A New Breed of Marketer for the 21st Century

Digital Business Strategy & Innovation

Fusing Art and Science

In a connected economy, marketers have more methods, tools and techniques than ever to become a customer-obsessed enterprise. Driven by the rise of mobile, social and cloud, connectivity is enabling a blended experience, in which marketing strategies designed around digital and physical worlds no longer reside in separate camps.

Today’s marketer is also data-obsessed, and while a data-driven approach to marketing is often seen as the Holy Grail, marketers should not interpret the success of the data movement as science triumphing over art. Rather, the 21st century lays the path for a new breed of marketer: one that skillfully fuses insight from data and technology with art and creativity.

In this piece from Razorfish, we explore megatrends that are fusing the art and science of marketing to help the enterprise:

  • Implement customer-obsessed behaviors to take share and drive higher business performance. 
  • Offer digical (digital + physical) experiences driven by data, insight and intelligence that keep buyers coming back while boosting lifetime customer value.
  • Harness connectivity for extreme business advantage by taking advantage of the seismic shift occurring in the economy that is creating brand-new sources of value.
  • Enable customers to act as a second sales force by equipping them with easy-to-use tools to share and amplify their brand advocacy to thousands, even millions of their peers.

Becoming a Customer-Obsessed Enterprise

Sam Walton, founder of Walmart and Sam’s Club, once declared that every enterprise has just one boss: the customer, who can fire everyone in the company—from the chairman on down—simply by spending her money elsewhere.

This obsessive eye on the customer is hardly new. But it has been reshaped by this century’s significant increase in buyer empowerment. Now, customers are fully equipped with tools and resources to find, compare and evaluate products and services on their own. Moreover, they increasingly look to each other for buying and ownership advice over their favorite social networks—insight they consider more valuable than marketing messages.

This new level of empowerment doesn’t obviate the need for the marketer, but it changes the ways marketers earn buyer trust. For example, marketers who don’t encourage communities for customer-to-customer engagement appear irrelevant. Though it seems counterintuitive, letting customers air their challenges and problems with your brand in an open, transparent way builds competitive strength. 

Marketers learned this from one of the business world’s most famous case studies: Bad Reviews Can Boost Sales. Here’s why.

This new age of digital transparency performs best when built upon an outside-in model, in which every product and customer service policy you create is driven by how buyers want to experience the brand, whether they are online, using digital tools while in the store or interacting with one of your partners.

Several behaviors differentiate the outside-in cultures of customer-obsessed enterprises from those that still operate on an inside-out orientation. For example, customer-obsessed marketers use new types of metrics, such as the Customer Effort Score, a metric introduced in 2010 that has proven to outperform techniques such as customer satisfaction surveys or even Net Promoter Scores. This metric asks customers to rate the effort required to buy the brand’s product or service (or fulfill a customer service request).

In a study of 75,000 buyers (who interacted with B2C and B2B brands over multiple channels), 94 percent of those who reported a low effort to buy a product said they planned to repurchase the product; 81 percent of those who reported a great deal of effort to buy a product planned to spread negative word of mouth about their experience.

94% who purchased with a low effort plan to repurchase

81% who purchased with a great deal of effort planned to spread negative reviews

Source: Harvard Business Review 

As noted in a recent survey of global CMOs from Forrester Research, Inc., customer-obsessed companies with an outside-in culture were found to invest more in retention and loyalty than their inside-out counterparts, which favor new customer acquisition, often at the expense of retention. Outside-in organizations let retained customers, who are also brand advocates, drive new customer acquisition. These marketers also invest more in the post-purchase experience. The customer-obsessed enterprise also tends to favor:

  • Content versus advertising. Customer-obsessed businesses prefer to give buyers insight and advice versus marketing messages. Marc Pritchard of Procter & Gamble, for example, rocked the marketing world when he reallocated millions of dollars in ad spend to customer communities and social media where, he reports, there is higher return.
  • An organization model that sustains its outside-in culture. Those that obsess about customers tend to organize their operation around customer experience and/or buyer segments, versus those modeled after internal functions.
  • Employee empowerment, by giving employees the authority to leverage new sales opportunities and to solve customer service problems with minimal escalation to senior managers. This technique helps organizations compete with speed, a formidable weapon in the world of digital business.
  • Customer experiences versus product experiences, especially those that align with the brand strategy. For example, a brand that claims it leads in service, then scores low in customer satisfaction, is misaligned. Contrast this scenario with Google’s users, who rank its simple interface as the attribute that delights them the most (which aligns with Google’s leading brand value: simplicity is everything).
Marc Pritchard, Procter & Gamble
P&G has reallocated millions of ad spend to social, where, it says, it gets higher return. Marc Pritchard, Procter & Gamble Source: MSL Group

Offer Breakthrough Experiences, Driven by Data, Insight and Intelligence

Basing decisions on fact is hardly a new phenomenon.

