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Disruptively Customer Centric B2B sales – Tools for Crossing the Chasm

B2B sales has been under major disruption due to content marketing and automation surge. I am a big believer and practitioner of these tools and methods my self and I’ve been convinced that this is the way to create naturally supporting customer journey towards a happy end and the results have proved how well it works. Now I have to admit that you can go way beyond.

Let’s  consider the B2B buyers and procurement and their process:

TOP OF THE FUNNEL has to do with planning and designing the change. This work is mostly done with internal stake holders, consultants and designers. The buyers are exploring options, pondering their current solutions and how they fit with the change. This stage is really about learning and defining what would good outcome look like.

PROBLEMS:

  • The buyers don’t engage with vendors at this stage, although they are likely to use vendors’ content marketing materials. Most of the buyers’ time is spent searching on Google.
  • Buyers have hard time finding relevant content because the market is quite cluttered with generic content that doesn’t really support buyers’ process. What customers really need and look for are: Solution facts, Business Cases, White papers, Success Stories, Reviews… Tangible and concrete tools for their process. These are not easy to find!
  • Customer would benefit from dialogue with the vendors, but they don’t do it because they don’t want to get harassed by sales. Buyers want to drive the process and manage it efficiently. Active sales is considered disturbing.
  • Large vendors dominate the space, because they have resources to produce content, they have strong page ranking and their brands pull customers to their resources. This logic and dynamic will enforce status quo and buyers don’t find NEW, INNOVATIVE AND MORE COST EFFICIENT OPTIONS. These vendors are not known yet and they concentrate on their product and service development – not in content creation. Their page rank is low and Google doesn’t find them. The buyers interest is to find the best solutions but they have very hard time finding them.
  • When the logic of top-of-the-funnel goes like that, it influences the request for proposal (RFP). The RFP and vendor list that will get that RFP will consist of well known players and leave very little room for innovative approaches
  • You don’t get trustworthy reviews from B2B companies anywhere, really. It’s difficult to compare sales pitch with actual delivery experiences. Success cases underline success, but hide failure.

Screenshot 2016-01-19 07.06.45

MIDDLE OF THE FUNNEL is about engagement with 3-10 recognised players who will get the RFP. This is the first time for the buyer to allow vendors to ask questions and study options with them. Vendors have experience from multiple customers and they can reflect previous cases and their results which could potentially lead to better outcome than the one outlined in the RFP. Connecting customers challenges to vendors solutions could create a new solution, which would be the best case

PROBLEMS:

  • Most innovative and best solutions are not the ones to get the RFP and the customers will probably choose solutions that are established, expensive and quite similar to those that their competitors are using
  • The most innovative people don’t get to influence the buyers thinking and the buyers don’t get the kind of edge to their operations that would have been possible
  • The market logic will enforce status quo: innovative SMEs don’t get to grow and once their technology is proven the entrepreneurs will make an exit and sell their company to big players years after the development of better solutions and at that point the big players will introduce the solutions to the market and scale them. At this point buyers don’t get such benefit from their choice anymore and they will pay much more than they would have paid a couple of years earlier

I met the Founder and CEO of SpendLead Fabrice Saporito last autumn and their solution really impressed me. SpendLead is an environment where the optimal buying process has been made possible and allows the most innovative players to engage with buyers early. The founders have their history in procurement and they have developed a dream environment for the buyers to realise the optimal buying process!

SpendLead founders have their history in major companies buying processes, which has allowed them to get these buyers in. There are already major companies procurement departments which have combined buying power worth more than 200 Billion/year using SpendLead which gives the service a unique value proposition. eg. BBC

Screenshot 2016-01-19 07.36.28

The service has been built around these buyers interests, which means that they have embraced it and adopted it rapidly. It’s now time for sellers and marketers to take advantage of this possibility. How it works for marketers promoting their services in SpendLead? You publish exactly what the customers are looking for:

Screenshot 2016-01-19 07.43.23

And you get tools to do you engagements and lead generation:

Screenshot 2016-01-19 07.43.40

For an SME this environment gives full toolkit, allows very easy publication and enables anonymous engagements with buyers who want to learn more at the top of the funnel. This will speed up and strengthen the innovative solutions adoption. This environment magnify solutions and their impact, not brands. That’s why I think that SpendLead can disrupt the market logic over the next couple of years. The service is completely free for buyers and the business model is based on leads. Their pricing is very affordable, 1,99USD/lead and it will probably disrupt the lead generation market also in case of bigger brands. At least it is great way for SME’s to scale their sales reach. I don’t think that big companies can afford to neglect this kind of player in case their buyers adopt the service.

SpendLead is definitely worth trying and their thinking is solid. I’m really interested in seeing how this kind of disruptive new service will change the way we do B2B selling and buying!

