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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

Choosing and Buying – Cross-channel influence

We first started the development of cross-channel customer behavior analytics methodology – One Experience in 2004. The original insight about channel development was about clear conflict between companies channel development practice and customers actual behaviour. Companies used to develop each channel individually. Very often each channel has still own channel responsible management that is developing that individual channel to the max. Also the benchmarking was done against competitors channel and the goal was to be better than the competitor. There’s nothing wrong with anything described above unless it generate blind spots and steer companies to invest in development that doesn’t actually support customers and create value for them. The rule of thump is that you should constantly consider effort vs. gain from customer perspective whenever you are developing or changing something.  When doing Cross-channel customer behaviour studies we learned that in some cases companies channel strategy and customer’s needs and expectations were not aligned and the channel strategy actually hindered sales.

Many brands have a long and successful history of servicing their customers thoroughly in a single channel.  Kirsti Lehmusto (former CMO of Finnish retail company Stockmann and colleague from Taivas, now CMO for Helsinki University) recognize the retail store management, contact centre services and distant sales services with catalogues as methodologies that have created great financial success by concentrating in excelling in the customer experience in a single channel from beginning to the end.

Channel management 1_single channel optimizationIn the current 24/7 economy and world of digital influence it is even more important to understand that in current world customer’s move accross channels and create service strings that fluently move customers from one channel to another according to their preferences, drivers and motives. It is important to look at these service moments in each channel and optimize them to help the customer further to his preferred next step.

Channel management 2_cross-channel behaviour

Service and product ranges don’t have the same meaning for customers and people are not quite as interested in everything. In the article ”Customer Decision Making FLOW” there’s more about how the decision-making about a certain FMCG goods and brands like Coca Cola differ from buying a magazine subscription, taking a mortgage or buying a motorcycle. The following gives an outlook on general learning’s about stages in various businesses.

Let’s dig deeper in to stages: Browsing, Configuring, Deciding, Buying and Post-Purchase.

The two stages before these are: Brand-as-a-platform that you can read from here and Initiation, you can read here.  (I would recommend reading them, before going further to choosing and buying journey below). Also check out how to run customer driven business design development here.

Browsing

Browsing is most often about learning, simultaneous process of exploring your own intentions and interests, and actively considering what kind of solution would be perfect for the customer. Customer has mental goals while doing this. He’s interested in certain facts, has drivers guiding him further while exploring. Not all factors are created equal. These things define customer’s mindset & motivation. (We must not forget, that people are emotional by nature and we need to understand what people are feeling while they are browsing and learning and help them feel good about the brand we are promoting). While doing this, customers use information sources that are both interactive & instructional. On-line services, product reviews, friends, catalogues, retail stores, contact centres, agents & brokers. Some of these touch points can be led by the brand, some can’t. Some of the touch points have more meaning than others. The important thing is to understand what the customer is trying to do, which touch points the customers use and how did the touch point fulfil customer’s expectations.

Customers who have no prior experience about buying products and services in certain service or product category are more likely to browse more thoroughly and consciously. Also, people who are more price sensitive tend to do more work in browsing and all other stages in general. There are two underlying reasons for the Journey driven emphasis and strong browsing

  1. Customers are curious and actually want to know what options are most interesting and
  2. Customers are worried about making bad decision and try to learn more in order to avoid mistakes.

In many cases both reasons are meaningful.

Some businesses are naturally interesting for customers, like travelling and cars. In these businesses learning about products, services and prices can be considered as entertainment. Coffee table discussions and other people’s experiences are also an important part of the decision making process. In this kind of categories visits to the stores and actually seeing the products are also considered entertaining and fun. If people are busy and don’t just go out and see products for fun they are more likely to actually go and see what they are considering in configuring or even in purchase stage after making the mental decision to buy. The trend though is that companies have less and less face time with customers enabling persuasion. Cross channel marketing is more about steering customer forward and selling by supporting their choices than actual selling. Pulling instead of pushing.

