Consumer-centricity starts at home

June 11, 2009

To effectively position a business as centered around a target audience the whole organization needs to deliver a resounding brand message that is consistent with the strategy intent. Leadership style and a connection to the organization are equally important as messaging and marketing strategies when it comes time to deploy customer centric marketing strategies.

Pulling from notes and other articles, I’ve found several points that describe the customer-centric leader and things that marketers need to consider as they develop marketing strategy:

  • They see their team is the face of the company. Beyond ads or collateral or a website, your employees are delivering a clear message to your customers and prospects… is that message in line with your customer-centric aspirations?
  • They see trust as the lever to bring their teams in line with their customers. When you deliver a message to your customers, do they hear what you tried to say or do they parse words and wonder what you “really” tried to say. Consistency and sincerity deliver the environment for team members to foster a trust relationship with clients, and visa-versa. Trust is hard to get a first time and nearly impossible to get a second time.
  • They use customer insight as the guiding light for the organization. Largely it’s a communication issue; beyond gathering information, they seek to spread that information into broad areas of the company. Ironically, in most companies, the team members closest to the customer are the most likely to know what is working yet least likely to have a communication channel to upper management and product teams. Conversely, many top management teams sponsors consultant research projects to learn about their customers and then they don’t share the learning deeply into the organization.
  • They get their hands dirty. They go to clients, they engage with teams at different levels and internal organizations. More than a decade ago I worked at a global technology distributor and asked that I spend a few days working in a warehouse… it was probably the single best learning experience I had. I “knew” what it took to make the business operate, how difficult the operations part of that business was, and all of that helped me greatly understand how to communicate shipping issues to clients in the ensuing years.

Have you factored internal organizational dynamics into your customer-centric marketing strategy?


Behavior, algorithms, consumer relevance and the advertiser

February 19, 2009

Can a single algorithm deliver relevance… across seasons, different web properties, between global cultures and among differing offering categories? Personally, I have troubles trying to predict behavior in the people I’ve known for many years. The human heart and mind act in sometimes strangely unpredictable ways. Isn’t that the part of humanity that’s really great? I think so!

Algorithms to deliver relevance need to accurately reflect consumer information – behavior, demo / psycho-graphics, and other.  The difficulty with this model is that only the smallest of slivers of a consumers life revolves around any single brand – though we would all like to believe differently:-)  Also, until you get reams of data surrounding an individual, how do you actually recommend. In the on line world this is particularly debilitating because over half of website traffic bounces from good sites right away and only a small sliver (used the word twice) of traffic actually makes it to a conversion… and an even smaller sliver (gotta stop using that word) comes back and makes it to a second second conversion. So, algorithmic personalization or recommendations really are only capable of helping a small portion of your consumers, after you get to know them.

An actuary can build statistical models that deal with vast population samples, telling the breakdown of what will proportionally happen in certain events. That’s interesting but it also deals with averages across large groups of people. Not necessarily valid to the point of algorithmically driven recommendations or optimization of an individual and their purchase potential or drivers.

I don’t intend to close the door on the subject, I do believe these approaches are helpful when other data is not available or when you have A LOT of information and you want to solve a retention / lifetime value issue… which are both great issues to solve. From my experience though, many brands believe they can use these technologies, in particular recommendation engines, to help solve an acquisition problem. Hmmm.

Love to hear your thoughts!

Mark


What is behavioral targeting?

October 5, 2008

When you’re in a conversation and somebody uses this term, your first question should be… is this on-site or display ad behavioral targeting?

Typically, when referring to banner ads, behavioral targeting relates to the use of data regarding consumer behavior that’s learned across numerous domains. I’ve tracked a new industry group that’s tasked with defining standards and definitions for behavioral targeting, Behavioral Targeting Standards Consortium (BTSC). After reviewing the site once again before this post, it’s interesting that they don’t have any content yet regarding the accomplishment of this objective. Seems like it would be somewhat simple to define a market in broad terms, guess not.

On-site behavioral targeting is often times referred to simply as on-site targeting. Typically, it relates to individual consumer information that’s used to segment and them either serve a different experience on a website or measure the difference in reaction to particular aspects of a site by each segment.

This distinction is critical because it demonstrates how young the discourse is in the online industry. The idea that two words can mean very different things to two people who share a similar role should be rather concerning. And, is likely why we have confusion around many subjects.


With every season… turn, turn, turn

March 18, 2008

A marketers’ world has typically changed with the turn of generations. However, the past 10 years have produced a chasm of change that have left many marketers reeling in their attempt to adapt.

Early on in the Internet era, people used to joke about “Internet years”, implying that time moved even faster than dog years.

The issue at hand is that online marketers built organizational structures and strategy that were built upon a premise that did not include learned marketing principle, even beyond the “dot bomb” days. Rather than focusing on targeting consumers and their needs, they focused on the optimization and development of technology or communication channels, such as email, banner ads or website.

Today, most online marketers are trying to manage systems that are not designed to address the problems of the day. The issue at hand is a massive shift in the needs and intellect of a consuming public, the developed systems view consumers as a more or less homogeneous group, leveraging the relationship with each across numerous silos. None of which can effectively leverage the learning of the other, or extend the relationship with customers beyond individual transactions.

I have to imagine that any CMO or CEO reading this blog entry would be hard pressed to support their current organizational, technology or budgetary systems as being sufficient. Hind sight is almost always 20/20. However, I wouldn’t necessarily suggest that the solution be a completely disruptive innovation.

As with most things in life, the 80/20 rule is a good approach to leading change. Start with the areas of your business that are most valuable from the perspective of the end recipient, the prospect or customer. Decompose your processes and high-value communication threads, across communication channels, and find the appropriate opportunities to continue a dialog. The solution doesn’t need to be end-to-end, especially from the beginning. Focus on the areas that are high-value and build your approach over time.

In the end, the leading issue to solve is strategic approach. Most companies have an organizational investment in channel based communications, while the solution lies in consumer based needs – acquisition, retention/up-sell.

I’d love to hear your thoughts –

Mark


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