In case you have experiences about customer dialogue and sales process inside SpendLead I’d be very interested in hearing actual experiences from both buyers and marketers point of view

Megaphone model – An approach to influence an entire market

Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 20.48.54

I’ve been involved in some cases that had to do with introducing something new to the market place and/or  required changes to legislation, public opinion and awareness. Such cases are about energy legislation, taxation, medical legislation, healthcare, vaccination programs, trade legislation, nuclear power plant permits, etc. In such a case I and Minna Ritoluoma (Marketing Architect at Toinen PHD) came up with an approach to communications and influence design that can act as a foundation for influence planning. I named the approach “The Megaphone model”. (Click to enlarge the picture)

Megaphone model_lobbying and public opinion influencing

The idea is to recognize and plan the shared vision and goal that other parties would share and be willing to support. Once you have the vision you can start designing the comms flow – what messages are relevant for the cause and who are the persons, parties or institutions that would be most capable of getting them thru to the over all public opinion and legal entities. These cases have to do with very long term market condition creation that often enable huge business potential. Let’s say that your goal would be to increase the natural gas demand in the market – it would be better for the cause that a car company offering cars that run with natural gas would start marketing their offering for the market than the gas provider to try to increase the natural gas demand on their own. The message makes more sense for consumers when the fuel and its practical use benefits along with pure energy claims are communicated simultaneously. On the B2B side, for example food production lines are major natural gas clients that act as enablers for gas line extensions or building a LNG terminal, which requires building permits and long-term investments that then again can be used for consumer distribution network creation. The energy as such isn’t interesting – the cars are, the lower cost warm water and heating is and the more efficient manufacturing is.

In some cases it’s also better that some neutral scientist to make the environmental claims instead of a brand with vested interests. On the other hand the legislation preparing entities and public opinion can and often should be influenced simultaneously for the positive outcomes, sometimes over a very long period of time. Such cases are about strategic Must Win Communications Battles that can be very expensive or impossible to win solo.. As some wise man once said something like this: “If you want to move fast, go alone. If you want to go far, take a team with you”. A company can act as a kind of orchestrator designing the market place and mastering communications via different public or behind the scenes players like lobbyists, but the company needs the shared vision and goals to fuel the megaphone model. Such synergy can also be approached with Symbiosis Strategy that I published about earlier

Let’s move to details that make or break the case: Influencer mapping (Click to enlarge the picture)

Megaphone model_influencer mapping and comms designThe keys to success can be found with influencer mapping. The map is three dimensional tool that has two axis a) legislation decision power b) public opinion influencing power and c) color coding for each actor > positive, undecided/neutral and negative towards the shared vision and goals. This map is a fantastic tool for creation of the plan further and design influence patterns > who’s listening who, what goals do they have, who’s influenced by public opinion, who’s in alliance with who etc. Each actor should be thoroughly researched in order to master the communications scheduling, actors and routing for the messaging. Like most things, the whole model is about doing the hard work and being smart. Advertising can be a very powerful tool but it’s rarely the only solution – these cases are about market creation and foundations for a completely new ecosystems. When the opportunities present themselves, make sure you are ready to make most of them.. or contact me 🙂 Nothing is as fun and rewarding, as challenging the existing status quo and re-writing the rules in a certain market place!

Every now and then new major opportunities become possible. I hope these tools help you to make most of them. I would love to get your feedback for this approach and possible experiences you have had about this kind of cases!

Check out these articles too:

The SYMBIOSIS STRATEGY – Creating an ultimate value propositionMarketing’s new and re-designed 7P’s
Managing Brand – The most profound KPI’s and measures /

About Author

Toni Keskinen ,Chief Editor for Future CMO Movement (http://futurecmo.org)
Toni.keskinen(at)futurecmo.org

http://www.linkedin.com/in/tonikeskinen

Marketing attribution modeling

I just found Mr. Kfir Pravda’s article “Revenue attribution 101”  Mr. Pravda’s key question was: How do you measure revenue attribution – money and profitability for marketing activities. He had split the revenue attribution measurement according to touchpoint sequence from last to first and combined as customer journey. I agree with his measurement frame and guidelines. It’s a great article. I would recommend reading it.

Mr. Pravda’s article got me thinking about how do I actually approach this subject in my planning and implementation process.

First: I always start attribution modeling from owned channels

  1. What is their capacity to bring traffic and visitors (eg. stores and online)?
  2. What is their capability to convert recognized customers?
  3. What do people actually look in to and buy?
  4. Who are the customers actually – what kind of attributes, motives, interest contexts etc. do they share?

Once you have your own channel conversion, increased owned media demand generation impact and marketing automation tuned effective for the first time purchase t’s time to get more people interested.