In business-to-business customer journeys browsing is about looking for potential service providers for further negotiations. Managers and entrepreneurs looking for service providers ask other people’s opinions, look online for potential companies and potentially even use a professional consultant to find best possible potential service providers.

When defining sub channels for Browsing stage our experience is that it’s better to use broad descriptions of the touch points and ask about customers experience and what kind of information had most meaning for them. In browsing it is impossible not to talk about search engines in the current digital environment. Customers often have pre-decided brands and options they are mostly looking at. However, they also look for other people’s experiences and use search engines while looking for information. Even if the brand or product would not be known and on customer’s shortlist, search engine advertising enable capturing some of the customers. The more entertaining and positive context the buying is about, the more likely people are to click and learn about options they didn’t know existed. Travel is a great example of such business. In travel people are happy to give their email and contacts to travel agencies, cruising companies and airliners just to get more entertaining ideas and travelling inspiration from them. In less entertaining businesses too, it’s possible to capture customer’s contacts and call back later. When I built a house and was looking for materials, contractors etc, it was obvious that the browsing was often done in the middle of the night and an opportunity to leave contacts and get a call next day was considered as good service.

In less interesting businesses people often skip browsing or do it in-store at a shelf. FMCG businesses represent such business in which people don’t search information or find out about options outside store. Browsing is likely to be done at the shelf comparing contents and prices. If customer does this once, he’s not likely to stop and think next time. Once decided, customers easily create habit and non-considered re-purchases. This doesn’t mean that you couldn’t do anything though. Some companies have created wildly popular recipe clubs and services that offer inspiration in a format of recipes instead of individual products. One of the best examples is Valio’s Cream Club which cost 18€ as annual subscription price. This program is nothing but marketing and branded content. Still, people consider these recipes so inspiring that they are prepared to pay for a membership which makes this marketing program practically free for Valio even without product sales. If your product is not interesting as such, people could still be interested in the context your products are used in enabling branded engagement.

Configuring

Configuring can be exactly that, e.g. using a car configuration online in order to learn which kind of combination would be most suitable for me. The name of the stage comes from mass-customisation vocabulary (Jarmo Suominen, professor for Masscustomization (MIT/UIAH) had strong impact on the original theory development). In configuring stage customer has most often chosen the brands he wants to learn more about. Often it is about negotiating with potential suppliers about the price or contents and terms of the offer. The difference compared to browsing is that in browsing customer often is learning and more open to possibilities. In browsing, he’s also often anonymous visitor online or in store. At configuring customer is engaging actively and has more defined decision making criteria. He’s looking for the best deal. Configuring is also about letting some options go in order to concentrate on the best potential choices. It’s equally important to know how people define which brands they want to continue with and understand what kind of tools and information sources people use in order to rule out some brands. The car configuration tools are a great example of that.

Case: We studied 500 professionals who had chosen a leasing car as their car benefit provided by their employer spring 2010. The study proved that 18% of all buyers used car configuration tools to decline brands before going to test-drive or asking an offer for the car. It’s actually rather logical. When customers start building their dream car they easily come up with a solution that is too expensive for them. Also, the car configuration tools give a price before any discounts. As a result customers start dropping out options they had chosen in the first place and suddenly the whole experience is about giving up on things the customer would have liked. Eventually the brand loses the appeal it had originally. It is absolutely certain that every car brand’s research prove that customers require openness in pricing and giving as much information as possible online. However, optimisation of sales and driving people further in their journey is sometimes different from what customers demand. Direct marketing has proved this decades ago. Customer should not get a figure online that he could consider as an offer unless you are selling cars online and actually give a real offer for the customer. In majority of car selling the customer should only get an offer from car seller and enable the car seller to show the qualities of the car in person. Emotional and rational influences are often a mixture creating desire to own the car. This desire requires certain level of engagement, which improves the probability of closing a deal. Car configuration tools’s role is to enable dreaming and bring the customers to the store.

