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The Rise of the (Marketing) Machines—How to Tame Them

It’s no secret that technology has changed the game when it comes to marketing. We all know the customer is now in charge of the journey. Add to this an explosion in engagement channels and content, and marketers find themselves awash in a sea of priorities.

The typical way that we marketers have chosen to deal with this chaotic situation is to buy software platforms to automate large portions of the operational responsibilities and instead focus on content production and metrics management. But what has been lost in this drive towards efficiency is how it affects the consumer—and the damage it can cause to the relationship between a brand and its customers.

To manage this “man in the middle” position, our tend to focus on building an ecosystem of tools that provides customer engagement metrics that we can use to demonstrate return on investment to our C-suite. The issue with this approach is that, while it may create short-term relief, it becomes less effective over time as response rates erode or competitors begin to adapt to our communications strategies.

Embrace A More Human Approach to Technology

Instead of looking at our technology investment operationally, I would like to propose a more customer-centric lens by which to view our platforms and technology ecosystem: we should be focused on the capabilities that are necessary to service consumers in the same way we would if we had the opportunity to meet them face-to-face.

Harte Hanks CMO Frank Grillo firmly believes that our job as marketers is to “bring the human back to marketing” by reacting to the digital cues that consumers are leaving behind in their interactions with our brands. When we do this effectively, we can create a digital experience and overall journey that feels more personal and more human—like it did when marketing consisted of people sitting across from each other, interacting and building a relationship.

This Requires Knowledge of Strategy and Technology

As the Innovation Lead for marketing technology (martech) within Harte Hanks, it falls on my plate to get our existing technology investments aligned with Frank’s vision of more human marketing and fill in critical gaps. The role requires both an understanding of marketing strategy and technical acumen.

This evolving role is becoming critical in all marketing organizations as the lines of who is responsible for technology spending are blurred. Gartner has forecast that 2017 is the year when CMOs will spend more on technology than their CIO counterparts. This presents a challenge because marketing leaders have traditionally come from advertising or product management backgrounds rather than development roles. This leaves them ill-prepared to be able to separate the aspirational messages vendors try to sell them on from the realities of managing a collection of technical tools they need to bring together to achieve a cohesive mission.

Technology vendors haven’t helped the situation. They have mostly built their platforms around central core functions (like Eloqua and Marketo focus on email). The problem is that consumers interact with brands in a much more organic manner and can’t be counted on to behave the way these tool vendors would like them to. While the tools themselves may be operationally efficient, they rarely are architected to handle the consumers hopping across channels and devices, trying to obscure themselves as they complete their initial research, etc.

For example, when I am researching a product or service, I often want my initial interactions with a brand to be anonymous. When I get to a gated piece of content, I often give up and leave the page or enter bogus contact information so that I don’t end up with a deluge of calls and emails from sales. When I do offer up my accurate contact information, I expect it to be used to improve my experience. I do not expect to come back to the site for more content, only to have to fill out the same form again. What marketers often don’t realize is that by disrupting my journey with unwanted forms, misuse of my data, etc., they actually have to work harder to regain my attention later—if they can at all. Technology should be aligned to facilitate a smooth journey across channels and devices, which can’t be done in functional silos.

Your Customer Should Drive Your Martech Strategy

What does this mean to me as I develop Harte Hanks’ technology stack? It means that I constantly must put myself in your shoes (you are, after all, my prospect or client!). I must ask myself if the experience we have put in place is the engagement you expect. If the answer is no, it’s time to ask if we have the all right technology pieces in place—we might have a gap in capabilities that needs filling. It may also be that we have the right capabilities, but haven’t evolved the ecosystem as whole to work to your benefit. At the end of the day, that decision-making process begins by giving you, the prospect or client, a seat at the table in designing the ecosystem.

Use Machines to Make Marketing Human Again

Machines have made us lazy. It has become so easy to reach mass audiences of consumers with digital tools like email, search and display ads that we have become de-sensitized to the impact our never-ending quest for metrics improvement has had on our relationship with consumers.

But machines also have the power to make us human again. It’s our job to bring the human back to marketing—and technology plays a leading role in achieving this vision. To create a martech ecosystem that enables human marketing at scale, companies need to find those few key people that can see the big picture while also understanding the technology. If you don’t have someone in house who can fill that role, look for a partner that can bring that skill set to the table.

The machines have risen, but with the right mindset and team members, it is possible to tame them. It is possible to evolve your technology ecosystem into something you are proud to talk about—rather than something that causes frustration every month when you get the bill.

The World is NOT Your Oyster: How to do Market Segmentation

There are only a few products in the world that are designed to meet everyone’s needs equally. For the most part, if you think the whole market is your opportunity, you’re wrong.

You may have a distinct opportunity in each segment, but best-in-class marketers make sure they’re targeting the audiences with which they have the greatest opportunity and best chance to succeed.

If you have not done any market segmentation or it wasn’t done correctly, your marketing efforts will be wasted. The best marketing in the world will not work if the message does not resonate, or is not meaningful to the audience (not something they are interested in or not a job they are looking to complete).

Ultimately, it’s about optimizing budget—very few companies have unlimited money to spend on marketing. Where do you focus your efforts? Prioritizing segments where the biggest opportunities exist is crucial in determining where to focus marketing, persona, and content spend.

So, have you done the hard, introspective work to determine where to put your marketing dollars? If not, here’s how.

How To Define Your Market Segments

Phase 1: Identify Optimal Sub-Segments

In the first phase of market targeting, you’ll start with your total available market and progressively drill down to identify your optimal sub-segments.

Instructions: 

  1. Outline your total available market—your entire universe of customers.
  1. Determine which segments best align with your GTM strategy. Where is the best fit for what you offer? Where is your message most likely to resonate?
  1. Determine whether you’re likely to succeed in these segments. Are there any significant limitations to your success? Do you have the capabilities you need to address these consumers’ needs? What is the competitive landscape? Are there macro-economic trends you should be aware of?
  1. Determine your addressable market. Identify what these sub-segments spend on what you offer. For example, if you are a management consulting firm, how much do these targets spend on management consulting?

 

how to do market segmentation with strategic gameboard 1

 

Phase 2: Use Game Board to Identify Top Targets

In this phase, you’ll plot your target sub-segments from phase 1 on the Game Board to determine which offer the best opportunity.

Instructions:

  1. Assign each sub-segment a score on a 1 to 5 scale for both of the following:
    1. Alignment with your GTM strategy (there is a degree of art here)
    2. Likelihood of success (based on your current capabilities, competition and macro-economic trends outlined in phase 1)
  1. Based on your scores, plot your target sub segments on the game board.
    1. Y axis = alignment with GTM strategy
    2. X axis = likelihood of success
    3. Size of the bubble should be based on total potential addressable revenue
  1. Remove the obvious sub-segments that do no align (those that fall the Avoid section).
  1. Re-plot the remaining sub-segments relative to each other (this step may need to be done more than once!).
  1. Use the Game Board key to prioritize which sub-segments you will target.

 

how to do market segmentation with strategic gameboard 2

 

Market Segmentation in Action

We recently executed our own market segmentation exercise of the retail vertical at Harte Hanks, and this is what it looked like.

Our Game Board:

 

Harte Hanks Market Segmentation Strategic Gameboard
Our results for mapping sub-segments of the retail industry on the Strategic Gameboard

 

Results

Based on this market targeting exercise, we have determined which retail sub-segments offer us the most opportunity and where we are most likely to succeed—which allows us to optimize our marketing spend. We’ll keep our eye on the growing potential of some other sub-segments in the retail vertical as we move forward.

Of course, we have repeated this exercise for each of the vertical industries we play in. Learn more our approach to bringing human interaction back to marketing through the 5 Pillars of Best-in-Class Marketing, including market segmentation.

Personas: The Next Step after Market Segmentation

Once you have determined your best targets, it’s time to get to know them—far better than any traditional demographic persona. Here are some resources to help you get started:

Buyer Personas are NOT Customer Segments: What You Need to Know

How to Use Buyer Personas to Improve B2B Customer Experience

 

How to Inoculate Your Brand from Political Backlash: Interview with Elsie Maio

air bnb ad
Airbnb Super Bowl ad promotes certain values. Does the company live by them?

Elsie Maio is on a mission – to empower high performing businesses to profitably align with the wellbeing of humanity. Since 1994, she has been touted as a practical visionary in the field of high performance brand strategy – helping clients get ahead of emerging global trends in business and society, long before it became fashionable.

I interviewed Elsie for her take on how brands can protect themselves during a time when politics can be risky business.

The President has disparaged a variety of brands online, leading to instant drops in stock prices (for Boeing and Nordstrom, for example), as well as immediate negative brand sentiment on Twitter as his millions of followers join in the conversation.  Have brands ever faced such a risky political environment in the past, or is this something new to contend with?

Stock prices have always reacted to negative news that comes from a civic or political context, but I don’t know that we’ve ever had a public figure pointing a finger at companies and shaming them with the suddenness, randomness and reach that’s happened recently.

Sure, in the past, we’ve seen public opinion turn against businesses – which in turn was followed by legislative action. The tobacco industry, for example.

And when an egregious fault has been associated with an industry or company, meaning it has been hurtful to human beings, we’ve seen stock prices drop and sometimes companies brought to their knees.

What’s different here is two things: the apparent randomness, and the sting of a celebrity politician singling out a company that challenges his agenda, as Trump has done. It’s like a personal attack on the character of the company when its patriotism is, in a way, challenged by The White House.

What, if anything, can brands do to prevent this type of unwanted political attention?

Companies cannot prevent attention. But there are two ways corporate leaders can deal with this risky political environment:

1. As a reluctant citizen.

These are extremely fraught times for companies, and those who find themselves in the crosshairs appropriately call in their crisis management folks to do whatever they can to minimize damage and quietly patch things up.

The ‘reluctant citizen’ is in the old paradigm: the business of business is business.  The old paradigm response rests heavily on communications to either set the record straight or to distract and recast your image as sympathetic to a particularly emotive public issue. Maybe you will even invest in inspiring advertisements like the ones we saw at the Super Bowl and the Oscars. Or, you will double-down on your lobbying in Washington.

2. As a generous, generative citizen.

To stop there, with traditional crisis management programs, in reacting to Trump tweets or whomever else, is foolish. It’s like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. The underlying vulnerability is more fundamental that any one issue they may accuse you of: the damning insinuation is that you are not carrying your weight as a modern, responsible citizen.

You really do need to build another boat, and smart companies are doing this.

Don’t get me wrong; if you get caught flat footed in a tweet storm, engage the best crisis communication team you can find. But, in another watery analogy, don’t confuse caulking the foundation in a floodplain with relocating to higher ground.

Define your brand of citizenship, or have it redefined at political whim for you.

It’s the trend; you might as well look at this period of White House volatility as an opportunity hop on it now and have it fuel the company’s growth and employee happiness. Companies will be held to this standard by Millennials soon enough. Not only are you girding yourself for defense on the field today, but you’re also creating brand advantage by defining the play.

What does it mean to be a generative citizen?

Being a generous, generative citizen means embracing purpose and looking beyond financial gain and shareholder value.

We have been expecting since the late 90s that companies will be held more accountable for their participation as global citizens. They’ll need to reorganize around the fact that the shareowner is not the only constituent to address anymore. Generating more and better financial returns alone is just not going to do it.