Second: With the knowledge about contexts, customers and motives that generate interest and traffic it’s rather easy to recognize interfaces and channels that enable you to present a relevant and appealing messages for customers. This first touch planning is very much data directed iterative testing and learning process. What ever works, you scale up and automate in any given channel from online to direct marketing, telesales, face-to-face sales or advertising. I do prefer channels that I can measure direct ROI from, but I’ve also seen how media marketing has created stronger customer relationships and willingness to pay premium. These secondary KPI’s are about brand attributes, preference and willingness to pay premium.

Third stage is about learning and planning how to increase customers’ basket size, purchase frequency and expand customer’s buying behavior to more than one category. This stage is about using marketing automation technology in order to create service automation customer care programs for great customer experience and sales.

This process is completely founded on customer journey analysis and understanding in an omni-channel environment.

I think you might find these articles interesting:

Admap best practice article: How to map customer journey
Marketing’s new and re-designed 7P’s
Managing Brand – The most profound KPI’s and measures /
From marketing automation to service automation
Marketing Do or Die – managing customer interfaces

What about others? How do you approach marketing attribution measurement and planning in omni-channel environment?

About Author

Toni Keskinen ,Chief Editor for Future CMO Movement (http://futurecmo.org)
Toni.keskinen(at)futurecmo.org
http://www.linkedin.com/in/tonikeskinen

Paradigm shifts in Marketing 2014

Marketing Paradigm ShiftI believe that in 2014 corporate management and board take action and set new requirements for marketing. This has already been the trend for some time, but I believe that in 2014 a tornado hits marketing function in large-scale. I wish you could give your opinion on these. Please, if you disagree or notice that I missed something, comment below. Here they are:

-From campaigns to systemic growth acceleration
-From advertising to operations
-From brand book to brand experience & corporate culture
-From pre-planned year to realtime
-From one way to collaborative & dialogue
-From corporate led to customer led
-From bought audiences to owned and earned channels
-From guessing to proof driven continuous analytics, data and automation
-From promise marketing to customer excellence
-From online to mobile +
-Personal Anological communications become premium experiences at the digital era of minimizing contact costs and diminishing traditional direct marketing
-From selling to servicing – From outbound- to inbound marketing
-From Solo unit to collaborative accelerator
-From second rate corporate practice to management imperative

Let’s take a look at them in more detail:

From campaigns to systemic growth acceleration & From pre-planned year to realtime
Owned, earned and partner mediums offer means to generate constant customer flow and optimize conversions for sales. On-going constant presence and dialogue increase company’s reach, impact and capacity to communicate brand and offering in the digital environment “for free” (Naturally this kind of work requires a lot of work and high quality, so nothing is completely free). The marketing automation technology and continuous personalized communications with customers enable such influence and effect that their role is currently outranking paid media. On the other hand paid media is becoming personalized too. When customer is searching for something and her digital profile gives a high scoring value for certain offering, it is time to bid higher in the digital eyeball exchange (RTB) and get your message thru. The window of opportunity in Customer journeys to purchase could vary from seconds to months and marketing must be present at the right time with a right message. The era of mass media dominated campaigns and corporate led campaign schedules is over. Mass media has an important role in marketing mix, but it’s dominance is over now and continuous communications have the lead in importance.

From advertising design to operations
Advertising has been a unique discipline in the market and creativity is the core of advertising impact. Advertising is corporate led and scheduled work that takes money to publish. In this day and age the first priority should be to concentrate on your customer interfaces and channel strategy. How well does your customer interface meet with customer’s needs and expectations? It is increasingly difficult to say where marketing stops and product starts, and this is a good thing. Marketing & services are integrating and customer interface communications can use advertising means like videos to help customers further. Creativity has is now more important than ever, but the use of creativity is now more targeted in certain context and encounters with customers instead of mass-media with reach.

From one way to collaborative & dialogue & From promise marketing to customer excellence
One way manifests and promising is dead. People don’t trust advertising anymore and the access to information is present anywhere, anytime. In the connected environment we are now living in the old approach to building a brand with advertising doesn’t apply anymore. Brands are not built they are experienced and shared. The transparency revolution that empowered customers, forces companies to actually do better, not to just look better. The measurement of customer value has been a monetary concept for a very long time. Because there has not been technologies or means to measure anything else, that has been a valid approach. Today, customers have new currencies that can also be measured too. Customers can endorse a brand they like, or they can give very visible and durable critical comments about it. Customers have ideas for improvement, they can help you in your development process by giving their opinions while you are just developing a new approach, they can participate and share and by doing so, expand company’s reach and presence in the eyes of potential customers in a very positive way. Customers can help each others too, like web developers have done since the dawn of internet. Open innovation platforms like My Starbucks Idea, Dell Ideastorm or Innocentive have led the co-created product and solution development for a long time already and new, very cost efficient cloud based services like Ideascale have emerged. Social Media and open dialogue with the customers are really making a major difference and consequently forcing companies to do better.