In business-to-business and major consumer purchase decisions the configuring stage is often about a meeting with the salesman or other representative in order to define request for an offer. Online e-commerce and opportunity to buy abroad is just another way of servicing the same need. The buyer wants to know and learn about the service providers or products capabilities, background, cases and discuss about the qualities of potential solution. Very often the first engagement with the service provider also allow buyer to evaluate what kind of feeling the service provider left in the first engagement. Word of advice from previous cases is, that it’s more important to ask than present at this stage. In people businesses customers want the company to concentrate on their needs and solve them. It is important to show interest in customers needs and show how much you care about their problem. Human behaviour is about trust. The seller’s first priority as a contact person and representative of his company is to understand the brief and create trusting and caring connection to the buyer.

Decision

Was there a specific event or incentive that led to decision? If yes, what was that? Whether or not there is an offer, the people still evaluate offer or stimulus against their perception of the brand, the company and the product. Customer has certain motivation, drivers and resources that guide him. From which retailers did the customer ask for an offer. What prompted the decision?

In some cases customer know that they should buy a new product in order to replace the old one but they just don’t recall doing so or lack motivation or ability to do it. In these cases we talk about ”pending purchase decisions”.  Offer in store or discount advertisement could act as a trigger. In smaller purchases just seeing the product is the trigger. In other cases there could have been long-lasting interest and consideration but no action. In cases like this the customers have been interested and wanted to buy for a long time but were not able to do so or lacked justification. Discount advertising is very effective trigger in these cases. People could wait for a long time for the products price to come to the acceptable level. The discount has two-fold triggering effect

  1. The price can be considerably lower than normal
  2. The offer is there for a limited time or there is only limited number of products at that specific store resulting feeling of hurry and justification. It’s now or never!  Limited number of products is a message that increases sales never mind how many products the store would actually have in storage.

In TV-shop commercials sales increased when customers were told: ”If you call, Prepare for holding online or use SMS for ordering”. Just saying some other people would also buy the product was justification enough for more people to act.

In technology businesses like wrist-top-computers measuring pulse and other training factors, mobile phones and entertainment gadgets the prices come down after some time due to rapid product circulation. If the products become ”most wanted” like iPod and iPhone did, declining pricing eventually reach tippin’ point driving products to move from most wanted to market dominating products. Following the own brand’s and competing brand’s customer journeys and preference, enable recognising and preparing for such events.

Another very important thing is to track competing brand’s actions in this space. Competing brands could send offers by mail; use out-bound telemarketing to help (read: push) customers make decisions right away. Proactive decision supporting and triggering could result a lot of lost business unless it’s detected and acted on.

In business-to-business cases and major consumer purchase decisions the decision stage has to do with comparing offers. It is smart to take the time and present the offer face to face. Face time often increase trust and represent dedication. At best the presenting of the offer means evaluating and considering it aloud. Customer has a change to ask questions and make certain that they understand what exactly the offer means. The first meeting with a salesman was about first impression and the next about how well does the contact person meet expectations and is he trust worthy? How well has the contact person taken customers wishes in account and what kind of pro-active propositions there are in order to better meet customer’s goals. It all comes down to trust eventually. Price is a subjective issue in most cases, not an absolute measure. Higher price just require more trust and better justification than lower price.

Purchase

Where did the customer purchase? Purchase channel and location give new information for analysis when looking back at the customer journey. Customers could have purchased from certain store brand, specialist store, online retailer, catalogue sales company, by phone, by calling to contact centre. It’s important to track which player was the active contacting party a) customer b) competitor.

Purchase channel send a message about customers decision-making dynamics too. In several cases the customers behaviour has been very online centric in every other stage but purchasing. Online channels are very effective in offering information about the products and services but often customer rather purchase from store, individual contact person or contact centre rather than online. Why is that?

Our learning has been that it’s most likely an expression of insecurity and pure need for human contact confirming the decision. People want to call, possibly bargain a little, but most importantly they want to feel secure that they are doing a good deal and they will not feel sorry for it after. In retail products customers could go to buy in retail store in order to confirm their decision by touching the product and experiencing it live or they want to get it with them right away. Visit in the store could be inevitable in many cases but there are risks.

