for my Birthday; something she had to pre-order because it wasn’t available elsewhere. Clearly, I’m showing my age, but the memory still makes a distinctive point - we needed Blockbuster in our lives. Disney is very important to a five year-old.

Fast forward twenty years and I enter that famous store again, this time for another classic: Reservoir Dogs. “Sorry, we don’t have it” the shop assistant replied. Angered by her indignation, her shrug, and by the fact there were 47 useless copies of Bridget Jones’ Diary strewn around the store, I realised Blockbuster had finally become disillusioned by what its customers wanted. It was also clear that I no longer needed the store; for Disney or Tarantino, it didn’t matter. Streaming became the way forward and quite honestly, I’ve never looked back.

A dissatisfied customer I may be, but the point that it makes is that in the last five years the consumer power of our UK high-streets has now shifted from retailer to customer. Blockbuster no longer had what I needed - availability of films, knowledgeable staff etc. - so I went elsewhere.  Understanding what your customer needs and what your USP is, is essential for maintaining customer loyalty. Adapting your retail channel to suit these needs is also vital because consumers appreciate retailers being considerate to their needs.

So who’s next to go? I’m hedging my bets - or should I say hopes - on WH Smith. Here is a store which epitomises all of the issues above. It’s expensive, it has no USP - does it sell books, sweet or arts and crafts materials? And the staff seem adamant on selling me a giant bar of Dairy Milk every time I purchase a lottery ticket. The staff are generally unfriendly and mostly unhelpful and their website seems to offer the same service too as its far from intuitive; so why oh why has it survived at the forefront of British retailing for so long?

As digital books sales with the likes of Amazon and Kobo continue to rise how much longer can WH look to hold on?

Friday, 8 March 2013

Underwired caps incredible month with RAR finalist place

Underwired, the leading eCRM and Customer Engagement agency, has been shortlisted in the Recommended Agency Register (RAR) Awards.

The awards recognise the agencies that have been highly-rated by their clients and to date, over 14,000 customers have rated the agencies they work with. The awards are a reflection on an agency’s ratings across a number of areas including Creativity, Effectiveness, Value for Money, On Time/On Budget and Client Service.

This news comes on the heels of an incredible year for Underwired, which now counts Marks & Spencer, Mitchells & Butlers, Travelodge, British Land, ASICS worldwide, East Coast Railways and the Financial Times among its clients. Less than a year ago the management team led by Jason Holland and Felix Velarde took the agency independent, and in the past month Underwired has won over £1m of contracts.

Jason Holland, Underwired’s co-founder and creative director, said “This reflects Underwired’s culture of partnership and collaboration, and in particular the rapport the client services team has built with our clients. We do business-critical, highly strategic work, and that demands genuine trust. That’s built on a foundation of value for money and doing stuff right and on time – but it’s also partly a reflection of the passion we have for the work we do with our clients.”

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

The advent of Customer Engagement Marketing

We went through a recession, and while we weren’t looking, the world of marketing changed. We discovered as an industry that making certain that marketing governance is based on sound principles is critical in a recession. Digital marketing, with its granular tracking and ability to follow a customer from first contact, means you can observe his or her behaviour while they consider their first purchase and beyond. When digital marketing is joined up correctly, you should be able to establish precisely how much value you generate for every pound that you spend. And this accountability, during the recession, meant a degree of comfort that marketing actually was working. In other words, we gave credence to – and then priority to – marketing which has built into it a chain of custody.

The traditional view of brand marketing was centred around the way the business wanted to engage customers. To some extent, in the early days of internet-based marketing, this notion of brands built around customers’ needs was lost, at least temporarily. It became ‘build it and they will come’ – a conceit founded on the novelty of the medium: indeed, when I set up my first digital agency there were around 250 servers on the World Wide Web. Attendance and engagement could be reliably assumed.