From corporate led to customer led
Think about your self as a customer, to which brands are you truly committed? Then think the other way: “Which brands are truly committed to you as a customer”? I would guess, there are very few, if any that you can think of. Since the industrialization, society’s chance to specialized roles and growth of cities, the availability of options has steadily increased. Early on, the producers could just produce as much as they could as cheap as they could and that was enough. Now we are living in the world where there is too much of almost everything. Just producing at lower cost and higher quality isn’t enough anymore. We have now entered the experience economy that requires companies to adapt each and every customer’s personal lifestyle and needs. Offering everything to everybody equals spamming, and indifference marketing. Such marketing is a statement: “ We don’t really care about you, but here’s everything we got”.  Oracle Eloqua made a study about how often the sales people are actually contacting customers when the time is right for the customer. Majority of contacts are done at completely wrong time. Just being able to recognize that single thing makes a major difference in customer experience and operational efficiency.

From outbound- to inbound marketing
Previously a seller was looking for a customer, now customers are looking for solutions. The all-knowing Google is the most important route to most products and services and Google’s page rank is the key to the gateway to customers. Because all information is now available all the time, people want to check and make sure that they are making a smart decision or they look for options in general. Regardless which is the case, the company does not exist in the customer’s consideration unless it has very high top-of-mind score or preference rate. Most companies don’t. Once customers actually land at your site, the whole game is about conversion, whether you are capable of creating a connection with the customer or directly closing a deal. However, the fact is that people make their decisions and also transaction online and inbound approach to marketing is really becoming a very meaningful approach.

From guessing to proof driven continuous analytics, data and automation
Right now, pretty much anything you do can be measured. The availability of data has exploded while the cost of technology processing that data and making it possible to act on the data has slumped. The most pressing challenge now, is to educate people who know what to do with this capacity. You can track the customer’s transaction history with CRM, online behavior with marketing automation tools and you can even track potential customers with cookies and adapt to their behavior without them giving you any information apart from their actual behavior. You can track people’s organic journeys, interests, motives and landing sites, actually the entire market logic of preferences and customer flows between different brands and demand driving with online & search analytics. The web should be considered as the world’s largest quantitative research panel that is entirely based on actual behavior instead of opinions. Such access to information that is mostly free is really shaking the marketing and business communities in general.

From online to mobile +
There are now more connected phones to internet than computers. Online is now always on and always available. A computer was mostly used at home or office, but tablets and mobile phones are present where ever you are. The app explosion and location availability are now changing the entire role of internet enabling companies to really adapt to customer, time and location. The rise of HTML5 is making all online assets available in very intuitive and user-friendly way in any given gadget or platform instead of doing everything several times for native solutions. The dawn of “internet of things” is at hand and enable customer to have a “Sixth sense” that helps her to navigate in the actual world with more information, directions and advice than ever.  On the other hand it does enable companies to really become truly customer centric.

From Online back to Analogical (Personal Anological communications become premium experiences at the digital era of minimizing contact costs and diminishing traditional direct marketing)
When ever some major change happen, there will be a counter trend. Although everything is now going online and we love it, personal analogue communications are becoming signs of premium customer care and experiences. A simple letter has become rare approach. I was involved in a case where we approached  CEO’s of stock exchange listed companies. It was difficult to think how to get their attention and get to them directly without becoming cut off by an executive assistant. Eventually the solution was simple, a letter with a hand written address and a real stamp. Everything about such approach communicated intimacy and purpose. Such approach is as far as it gets from mass communications and that was exactly the reason why the campaign got 30% pull rate. The same apply to consumer communications. How would you feel, if you got a letter from Google or Facebook, that had a hand written address and a stamp? That would really be something J The person to person communications and customer service over phone are also having similar impacts, in case the service is working well. Although brand are now living in internet, we are still people who create a trusting relationship with other people.  That is a fact we should never forget.

From selling to servicing
We all have been sold to. That is not really a pleasant experience. When you are looking for something you would appreciate someone who would make your need their interest and do the best they can to get you a best possible solution. Sometimes that solution is not delivering the highest possible profit margin in short-term, but it sure does deliver in so many other levels. The customer is much more likely to come back, endorse the company and deliver much higher life time value. Shortterminism is the plague we need to cure. When ever you communicate with your customers, delivering them honest advice will sell more and increase impact of communications.