When we were developing One Experience methodology we did some multi-client researches in order to develop the methodology. We found out that while Fujitsu-Siemens had 22% preference rate, they sold 35%. Their sale was roughly 50% higher than their brand preference would let expect. In the further analysis we found out that majority of sales people working in stores preferred Fujitsu-Siemens laptops and often owned one too. Of course the same apply in case of trade promotion offering sales people extra for selling more Fujitsu-Siemens. However, in this case there was no promotion but it was natural for sales people to recommend Fujitsu-Siemens.

The reality is that when people have been looking for a solution, product or service they would like to buy, they are actually still rather open for influence at the very last stage. When people get to know offering they often come to conclusion that certain product is both possible for them and they feel comfortable about choosing it. Once the customer comes to a store and the premium product is in discount, the customer is likely to change his mind in that instant and buy the premium product even if it was still slightly more expensive than the one the customer came to pick-up. The same phenomena apply when customer engage with store personnel. The professionals in store can raise insecurity in customer’s mind or recommend something other than the customer was going to buy. Often the customer’s goal for the discussion in store is meant to confirm customer’s own thinking. Still, often it results alternative outcome depending on the advisors training, experience, opinions and incentives. Brands have very different variation in the level of determination in their buying. Strong brands, which have a “love” relationship with buyers, are much harder to persuade to some other way.

In the same Laptop study we found another interesting phenomenon. There were dramatic differences between store brands in which customers went to see the products and where they actually purchased them. The conversion rate from visitor to buyer was at best 66% and at worst less than 30%. The two biggest retail brand conversions were a) 29% visiting and 9% of sales and b) 23% visiting and 6% of sales. These two brands dominated people’s visits but they didn’t dominate sales. Retail conversion rate optimisation would have dramatically increased these retailers market share and it shouldn’t be too hard when they already have people coming to them.  41% of customers told that the sales person influenced their decision and in 23% of cases they reported sales persons opinion had important role. 39% of customers only went to visit in one store. Still, many of those people purchased online.  Currently many customers consider stores as showrooms and look for the best deal online.

RECENT DEVELOPMENT AND TRENDS

The rise of online channels and social media’s role in customer journey has increased information available for customers. Social media has enabled and encouraged communities and discussion forums in which people share experiences of different products and services. This change has diminished the role for sales people in many businesses and created disruption in former Customer Journeys. In the world of 3i, that is high interest, high involvement and high investment product and services, people’s know-how about the products and services often exceed the level that sales people have in store. The customers are increasingly becoming specialist in what they are buying. They are also actively using this knowledge as social capital. People enjoy their position in their own community and sharing increase their role as a valuable member. Peer-group’s respect is often very effective motivator that activates discussion and participation.

The customers are also increasingly interested in companies’ practices and values. Several brands have suffered major image setbacks due to child labour in their production, environmentally indifferent attitude and any ethically questionable actions. People become more and more conscious about their consuming,  effects of their choices and the products and services are no longer enough. People also need to feel good about their choices.

The trend that is shaking the corporate mindset is transparency. Brand, products and services, pricing, quality and experiences are all available online. Customers trust each other more than the brands specialists even if they don’t know each other. Transparency means that companies need to be just as good as they say they are or better than they have promised. Search engines are the best enablers of transparency democracy.

Post-Purchase

Once a customers have made a purchase and started using the product or service they are often likely to talk about their experiences. Word-of-mouth is a major influencer in many businesses and sharing experiences spontaneously online has multiplied the word-of-mouth influence. Another important thing to consider is that web does not forget easily. When customers start looking for information about the product or service online, they use search engines. The highest scoring links are the ones that have been clicked most often, have external links directed to that specific content and so on. This means that the highest scoring content could be several years old. It is very important for brands to stay in touch with customer’s satisfaction and recommendations.