The idea of a brand built around what the customer wants has of course changed as a result of the mediation of the internet. The customer is still at the centre of the business’s universe, but this position has evolved. Marketing, once predicated on understanding demographics, motivation and behaviour, can now be said to pivot about which channel the consumer is (or may be) consuming at that precise given point in the customer lifecycle when they are considering a step in their dialogue with the brand.

In simple terms, where once we considered marketing to be about mapping the progression from one medium to the next (TV followed press and PR, followed by Direct Marketing) this new age means we map the customer as she travels from mobile to Facebook, email to website and via SMS to shop.

In turn, this must be mapped against the decision-making cycle: first contact to second, peer review then press review, comparison sites, reminder banner, examination of features, emailed offer then shopping basket. We end up with a two-track series of events, joined at critical touchpoints which define the medium in which we pass on a specific, perfectly-timed message.

This form of marketing planning is necessarily going to be slightly different from segment to segment (a young mum’s media consumption is going to be radically different to that of a Baby Boomer), and from product to product. But the framework is sound, and applies as much to a high-value B2B proposition as to an FMCG brand – in fact we’ve used it for products as diverse as McCain oven chips, ASICS sportswear, Travelodge and the FT. What it delivers is a rational, measurable chain of custody from first contact to value. From this continuous sequence comes your brief for the messaging at each touchpoint, a detailed resource requirements list, indeed a foundation for micro and macro KPIs.

This new post-recession type of marketing is called Customer Engagement Marketing. It takes the power of the brand, dethroned by a combination of recession and digital renaissance, and refocuses it on the customer. In essence, it recognises that the customer is now the centre of everything, and that our job as businesses is not just to design our products around them but to design our marketing around them too.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Evidence-based marketing: myth or reality?

Apparently a Facebook ‘Like’ is worth £7. Isn’t that brilliant? If you have a hundred thousand followers that makes your social media strategy absolutely rocking news. The question is, says Felix Velarde of digital CRM agency Underwired, how many of you really believe it?

We ran a campaign for an FMCG client a while ago, in which we emailed a segment in the customer database using very specific messaging – it was relevant, timely and well-designed. The click-through rate (CTR) of 88% was staggering in anyone’s book. I’d like to say every campaign we run gets that kind of result, but occasionally we crash and burn too. Anyway, wow, what a great result. But what does it mean?

The digital marketing industry seems to be founded on metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) of variable – if not downright dubious – quality. If you judge any of the industry awards you will know that half the entries benchmark against industry standards which in a lot of cases appear to have been made up on the spot: “Campaign X achieved a CTR of 12.3%, beating the industry standard 8% and therefore deserving of a Gold.”

This is where I have the first of my issues: even if there *is* an industry standard click-through rate, does it really apply to your campaign? Our campaign got an 88% CTR because it was highly targeted to a known audience expecting the email with a fantastic proposition. If it had achieved 12.3% or even 24.6% it would have been a failure. The truth is that no matter what the CTR is, one thing it is not is evidence of anything that isn’t either subjective (“I say, that’s awfully good isn’t it?”) or comparative (“Blimey, did much better than last time!”).

The second of my issues is that all these benchmarks aren’t evidence of sales. And hard revenue really is the only figure that ever matters (and before you ask about brand consideration or sentiment, these are both abstractions of sales – higher brand consideration may imply higher resulting sales, though you’d have to test it to find out if it’s really useful). So what is the *evidence* behind the assertion of success? How do you track from the planning phase through the campaign, to the reality of the effect on sales?

Well, it’s pretty easy in e-commerce. Straight-through processing (which is what the financial industry calls tracking the customer from first contact to order) in digital is quite simple these days. Ad tracking (display, affiliate, PPC and natural SEO) is relatively easily linked to website analytics, thence to email service providers (ESP), back to websites and even passing through couponing and promotion systems. It’s been done plenty of times by the big brands, and even small brands can buy integrated services. So if you’re an online retailer it’s pretty straightforward.