This is becoming increasingly popular through entities like B Corporations— companies committed to benefit society as well as their shareholders. Legally, they will not be sued by shareholders for including things like social impact and environmental impact in their decisions that might reduce profitability. This is one opportunity to not only inoculate the company from risky political situations but also to put a stake in the ground as a modern corporate leader.

Philip Kotler and Christian Sarkar talk about brand activism in a recent article in The Marketing Journal.  Look at how Patagonia and Unilever are changing the game. These companies are generative citizens. They’re solving real problems in the real world. And our own work spells out how such leaders, like Unilever, are doing it.

Speaking of moving, emotional advertisements, there were several big brands that aired “culturally significant” ads during the Super Bowl, such as AirBNB, Coca Cola and Budweiser. AirBNB CMO Jonathan Mildenhall argues that ads like this aren’t political statements; they’re social stands that “doing what’s right by humanity.” Is it possible to make such a distinction in the current political climate?

Several Super Bowl ads did make a statement and were emotionally inspiring. But here’s the thing: the values implied in the ad must reflect the true soul of the company. There’s no way around this except to be authentic and tell the truth. If you have a strong inclination as a company to stand up for your values, do so, but don’t pretend to do so fully unless you are demonstrably on that path.

That does not mean don’t talk about your truth and what inspires your people even if you are not living it 100% yet. For instance, they could say, At Airbnb, we recognize the value of inclusiveness, we’re all in this together, and we’re beginning to integrate these values into everything we do. Beginning to integrate. Then you need to demonstrate with proof points how you’re doing that. Articulate your purpose as a profitmaking corporation or organization that’s cognizant of social purpose or social impact and match your proof points.

Don’t say it in your ad unless you have the proof points to demonstrate it. And then, demonstrate it consistently. Where company behaviors conflict with the inspiring messages they put out is where the trust rupture begins.

How does a brand go about making the transition to a generative corporate citizen?

You could consider the first phase of this transition to be, Know Thyself.  Audit all your employees and stakeholders to discover their values and what citizenship means to them.

The next phase in this transition is to actually operate in that way you might later describe in your ads. What is your real purpose and how are you embracing it? How are you capitalizing on that in your company? We’re so good at creating experiences and communicating our brand promise that it’s disconnected from our corporate operations. Having marketing operate in a silo is one of the biggest problems we have. We have dug a big hole between the expectation we created and what we’re actually doing. Instead, you must knit the CMO’s activities with the COO’s activities and make sure that they’re walking hand in hand. If you don’t, you’re vulnerable to every kind of attack—and you should be.

How will acting in this generative way help companies to protect themselves from political turmoil?

The spotlight of political criticism is swinging in an arc, somewhat wildly these days. There’s no protecting from the vagaries of random public attention. The best way to ‘inoculate’ your business against negative effects of the 4-am-presidential-tweet is to strengthen your immune system from the inside out.

Let’s be clear: CEOs cannot inoculate their companies from attention, nor from criticism. But they can be prepared to turn that spotlight to their advantage.

There is really only one way to inoculate from the negative effects of criticism about not being a contributing citizen. That is to be a contributing citizen in the way that matters. To try to protect ourselves from random tweets by deflecting with clever marketing communications is just digging a deeper hole. You should react, but don’t put your energy there. Put your energy where there is growth and energy and optimism.

That means that all employees and stakeholders have a clear sense of organizational purpose and are delighted with the tangible, measurable wellbeing it generates for and with all stakeholders. This is the model of the enlightened companies we are watching—and have been supporting for two decades already.

What might that look like?

There are really three key pieces.

Character

This is confidence in knowing who you are, your strengths, your vulnerabilities, and the humility to do what it takes to meet the higher purpose of your organization. That could look like knowing when to partner, when to ask for assistance, when to engage with ‘the crowd’ as a resource, crowdsourcing innovation, for example. And nourishing that confidence with conscious governance systems.

Contribution

Just as the most effective leaders are those who are ‘in service’ to their constituents (servant-leaders is what Peter Senge has called them), so too the leading organizations experience themselves as ‘in service’ to the greater good, to their communities, and to the customers whom they support in thriving collectively. They contribute to individuals because they see how the health of the communities they serve is part of their business model.

Humanity

Such organizations are moved by values that go beyond the P&L statement.  They are enduring values that bullet-proof companies from the trust-deficit that is so prevalent today.

In my work, we use a process called soul-branding to help forward-looking companies align their behaviors with explicitly human, motivating values that nourish their collaborative, generative relationship with all stakeholders.

 

Elsie Maio has guided leaders in the Fortune 100 for over 25 years to achieve specific business goals by managing their corporate brands holistically. She is an alumna of McKinsey & Company, Institutional Investor, and several premier corporate identity firms. She is a Board Member of Ethical Markets Media. Since 1997 Elsie helps CEOs prepare for what she then identified as “the coming tsunami of corporate accountability.” This holistic work has guided clients to list successfully on the New York Stock Exchange, reposition multibillion dollar product brands, and generate demand in customer communities by leading with employees’ unique set of social values. Her firm Humanity, Inc integrates three consulting disciplines:  business strategy, brand experience and human-values alignment. Its mantra is Business Brilliance for Social Good. 

 

The CMO Audit and Subsequent Growth Plan: A Guide

Blog_Image_784px-x-502px_CMO_Audit

 

Every CMO must take stock of where their organization is and make decisions about what’s most important for the future. This can be an overwhelming process, with priorities coming from business units, IT, customer service, and the executive team, among others.

A solid fact base is needed to make defensible decisions, since the trade-offs always favor some and disfavor others.

How should a CMO develop such a fact base? A REAL understanding of the current state of affairs?

3Q Digital has developed and tested a process for getting quantitative and qualitative feedback from all groups within marketing, and as many outside groups as desired. We focus on a consistent set of questions that enable prioritization across teams, allowing the most urgent-to-improve areas to rise to the top.

Our clients are consistently impressed with the quality of results.

How do we do it?

  • First – We get the facts!
  • Second – We develop actionable recommendations.
  • Third – With the client’s leadership team, we agree on the likely impact of each recommendation.

The result? A prioritized roadmap of the most impactful projects that everyone agrees on and supports.

What’s the secret sauce?

  • We focus on six Marketing Growth Drivers:
    • Customer Understanding
    • Analytics
    • User Experience
    • Devices
    • Media
    • Technology
  • The questions asked get at the foundation of a high-performing marketing organization.

 Beyond that, it’s well structured, simple, and covers what matters.


6 Marketing Growth Drivers from the CMO Audit

 

For each Growth Driver, we ask about:

  1. The urgency to improve, and the maturity of the driver
  2. The decisions, goals, roadmaps, and resources for each growth driver

The structure for the survey looks like this:

 

Urgency, Maturity and Proficiency from the CMO Audit

 

For a given growth driver, such as customer understanding, the specific questions asked and results look like this:

 

Question Data from the CMO Audit

 

Clients send the short survey to most groups within marketing and can include sales, customer service, business development, and other relevant teams.

Prioritized recommendations for the executive workshop are based on the full, quantitative fact base of respondents, as well as judgments of expected impact:

 

Prioritization from the CMO Audit

 

Now CMOs can feel secure they have taken stock of the current state, have asked the tough questions, and have a solid plan for growth.

Check out 3Q Digital’s approach to strategy and innovation to learn more.

CMOs: Where Our Heads Need to be for Success in 2017

Marketing success in 2017

Reading through the many 2017 marketing predictions, there is one resounding theme: consumers are running the show. As Forrester says, all markets are on the move in response to consumer demands—even utility companies are launching customer experience initiatives.

We’re living in The Age of ‘Me’, and that means that as marketers, we really need to understand who our customers and our prospects are to speak to them contextually. In 2017, we will be challenged to completely rethink some of our long-held beliefs and restructure ingrained processes to cater to each individual, in the moment.

Let me start with a story.

I recently went to a retail website and looked at shoes. I liked the shoes, so I gave them my email address. That day, I got an email about the shoes, along with two additional emails. I didn’t open any of them. The next day, I got five emails; I only read one of them. They continued to send me five emails a day. After three days of being digitally accosted, I returned to the website and unregistered from email—even though I liked the shoes.

If I walk into a physical shoe store and pick up a pair of shoes, I might expect an associate to ask me if I need help with anything. But I would not expect the associate to ask me every five minutes for the next hour, “Can I help you now? How about now? Now? Still doing okay? How about now?” I also wouldn’t expect to hear, “What about shirts? Can I interest you in shirts? Or pants?” That is the human equivalent to the emails I received from this retailer. They hounded me even though I was just browsing and didn’t read their emails. They did nothing to react to my cues even though they had all of the information they needed to do so.

Ten years ago, the majority of the omnichannel marketing we execute would have been person-to-person. We would have been in the same room having sales appointments or talking with customers. We would have been seeing people lean forward, cross arms, shake heads…we would have adjusted conversations based on cues. Now these cues happen in a digital environment. Technology lets us see that these human cues ARE still there, but we need to pay attention to them.

Currently, marketing is obtuse and doesn’t think about the human cues. The whole marketing journey is bringing the human context back in, responding in kind to the person and how they’re acting.

In order to do that, we need to shift our mindsets and processes in several key ways:

  1. Think Beyond 1:1 Marketing
  2. It’s the Small Data that Matters; Stop Counting Everything
  3. Content: You Must Provide Return on Attention (ROA)
  4. Make the Move from Manual to Automatic with AI

Think Beyond 1:1 Marketing

One-to-one marketing is no longer good enough—even though we’re just getting there. It’s really one-to-one in the moment. While I’m always myself, there are things that make me behave differently, and there are different roles I play in my life. Contextually, I could be a CEO, a spouse, a father, a son. All of these are the same person, but the motivations behind buying something for myself versus buying something for my child that’s about to go off to college for the first time are very different. The things that are driving me to buy and the way that I behave are very much impacted by who I am at that moment.

As a marketer, you need to have the insights, as best you can, into who you are marketing to way beyond demographics and traditional personas. You need to know more than the fact that I’m Frank, a 51-year-old guy who lives in Denver. You need to know who Frank is in this moment. What parts of his personality are driving him?

To do this in 2017, you need to look at the small data, which I’ll discuss in my next post. Stay tuned.

What Every CMO Needs to Know About the Buyer’s Journey

Everything you learned in school and early in your career about marketing and product promotion is now table stakes. It used to be enough to get it right with the product and you’d find buyers. Now, you must get it right with the product AND with the customer experience to be successful in marketing.

This is why the buyer’s journey and customer experience are the big buzz in the industry.

You’re probably doing a lot of research on your customers and attempting to understand what satisfies them with NPS, CSAT, voice of the customer and other types of surveys. But do you really know what makes your customers tick? And more importantly, how you can use this information to improve their experience in a way that positively impacts your business?

The reality is that many of these discrete measures of customer satisfaction answer a very narrow set of questions. They are all important.  But they should be considered inputs into a larger diagnostic assessment around a more holistic view of the customer that can be used to both improve the experience and reduce wasted efforts. If you’re focused only on the parts and pieces, you’re going to miss the big picture. It’s what the buyer wants that drives everything. In order to know what the buyer wants, you have to be crystal clear on the job the buyer is trying to do.

mapping the buyer journey

The First Step is Asking the Right Question

In the past, marketers have considered the buyer’s journey to be a linear process. We start with awareness and move through consideration, purchase, retention and advocacy. But the buyer’s journey is not linear at all—it’s a very convoluted, self-directed path based on what the customer is trying to achieve. It is a conversation that happens over time, at the buyer’s discretion. Think of it as a self-directed and opportunistic path through a forest.