What has changed are huge advances in computing power, the proliferation of social networks, and technologies such as machine learning and predictive analytics, that combine to enable a far more relevant experience that was not possible in a pre-digital world.

Armed with data that is descriptive (based on personas), predictive (drawn from analytics) and prescriptive (interpreted from intelligence), tomorrow’s marketer won’t just respond to needs, but rather will anticipate needs. That’s because the analytics discipline has morphed into what we now call data science, which analyzes transaction data along with social and behavioral data to create what we call marketing clairvoyance.

The rise of clairvoyant marketing

The clairvoyant marketer collects customer data across every touchpoint, supported by real-time analytics to understand and anticipate the experiences that will delight customers.

While this level of intelligent marketing may feel futuristic, the components are here—now. Today, a simple mobile search provides insight in response to complex questions (from “How do black holes collide?” to “Am I getting the best deal on this used car?”). Search engines predict what you want the moment you begin typing. Your mobile device alerts you to leave for your next appointment and plans your route. Music controls appear the moment you plug in your headphones.

A tectonic shift

The predictive tools that underlie these scenarios are migrating from OS-level functionality to a ubiquitous feature in apps. And while your customers expect marketers to offer relevance based on whom they are with, where they are and what they are doing, they will soon expect more. The new breed of marketer will use contextually informed customer insight to provide solutions before customers even ask. When marketers fully understand context and mindset, content and experiences will be delivered proactively, based on newfound levels of intelligence. This capability represents a tectonic shift in how marketers engage customers, and it will soon be considered necessary for competitive parity.

Consider common retargeting missteps happening today, like getting an onslaught of offers to join the fitness club you’ve already joined, or Google Maps showing you the location of the Chicago Hilton (where you typically stay) even though you are standing in downtown London.

Such scenarios will go from mildly annoying to completely unacceptable. Already more than half of consumers are willing to end a relationship with a retailer if they receive irrelevant offers (according to a study by the CMO Council). The new breed of marketer will understand that the customer experience has risen to heights where buyers are not satisfied with anything less than clairvoyance.

Harness Connectivity for Business Advantage

For centuries, the global economy has operated as an exchange of products, largely designed for a single purpose—to be consumed in a physical world. 

But in a connected economy, customers enthusiastically adopt products that digitally interact with each other. 

Products and services that sense and interact with their surroundings are creating a whole new level of customer delight. Detailed research from McKinsey shows how a connected economy has the potential to generate up to $11 trillion in economic value by 2025.

In a connected economy, products become multipurpose. For example, in addition to telling time, today’s watches monitor your personal health and help you achieve higher athletic performance. Your automobile automatically transmits data (derived from your driving behavior) to inform your insurance premiums. A button on your washing machine tells your neighborhood retailer to deliver more of your favorite detergent. Your smart fridge tells you you’re low on milk while posting recipes on its door based on what’s inside. Your smartphone is a navigator, an entertainment center, a calendar and an encyclopedia.

Consumption data as an economic resource

The new breed of marketer recognizes that personalization isn’t just designing communications and offers. Personalization in a connected economy derives its value from how customers actually consume their products. Such consumption data becomes even more valuable when it becomes input for other products and services.

Marketers in a connected economy also let buyers customize their own products. Consider NIKEiD’s service, which lets buyers design their shoes from scratch or simply lets them add a personal touch. Customers turn their smartphones—delivered as basic, multifunctional devices—into their own personal statements with apps, ringtones, skins and other personal features, making them into expressions of their personality. Then there’s 3D printing, which propels extreme personalization further forward. In fact, many market leaders regard personalization as the single most impactful economic event of the digital age.

The new breed of marketer also collects demographic and behavioral data to customize the experience. As customers opt to provide information about who they are, what they buy and what’s important to them, they leave a data trail behind. As a result, they expect a personalized experience. In a connected economy, the customer’s personal consumption data becomes a value-differentiating attribute by making service uniquely personal.

Blend digital services into physical experiences

Disney, the master of customer experience, provides patrons its MagicBand, a simple wristwatch that guides users through the park, showing which rides have no lines and which have longer lines, as well as where to eat, shop and find nearby rest areas. If you’ve made a restaurant reservation, a host greets you by name when you arrive, and if you’ve preordered food for hungry children, it’s waiting at your table. A wave of the band then charges your credit card. Insight from the MagicBand data is also used to advise you on how to enjoy the park even more, based on your likes, dislikes, rating of various activities and consumption patterns. Given this technology’s popularity with customers, other sectors such as cruise lines, hotels/resorts and spas are adopting similar experience customization techniques.