If you’re an FMCG brand you can still do it, although you may need to be a little more sophisticated about it. For example, this might mean matching your customer segments to commercially available purchase data and running regular surveys to track buying patterns in your base and cross-checking them against buying behaviour. If you’re a retailer you can find mechanisms to collect customer data and purchase behaviour at Point of Sale and match this data back to the single customer view.

The trick here is to get real data about whether your campaign actually worked, as opposed to seeing floating KPIs that may or may not indicate the same thing – but which provide no scientific basis for decision-making. How many times have you seen “successful” campaigns stopped? There’s a simple reason: there was no evidence to show they generated a profit. If there had been and they had produced £26 for every £1 spent, nobody in their right mind would stop them. Evidence is critical. Myth or reality? Evidence-based marketing is the only thing you should be *allowed* to do!

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

2013 will be the year of Total Customer Engagement

The year ahead will be marked by a number of really interesting developments in how we engage with our customers. One that has caught up with us – and which marks a sea change – is the advent of the Generation Y customer base. Gen-Y uses mobile as its main medium of interaction; if you’re not using mobile to engage with younger customers then you’re probably missing the biggest trick available, though it has been a very slow start since the trend first became apparent five, or so, years ago. Just in passing, to give you an idea of how trends break, let me illustrate this briefly…

Imagine your customer base is, potentially at least, a million strong. And say on day one a single person uses mobile as their main device for browsing the web, and every day that number doubles. By the end of the first week, 64 people use mobile. By the end of the second week that’s 8,192. That’s the point at which as a business you might start thinking there’s a trend. In actual fact it only takes another seven days and that’s your entire customer base. If you didn’t engage in a mobile strategy after two weeks, you missed it. Trends accelerate in an exponential curve – and in the internet age a trend can look slow for a few years, when in fact the numbers are doubling every month. Mobile is one of these, and if you target people born after 1982, that means you’ve got to jump, now!

There’s another trend that’s been a few years in the making, but in 2013 it will have gathered a critical mass, and it’s going to affect you – like it or not. The trend is for Total Customer Engagement. In plain English this means joined-up marketing, the opposite in fact of the “silo” thinking that has driven marketing during the first couple of decades of digital.

Most companies today have a web strategy, which may include e-commerce. They will also have a nascent social media strategy, a Google Adwords programme, and maybe an eCRM programme serving segmented comms to different sets of customers, split by value, behaviour, demographics and motivations. All of which have given businesses learning and insights into how they engage with customers using ‘new’(ish) channels. What’s lacking is integration. The sea change in 2013 requires a fresh way of thinking about customer engagement, which puts the customer at the centre. The trends feeding this are the shift in the balance of power from brand to customer, driven by the shift towards peer decision facilitated by social media, and the power of collective reviews.

So how does a business tap into this before it’s too late to do anything about it? A shift of focus is required, meaning the marketer needs to understand where the consumer is going to be, on- and off-line, when they are at a moment when they are likely to change their view of a brand, ideally positively. If you can identify that, Customer Type A is likely to be on a mobile, using Twitter, when considering whether to shortlist your brand, then you can target them with the right message at the right time and in the correct format. By mapping where the customer is at each critical point in their relationship with you, and mapping a rational sequence of nudges to take them from pre-custom to loyal customer, and then creating a matrix of comms against medium for this map, then you have a plan for engaging them. This Total Customer Engagement plan gives you as a business several things: a plan that can be tested, benchmarked and improved; a brief for your team and their suppliers so they have specific tasks to achieve against your business’s Key Performance Indicators (KPIs); and a framework that can be adapted when new trends become apparent.

This kind of approach is essentially multi-channel and channel-neutral. It’s also measurable and of course by its very nature future proof. By investing in developing this kind of (actually very simple) framework and marketing architecture, it will protect you against the overwhelming trends that are often nearly impossible to spot early, but which end up rather too quickly having strategic impact. Do it now, before it’s too late!