The key to optimizing your buyer’s journey is therefore to first understand the problem the customer is trying to solve and how they measure the success of the solution. Every CMO needs to first and foremost be asking: What job is the customer trying to do? Once we know what job the customer is trying to complete, we can figure out what individual steps he/she must check off along the way and identify which improvements to those steps will have the most impact on the customer experience—and on your business. In other words, we can identify where customer needs are not being met and determine the value of working smarter to meet them. We can also identify where customer needs are being overserved and reduce spend in these areas, reallocating the budget to more impactful efforts.

A Closer Look at the Buyer’s Journey Process

Let’s take a closer look at how to uncover actionable gaps in your buyer’s journey through a diagnostic process. This four-step process looks at the journey of purchasing a product or service through the lens of the jobs-to-be-done theory. The same way you hire a drill to put a hole in piece of wood, a customer will hire a product/service that to do a specific job, and a positive buyer’s journey is one that allows him to research, evaluate and purchase most effectively.

1. Qualitative Research

While journeys do have distinct phases, every organization’s particular buyer’s journeys will have nuances. The first step is to conduct qualitative, in-person interviews with prospective buyer audiences to understand these nuances (what we call complexity variables). For example, the journey may be different for a buyer that is purchasing an item for herself versus a gift for her significant other or for her child. A B2B buyer’s journey may be heavily influenced by time and budget. The goals of this step is to understand the universe of potential buyer narratives that may be applied to the journey and to understand every single potential possibility that may affect the journey for that segment or product. 

2. Quantitative Research

Once you understand the entire universe of buyer narratives and complexity variables, the next step is to validate this qualitative data with a significant survey sample of your market audience. The data you collect from this survey will help you to understand which variables have the most potential for impact on your business. In other words, take your universe of possibilities and serve it up to a sample to understand which pieces are most relevant.

3. Segmentation

The next step is to use the data from your survey to determine which segments and variables have the most potential to positively impact your business. To do this, conduct cluster analysis to determine the most relevant variables and identify statistically valid segment groups. You’ll also use the data to document key variable identifiers for each segment and identify outcomes that are underserved within each segment.

For example, we conducted this exercise in the retail industry and discovered a subset of the retail audience that accounted for 38% of buyers yet was highly underserved. We were also able to determine which variables were causing the most friction for these buyers and could be improved to help them continue down the path to purchase. Learn more about the underserved audience we discovered in retail.

4. Strategy

At this point, you know which segments have the most potential for positive change and what variables affect their buyer’s journey. It’s time to select which segments to focus on and to and which variables to invest efforts against. Then, you need to develop content and marketing strategies to address these underserved segments.

It’s All About Impact

At the end of the day, this entire process is about understanding which opportunities will have the biggest impact on your business and how to best pursue them. The final output is a data-driven, step-by-step plan to optimize your buyer’s journeys, moving more people through the areas they usually feel friction along to the point of purchase.

Once you really know what makes your customers tick and what problem they’re trying to solve, you can use this information to improve their experience in a way that positively impacts your business. Just a little bit different than net promoter score, right?

IoT and Micro-Moments: Optimizing Big and Small Data to drive Omnichannel Marketing

HarteHanks_MarektingTechnology_ROIIn our last article we discussed how the advent of IoT is bringing marketers an overwhelming amount of data, behemoth data, that can be synthesized into usable knowledge that can drive more effective customer journeys. With companies having access to all of this data, we’d like to talk more about how this data can be optimized and utilized to have the largest impact on your organization.

Beware the overzealous that want to board the big data train too quickly, although they have the very best of intentions. The same “bad data in – bad data out” (incorrect insights or conclusions) rule holds just as true, if not more so, in the world of big data analytics compared to traditional statistical analytics. Big data is compiled from an ever growing number of sources, much of which is unstructured. And simple rules of probability apply here – the larger the pool of data, the higher the likelihood that analysts will miss “dirty” data that can ultimately lead to identifying false positives or false negatives.

Unlike traditional first party data that historically has lived in relational databases, big data often consists of a tremendous amount of unstructured data. Correctly integrating and/or blending this data with more structured first party data is critical so as not to lead to analytic outcomes that are way off in left field. This problem is only exacerbated by the velocity at which data is created, which can largely be attributed to the growing mobile trends discussed earlier where data is transmitted on almost a continuous bases. Also, keep on the lookout for the increasing trend of automobiles being online, yet another massive pool of data generating “devices”. To help ensure that the “signal” can be correctly extracted from the “noise”, it is critical that the appropriate amount of rigor is put behind understanding the quality of the data source, how that data is collected, and how it is integrated and blended with other sources of data.

Despite the value of big data synthesized to be used effectively, there is also extreme value in small data – data that’s about people and emotion (in addition to small datasets gathered from a singular historical event). Small data can be ingested into big data sets, merged with behavioral or trending information derived from machine learning algorithms, and provide clearer insights than we’ve ever had before.

Here’s an example of both: The use of smart labels on medicine bottles is small data which can be used to determine where the medicine is located, its remaining shelf life, if the seal of the bottle has been broken, and the current temperature conditions in an effort to prevent spoilage. Big data can be used to look at this information over time to examine root cause analysis of why drugs are expiring or spoiling. Is it due to a certain shipping company or a certain retailer? Are there reoccurring patterns that can point to problems in the supply chain that can help determine how to minimize these events? 1

The issue here is that we cannot become so obsessed with Big Data we forget about creativity. You have to remember that Big Data is all about analyzing the past, but it has nothing to do with the future. Small Data, can also be defined as seemingly insignificant observations you identify in consumers’ homes. Things like how you place your shoes to how you hang your paintings. These small data observations are likened to emotional DNA that we leave behind. Big Data is about finding correlations, but Small Data is about finding the causation, the reason why. 2

Optimizing Big and Small data into business processes can not only save companies millions of dollars, but creates a buyer and customer journey that are seamless, continuous and maintains context regardless of the touchpoint. This omnichannel marketing approach should be the ultimate goal of marketers – creating a conversation with their buyers and customers based on trust and value exchange – which leads to strong relationships in an increasingly connected on- and off-line world.

Laura Watson is Strategy Director at Harte Hanks, and Korey Thurber is Chief Analytics & Insights Officer at Harte Hanks. Harte Hanks can help your brand create an omnichannel marketing strategy, contact us for a free assessment.

 

1 Forbes Tech
2 Small Data: The Tiny Clues That Uncover Huge Trends

IoT and Micro-Moments Marketing: Leveraging Big Data to Improve the Customer Journey

4-biggest-challenges_illustrations_2-1_v02-01Being connected via wearables without your mobile device is already a reality with untethered Tech, like Android Wear and the Samsung Gear S2, which both support e-SIMs tapping into your pre-existing cell network at no extra cost. It’s a good bet that every smartwatch brand will have an LTE version by the end of 2016, which means that while there’s a vast number of facts and untold nuggets of information that could surprise even big data’s most ardent followers. Big Data is about to become behemoth data.

Every day, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data (that’s 2.5 followed by a staggering 18 zeros!)1 – so much that 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone. This data comes from everywhere: sensors used to gather climate information, posts to social media sites, the Curiosity Rover on Mars, your Facebook video from your latest vacation, purchase transaction records, and cell phone GPS signals to name a few. Google alone processes 3.5 billion requests per day and stores 10 exabytes of data (10 billion gigabytes!)2

Whether it’s tracking driving habits for the purpose of offering insurance discounts, using biometric data to confirm an ATM user’s identity, or using sensors to detect that it’s time for garbage pick-up, the era of the iOT in which “smart” things can seamlessly collect, share and analyze real-time data, is here.

Imagine a world where your watch recognizes that you withdraw cash every Saturday so that you’re ready for the neighborhood lemonade stand and your evening outing, and you haven’t made your usual transaction yet. A helpful alert pops up on your device, and another reminder displays when you’re within a ½ mile of your Bank ATM where a retina scan allows you to withdraw funds. Your Smart Refrigerator identifies that you’re running low on eggs and yogurt, while your wearable identifies an open parking space within 50-feet of your favorite Saturday farm market stop, but cautions you that there’s a marathon starting in 2 hours so you better get a move on. A “ping” in your email indicates that the killer little black dress you’ve wanted just became affordable with a special discount coupon you received as you drive past the store. While you’re away, the sun comes out, so your Smart Home lowers the window shades, turns the A/C up a few degrees and suggests adding popsicles to the grocery list. Like any fabulous assistant, technology not only aids you, but anticipates your needs and helps you make smarter, faster decisions based on “advice” you can trust. This is the best way to use Big Data.

Having the ability to be smarter, faster and always connected without having to carry around a device (or anything at all)…great.

Using Big Data to synthesize all of the fragmented individual data points into an orchestrated, holistic, powerfully intelligent view of the customer to help them during these everyday micro-marketing moments…priceless.

Big Data allows brands to go beyond customer motivation and engagement in driving value exchange to allowing them to foster their brand affinity and cultivate their customer’s evangelism in real-time, responding to their customer’s behaviors even as their activities and likes shift.

Although simple in concept, many brands are struggling to get it right (or get started at all). Leading brands have already gained a powerful competitive advantage by adopting consumer management technology that allows them to understand and engage based on individual consumer preferences and observation of behaviors and buying signals in their Buyer and Customer journey – thus taking a big step toward making Big Data a strategic reality.

Is Big Data, or really behemoth data, really the answer all by itself? There is lot of insight to be garnered from that data, but the key is being able to quickly sift through it all, tuning out the noise to focus on the key patterns and meaningful relationships in that data.

Traditional statistical analytics techniques which focus on finding relationships between variables to predict an outcome simply won’t do when the goal is to optimize decisions using massive pools of data that are growing and evolving on a near-continuous basis. This is where machine learning comes into play and brings the needed “giddy-up” to the analytic component. Machine learning evolved from the study of pattern recognition within the field of artificial intelligence. The easy way to think about it is, it provides computers the ability to learn and improve without a specific program being written to tell the computer to “learn and improve”. Machine learning software identifies patterns in the data in order to group similar data together and to make predictions. Whenever new data is introduced, the software “learns” and creates a better understanding of the optimal decision. Think of it as the automation of the predictive analytic process.

There is certainly a lot of overlap between statistical analytics and machine learning but there is one key difference. The former requires that someone formulate a hypothesis and structure a test to evaluate whether that that hypothesis is true or not. For example, a hypotheses that states a particular marketing lever (i.e. a certain offer or message) will generate or “cause” additional account openings or sales. Machine learning does not worry about hypothesis testing and simply starts with the outcome that you are trying to optimize – sales for example – and uncovers the factors that are the drivers. As more data is introduced, the algorithm learns and improves its predictions in almost real time.
Interestingly, machine learning has been around for decades. But now, due to the massive explosion in data, cheaper cloud based data stores, and huge increases in computing horsepower, the interest in machine learning is really starting to hit its stride.