Analysing the outcome

As customer journey designer I was very interested in learning about the customers decision-making dynamics from beginning to the end. In order to optimize that you first need to understand what is happening. We came to conclusion that the best way to effectively show what happened was to break the conversion analysis in three: Won, Kept and Lost business. To make it more meaningful we broke further to three dimensions: before buying, what happened in the original groups and what was the outcome. Here is an illustration of one case. This measure is called Business Dynamics Score (BDS)

 Business Dynamics Score

Of those 42% who originally preferred the brand 95% were kept and only 5% lost. Of those 28% who originally preferred competitor 70% were converted and only 30% were lost to competitor. Of those who had no preference 88% were converted and won. Only 14% were lost. The outcome is that from this company’s target group they won 46% of sales from competitors, 40% of their sales came from those who originally preferred them and they lost 14% of their reference group’s sales to competitors. In this case the sample the data was collected from customer buying this service at certain frequency and in this case some of the customers had purchased competing brand after the most recent purchase from the brand that was studied. This finding helped further in recognizing how much business is leaking from the brand to the competitors and why.

This way of looking at the customer data also reveal where the brand is making it’s sales. Of people who originally prefer the brand, how many actually buy it in the end. Of customers who prefer competitors, how many the brand is capable of winning. From customers who have no preference but only rather equal options, how many of them actually buy the brand in question. While capturing data, this same comparison also work very efficiently in analysing how competitors win from the brand in question and what can be done about it.

In order to finalize the big picture, it’s also very educating to see which brand the customers consider was second best after the purchased brand if any. Being second best means that the brands success was good but something still turned the customers head and led to lost business. If your brand is very often the second best, it means that it is not too hard to make major improvement in sales.

Of the full Customer Journey – this article was about the third slot – Choose and buy, Check out the first two stages:

Customer Journey stage 1: Brand as a platform

Customer Journey stage 2: Initiation

Also see Business design with customer centricity

Managing customer interfaces – marketing do-or-die

and How to Map and Study Customer Journey

Customer Journey

Author: Toni Keskinen, Marketing Architect & Customer Journey Designer

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

Join FutureCMO Movement LinkedIn Group here

The CMO Survey 2013 & insights – What CMO’s should do now?

Screen Shot 2013-05-29 at 8.41.47 AM

The Duke University’s CMO Survey 2013 results highlighted again the need for marketing and CMO’s to carry more responsponsibility and integrate better with the corporate management and operations. It seems to me that marketing is facing the same evolution that car engines have gone thru since 1960’s. In the 60’s car engines were large, heavy, powerfull and impressive but their gas consumption was just terrible and their efficiency unacceptable in current evaluation. Currently engines are much smaller but deliver a lot of power with very low gas consumption. The big and impressive modern engines have amazing power with acceptable gas consumption. The engine game is all about efficiency, as it should be.

This is the case that CMO’s are facing now too. The way to get there is very much about understanding the big picture (customers, their needs and drivers, choice criteria, their cross-channel behaviour and corporate capacity to serve and deliver great customer experience across touchpoints), managing analytics and customer interface operations. The multitude of digital and analogical touch points has exploded and require very much consideration in order to come up with the essentials and focus on what matters. Marketing budget, according to CMO survey, is currently 10,6% of corporate overall budget and if we add to that retail, sales, customer service, customer managament related technology and online service investments, the customer interface investment in total is eventually what runs the company. This combination is what matters most and should be considered as an entity that must be analyzed and managed in an integrated way. See article Marketing do-or-die -managing customer interfaces

According to the CMO survey 2013:

  • 6% of marketing budget is allocated to marketing analytics and it is expected to grow to 10% over the next three years. However, only 30% of company’s projects use marketing analytics and leverage insights from it
  • Social media share of budget is currently 8,5% and it is expected to be 11,5% by the end of the year and 21,6% in the next five years. However, for the past several year the level of social media integration to marketing strategy has remained at the level of 3,8 in a scale 1=not integrated to 7=very integrated. The spending is expected to more than double but even in current situation the value social media could deliver is not being effectively harnessed.
  • The CMO’s role is weakening in the areas of CRM, new product development, sales, pricing, innovation
  • The company’s next 12 months expectations though highlight success in customer retention and profit increase and the companies are concentrating on diversification strategy (new products – new customers) and organic growth.

