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A visit to Martech in Boston forces a radical rethink of Business As Usual
Like many digital marketers, I am a bit of a control freak (ask anyone that has worked with me!); and the wealth of data available from the MarTech platforms we use every day only encourages that behaviour. But the focus on the Customer Experience at the recent MarTech event in Boston only strengthened my belief that trying to control the customer journey is neither realistic nor desirable.
The Primacy of the Customer Experience (CX)
The tone for the week was set by Scott Brinker – editor of the Chief MarTech blog – who talked about marketing’s mission as being CX and ROI; and while ROI remains a focus for all of us in Digital Marketing, the focus on CX was picked up by lots of different speakers over the course of the event
IDC defined CX as an emotional response and the customer’s perception of their interactions with a brand – not just with marketing, but their experience from first touchpoint to the end of the life-cycle. IDC went on to claim that marketing ops – with its narrow focus on internal processes – should be reoriented to focus on CX ops – with the customer at the heart of all that we do.
Yes, we are all individuals
A natural corollary of the focus on CX is the ambition to treat customers not as statistics – in terms of their engagement, open rates, dwell times – but as people.
Ogilvy talked a lot about the importance of creativity (a sentiment that we at Enigma share – our new proposition, “Great things happen when insight comes to life” puts our creative capabilities at the heart of what we do): they echoed IDC’s thinking about the need to create an emotional response: “We are feeling machines that think, not thinking machines that feel”. Leading with emotion ties into customer experience and gets the cut through we need in our ADHD world and – according to IDC – this is as true for B2B as for B2C.
A single source of truth
One of the key challenges highlighted at the event was the siloed nature of much of the crucial data that we store (something that the rise to prominence of Customer Data Platforms only confirms): as a result, people aren’t really working together.
There is therefore a profound need for all parties – marketing, sales, customer success and product development teams – to align in order to generate a single source of truth across the life-cycle of the customer experience. Putting the individual customer at the heart of what we do will improve integration and enable us to deliver truly personalised information.
The big takeaway is that, if we are going to focus on the customers’ experience and acknowledge their individuality, then forcing them into clusters they may not want to belong to is not the way forward.
The Illusion of control
A really interesting blog from Gartner said, “you can ‘take control’ by guiding your customers on a better path, but then they will be on their own”. That line sums it up for me – you can only influence so much, but it’s their journey/experience not yours.
The truth is that customers have always been in control of their journey – but that we have been in denial of this. Customers convert at their own pace and we must allow them some management of their journey. We need to move away from volumetric approaches, creating more consultative content and allowing people to consume it when they want to.
Rather than forcing them through a funnel of our creation or down a journey we have created for them, we should be optimizing that journey, delivering content that addresses a particular need or answers a question at the different stages of the buying cycle.
Customer-centricity pays off
The payoff for an approach that makes all relevant content available to customers when they need it is more positive sentiment and better conversion: optimising the speed at which they go along the path and enabling them to raise their hands as early as possible. This may mean slightly smaller numbers in the short term but better conversion rates and more revenues in the long term.
So, I’m going to redouble my efforts to run campaigns differently: to think less about quarterly campaigns and more about the overall CX; to stop drip-feeding content according to a schedule devised by me and think more about facilitating the customers’ own journey.
The challenge, of course, is persuading my clients that this is the right thing to do!