Laura Watson is Strategy Director at Harte Hanks, and Korey Thurber is Chief Analytics & Insights Officer at Harte Hanks. Harte Hanks can help your brand leverage big data, contact us for a free assessment.

cloudtweaks.com
Forbes Tech

IoT and Micro-Moments Marketing: Opportunities and Pitfalls

With the advent of smart technology, we are getting ever closer to the Orsen Wells imagined world of Big Brother oversight in everyday interactions…and many of us are starting to like it because it makes our decision-making easier, our lives more efficient and allows us to do more of the “fun stuff” we’d all rather be doing.

Marketers used to think about the “top of the funnel” with sales and marketing engagement strategies, but most consumers these days are starting their buyer’s journey quietly online through research using video, ratings and reviews and more interactive decision-making short-cuts. And they’re mostly doing it via their mobile devices. Tomorrow is fast-approaching though, as smartwatches mature and the need for “tethering” to a smartphone goes away, devices supporting e-SIMs that are able to tap into your cell network at no extra cost will magnify the Internet of Things (IoT) explosion of use and related data.

The popularity of wearables, especially fitness-related devices, has sky-rocketed over the last couple of years, with 39.5MM US adults using wearables in 2015, including smartwatches and fitness trackers. There’s an expectation that the number will double to 81.7MM users by 2018, or 32% of US adults.1

Wearable devices go way beyond the smartwatch and fitness tracker, with things like FitBark, activity monitoring for Fido, to Athena, a personal security wearable that may help save lives. Verily has a glucose-detecting contact lens and Google is set to use tech to target cardiovascular disease, cancer and mental health problems too. More devices are moving from the nice-to-have category to an integral-to-our-lives status.

With all of this cool, new tech, it’s the nature of marketers to want to use it to sell stuff.

And that’s where we, as marketers, want to caution our compatriots to take the highest marketing road. You can’t get any more personal than something you wear on your body, even sleep with. With great personal engagement comes great responsibility to ensure the consumer experience with your Brand is a beneficial – even trusted – relationship. In digital terms, a break-up takes only seconds. Marketing messages that are annoying in other channels have the potential to take on a new and amplified level of aggravation in personal, wearable devices…running the risk of customers divorcing themselves from your Brand forever.

Yes, new tech means new, small-data points resulting in a big (very big) data explosion measured on the zettabyte scale. (A zettabyte is a 1 followed by 21 zeros.)Finding ways to use that data in a meaningful, mutually beneficial way in micro-moments marketing will ultimately best serve both Brands and their customers.

Laura Watson is Strategy Director at Harte Hanks, and Korey Thurber is Chief Analytics & Insights Officer at Harte Hanks. Harte Hanks can help your brand utilize micro-moments marketing, contact us for a free assessment.

 

1 eMarketer
2 highscalability.com and the International Data Corporation

Customer Experience and the new Omni-channel Paradigm

imageAs marketers, we are all aware of the multitude of choices our customers have when they need to find information. Traditional advertising channels are delivering direct mail, TV advertisements, print and infomercials, while blogs, product reviews and comparative shopping sites can quickly deliver information via computer, phone or tablet. One of the biggest challenges is not only knowing who our customers are, but recognizing them across devices with seamless, consistent experiences. Recently a few Harte Hanks Sales executives took part in a Think Tank discussion about this topic with other leading B2C marketers and Frost & Sullivan. This article shares the highlights of that discussion.

The increasing level of buyer engagement across numerous online and offline channels makes it challenging to have the right touch points in place to create a unified customer experience. In order to build a well-constructed approach to omni-channel marketing, building comprehensive customer profiles of actual buyers is critical.

Some of the challenges that marketers face when building these profiles are:

  • Data and functional silos, and lack of alignment between customer facing teams and marketing teams
  • Difficulty identifying the online and offline channels customers are using
  • Lack of understanding about how these customers are moving from one channel to the other

It is important that marketers figure out how to communicate to the right stakeholder at the right moment. It is also critical for marketers to understand what relevant information the customer needs, when the customer needs it, and how the customer wants to receive it. So, how do you get started in creating this omni-channel customer view?

  1. Implement a cohesive customer experience strategy: Organizations must ensure that they are presenting a cohesive, customer centric customer experience, and that customer experiences are front and center of overall strategy. Ensure customer reactions are captured and communicated across the organization – don’t let siloes and bureaucracy prevent your business from being customer driven. You must be agile in responding to changing customer patterns. Read more about engaging your organization in a consistent CX.
  2. Create a unified view of customer data: Access to data is no longer an issue, with multiple in-house and third party data options. Data collected needs to be acted upon in real time or close to real time for it to be of any use. Make sure that your data is easily accessible to all parts of your business so that it can be easily acted on.
  3. Understand customer lifetime value: A single purchase customer is the worst for any business. Retaining a customer is more challenging because brands are only as strong as they are convenient from a purchasing decision perspective. Brand loyalty is being undermined by the convenience of other options being only a click away. Leverage your data to become more predictive and personalized – brands must ensure that they are delivering a relevant experience to drive lifetime value.

Though most companies are still far from the ideal omni-channel experience, almost all marketers agree that gaining a single view of the customer and having an omni-channel strategy is critical for survival.

Harte Hanks brings innovative thinking to create effective omni-channel customer experiences for the world’s largest brands. Deliver the right message at the right time with Total Customer Discovery. Manage your data and create accurate views of each customer with Data Refinery. Or, get in touch to schedule a free strategic assessment of your marketing programs.

B2B vs B2C marketing analytics – the same, but different?

analytics illustrationI’ve spent much of my career working in data-driven marketing roles and delivering insights for B2C brands, but over the last decade the balance has shifted and I now work almost exclusively with B2B businesses. While some of the differences between the two worlds are to be expected, such as the availability of different data types and the more complex buying cycle in B2B, in fact there are a great deal of similarities in the techniques and types of analysis that can be carried out for B2C and B2B. So why aren’t B2B brands making as much use of analytics as their B2C counterparts?

At first I wondered if this was just my isolated view of the world, but a recent study* by B2B Marketing in association with Circleresearch seems to support this. It reveals that 73% of B2B marketers don’t feel their companies make the most of data, with the weakest skills being in the area of Predictive Analytics.

Not a day goes by where we don’t carry out one or more of the following analyses for the B2C brands we work with:

  • Upsell propensity modelling
  • Path to high value analysis
  • Segmentation
  • Share of wallet analysis
  • Cross-sell propensity modelling
  • Churn prediction

And yet, I still don’t see widespread adoption within B2B organisations. Of course there are exceptions, and some readers will be able to recount many examples of insight-driven B2B sales and marketing activities they’ve been part of. But it’s not commonplace.

In simple terms, the marketing objectives facing B2B and B2C businesses are the same. The difference however, is that B2B businesses tend to focus their efforts on acquisition activity, with much less attention given to “in-life” marketing. B2B buyer journeys are much more complex, lead times are longer, and involve multiple decision makers and influencers (Prospect Modelling and Lead Scoring are great examples of analytics used here, particularly with the tools that have been developed in the last 10 years).

While it used to be true that the low volume and variety of data was a limiting factor in B2B, this is no longer true. Data collected through inbound marketing activity and social channels is a rich and current asset, and the tools and platforms available now mean we can quickly convert this into insight.

Here are just a few ways that analyses most often used for B2C can inform marketing programs for B2B organizations:

  • Churn Prediction: Develop a model that predicts which customers are more likely to churn at the end of their contract. For B2B knowing who to contact, and with what message, has historically been tricky. However, analysis of previous contact behaviour and campaign interactions can help optimise future activity and identify the key decision makers.
  • Share of Wallet: Share of Wallet analytics is an area that has great potential in B2B. Most B2B organisations have an account management structure to maintain the relationship with their customers, and this typically means that high value accounts get 1:1 attention while low value accounts just become one of many for a beleaguered account manager. A Share of Wallet analysis can identify those accounts that still have room for growth, and will typically unearth some sleeping giants!
  • Path to High Value: We use this a lot with our B2C clients! Look at today’s ‘best’ customers and identify what was the sequence of events that got them there. Is their first purchase significant, or is it the acquisition channel, or just their firmographics? By recognising tomorrow’s best customers at an early stage, you can implement the right programs that will help nurture that growth

To put all of this into perspective, research by eConsultancy in association with Adobe** shows that only 26% of responding (B2C and B2B) organisations have a solid data-driven marketing strategy in place, so perhaps it’s no surprise that analytics isn’t as widespread in B2B as I’d hope to see. There’s definitely still room for improvement on both sides, so maybe the similarities are greater than I thought!

Harte Hanks has a team of Analysts, Data Scientists and Strategists to help you integrate analytics into your B2B sales and marketing plans. Is your company fully utilizing Analytic driven insights to better inform acquisition, growth and retention activities? Tweet us at @HarteHanks and share your experience.

* “Data Skills Benchmarking Report 2016-17”, April 2016
** “Quarterly Digital Intelligence Briefing: The Pursuit of Data-Driven Maturity”, April 2016

The Machines of SXSW Future

sxsw-600x379We’ve been urged (well, that’s maybe overstating a little) to follow up on the pre-SXSW evaluations post. In it, Alan opined that the three “tracks” most likely to get most industry attention were Wearables, IoT and VR/AR.

We’d say he pretty much nailed it. Well, except that (in our view at least) Wearables was usurped by discussions on AI and Machine Learning.

Not to say there wasn’t excitement about some of the world’s best start-up wearable companies demonstrating their products––particularly cool Korean firms like skin care and health device WAY and posture-adjusting wristband ZIKTO––but we were not as blown away as we’d hoped. Anyway, back to self-learning machines …

Artificial Intelligence
With the Google DeepMind AlphaGo triumphs against Lee Sedol fresh in our minds, we heard from the brightest and best in AI such as Siri co-founder Adam Cheyer and Allen Institute’s Oren Etzioni in a panel called “Can AI Systems Really Think?” We also saw Professor Pedro Domingos talk about “The Secrets of Machine Learning Revealed” which outlined the five tribes of AI scientists and their schools of thought.

Many others, including Dag Kittlaus (Cheyer’s co-founder in new firm VIV) and Pinterest’s Head of Commerce Michael Yamartino, discussed all the forms and factors in AI’s implementation in the current and future worlds of medicine, education, environment and, of course, marketing.

They all took it upon themselves to reassure us that the singularity is (most likely) still hundreds of years away. But if you simplify it down (and we had to so it all made sense) what they were describing was tremendously exciting. And this area of thinking is a very rich and fertile space for data-driven marketers.

You’ve probably seen IBM’s new branded point of view advertising featuring Watson. And you also probably know marketers are using Watson to (among other things) build predictive models for buyer trends and to build optimal customer journeys. A sandbox for the industry’s best analytic and strategy minds to test hypotheses and determine the most efficient sequence of touch points to create optimal returns––Watson consumes limitless amounts of unstructured data as it goes about its work.

And yet its still “just” a tool … a very, very artificially clever tool, but nonetheless completely controlled by us.

In the world of shopper experience, AI is helping to predict customer preference before they can even recognize their desire to purchase. Ecommerce sites like Zappos.com and parent company Amazon have created an art out of the science of personalized recommendations. AI can create the same level of customer service as a local storeowner who’s had the same customer for years … all in the blink of a cursor.