From Solo unit to collaborative accelerator & From second-rate corporate practice to management imperative
Marketing has been a solo unit that has been concentrating on promotion, brand awareness, -preference and -attributes. Those days are now behind us. The same measures are still important, but the marketing unit is required to take more commercial responsibility for customer interfaces and customer contacts in general. The very heart of marketing has always been the customer understanding. That is now more important than it has ever been. Customer centric business model demands marketing to spread available customer intelligence people operating in all customer interfaces. Management, corporate strategy and operations are now required to have their foundation on customer understanding. Because of this, the role of marketing is becoming a true management imperative and driver for customer centric corporate transformation. These are truly exciting and inspiring times!
Articles for more insights:

Marketing’s new and re-designed 7P’s

Marketing Mix 4PMarketing used to be about making companies APPEAR to be better, increasing brand appeal etc. Today marketing is about MAKING BETTER COMPANIES

The omni-channel, real-time, everything’s available and traceable environment we are currently living in has changed the marketing fundamentals quite radically. The world is no longer the same place for which The marketer E. Jerome McCarthy proposed the four Ps classification in 1960. This age requires us to re-design them. Actually, in my opinion we should question the old truths and re-define the entire concept, role and meaning of marketing.. go back to the fundamentals and adjust them to this time and age. I hope this article sparks interest and willingness to join in and continue the discussion at Future CMO LinkedIn Group

The new 7P’s

  • Position – in customer’s mind
  • Performance – the user experience, capability to meet expectations
  • Proximity – How close the brand is to it’s customers, Customer intimacy
  • Price  – Price is no longer a fixed figure
  • Presence – instead of Place
  • Perceived product
  • Promotion

POSITION

There is a lot of everything. Customers instinctively make their lives easier by using their mental shortcuts, heuristics, in order to make sense of the surrounding wealth of messages and impulses. The position a brand holds in the customer’s mind connects it to certain attributes, contexts, values, benefits and purposes. Actually, our brain gives an emotional tag to every single piece of information before entering our conscious mind. Branding is about training customers’ brains and winning certain position in their minds. This is why it takes a long time to really gain a meaningful position as a brand. That’s also why brand extensions are not a certain success, as the position the brand has in customer’s mind only consist of certain learned connections.

Because of these reasons I would define Brand as a position in the customers’ minds. During the past decade people have also learned to use brands as their road signs when searching for products, services, solutions, ideas and inspiration. For example in travel and telecommunications markets the number of category searches has dropped, while brand searches have increased. Instead of searching for smartphone or holiday, customers search operators, smartphone manufacturers and travel agencies by brand. To people, brands stand for direct access to information they are looking for. Such behavior makes the top-of-mind position even more important than it has been before. Smartphones or 4G are minimal interests, while Samsung and Apple have strong demand. The data also shows how Android has become a brand on it’s own and has an even stronger demand than Samsung has.

Mobile Google trends

PERFORMANCE

When customers do buy a product or service they have certain expectations for what they bought. Depending on how well the brand meets those expectations, it influences the customer’s personal experience and view on the brand’s performance. Value for money experience is a very important measure for a brand and shared experiences influence the brand’s Net Promoter Score directly. Performance should be measured through the customer’s entire relationship with the brand, across every single experience they share. In my opinion we should include PERSEVERENCE as part of the performance. The customers expect you to stay interested in them and continue to deliver high value. One-shot experience is not enough, no matter how good it is. The real performance must be proved over time also in case of product failure or other unexpected events.

In September 2013 HBR published an article: “The truth about Customer Experience” by Alex Rawson, Ewan Duncan, and Conor Jones. In their experience, most companies measure customer experience by touch points or single engagements. Such an approach will tell you how did that single engagement meet customer’s expectations. It does not say anything about customer’s satisfaction over time. In case this is the only mean to measure performance in a corporate KPIs, it will create an illusion of performing well. In their article, they proved the declining customer satisfaction over the length of customer relationship. When you think in terms of performance, you need to continuously improve your service, in order to keep your customers happy. In my Customer Journey studies I have also learned that, the reasons why customers choose to buy a certain product, or a service, are not necessarily the same ones that will keep the customer happy post purchase on a longer term.

Performance measures are also changing the marketing as a practice, changing management and the ways of managing change. Today, everything can be easily tested in small scale, scaled to global level and measured in real time. The marketing practice has been measured with rather elusive figures like top-of-mind, preference, awareness and attributes until recently. Now marketing has become an actual business unit that should have a business plan, revenue forecasts and profit expectations. This is finally something that other members of the board understand. This is why the marketing as a practice is moving up on the corporate power ladder. Corporate management is already expecting CMO’s to take responsibility for corporate digital transformation. In my opinion the creativity factor associated with marketing function has more potential in this new order than ever before when its performance is measured right. When customer understanding, creativity and performance metrics are connected across corporate strategy and operations, possibilities of developing business, competitive advantage and brand become infinite. We just need to follow the path companies like Tesco, Apple, Google and Amazon have opened for us over the past two decades. In that time the technology and ecosystem developed to its current level of sophistication and accessibility allowing us to join in and follow the paths these giants have already proved effective.