To me these results mean, that CMO’s are actually shying away from the corporate center. The best companies are already using Customer Journey design tools and managing customer interfaces in an integrated way, which really enable CMO’s to fine tune their engines and deliver much higher return on investment. These companies are rare though. The results show that in majority of cases CMO’s and marketing department’s role is weakening. Over time this can only mean declining budgets or declining role of CMO.

We are currently living in very rapidly changing environment from which the marketing has best understanding and the board has least understanding. The boards are now more interested in customers than ever, and they need answers. Sheryl Pattek’s (CMO for Forrester research) article highlights how National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD), a group of board-of-director members from the US’s most prestigious companies is discussing the topic: How to keep corporate boards relevant in the 21st century. This is Sheryl’s view on the discussion:

The discussion that morning focused on the need to respond to and keep pace with the rapid change in customer behavior to stay competitive. It also addressed how current board members could keep up with the evolution of customer touchpoints to understand the new digitally-based strategies that are increasingly being shared with them. What I found striking about the discussion after some reflection was that the realization of the critical importance of customer behavior on the future success of top companies has made it all the way to the boardroom. The age of the customer that Forrester first identified in 2011 has really arrived and goes well beyond marketing. Why now? Corporate boards are starting to realize that to provide the strategic guidance and governance that their role requires, they need to better understand customers and how the relationship between them and the companies they direct are changing. And they need to understand it fast. The market is moving and changing too rapidly to be left behind.” (see the full article here: CMOs, Is Joining A Board of Directors Part of Your Career Plan? If Not . . . It Should Be.)

This is the time when marketing can really, finally become corporate center – driver for management change and change management.  Mr. Steven Cook, the founder of Fortune CMO network has made a great presentation about this subject with some cases. Enjoy.

 

SEE ALSO:

FutureCMO definitions

Lost insights and Corporate Blind Spots

Business Design with customer centricity

How to enable smart company and avoid corporate autism

Author: Toni Keskinen, Marketing Architect & Customer Journey Designer

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

Join FutureCMO Movement LinkedIn Group here
 
 
 
 

Christine Moorman is the Director of The CMO Survey®
http://youtu.be/gqOGVZE-tMo

The CMO Survey 2013 results in full:

The beginning of customer journey – Initiation

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The customer comes to a crossing and stops because the brand successfully engages with him or something changes in the customer’s situation. In most customer journeys there is a defining moment when a person gets actively interested in buying, initiated. That moment can be identified rather reliably. Something makes a person actively start considering about buying something. Active purchasing consideration does create memories because it’s done.. well, actively in your conscious consideration. Active consideration could take years in some cases or it can spark purchase spontaneously. Depending on the category, differences are huge but also within a single product group customers’ behaviour have vast differences. In many smaller decisions the consideration is less profound but still, when ever you are breaking a habit or really considering about doing something, you can recall doing so when specifically asked about it. In fact the customer is the specialist in his own experience and we can learn from him. Best way of getting to know the dynamics and learning about the reasons for people to get interested is by doing one-to-one interviews. Interviews are actually for discovery, expedition trip to customer behaviour and drivers, differences and variety. Group discussions easily make people indicate rational behaviour although it was not. We would suggest one-on-one in-depth interviews or questionnaire before a group discussion asking person’s own thinking. In the group discussion some of the key findings could be thoroughly opened. This kind of approach enables capturing human behaviour more reliably.

There is a methodology in Psychology called Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (The Psychologist, vol 18, No1, January 2005) It has been developed for analysing people’s lived experiences. The methodology avoid making assumptions and does not test hypothesis. The person’s experience should be recorded as authentic as possible. They are done in one-on-one meeting. Interpretative means that the researcher looks for things that are distinct (i.e. idiographic studies), but will also attempt to balance this against an account of what is shared (i.e. commonalities across a group of participants). Researcher reduces the complexity of experiential data through rigorous and systematic analysis. Analysis relies on the process of people making sense of the world and their experiences. I use this methodology in Insight interviews and then create quantitative study based on these findings in order to quantify which phenomena has most meaning and can these phenomena related to specific business and brand be segmented in some way or result difference between segments and brands.