So learning machines are definitely going to feature in future SXSW Festivals.
But what about other machines and devices connected to each other, and us, via the Internet? We are referring of course to the IoT track…

The Internet of Things
Well, we heard many hours worth of discussion about connected cars, cities, homes and more. From demonstrations on the trade show floor to panels around Downtown venues, it was hard to avoid someone talking about the Internet of Things. We were keen to learn about people’s opinions on an ethical code for makers and coders building these connected experiences (from AppDynamic’s Prathap Dendi) and how connected devices should respect our privacy (panel including Intel and Microsoft representatives).

And we had many divergent conversations about IoT … a sure sign it’s already an embedded and popular topic. “Cognition Clash in the Internet of Things”; “Internet of Banking Things”; “IoT: A Thousand Touchpoints of Marketing?”; and more.

So. the Internet of Things will continue to spread into more niche conversations over the next few years which leaves us with our final forecast––VR/AR ubiquity.

Virtual Reality
And so it came to pass … VR was EVERYWHERE! The trade show stands were full of Gear VR and Google Cardboard devices encouraging everyone and anyone to be impressed … Sennheiser demonstrated Ambeo VR headphones that let wearers experience sound in 3D. SAP promoted their Digital Boardroom, allowing users to enter a shared space and review documents using VR devices. And of course many panels and sessions took the trend to heart as they vied for attendee attention.

With more mainstream devices making it possible for more and more people to access VR content, the question for marketers becomes: What stories make the most sense?

The VR filmmakers at the panel discussion “New Advertising Models for Virtual Reality” sought to answer just that. All agreed that no marketer wants their advertising associated with a VR injury––so creating TVC style spots to be consumed instantly is unlikely to become standard practice.

Rather, the best brand-in-VR experiences are when audiences are transported to an experience that fits your brand values. Perhaps even your product, it it’s relevant in the case of the film. If all else fails, brands that sponsor a VR film can grab some of the attention—even if they’re not the stars of the show. But curating and presenting content associated with your brand personality is at least one way of capitalising.

Across the various VR sessions, many agreed the New York Times had scored the biggest hit so far with its Google Cardboard collaboration, “The Displaced”—and according to the Times’ SXSW session, they’re planning to ramp up VR editorial features to around twice monthly.

The Times’ VR story played out so well because they solved two key problems: 1) They literally put Google Cardboard kits in the hands of their readers by delivering sets with the Sunday paper; and 2) with “The Displaced,” they told a story that resonates with their brand’s core value of providing exceptional journalism to its readers. By adding a VR component to this particular story, they transported readers into the lives of three refugee children displaced by war and persecution. An essential story brought to life in a format that delivers more than important information: It creates empathy.

The best VR, everyone agreed, isn’t what you see, but how it makes you feel. And, as the technology becomes more and more commonplace, the machines of the future that let you feel a connection on a more visceral level, will win the day.

 

Alan Kittle is Global Executive Creative Director at Harte Hanks, and Andrew Womack is Group Creative Director at Harte Hanks.

Seven Steps to Smarter Demand Generation

In our recent session at B2B Marketing’s InTech event in London, we considered how demand generation can be improved through a convergence of technology and people.

Think of it as ‘smarter’ demand generation. Human insight and expertise facilitates the creation of sophisticated personas and rich, individualised content tailored to buyers’ needs. Then marketing technologies ensure that content is served at the exact time of need.

Addressing these seven components can help ensure demand generation efforts deliver impressive results, in spite of an increasingly complex buyer ecosystem.

Social media
Building bridges between marketing and sales is a longstanding goal for many B2B brands. Social media can provide a shared territory where the two departments can collaborate in a meaningful manner. Empowering sales teams with robust social tools and frameworks can pave the way for a steady pipeline of inbound social leads.

Micro-targeting
Smarter demand generation facilitates better individualisation. This approach uses micro-targeting to enhance the buyer experience with relevant, precisely tailored interactions. It integrates data, tactics, people and technology to achieve a higher level of resonance than traditional personalisation.

Actionable
According to Kapost/Content Marketeer, 65 per cent of sales reps complain that they can’t find content to send to prospects. Marketers need to draw on data analytics to ensure content strategies are aligned to definite buyer pain points and areas of interest. Content should also be catalogued and shared internally to ensure all stakeholders can find what they need quickly and easily.

Relevance
Take time to build buyer personas and develop them on an ongoing basis. They should continually evolve and form a reference point throughout the content creation process. This ensures assets are finely tuned to address both enduring and emerging pain points. When content is relevant and of-the-moment, it helps to build advocacy and loyalty amongst buyers and prospects.

Technological
If you are in any doubt about the rise of technology in marketing, consider this: there has been a 1,767% increase in marketing technologies in the past four years. Such proliferation of sophisticated tools can be overwhelming, so it’s vital to keep the end-goal in your sights. Any technologies deployed in support of demand generation should be firmly geared towards enhancing the buyer experience.

Experience
Product differentiation has been usurped by customer experience as the battleground for organisations wanting to achieve standout. According to Gartner for Marketing Leaders, marketers are under pressure to ‘create exceptional branded moments at every customer touchpoint’. Linear buyer journeys have been replaced by a more episodic, multi-interaction buyer ecosystem. Every customer interaction is crucial and must be carefully planned, crafted and delivered.

ROI
Maximising return on investment remains the top priority – and a major challenge – for all marketers. At Harte Hanks, we typically see ROI ratios between 35:1 and 75:1 for best-in-class brands who integrate data, technology, people and tactics intelligently in their demand generation efforts.

Alana Griffiths and Alex Gill are Senior Directors at Harte Hanks, and have a combined 25 years of marketing expertise. To have one of our experts provide a free audit of your demand generation activity, get in touch by emailing us at lets.talk@hartehanks.com.

Pre-SXSW: Three Trends and Tracks That May Impact Your Marketing Plans in 2016

As I prepare for my second pilgrimage to Austin, to immerse myself in all that is emerging and mind-blowing in our industry, I thought I’d curate some of the information the organizers are now sending to registered attendees. There are three very important customer engagement trends, or “tracks” as SXSW calls them, that every marketer will want to evaluate.

The evolution of wearable technologies
An emerging trend last year will become even bigger this year, as more products enter the market. In 2015, Samsung and others showcased smart watches, VR headsets, fitness trackers, sensor clothing and so on. The Apple Watch launched post-event (their rumored SXSW pop up shop never did appear) and many, many other companies released products in a move towards a future where “quantifiable self” becomes a “thing”.

This year the big evolution seems to be a convergence between fashion, technology, art and other cultural influences. Within the SXStyle Convergence Track sessions and events, I’m hoping thought leaders answer a pertinent question for marketers everywhere, “What branded experiences are possible with emerging wearable technologies and what useful data can I collect to enhance my relationships with customers who have them?” Creatively, considering these devices as inputs and outputs for campaigns ushers in a brave new world.

And if you consider, as you should, that wearable technologies form part of the connected devices ecosystem that is the Internet of Things, then you’re already prepared for the next trend …

The potential of the Internet of Things
Ever-higher speed connections are creating opportunities for devices to converse with each other through the Internet. IoT means smart cities; connected cars; sensor and wearable technologies; connected homes and appliances; and so much more; speak to each other and can make decisions on our behalf. The on-going conversations about Artificial Intelligence, even in something as user-friendly as Google Now, also fuels conversation on IoT.

“The Internet of Things is nothing short of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” – Jamshed Dubash, “Marketing and The Internet of Things: Are you Ready?”

The big data created can, theoretically, be used to create enriched experiences between brands and customers. Figuring out how to wield the data to do this, though, is very difficult … honestly, marketers seem to have given up trying to get their heads around “big data” as a topic and have moved on to IoT––hoping this will help make the real world applications of information more obvious and easier to get their heads around.

Brands taking advantage of third, fourth and fifth screens in fridges, cars and watches … building in unrivaled relevance and usefulness, will win the engagement game in the near future. I hope the sessions focussing on IoT help us all get our heads in the game. Speaking of games …

The explosion of VR and AR
360 content is everywhere, already. You can see it in your social feeds; on YouTube channels; through cardboard viewfinders and soon on gaming consoles. Global brands like Samsung are building technologies like the Gear VR headset and Gear 360 camera; Microsoft is waiting for the right time to launch their Augmented Reality headset, the Hololens; Facebook-owned Oculus Rift made VR accessible to everyone and days ago (at Samsung’s Unpacked event in Barcelona) Mark Zuckerberg proclaimed the growth in popularity will be exponential … his presence reinforced original statements made when they spent $2 billion when buying Oculus.

“This is really a new communication platform … We believe this kind of immersive reality will become a part of daily life for billions of people.”

So if you’re a brand built around an experience not easily replicated on a website, or in a showroom or through a telephone agent, VR content can create immersive experiences that genuinely offer a window into a world that your customers could live in. Harte Hanks’ David Chandler offers insight into how brands can harness VR effectively in this blog post.

Of course this doesn’t even consider the notion that the pure entertainment value of great advertising could be enriched with VR. Will someone be brave enough to create a VR Super Bowl LI commercial next year? I hope so.

So. There you have it. Just three trend tracks I’ll be engaging with in Texas. There’ll be more to follow from me, post-event. And a whole lot to keep your eye on over the next few years!

Are you planning on attending SXSW this year? Tweet us at @HarteHanks and let us know which tracks you think will draw the biggest crowds this year.

The Critical Role of Analytics Driven Insight in the Financial Services Sector

There is a critical need for Analytics Driven Insight in the Financial Services (FiServ) sector. The customer journey is no longer solely about the in-branch experience or siloed traditional marketing deployed by marketers. Today, a FiServ institution can influence the customer experience across a multitude of interaction points.

Examining specific sectors within Financial Services, there is a tremendous amount of disruption at the various interaction points across the customer journey:

Retail Banking: The branch network is still highly relevant today but expect routine transactions to continue to migrate from “brick-and-mortar” outlets at the rate of 4% – 5% annually. Financial Services institutions are continuing to turn their attention to the digitization of transactions as well as the digitization of the in-branch experience by integrating digital tools for the branch staff to use to improve service.

Consumer Lending/Credit: Financial Technology – also known “FinTech” companies – are the big drivers of disruption in consumer finance. Companies like borro and LendingClub to name a couple have stormed in and grabbed market share from traditional banks. These same traditional banks are now scrambling to make up lost ground by partnering with or acquiring FinTech firms to create more impactful and relevant interaction points for their customers. In addition, companies like PayPal and bitpay have and will continue to change the way people pay for goods and services, which in turn will continue to influence how we use the old-school “plastic” in our wallets.

Wealth Management: Traditional Wealth Management entities are starting to augment their core, face-to-face wealth management advisor capabilities with online capabilities. Millennials are arguably the most critical segment in the marketplace and as they build wealth, Wealth Management organizations need to be ready to interact and engage with them using the appropriate channels, technology, etc.

State of Analytics Driven Insight in Financial Services
So how do Financial Services institutions best inform marketing and business strategies across the sectors mentioned previously? Analytics driven insight is the key! Marketing analytics have been a mainstream, high-value add in the Financial Services industry for quite some time. In fact, many would agree that marketing analytics essentially “grew-up” in the FiServ sector, driven in large part by the vast amount and quality of data stored by financial service institutions. The FiServ sector is a veritable playground for traditional marketing analysts and statisticians to hone their data mining and insights generating craft.

