5 Ways to Turn Customer Obsession Into Marketing ROI

The number one job of marketing – in my humble opinion – has always been customer advocacy. Who better than the team responsible for connecting people with brands and products to understand their needs and represent them at the corporate planning table? The digitization of our culture and marketplace doesn’t change the importance of that job, but it does make it more data-driven. I also think that it has made marketing more collaborative.

Forrester Research recently claimed that companies that are obsessed with customer experience are more profitable and see higher growth. Consider Amazon, Nike, or Mercedes-Benz, where it is part of the culture. Consider how an obsession with innovation at Apple and Google translates to customer delight in their products. For the rest of us, it may be harder without that culture behind us, but frankly, there is no longer a choice for marketers: Each of us must adopt an attitude of obsession with customer satisfaction. Then, we need to employ a systematic approach to optimizing everything we do toward customer value. The key question to ask at every point in your day, “Is what I’m doing adding real value to a large number of high-value customers?” If not, change it or dump it.

Marketing investment seems to be supporting this need and transformation. Research firm IDC expects the global market for enterprise marketing software to soar to $32.3 billion by 2018 — a jump of more than 50 percent. This jump won’t come easy. It will require a delicate balance of technology, creative talent, and IT services for the market to reach its potential. Supporting this growth is the rise of “marketing-as-a-service” (MaaS) offerings, where agencies and other marketing service providers run the software on behalf of the client as part of a larger bundle of services.

Like any change, in life or business, it starts with attitude. If you don’t work for customer-obsessed company, can you successfully meet the demands of your market and rise above the competition? At a minimum, companies must embrace that digital and customer experience is everyone’s business – great ideas and the seeds of change can come from anywhere, regardless of title, but do need to be cross-functional and valued to blossom.

It’s time to make this transformation personal. Consider how you can use the technology you have to adapt the customer experiences that you do control, and demonstrate success to the rest of the organization. This proof of concept approach is a great way to get more budget, too. Re-think your customer experience across an ecosystem, and not just a set of interactions with owned media or branded touch points. Collaborate with other suppliers and influencers to focus on digital efficiency so that you can react in “right time.” I wrote a column earlier this year on how “right time” marketing can help you transform your customer processes and adapt to the need for a nimble, non-linear customer engagement strategy.

Don’t just wait for disruption to come to your industry — learn to disrupt your own business. Seek a frank understanding of the obstacles your specific organization must overcome to embrace disruption. Consider some of these strategic elements that can help you break free of legacy patterns and test new ideas.

  1. Use the data you have to zero in on key segments. Use micro-targeting to really get to know your customers. Dig deep into customization and personalization opportunities to find the small, yet potentially profitable subsets of your market and niche offerings.
  2. Paid placements (native advertising) are here to stay. Spend your money on the right content and platform and understand which digital properties are performing best. Build budgets and relationships around content placement, sponsorship opportunities, syndication services, and content recommendation platforms.
  3. Mobile will dominate, so master it. Fine-tune your mobile strategy to encompass the totality of content execution: persona profiling, content theme, design, and distribution.
  4. Marketing automation tools are slowly evolving to help you manage these changes, but you may need to bolt together point solutions in the meantime (especially if a big upgrade is not in your budget this year). Look to consolidate applications into a platform with data and process level integration to improve efficiency and effectiveness; work to integrate marketing technology with the enterprise infrastructure to reveal deeper insights into customers, partners, and market opportunities. Here is a good reason to establish inter-disciplinary teams with IT and sales and customer service and legal to improve marketing contribution, vendor management, due diligence, and governance practices.
  5. Focus on quality content; we are all publishers now. All our writing has to be compelling and adaptable across platforms, and written to the tastes of narrowly targeted personas. Automation tools help make sure your content is repurposed with panache and context.

Marketing transformation is hard – and requires a purposeful and systematic shift in attitude, organizational agility, and customer-centricity. Are you confident that the latest plan or project you advocated puts the customer first? It’s a very good measure for how close you are to success. Please share your own tips and challenges for creating a customer-obsessed organization in the comments section below.

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