PROXIMITY

Proximity is a synonym for distance. In order to create trust and relationship with customers, brands need to get close and personal with their customers. At best, you can talk about customer intimacy and connecting the brand to people’s self image. We have a chance of having a dialogue and become a part of peoples everyday life via different channels like Facebook, apps, online services, even external bought mediums at personal level. Although the Internet and all it’s applications have a lot to offer, PEOPLE belong in this category too. Person-to-person communications are the primary way of connecting and even getting imprinted to the brand. People and corporate culture represent the brand in human form. The old truth about brand being as good as its salesman is still true. Customers meet people while making their choices, have support needs or they want a reclamation taken care of. People are the very core of trust experience and in many businesses customers imprint on people serving them. In such cases the brand experience and loyalty has it’s foundation on personal relationship: it’s not about B2B or B2C, it’s about Human-to-Human. The current view is, that those companies that best connect their physical experience in an omni-channel world will win the hearts and minds of their customers.

In my opinion the Apple Store concept is one of the best examples of creating a strong human interface and online customer relationship together. The experience at Apple store is that all employees are there for you, concentrating on your concerns and help you with your needs. There are often more employees than there are customers, which just stands for Apple’s priorities. The store is a place for brand experience and it is not measured by sheer efficiency like most other stores are.

Apple store

Picture source: http://zerogeekspeak.net/2014/06/16/av-forward-training-customerprofessional-relationship-dynamics/

PRICE

Price used to be a rather fixed figure. In this age price has become a rather elusive measure. The new approaches to pricing are about yielding models and price variety between customer segments or distribution channels. There is one price for me, and another for you, although the product and the seller are the same. There is a price for me right now and another tomorrow.

Online environment has made it possible to democratize offering and make pricing transparent by using aggregators and comparison services that find prices from different sellers and present them in one single view. This kind of approach has democratized the marketplace, because the aggregators only show certain comparable basic functionalities and push the brand further away from the customer. This approach has increased the meaning of pricing volatility and transparency. People on the other hand love such services, because the offering with large selection, customer reviews and low prices can be found and bought from a single location fast and conveniently. Actually these players like Expedia that is offering Hotels.com, expedia.com, Trivago and those alike them, are creating direct relationships with customers and effectively drive prices lower (and their profit margin higher because they effectively own demand). Smaller players, who have less known brands but can offer services and products at lower cost, can access demand and challenge better known brands due to this logic.

The demand for lower prices is growing and now it’s also connected with certain brands known for their low prices. In January 2014 Amazon reported that its’ more than 2 million marketplace sellers sold more than a billion units globally. In their annual report Amazon also reported higher profit margins, because everything they sell in their marketplace generate pure profit. Amazon, like big brands, have the demand, selling other businesses’ products don’t cost virtually anything for them.

Here’s how demand is developing in case of accommodation business:

Travel Google Trends

PRESENCE

I think that presence has replaced place on this list. In the digital era, presence equals availability and direct access to buying. Presence is a more flexible concept than place that is physical. Social media is a method of expanding presence across customers’ peer groups and generating recommendations, participation and coverage in general. Aggregators also scale presence further. Customers will choose a brand among those present. It is to say that expanding presence is likely to directly impact sales. Out of sight – out of mind, is the name of the game.

When I have been studying Customer Journeys and customer’s decision making, I’ve learned that there exists a market segment of people who are at the state of “pending decision” or “pending action” in many categories, especially in case of consumer packaged goods. Let’s say that you, for example, need to buy a new toothbrush and you decide to do so. The decision is already there, but it could take months before you actually make the purchase. In such cases the sheer presence where customer makes the purchase increases sales even without any kind of promotion. The same logic applies in many other cases too. I have personally become completely loyal for a contact lens seller LensOn. They send me an email once my previous order is likely to be nearly consumed and I only need to click once to renew my order. They know me and their presence takes place at the right time inside my personal space. I consider that great service. Their presence is perfect – out of sight and not bothering me at other times, only serving me proactively when they know I need it. LensOn has effectively increased my contact lens spending, because I have not run out of them since my first purchase, almost four years ago.

PERCEIVED PRODUCT

A PRODUCT is too often defined by companies as how they see and envision it. This is naturally flawed/biased and is where many companies make a mistake in the first steps of selling and marketing their product/service. Especially engineer lead organizations that are very product detail focused. In reality this should be PERCEIVED PRODUCT, making an enormous paradigm shift from companies defining a product, to understanding that the PRODUCT is actually only and exactly what we can get the consumer to perceive it to be. This adds the element of communication responsibility and understandability to the 7P’s equation. Most companies think they have the best product, but still fail, because of an enormous perception gap in the definition of the product in their minds and the potential customers minds. Perceived Products is naturally tightly linked to the second P = PERFORMANCE, which is all about (repeatedly) living up to, and exceeding the product perception and quality expectations of the customer (The definition of Perceived Product came from Jarno Aho, OMD Finland.)