But the world has changed…..and here is what is behind it:

Exponential Data Growth: More data has been created in the past two years than in the entire history of the human race. By 2020, 1.7 megabytes of new information will be collected every second for each individual on the planet (Forbes). And it’s not only the volume of data….it’s the speed at which it is growing and the variety of sources. Financial Services consumers are generating new data by visiting provider’s websites, transacting online and interacting with various forms of online media. This new pool of data combined with more traditional direct mail, email, telemarketing and first party customer data, is a powerful enabler to better inform spend across a multitude of channel/media choices.

It’s “BIG Insight” that matters: More data is just that….”more data” unless the FiServ entity can wrangle, manipulate and mine that data for better targeting and insight. Financial services organizations have to more closely align themselves around customer’s needs as opposed to traditional product or business lines. Data analytics is driving this trend to enable FiServ institutions to become more customer oriented – not only to know who they are, but where they are (online or branch), and what types of deposit, lending, and wealth management products and services they are interested in.

Increased use of Marketing and Data Management Platforms (DMPs): What used to be available to only the largest financial service institutions is now becoming much more prevalent in mid-tier institutions, enabling them to coordinate and optimize customer interaction points across online and offline channels. By utilizing a DMP the Analysts can more clearly understand WHAT action is being taken and in what channel, WHEN it is being taken, and WHO is taking it. By also incorporating first-party data and having the appropriate tags placed on each page of the digital journey, financial services analysts will have a plethora of data to influence and optimize experiences across the entire customer journey.

Customer-Centric Analytics…NOT Digital Analytics: It wasn’t that long ago that digital marketing was primarily about broad reaching ad buys based less on robust targeting and more on what “felt like the best thing to do”. The “old school” individual/household level data that Financial Services Analysts cut their teeth on has now become a reality in the digital space! Digital marketing is very simply becoming more addressable and more targeted, with a greater portion of ad spend happening at a very targeted individual level. All the analytic disciplines (campaign test design, campaign analytics, predictive models, segmentation, frequency and cadence of touch, etc.) that grew-up in the FiServ sector using individual and household level data, is now being used heavily across addressable digital media – as well as in conjunction with traditional offline data. Everything that was “old” has become “new” again. Please also see my related and recent blog post on fractional attribution.

Harte Hanks has a team of Analysts, Data Scientists and Strategists to help you navigate the new landscape. Is your company fully utilizing Analytics Driven Insights to better inform business and marketing strategy? Tweet us at @HarteHanks and share your experience with us.

How to Individualise Your Marketing: Smarter Demand Generation and the Rise of Micro-targeting

 

“The importance of customer experience is on the rise; marketing is on the hook”. So said Gartner for Marketing Leaders in a 2014 research report. It predicted that customer experience, not product differentiation, would be the new battlefield for organisations wanting to achieve standout. And it said marketing would be expected to ‘create exceptional branded moments at every customer touchpoint’.

Two years on, the B2B sector is in the thick of this new reality. Linear buyer journeys have been replaced by a more episodic, multi-interaction buyer ecosystem. Every customer interaction is crucial and must be carefully planned, crafted and delivered. Traditional personalised marketing is no longer enough. We have entered the age of individualised marketing.

What is individualised marketing?
Micro-targeting is gaining increasing attention in the B2B sector. Drawing on data and analytics to better understand target audiences or personas, it enables real-time delivery of content tailored to buyers’ specific needs at the exact time of need. This is individualised marketing. It enhances the buyer experience via targeted and relevant one-to-one interactions.

Naturally, individualised marketing involves a highly customised approach to content creation and relationship building. Smarter demand generation is a critical enabler here. It goes beyond traditional demand generation to ensure all audience interactions are based on insight, tailored to the individual and deliver an impact. Achieving this requires sophisticated deployment and integration of data, tactics, people and technology.

Discover, Create, Act
So what steps can B2B marketers take to individualise their marketing through smarter demand generation? Grouping activities into three distinct but interconnected areas can provide a springboard for success.

Discover – The first step is to understand your current situation. That might involve defining your audience, developing more comprehensive personas, augmenting data and establishing the most effective approach to meet your goals. It can be beneficial to conduct a high level demand marketing audit which culminates in:
• a summary of the existing situation
• a gap analysis against best practice demand generation
• top line recommendations for change
• a roadmap of prioritised and sequenced activities and investments to make the recommended changes.

Create – Once the foundations are in place, marketing campaigns, assets and models can be developed as the basis for delivering individualised marketing.

Integration is an overused term, and often focuses on connecting systems or tactics. But it can be much more than that. It is about how the four dimensions – data, tactics, people, technology – are plugged together to create meaningful interactions. A truly integrative approach leverages insight to improve targeting, messaging and creative. It ensures multiple resources across marketing, sales, agencies, service providers and customer service work cohesively and responsively, drawing on a unified view of data, interactions and systems.

Act – Micro-targeting involves the optimisation of marketing technology to facilitate one-to-one conversations across an integrated set of channels and touchpoints. It’s important to ensure digital and human interactions don’t operate in isolation. Digital is the platform from which to plan, create and deliver many interactions with human input built in. Think of live chat, responsive one-to-one emails or social conversations: digital interactions delivered by humans. A central feature of smarter demand generation is the convergence of people and technology.

In today’s complex buyer ecosystem, individualised marketing can deliver significant, measurable pipeline impact. Alex Gill and Alana Griffiths from Harte Hanks explore this theme in detail at B2B Marketing’s InTech breakout session: Making Demand Generation Smarter.

Three Marketing Automation Myths That Need to Die

Marketing_AutomationAutomation is a fairly young, up-and-coming concept in the marketing industry, so it is understandable that there would be misconceptions in the beginning about what it is and what it does. As we start 2016 and “marketing automation” becomes less of a buzzword and more of a mainstream strategy, Harte Hanks wants to set the record straight on the facts about marketing automation. Here are three myths that we want to clear up:

1. Marketing Automation is for Scheduling Email Batch-and-Blasts

This is by far the most common myth, and misuse, of marketing automation. Email is just ONE tactic within automation. Most enterprise marketing automation technology platforms can incorporate landing pages, social media, personalized emails, gated content, videos, pay-per-click ads, and third party apps into your campaigns.

“59 percent of companies do not fully use the technology they have available.”Ascend2 “Marketing Technology Strategy” (August 2015)

The beauty of a marketing automation platform is its ability to respond differently depending on the contact. It can be integrated with your CRM and allow you to personalize all emails and touchpoints in a campaign based on this data. For example, a highly personalized email can be sent to a contact who has visited a certain page of your website, while simultaneously a more generic discovery email can be sent to another contact who you know little about or who has never visited your website.

Marketing automation is also much more “aware” than traditional email marketing. Automation tools are sophisticated enough to not only tell whether a customer clicked on a link in your email, but also which product-specific pages they visited after they clicked, whether they filled out a contact form, and even gather geographical and language information from them based on their IP address. Marketing automation tools can then take that user’s activity data and segment him or her into another flow of automated touchpoints (including additional emails, retargeting ads, high value content, etc.) that are specific to their interests.

2. Marketing Automation Means ‘Set It and Forget It’

While it’s true that marketing automation is great for scheduling emails and other campaign activities in advance, simply “setting and forgetting” is a sure-fire way to make sure your investment goes down the drain.

Many marketing automation tools offer robust functionality out of the box, but most are also cloud-based platforms that have new features added on a regular basis. Keeping a pulse on these updates, and participating in product improvement discussions, is important in making the most of your automation software. In fact, Eloqua will be rolling out a new UX experience this spring.

Another reason you should never “set it and forget it” is that with a healthy marketing automation program, your contact database will be continuously growing. Your customer insight will evolve as the system collects more data from your customers and their activities. And as you learn new things about your customers and their preferences, you can use that information to create more meaningful content in your campaigns.

3. Marketing Automation Stops After the Lead Converts to a Customer

Using marketing automation only for lead generation underestimates the power of the tool. As marketers, we know that the best lead source is always your previous customer. Repeat business and customer referrals will always give you the best ROI for your marketing budget. So why not make the most of that source?

“53 percent of marketers say continued communication and nurturing of their existing customers results in moderate to significant revenue impact.” (DemandMetric, Customer Marketing: Improving Customer Satisfaction & Revenue Impact, October 2014)

Luckily, marketing automation is not only a powerful lead generation tool, but it also gives you a platform to keep the conversation going with your new customer(s). When you properly sync your CRM to your automation tool, you can harness the power of segmenting by moving converted customers away from prospects into their own nurturing campaigns. These customer-specific nurturing campaigns open a two-way communication channel allowing your customer to become more engaged with your brand and to fully utilize your product or service.

For example, a customer-specific nurturing campaign can share content on best practices using your product (or service) via weekly newsletters, retargeted ads, and videos. Likewise, you can use those touchpoints to upsell products or services that complement what they’ve already bought. Automated campaigns can also be used to promote customer-only events via email invitations and trigger follow up phone calls from telemarketing or sales representatives.

You will never see the value in your marketing automation strategy if you don’t have a clear understanding of what it can accomplish. Marketing automation is more than the latest corporate buzzword. It’s a powerful marketing strategy and tool that allows companies to nurture prospects with highly personalized, useful content. It helps convert prospects into customers, and customers into brand ambassadors.

Harte Hanks is a full-service marketing agency that can support all aspects of your marketing automation program with minimal ramp up and faster go to market. Contact us for a free audit of your marketing automation programs at 1-844-233-9281.

How to Optimize Spend with Fractional Attribution

Database

 

When traditional “database marketing” first took off in the early 1990’s, marketing performance measurement and attribution was quite simple. We generated sales and direct mail campaign performance reports using a handful of dimensions. Attribution was easily derived through business reply cards (attached to direct mail pieces), phone numbers or tracking codes. We also used indirect attribution rules by making control group comparisons. We were fairly accurate and the process was easy to execute.

The Current State of Attribution

We all know that the marketing landscape has changed … and it continues to evolve with massive channel proliferation. With so much data and so many options regarding how to best apply a limited marketing budget, how can a CMO receive richer insight to influence tactical decisions that will improve media/channel performance?

Let’s first examine the various states of attribution from the viewpoint of the modern day marketer:

  • Direct Attribution: Still used widely today and still relevant. A specific customer behavior (e.g. a purchase) can be “directly” attributed to a given marketing stimuli via a unique code, landing page/URL, response device, etc. However, other marketing stimuli may have created momentum and been a significant contributor to the consumer’s ultimate decision to purchase.
  • Last Touch Attribution: Attributing the desired customer behavior to the last “known” marketing touch. Similar to “Direct” Attribution, but not always the same, here the marketer attributes the desired customer behavior to the last known touch. This method is very common when there are no specific tracking codes/tags that tie a desired customer behavior directly to a specific marketing stimuli.
  • Multi-Full Attribution: Channel proliferation has led to individual channel/media silos, each with their own unique attribution rules. The separation of traditional offline data and online data is very common. For example, direct mail data is stored in a traditional customer database, email data is stored with the email service provider, and online data is stored by various DMPs, by vendors/partners that are contracted to capture it, each often with their own siloed attribution logic taking FULL credit for the same desired behaviors.
  • Rules Based Attribution: Building on the “Multi-Full Attribution” described above, here marketers use what is often called a “common sense approach” to proportionally assign attribution to very siloed marketing stimuli. For example, a business had recently identified the large overlap between their direct mail and digital channels. For the overlapping purchases identified in both groups, 100% of a given purchase was attributed to direct mail, while simultaneously 100% was also attributed to a combination of digital channels. A rule was then quickly implemented to assign 20% of the attribution to the direct mail channel and proportionally reduce the attribution by 20% across the various forms of digital media. So, it is “fractional” by the simplest definition, but no real math or analytics was being used to assign the “fraction” to each media/channel.