The best way we could come up when working on One Experience cross-channel buying behaviour mapping tool, was to start with one-on-one interviews and learning about the people’s reasons to get initiated in the first place and continue to map out the cross-channel purchase behaviour.

The initiation of the active consideration is often a result of certain drivers and motives in certain context being prompted to active consideration by certain touch point in certain channel. These reasons, channels, motives, contexts and drivers should be recognized and quantified in different target groups. They are the very foundation of profitable marketing operation.

You can roughly divide reasons to initiate in commercial and non-commercial reasons. Commercial reasons have to do with advertising, direct marketing, outbound telemarketing, retail, point-of-sale promotions, sales people and so on. Non-commercial reasons have to do with magazine reviews, word-of-mouth, actual need because of losing or breaking the old product, tradition based behaviour (e.g. in travelling every year at the same time), change in a living situation (e.g. moving) and so on.

Further, initiation can be divided in initiation in general and initiation to the brand. Initiation in general is about how the customer became interested in acquiring certain product or service in general and these reasons are often non-commercial when asked from the customers directly. This is not completely true because something has created the need in the first place. That’s why it’s also important to ask about their initiation to a purchased brand. Becoming initiated to certain brand is more likely to be commercial. In most cases you can narrow these reasons to a few major ones per segment. This information will help you decide where and what to do in marketing. How to effectively reach people and how to choose the message and content in most appealing way.

The Apple iPod is a great example of a product, which had  ”a long activation” period. The iPods were originally too expensive for many people who would have loved to get one. After some time, the price of the iPod reached tippin’ point, level which enabled most people to get one. At that point iPod rose from most wanted niche product to dominant brand. The MP3 format, iTunes and making CD digitization easy were the enablers of MP3 revolution. ITunes and buying music online were Apple’s strengths. However, the product design and user experience made it the most wanted brand and later on dominant market driver leading the way. Currently it has been predicted that when eye surgery costs come down to the level of 1500€, people choose surgery over new classes. Markets could change profoundly and rapidly.

We have learned from several cases that the brands often don’t know why and from who’s initiative customers got activated. In one case our client, advertiser, was wondering why their demand had suddenly increased dramatically and they made record sales without doing anything specifically. This company had very effective sales process delivering superb customer experience and consequently very high sales conversion. After running customer journey study for them we found out these people were originally activated by a competing company, which had launched a major direct mail campaign. The product was expensive and people wanted to take another offer just to be certain. This incident delivered record sales for the competitor. It’s likely that the active brand also sold more than in average but it’s absolutely certain that they also lost major part of their potential sales.

When you are concentrating on customer perspective you are simultaneously doing very effective competitor benchmarking and learning from their success too. In best case the competitor becomes your best salesman without knowing about it. You can also learn from competitor’s success.

In retail store you can roughly share products in two categories: must have and nice to have products. These products life cycle could vary greatly. In one CPG case that we analyzed we found three most common patterns in getting initiated. The first one was planned. People wrote on their shopping list that they will buy this product. The second was buying in stock when the product was in discount. The third was the biggest one… People who had made a mental note they should buy the product. However, this product was not in the priority list, which resulted ”pending activation”. These people were activated to purchase by just seeing the product in store or seeing an offer about it. The major sales increase for promotion was due to the fact that they had promotional spots that prompted people’s attention and activation by just being there. The sales would have increased even if there were no discounts because people just forgot to act on their decision. In many cases there is latent behaviour that must be recognized in order to optimize profits. There’s no need to offer major discounts if just being there does the job or offer smaller discount or on-top offer in order to justify the extra visibility in store and also activate stock buyers. It also has major indication in the media strategy. If the brand’s awareness and other KPI’s are in order, the most important goal is to have continuous activation going on generating faster re-purchases and increase in the market value. Depending on the product’s role in customer’s life there would also be possibility of creating CRM or social relationship management (SRM) approach that would keep customers active and engaged with them in product and service development.