What makes the concept of Perceived product especially important, is the fact that customer experience about a product or service is firmly embedded on expectations. When expectations are really high, it is difficult to meet them. On the other hand low expectations are easy to exceed and translate them to endorsements. Perception has a major influence on brand demand and preference. Branding has everything to do with it.

PROMOTION

Here’s the Wikipedia’s definition: “All of the methods of communication that a marketer may use to provide information to different parties about the product. Promotion comprises elements such as: advertising, public relations, sales organisation and sales promotion.[1]” Another way to approach promotion can be divided in four major categories:

  • Owned media (own customer interfaces and direct channels for customer communications)
  • Earned media (social media and PR)
  • Partner media (retailers, resellers, bundling and packaging partners, etc.)
  • Paid media (advertising, SEM, etc.)

Important measures for promotion are reach and impact to brand awareness, preference, willingness to pay premium and convert sales. In the Internet age of overwhelming availability of data, own media has increased it’s capacity to impact sales tremendously. Search engine’s page rank can be improved, own customer data can be leveraged very cost efficiently and the relationship with customers can drive further reach with earned social media and dialogue with customers. In the current online centric customer relationships in which marketing and servicing merge as one single messaging, it’s increasingly difficult to define where the product or service ends and marketing/promotion starts. You could say that the core customer service and customer relationship processes have become promotional activities in the age of open online dialogue. Partnering influence reach and presence very effectively too. These new possibilities have diminished the role of paid mediums and increased promotional capacity and scalability at a low cost. Data driven marketing enable paid media’s role as an extension of customer relationship marketing even if the customer has never left his/her contacts.

These were my 7P’s. In case you can agree with them, I’m sure you can also agree with this. Marketing used to be about making companies APPEAR to be better, increasing brand appeal etc. Today marketing is about MAKING COMPANIES BETTER. The difference between these two roles is so great, that it demands us to open our eyes and re-define marketing as a practice for the needs and opportunities of today.

Further reading:

CMO´s were hit by Tornado

Marketing departments in many companies are currently losing their importance and budgets. The world of commerce and marketing is truly in great turbulence right now.. Tornado really. The change is like force of nature and it is so fierce, because several megatrends are colliding simultaneously:

  1. Customer Experience design and metrics mania (NPS)
  2. Corporate Identity as a holistic concept, not just brandbook but experience
  3. Integration of service & marketing = Business Process Design & LEAN process requirement for efficiency
  4. Design thinking breakout for innovation and business model generation
  5. CRM and automation capabilities increase: Increase CIO’s, Sales director’s and business management’s involvement in marketing
  6. Social brand and open dialogue with customers (rating and feedback is ever present issue + the rise of Open Innovation as part of customer relationships)
  7. Revenue Performance Management requirement and Analytics
  8. Decline in traditional marketing & Own media’s tremendous influence increase
  9. Organisational changes – Torn Silo walls makes marketing everyone’s business > “We are all marketeers now” said McKinsey’s article
  10. Requirement to deliver better results with lower budgets

What I’ve heard and observed is, that business management has already got used to thinking in terms of processes due to ERP and CRM technology development and implementation. They are also very familiar with cost/performance analysis and practical implementation to processes. It is easier for them to think about Customer Journey and CX design pragmatically and apply the ideas in practice. Sadly, CMO’s in many companies are strangers to such consideration and thinking. Branding used to be about doing things according to the brand book and design guidelines. Now brand is both an idea about something great that stands for something and something that you can experience with all your senses. The Corporate brand identity is more about such holistic experience than images, jingle’s or tone of voice. They are still important, but the other factors are increasing their influence exponentially.

This community was created because we wanted CMO’s to take advantage of the turbulence that would enable major increase in their influence and improve productivity in organisations. Now it feels like marketing departments influence and capacity to deliver results is dividing in two and this change is escalating as two roadmaps: a) Marketing becomes the driving force for corporate business development (= CMO’s take the driver’s seat leading the change) or b) Marketing becomes second grade support organisation without power (= CMO’s continue their work as they have done before). I wish more companies and CMO’s would choose the roadmap A.

I participated in DMA event in 2004. There Nectar’s (Loyalty Management UK’s) CEO Robert Giergink presented his case about coalition loyalty management program and their results for the first couple of years. His co-speaker was a University Professor whose name I can’t recall anymore, but he said that loyalty programs might represent the future of Marketing in general. I was deeply impressed, enlightened really, about Nectar’s case and find it still very inspiring. In my opinion that professor hit the point exactly. Currently all marketing is about Customer Journey and Experience management, individualized dialogue and event based, triggered and service oriented communications. That is exactly what loyalty programs are supposed to do. However, until recently such approach was ridiculously expensive or impossible. Right now, the technology is very cost efficient and the ROI capacity is absolutely amazing. While this is true with all recognized customers it’s now becoming possible also for customer’s that have left no identification about them.