Each of these options contains significant attribution bias towards channels/forms of media, that when taken for face value will result is less than optimal decision-making.

Database-1

What’s Next and What is Fractional Attribution?

Marketers must now leverage math, science and statistics to analyze and derive insight from large pools of data, much of which can now be integrated across channels to inform decisions across touch points during the customer journey. Fractional Attribution is a necessary tool for understanding campaign performance across a multitude of touch points.

Through advanced (and proven) analytic techniques, a weighting calculation is developed and applied to the various marketing touches during the customer’s buying journey. In short, you are attributing a portion of that customer’s purchase to each of the marketing touches that impacted the customer’s decision to buy.

Harte Hanks has a team of analysts that work with marketing organizations to create a fractional attribution model through a collaborative development process:

  1. Define the overall objectives and identify the behavior metrics you want to positively impact (e.g. response, sales, conversion, product registration, etc.).
  2. Define and implement the roadmap including identification of key performance indicators (KPIs) and setting the overall attribution approach. Companies have used both “quick start” fractional attribution solutions and more robust solutions that require dedicated data stores and data integration tools.
  3. Collect and compile the data.
  4. Execute the fractional attribution solution and create the scenario planning tool.

The “scenario planning tool” is what enables the user to optimize media/channel performance. Using the tool, the analyst or marketer can quickly run “what-if” analyses to estimate the impact of reallocating marketing spend across channel/media or removing a channel/media from the mix altogether. The end result is a much more informed decision that can result in significantly higher returns from your marketing budget. Performance data and insights from the optimization exercise are then used to calibrate and refine the attribution engine going forward.

Fractional Attribution rooted in proven math and statistical techniques is a critical tool to accurately improve and optimize the performance of an incredibly fragmented and complex system of channels and media, both online and offline.

database-2

It’s not perfect – no marketing science or advanced marketing analytic solution is. But a robust modeled attribution solution is proven marketing science, and those that leverage it appropriately will generate higher return from their marketing spend and outperform their competitors.

Has your company used fractional attribution to better analyze your marketing spend? Tweet us at @HarteHanks and share your experience with us.

How Pharmaceutical CRMs Can Lead to Healthier Relationships

Boosting physician and patient engagement

pharma CRM postCustomer Relationship Management (CRM) software offers a great deal of potential for the pharmaceutical industry. However, this is a complex sector, riddled with regulations surrounding sensitive data. It is not easy to find a solution that fits business needs while complying with relevant laws. This is especially true at an international level when different rules need to be observed for different countries.

Purchasing a standard CRM solution and trying to adapt it to various business and regulatory requirements is time consuming and difficult. Inevitably it involves compromise and hidden expense.

Instead, many pharmaceutical companies could benefit from international CRM programs that are purpose-built from the ground up by a marketing services provider.

Bespoke CRM for pharmaceuticals

A truly customized approach uses business goals as a starting point and builds a CRM framework around them. This ensures variations across different countries can be accounted for and embraced at an early stage, rather than being bolted on later. The result is a highly specified solution intrinsically optimized to meet business needs. It can have built-in scalability and the flexibility to handle international differences in data laws or standard practice, such as call centre versus nurse-led activity.

Ultimately, custom-built CRM offers better value and efficiency. Adapting existing systems is expensive, license fees can be high and product release cycles can delay the implementation of certain functionalities.

Using an MSP to build, manage and implement the solution brings multiple advantages. Since all aspects – from database management to phone calls, emails and SMS to direct mail – are handled by one organization, the program is more cohesive and affordable. What’s more, sensitive data is all held securely in one place.

Physician and patient communications

The best pharmaceutical CRM programs empower physicians and patients to make better, more informed choices – whether they’re prescribing treatment or following it.

Meeting physicians in person is becoming increasingly difficult for pharmaceutical companies. Physicians are often under pressure to see a certain number of patients per day, leaving limited time for meeting with third parties. Some countries also have complex regulations surrounding personal interaction between pharmaceutical companies and medical professionals. In many cases, direct marketing can play an effective role alongside or in place of face-to-face meetings. It enables physicians to keep abreast of the latest developments in treatments and processes such as pharmaceutical-led patient support.

Patient-focused activity varies depending on the nature of the patient’s condition, where they are in the treatment cycle, the level of data available and nuances of their country of residence. Naturally, when more is known about a patient, activity can be better tailored to their current needs and communications become more meaningful.

A central aim of pharmaceutical CRM should be fostering good relationships between patients and physicians. This means acknowledging the authority of the physician in prescribing drugs, while enabling patients to get more out of their appointments and the overall treatment. Ideally communications should operate progressively, supporting patients as they move from the initial awareness that they may have a certain condition, to actively acknowledging it, then learning to live with it. The latter stage is vital to boost adherence to treatment regimen and enhance overall patient outcomes.

Overcoming challenges

There are many challenges facing the marketing of pharmaceuticals today. However, deeper engagement rooted in custom-built CRM can help navigate many of them.

Direct alignment of patient and physician communications is complex from a data perspective, but with care and attention it can usually be achieved. Bespoke CRM programs can incorporate specific opt-in language to overcome many of the barriers surrounding sensitive data. This ensures that patients who are happy to share their data can access the wider support that is on offer should they need it.

Achieving buy-in from physicians and patients is not easy – nor should it be. Pharmaceutical organizations need to earn trust and loyalty over time. Striving for better, deeper engagement is a critical factor. An effective way to realize this in the short- to medium-term is through the empowerment of patients and physicians, arming them with knowledge and information so they can make informed choices. In the longer term, improved patient outcomes will speak for themselves.

 

Harte Hanks handles CRM programs for leading global pharmaceutical companies. Patient data is handled sensitively and an integrated approach ensures improved patient support and outcomes. Natalia Gallur has more than ten years’ experience in the sector.

 

Smarter Demand Gen Awakens

Convergence of Tech and People Will Amplify Demand Generation in 2016

UnknownThe B2B demand-marketing ecosystem continues to evolve at a rapid pace. It’s driven by emerging technologies, tactics and buyer behaviors, alongside other well-established factors that continue to shape the discipline.

Industry influencers and analysts such as SiriusDecisions and Forrester identified a raft of demand generation trends and requirements in 2015. These range from better use of analytics as a foundation for demand planning to buyer journey alignment and operationalizing personas.

The notion of operationalizing personas involves integrating persona intelligence into demand generation efforts. At a fundamental level, it involves dynamic delivery of persona-based content, messaging and offers across email, landing pages and websites. It was first mooted by SiriusDecisions in 2014, but began to take hold last year. During 2016 it will occupy a more central role as we enter the next stage of the journey: smarter demand generation.

Why do we need Smarter Demand Generation?

Many B2B organizations find their demand generation efforts are characterized by small pipelines, missed targets and failure to respond to the needs of today’s buyers. It’s not surprising when you consider the seismic shift in buyer behavior over the past few years.

B2B sales and marketing is becoming increasingly complex and far less linear in its nature. There are multiple influencers, decision makers and stakeholders. There are multiple online and offline marketing channels. And there are multiple interactions and conversations taking place.

In this fractured, multifaceted landscape we need to find a path to more effective, joined-up demand generation. We need an approach that embraces the complex realities of the B2B sector today and handles them with ease. Smarter demand generation is the answer.

What does it mean?

A central feature of smarter demand generation is the convergence of people and technology. This is true throughout the process. Human insight and expertise facilitates the creation and operationalization of personas. It also shapes the development and substance of programs that are augmented and delivered via sophisticated technologies. Finally, individuals at the receiving end of smarter demand generation are served with optimized, highly personalized communications. Content is relevant to their current and future professional needs and it is delivered at an opportune time via the most appropriate platform. The upshot is finely tuned buyer engagement and a more robust pipeline.

This might sound a world away from traditional demand generation. And it’s true that it requires a deeply analytical and intelligent approach expertly integrated with technical capabilities. But every journey begins with a single step. Marketers who set their sights on smarter demand generation can quickly realize benefits at a micro level that can later be replicated at a larger scale.

Exploring smarter demand generation with one segment of your target audience can be a good place to start. Integrating data, technology, people and tactics for the first time isn’t easy – but it is more manageable and achievable at a smaller scale. Ring-fence a project that leverages insight to improve targeting, messaging and optimization. Then closely monitor the results to track the impact on the sales pipeline. Spotlighting the effectiveness of smarter demand generation in this way, and sharing it at a Board level, can create an appetite for more. It might help secure investment in the technologies and skills required for a wider rollout.

The B2B sector has strived for precision marketing for decades. With the awakening of smarter demand generation, it is finally within reach.

 

Alex Gill explores this theme in a B2B Marketing webinar on 27 January: How to align your marketing for smarter demand generation and stronger ROI. Book your seat here.

Four Simple Ways to Amplify Your Customer Support with Social Media

Social Media-BlogSocial media is quickly becoming a critical factor in augmenting and enhancing your customer support strategy. Last week, I participated in an industry roundtable hosted by CRM Magazine on the subject. When businesses think of social media, it’s often in terms of marketing or public relations. And while social media is a great tool to help extend both, its impact goes beyond promoting and marketing your company. Increasingly, social media has become a powerful contributor to customer service and support. Customers are now powerful influencers. They take to social media to talk about brands and products – positively and negatively – in an attempt to influence their peers and the brands they buy from. So how do you influence the influencers, and utilize social media to enhance your customer service?

  1. Start by listening.

The first step in extending your customer support system through social media is to listen – and learn. Start by scanning social media channels for complaints, compliments and questions about your brand. Find out who is talking about your brand (customers, prospects, competitors?) and what they’re saying. You can learn a lot about customer pain points and perceptions that you might not learn through your contact center customer support. You will quickly identify areas of opportunity and then you can build a cohesive strategy, start to engage with your customers and prospects – and begin to influence the conversation around your brand.

  1. Set the rules of engagement.

Social media can be a bit like the Wild West – an unpredictable place where anything goes. As such, it is important for brands to devise a set of rules and operational goals. Who will be authorized to speak for your company on social media? How will they go about engaging customers? At what point should a public conversation be moved to a private conversation? Will you have a proactive presence as well as a reactive one? How will your social presence support your brand promise?

A defined social strategy is paramount. Social media is a free-flowing, casual platform that requires 24/7 resources. A single poor choice of words or an ill-timed post can damage your brand. As an example: If a consumer posts a message that your product injured them and you respond by apologizing, you may have implied guilt without knowing any of the facts. Your rules of engagement will ensure that your social customer support benefits both your brand and your customers.

  1. Ready, set, engage.

Your strategy is set, and you’re ready to go. Now it’s time to engage. Find someone who is talking about your brand and start a conversation through authentic engagement. It’s not unusual to find that customers are already reaching out to you using social channels. Whether it’s thanking someone who complimented your brand – or engaging with someone who is seeking assistance with your product or service – a simple conversation can go a long way in changing the perception of your brand. And you just might learn something you hadn’t previously considered. More often than not, the audience you engage via social media will be completely different from those who contact your customer service center. They may have a similar issue or topic, but they are approaching you from a position of influence. Consider it an opportunity to become an invited contributor into a public conversation. When handled correctly, social customer engagements can turn antagonists into fans who will spread the gospel of your brand.