Testing in the real environment is the only way to get a true business case

Making people move is a fundamental marketing goal. In order to optimize marketing effect, you must study, test and learn what kind of trigger and content create most response. You should also learn in which context or medium people would be most likely to act on the advertising and which interaction channels deliver best results. Consider, what is the role of your own mediums like website, retail or CRM. How can you leverage earned media like discussions online and press or other PR. Are there ways of collaboration with partners that would result synergy and low-cost leads? Where and how much should you invest in paid media like TV, print, radio, outdoor and online. You can manage what you measure and optimizing the mix takes a lot of learning, trial and error to make it right.

The second equally important issue is to learn where you should steer people post activation: online, mobile, customer service, retail or create a first action which help you support customer thru out the journey and purchase. Again, there are good learning’s available but each business is unique.

Consumers want to have control

Today’s consumer want to control the process of choosing and avoid being sold at. Pushing is irritating and considered as a bad customer experience. When customer has a medium in which there is a lot of choice he has the control. Customers choose what to concentrate on, and how much time they are willing to use in learning about product. Customers can choose to continue shopping online, in retail, mail order or to go and see the product live or choose not to do anything.

Advertisers have an opportunity to increase communications to own customers and creating own mediums in print and online. Previously marketing focus was mostly about finding new customers, although majority of the sales came from existing customers. Customer magazines and catalogues are part of customer loyalty, mobilisation marketing. The respondents consider the magazine or catalogue as respect of customers own space, time and consideration.

Buying is not easy

Marketers often assume that selling is hard and buying easy. For customers it is not easy to really understand the scale of offering and relevancy of it. At personal level they have ways of learning in their own time. Often the retail experience is too hectic and nervous for learning at own speed. Online services and catalogues allow people to have their own time and space. In one case outbound represented majority of initiation, but fraction of the transactions.  Banner ads are often judged wrongly due to this – people initiate but make transactions elsewhere.

Consumers consider concrete pricing, product pictures and good presentation of products as valuable service that makes buying easier. It’s easy to see for example how much catalogues and online travel advice decrease the need of personal advice from travel agencies and enable online buying.

The difference between emotional brand advertising with very little information and buying information sources is obvious.

Conclusions about Initiation

Initiation and getting activated is about prompting attention and making the person move. No matter how long there has been a latent interest, there’s always something that changes in offering, customers situation or the market that gets people activated. What is that, what is the motivation behind, what is the customer’s mindset at that point, which brands customer considers as options, which does he prefer if he does? Understanding this has a major influence in the overall marketing strategy.

In order to understand how customers are best reached it’s also important to understand the need of advertising and shopping consideration. For many brands there would be possibilities in helping customers learn about their value proposition by really making great product descriptions and photos for shopping medium use. Although the customers would not buy from these sources, they still learn from them. That’s free media that really hit the target. Brand’s own online service should be the source of ultimate information that really answer customer’s questions and engage with the customer resulting action.

When we were studying the different mediums capability to influence customers and how brands currently work, we came to conclusion that when brands are rapidly learning new, they are simultaneously forgetting old. Customer’s behaviour does change but when competing retail brands e.g. drop catalogue and go purely online, the other brand might gain advantage.

When measuring success brands should concentrate on how much did the advertising change customers perception of the brand positively, did the advertising justify higher price or increase the interest in wider audience with current price or did the advertising just activate people with discounts, which is good in the short run but could damage the brand in the long run. Which mediums performed best compared to the investment? If some mediums under performed was it due to the medium or advertising content? If you can answer all these questions post campaign, your capability to improve further is much better and you can actually predict outcome much better than previously which justify the spending.

What do you think? I’d love to get some comments :)

If you liked this one, check out how to manage customer interfaces and pre-initiation stage along the customer journey Brand-as-a-roadsign.

An article about the next stage in Customer Journey here: Choosing and buying – cross-channel influence

More advice about how to map and stury customer journey is available at https://futurecmo.org/2012/12/01/how-to-map-and-study-customer-journey/

Author: Toni Keskinen, Marketing Architect & Customer Journey Designer

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

Join FutureCMO Movement LinkedIn Group here

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