Naturally the online revolution and social media storm have made everything above even more important and possible and that is why these things have become management imperatives. I’m looking at the CMO’s position in the light of generic Must Win Battles shared by many companies:

TOPLINE GROWTH:

  • Best customer experience (Goals: loyalty, LTV, cross & upsell, high NPS)
  • Continuous and cost-efficient new business (Goals: new customers, demand generation and stronger conversion)

BOTTOM LINE STRENGHT:

  • Lean and effective operations and processesstrong bottom line (Goals: highly productive organisation capable of delivering superb customer experience at comparatively low expences by using new technologies, self service and help, Social customer service, online environments and automation)

ENERGIZING SUSTAINABILITY:

  • Creation of winning corporate culture: Inspirational and very satisfying workplace capable of understanding and driving development and change. Recognition as very prominent employer for hungry and innovative new talent, Topline growth energize the company’s employees and partners focusing their minds on opportunities, innovation and growth

Such MWB considerations should become the heart of marketing strategy development. I’m currently involved in such cases and I’m witnessing the great change and impact such consideration has on the organisations. Creation of new and exploration of unknown are naturally inspiring and when they also deliver financially measurable success it is certainly worthy of your undivided attention.

Word of encouragement: Very few people are truly experienced in this game. Go ahead and learn by doing. I can promise you it is great!

Also check out:

Managing brand – the most profound kpi’s and measures

Marketing has an identity crisis

Author: Toni Keskinen, Change Catalyst & Executive as a Service

http://www.linkedin.com/in/tonikeskinen

Join FutureCMO Movement LinkedIn Group here

Definition for Customer Experience

Customer Experience is so obvious and yet so complex subject that has multitude of perceptions and views to consider. I try to put it very objectively. What do you think about this definition about:
“Customers approach their experience subjectively and holistically and they form their view of customer experience based on one or multiple engagements with the company’s services, products and interfaces. The company could build great customer experience with multiple engagements and crush the customer’s view with one. The customer has very different approach and expectations for the company along their purchase and customer relationship process and their expectations change along the way. The key to their view on experience is customer’s subjective expectations that the company intentionally or by chance set with advertising, promises, engagements across touch points and via other customer’s shared experiences. This is why same service level deliver’s very different customer experience and Net Promoter Score results from one company to another.”

You can create brand without engagements and the brand is the key to the expectations. The customer experience though is based on personal engagements with the company, it’s products and services.

I recently wrote the article “Beyond HBR’s truth about customer experience” and “Irina” asked what kind of definition I would use for Customer Experience. I wrote that definition before checking other’s opinions. I now listed them below. I often struggle with definitions, because generalizing them to the max reduce other’s capacity to fully understand how many meanings there are behind very few words and suppressed sentence. It’s often true, that we use the same words, but connect very different contexts and views to them. Effectively we could discuss about the same subject and think about completely different issues. This is such a fundamental question, that I’d love to come up with a definition everyone could share from CEO to customer service, marketing, CTO, CFO and well ..The Customer. What is your view on this subject? Have you come across events, in which people have had completely different perception about the issues and events influencing Customer Experience?

Here are some definitions from other thought leaders and players:

Beyond Philosophy: A customer experience is an interaction between an organization and a customer as perceived through a customer’s conscious and subconscious mind. It is a blend of an organization’s rational performance, the senses stimulated and the emotions evoked and intuitively measured against customer expectations across all moments of contact. – See more here

Wikipedia: Customer experience (CX) is the sum of all experiences a customer has with a supplier of goods and/or services, over the duration of their relationship with that supplier. This can include awareness, discovery, attraction, interaction, purchase, use, cultivation and advocacy. It can also be used to mean an individual experience over one transaction; the distinction is usually clear in context. – See more here

Adam Richardson, Frog Design: It is the sum-totality of how customers engage with your company and brand, not just in a snapshot in time, but throughout the entire arc of being a customer. – See Mr. Richardson’s article about the subject in HBR blog network here

SAS: Customer experience is defined as your customers’ perceptions – both conscious and subconscious – of their relationship with your brand resulting from all their interactions with your brand during the customer life cycle. – Article available here

Forrester Research: “How customers perceive their interactions with your company.” In Mr. Harley Manning’s blog post is available here

In Forrester’s article, there was also great picture about how expectations and meeting them influence customer’s subjective experience about the company.

The truth about Customer Experience has a lot to do with our emotional systems. This Infograph by Forbes makes a great point:

I just found a company “Touchpoint Dashboard” Do you have any experiences about using this tool?

Author: Toni Keskinen, Marketing Architect & Customer Journey Designer

http://www.linkedin.com/in/tonikeskinen

Join FutureCMO Movement LinkedIn Group here

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