  1. Inject helpful content.

Social customer support should be as proactive as it is reactive. Helpful content – like “how to” guides or useful tips about your product – will help you engage with your customers after the sale, positioning your brand as one that is consistently connected with and cares about its customers. When injecting marketing content into your social presence, be careful not to push hard sales messaging. Imagine social media platforms as a conversational dinner party. It is OK to talk positively about your brand, but hard sell tactics go against what is considered to be a good “social citizen.” Social media audiences can spot a pitch from a mile away and nothing will turn your community away faster.

The Harte Hanks contact center teams and agents utilize these techniques to manage social commentary and customer support for many of their clients. If you would like to dive deeper into how social can enhance your customer support, you can view our roundtable discussion on Destination CRM here.

Technology Is Not a Substitute for Creativity

Tech-Creativity

Marketing has always been a blend of art and science. But the rise of marketing technology has tilted the scales heavily towards the science end of the equation. This is not necessarily a bad thing – the digital revolution has armed marketers with information and techniques that drive more accurate, cost-effective campaigns. Essentially, technology has eliminated a good portion of the “guesswork” traditionally associated with marketing. Again, this is a wonderful development for marketers. Technology allows us to personalize our approach to better connect with audiences and do a better job of meeting their needs and desires. But too much technology can have negative effects – namely, the erosion of creativity.

Marketing automation programs are rapidly becoming “cookie cutter” strategies that rely too heavily on the medium of delivery. The “three emails and a landing page” approach can (and often does) work, but as marketing automation becomes more and more prominent, the impact of a “basic” campaign will quickly dissipate. The deluge of analytics available to the modern marketer is a veritable treasure trove of information. But too often, marketers are held hostage by data points, finding themselves afraid to venture outside of the established thinking.

Going forward, brand marketers must rely more on intuition and creativity to avoid becoming just another source of noise in the market. And brands must embrace creativity and avoid the “safe” approach of standardized campaigns. Great ideas have always been the bedrock of great marketing campaigns. Technology will never change that fact. Technology – if developed and implemented correctly – can help marketers amplify creative approaches. Real-time response measurement can quickly let marketers know what’s working and what’s not, allowing them to adjust and mold ideas into messages that get results – and prove beyond a doubt what consumers want to see, hear and, ultimately, buy from brands.

Marketing technology allows brands to paint a clearer picture of their audiences and develop a deeper understanding of their desires, needs and behaviors. Rather than playing it safe, marketers should harness this information to help them develop great ideas that make a lasting impact on audiences.

As we approach the New Year, my advice to marketers for 2016 is: be bold, lean on your intuition, and create smarter, more personal customer interactions.

The Hottest Three Letter Acronym for 2016: D-M-P

dmp_blog_harte-hanks

Marketers are overwhelmed with tools and channels, and most of these – OMG! – have a three-letter acronym (TLA) that we use to theoretically make it easier for us to discuss them (and of course, to make us feel like we are in the know!). DSP, SEM, PMD, PLA, SEO, FPD, LOL, CRM, FAN, GDN . . . the list goes on and on. BTW, “LOL” on the previous list refers to “laugh out loud,” ICYM!

IMO, the hot TLA for 2016 will be DMP – data management platform. FYI, a DMP is a data warehouse that “can be used to house and manage any form of information, but for marketers, they’re most often used to manage cookie IDs and to generate audience segments, which are subsequently used to target specific users with online ads.”

For example, let’s say that you have a CRM full of FPD (first-party data) about your customers. You can upload this data to a DMP, enhance the data with third-party behavioral targeting, and then generate audience profiles that you can use to create more targeted and effective ads across your social, search, and display channels. Compared to your competitors without a DMP, your marketing campaigns should resonate better with consumers. Information asymmetry leads to better ROI, so marketers who don’t have a DMP have more to fear than just the FOMO – they may actually be at a significant disadvantage.

All of this assumes, of course, that marketers who invest in a DMP will install it correctly and use it correctly. As anyone who has seen an amazing pitch of marketing technology knows, the product never seems to work quite as well as it does in the canned demo! Setting up a DMP properly is fraught with potential pitfalls, from not properly importing data to incorrect data interpretation. So simply having a DMP is not enough – having the right pilots of data collection and analysis is vital. Given that this is a corporate blog, now would be a good time for me to promote Harte Hanks’ DMP/service solution, which we call Total Customer Discovery.

The future of marketing is always murky, so the centrality of the DMP is still TBD. That said, theoretically DMPs make a lot of sense, and it seems likely that it will be an important component of all online marketing strategies going forward. TTYL!

Harte Hanks Announces Data Refinery to Harness Customer Data and Drive Marketing Results

Data Refinery ProcessMarketers are increasingly looking for innovative ways to get to know their customers better, and to get the most out of the campaigns they create every day. The best way to learn more about your customers is by leveraging data. This isn’t as simple as it sounds. With a plethora of channels at your customers’ disposal, both online and offline, and the growing number of devices that people use, it is difficult to harness all of that data – especially when you’re mining it from multiple sources. Utilizing big data also requires the complexities of hiring a staff to manage data, ensuring best-in-class quality and governance procedures and working with constrained budgets across siloed departments. This is no easy feat.

How do we overcome these challenges together? The answer lies in gathering and storing the most current data on your customers through a data refinery. Data refinery is a scalable platform that allows for on-demand access to compiled customer views that can be accessed by all departments within your organization. The compiled views should be nimble, customizable and rich with proprietary and third-party data sources so they effectively serve the ever-changing marketing demands placed on the various teams that need access, and as a result, empower marketers to know more and communicate better to their customers.

So how does it work?
At the heart of a good data refinery platform is the aggregation of large amounts of various data types from multiple sources and channels, both traditional and digital. A data refinery platform starts with an ideal customer profile that defines data attributes needed to deliver results. This ideal customer profile serves as your “map,” guiding data profiling and sourcing to bring together and enhance owned data with third-party data. The data refinery then cleanses, validates and standardizes the customer profile for output to any downstream marketing or sales application.

Today we are excited to announce that Harte Hanks is launching its very own Data RefinerySM solution. With our solution, access to pre-vetted data sources by vertical and marketing objective are utilized – think of this as an app store for data – reducing the time to value. Selecting data based on reliability and performance metrics optimizes data usage and spending, ensuring campaigns don’t become stagnant. To learn more about Harte Hanks’ Data Refinery click here.

A brand’s success will continue to be dependent on technology, innovation and the ability to connect with the customer in a highly relevant way. A data refinery platform is needed to bring data together and make it foundational to all your marketing and sales efforts.

Next week we’ll review what data sources are available and how best to manage them using the latest open source technologies. In the meantime, start thinking about what you could do if all your data could be harnessed, treated as a single source of the truth and accessed by anyone on demand. The possibilities are almost endless, aren’t they?

Delivering data from all different sources and augmenting it to form purpose-built customer profiles allow you to understand your customers. This insight is powerful and allows you to acquire new customers, reduce churn within your existing customer base, increase repeat purchases and increase customer satisfaction.

A Data Refinery Platform Helps You:

  1. Better understand existing customer base
  2. Create models and segmentation to find better prospects at scale
  3. Understand existing customer behavior, avoid attrition and encourage growth

Black Friday vs. Every Friday

iStock_000053625904_Full_MonotoneBlack Friday. The retail holiday that drives consumers by the masses into the retail marketplace for door-busting deals. It’s also the day that traditionally marked the first day of moving from “red” losses to “black” year-to-date profits for many retailers. It’s no surprise retailers put extra time, resources and effort preparing for this big day, but as retailers look to connect with their customers more frequently, is it surprising the day after Thanksgiving remains such a powerful customer engagement point?

“Black Fridays have become a cultural phenomenon, a bit of a marathon for many people”, says Kelli Hollinger, Director of the Center of Retailing Studies at Mays Business School, Texas A&M. “But things are changing. For example, prices are now guaranteed online so that the in-store price matches what is offered online. This gives consumers more choice and control over how and when to buy.”

“Consumer shopping behavior is shifting toward finding deals year-round, so the traditional ‘big sale’ days are somewhat less important,” says Steven Kirn, Ph.D. of the David F. Miller Retailing and Education and Research Center at the University of Florida. “Perhaps it started with ‘Cyber Monday,’ and then ‘Small Business Saturday,’ but it appears to be a larger trend to spread holiday sales over a longer period, which makes a lot more business sense.”

Despite the extension of holiday sales and desire to get the best deals everyday, Black Friday still generates a lot of buzz and excitement. It’s also one of the biggest days for retail operations such as inventory flow, staffing, security and logistics.

“At Harte Hanks we help our retail customers connect with their customers every day,” says Kevin Berthiaume, Logistics Lead for Harte Hanks. “But in preparation for Black Friday, success is about scale and execution. To date, our logistics team helped Kohl’s deliver 100s of millions of inserts. More than 10 million of those inserts needed to arrive timely in preparation for Black Friday. We understand the importance of delivering on that kind of volume any time of year, and the significant impact it has on our customer’s business.”

“Consumers are increasingly geared to shop for deals year-round,” Says Kirn. “They wait for sales and then buy. They generally think opening prices are set high so that the retailer does not lose money when they finally put items on sale. There is a difference between consumer attitudes and behaviors. Consumers will say they want everyday low prices, but their actual behavior is to prefer to wait for sales. JC Penney ran into this problem. They marked their prices down 40 percent, but sales dropped. Consumers interpreted the low prices as a sign of low quality. They wanted to buy when items were on sale and did not trust everyday low prices from JC Penney.”

In a recent conversation with Steven Kirn Ph.D., he shared some interesting shifts in consumer perception reflected in a survey released this week:

“Just a few years ago, shoppers said that 25 percent off was a ‘good deal’ and enough to influence them to buy. A new survey released this week suggests it is necessary to discount up to 60 percent to be considered a good deal.”

This increase is deal seeking further emphasizes the need to establish valued relationships with your customers in order to take them beyond price points to valuing the experience with the brand.

Ken Bernhardt, is the chairman of the Harte Hanks Marketing Advisory Board and Regents Professor Emeritus at Georgia State University’s Robinson College of Business. As Ken sees it, the rise of digital shopping together with increasing consumer procrastination have resulted in the Saturday before Christmas replacing Black Friday as the busiest shopping day of the year. Black Friday, however, remains important as the traditional start of the holiday shopping season and still represents more than $50 billion in retail sales.

“At Harte Hanks, we know every day is an opportunity to help our clients connect with their customers,” says Frank Grillo, CMO, Harte Hanks. “Black Friday will always be an important day for retailers, but so is every other day of the year. Customer expectations are increasing with proliferation of mobile, social and access to channels of communication. Sending out deals isn’t enough anymore. Now more than ever it’s important to engage customers in a memorable, meaningful experience at every opportunity.”

Savvy consumers are aware retailers gather information and preferences so it’s a real miss when a retailer fails to engage in relevant customer interactions. According to a recent study by Magnetic, 50 percent of consumers say they regularly see email with irrelevant information and only half of all retailers report they know what messages resonate with their customers.

From an operational perspective, the 2015 holiday season is a done deal. But data and research can be a North Star for your brand moving forward. It’s the perfect time to get your 2016 game plan together to take customer engagement to a new level, each and every day, including Black Friday.

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