Supplementing physical experiences with the individual’s consumption data (which was once invisible) is a trend we expect to gain momentum in every sector, from the athletic apparel manufacturer to the automotive company’s use of telematics.

 

Disney Interactive Marketing.

 

Enable Customers to Act as a Second Sales Force

In a digital economy, one that is increasingly connected, customers aren’t just willing to buy your innovative product, they are also willing to sell it—something they do through their individual brand advocacy.

As a result of the social networking phenomena, customers freely discuss your product (both positive and negative aspects) with others like them. This has led to a new discipline known as brand advocacy. Modern marketers recognize that the best ad copy might not come from a Madison Avenue copywriter, but rather from a loyal customer who is willing to act as an advocate for your brand.

Brand advocates as salespeople

Every brand has advocates who actively share their positive experiences (even though you may not be aware of them). In a pre-Internet age, advocates told their brand stories to four or five people. Today, that number goes into the thousands, turning your advocates into effective salespeople. Why? Because customers tend to trust each other more than they trust marketers (something the Edelman Trust Barometer has illustrated for years). The positive content generated by customers generates even more value when it’s used as content in other marketing and sales activities.

An extraordinary business case

A Gartner report titled Turn Your Customer Advocates Into High-Performing Salespeople cites IBM’s CMO survey, in which marketing executives identified word-of-mouth marketing through advocates as their most effective marketing technique. It also cites research from the University of Rhode Island, which reveals that brand advocates are twice as active on blogs and online communities, and four times more likely to share good brand experiences than other customer types. Another study of U.K. businesses revealed that HSBC, Asda, Honda and O2, which invested specific resources in customer advocacy programs, grew faster than their competitors over a one-year period. In the same study, companies which invested no resources in advocacy grew more slowly than competitors.

A McKinsey study titled You’re Spending Your Money in All the Wrong Places showed that buyers are six times more influenced by the advocacy of a peer than by an outbound marketing campaign. In this landmark research, author David Edelman found that marketers with a preference for advertising underperform those who spend on brand advocacy. In his words, “Great advertising may win awards, but if the product isn’t being discussed online, its share will go to those that are.”

Segment your brand advocates

The new breed of marketer also segments brand advocates in accordance with what they are willing to do. According to the Gartner report previously referenced, your best customers, those who are also willing to advocate on your behalf, fall into three categories. Armed with this information, the new breed of marketer nurtures different types of customers into higher levels of advocacy.

For example, consider the mavens—customers who appreciate your brand on an intellectual level but are not emotionally connected. They are willing to share their positive experience with your brand in a very scientific way, and even then, they often require a small push or incentive. Unlike the mavens, champions are emotionally connected; hence, they are slightly more effective in persuading a prospect to consider or buy your product. Champions get more personal than the maven; they connect an emotional response with product features, saying things such as, “Unlocking the trunk of my car by waving my foot under the rear bumper gives me a thrill every time I do it.” 

Then there are the evangelists—the upper-strata enthusiasts who say things that border on the irrational, such as “I can’t live without this product.” Obviously they aren’t going to fall to their deaths without you, but their over-the-top enthusiasm leaves little doubt that your product does what you say it does. The McKinsey study offers a mind-blowing revelation: evangelists (also called power advocates) have 50 times more impact on a buying decision than other types of brand advocates.

Two girls looking at their cellphone screens and smiling

Recommendations

Update your orientation to outside-in

Every marketer claims to obsess about customers, but a peek under the hood often reveals an organization that still clings to an inside-out orientation, which is the enemy of customer obsession. Take a hard look at how you organize to get products to market. If your organization model is modeled after customer segments, you’re on the right track. If your voice-of-the-customer studies reveal you’re difficult to do business with, or if customers say it requires excessive effort to deal with your customer service operation, you’re likely doing things that inadvertently fight customer obsession.

Compete on customer experience versus product experience

Surprising research shows that customers will buy the product that provides the better experience over the product with more functionality. This has led many marketing executives to position customer experience as the next competitive battlefield. If you’re serious about this battle, think about hiring a dedicated C-level customer experience officer to act as your primary customer advocate.

Compete with consumption data

Assess the value of consumption data, which reveals how your products and services are consumed. This type of data arms you with insight and advice you can use to persuade and upsell your customer. But leverage it first to help buyers get more value out of purchases they have already made. This will establish a strong trust and value exchange, ultimately leading to higher lifetime value.

Enable your customer to sell

Customers who keep buying your product signal loyalty, but those who also bring others with them are your true loyalists. Treat these customer types well, because without them your customer churn and cost of sales go up. Think about segmenting brand advocates. This will inform how you nurture customers into higher levels of advocacy.

 

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