Woman peering into a box

Let me start by saying: I’m all about the data.

I’m an advocate of one-to-one marketing. I think behavior-based targeting is an essential part of the marketing mix. And, I’m certain that machine learning and other forms of AI will become so core to marketing as to be a virtually invisible element of areas such as personalization.

But, please, marketers, I implore you: Don’t get so caught up in all that contextual personalization has to offer that you overlook the art of discovery.

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breakfast sandwich on bagel with egg bacon cheese

Good morning! One bacon, egg, and cheese or two?

That’s how I’m welcomed whenever I walk into Andrew & Frank’s Deli in Astoria—even when it’s more like lunchtime than breakfast hour. And, believe me, this place has far more frequent customers than me. Even so, the guys who run the deli know my favorite order, and know there’s an equal chance I’m getting breakfast just for my daughter (long after I’ve eaten) or for both of us.

That’s the kind of one-to-one experience many marketers strive to deliver at scale, and that Don Pepper and Martha Rogers, Ph.D., predicted would be reality—at scale—in The One to One Future. For years, Don and Martha’s message changed the outlook and career direction of countless marketers. Based on recent conversations I’ve had, it still does. In fact, to me, one-to-one marketing has never been more possible, relevant, and in this time of ever-rising customer expectations, vital.

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Blurred city scene

CX is a whirlwind of change.

  • Personalization is improving areas such as marketing communications, promotional offers, and recommended next-best actions.
  • AI and machine learning in marketing (e.g. retargeting) and service (e.g., chatbots) is helping companies to provide more relevant experiences.
  • Vendors impacted by business model changes such as the growth of the subscription economy and by disruptive competitors are increasing their focus on customer success to improve retention.
  • Mobile is spurring and supporting the growth of proactive service and support.
    And so is AI.
  • Customer journey mapping is experiencing a resurgence, buoyed by new supporting technologies and access to more and better data.

These are just a handful of the trends impacting customer experience leaders and their organization’s CX practices.

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Compass in the hand against rural road

“Really? Start with strategy, not technology.”

That was the epiphany from an attendee I overheard during a conference on CRM technology a few years ago. With a heavy sigh of relief, he added, “That makes so much sense.”

Not much has changed. Flashy new technologies catch our eye—as they should—but sometimes they become the proverbial cart pulling the horse. This situation applies to all types of technologies, including those that help to create, host, and distribute branded content, as well as those that help to measure its impact.

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The Unintended Consequences of Siloed Metrics

Measuring the return on marketing spend by channel is essential, but done in a vacuum it can lead to misinterpretation and unintended consequences.

During a recent conversation on the topic with Steve Bonnell, director of digital analytics at unified.agency, he explained how marketing performance falls short of its potential when marketers are too focused on what he calls middle metrics: diagnostic metrics used in isolation for one part of the customer journey, such as click-through rates and landing page conversion rates. If, for example, marketers focus too much on email open rates, they may not pay the needed attention to click-through rates and landing page conversions.

Fortunately, Bonnell also explained how marketers can refocus, viewing channels and campaigns more holistically to optimize marketing efforts across the customer journey.

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Marketers in the drivers seat

“People make split-second decisions,” Nancy Harhut reminded a standing-room-only crowd during her session, “7 Human Behavior Hacks That Increase Engagement and Response,” at DMA’s &THEN 2016 conference.

Harhut, chief creative officer at Wilde Agency, noted that this reality is just one of many challenges marketers face in capturing prospective customers’ attention at a time when the average attention span has decreased to a mere eight seconds. “People rely on decision-making shortcuts,” she said, adding that 95% of purchase decision making takes place in the subconscious mind, according to research by Gerald Zaltzman. “Marketers need to take what they’ve learned about human behavior and use it.”

Harhut cited seven behavior triggers with recommendations for how to do just that:

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Why CMOs are chief mystery officers

Data will tell fascinating stories, if you get out of its way and let it talk, says Josh Reynolds, head of marketing and client consulting at Quantifind. It’s up to marketers to use their curiosity and intuition, combined with those data-based stories, to make decisions that will positively impact marketing performance. Marketers also need to use curiosity and intuition to uncover the mysteries that data can reveal, such as what’s behind changes in sales or loyalty.

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