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Marketing is no longer about persuasion - it’s about service. Forget messaging and start listening. If you have really grasped this turnaround in customer engagement you have an advantage, because you are in the minority. But if you are one of the few then you will know that the internet is a major catalyst in this seismic change. E-business, therefore, is longer a separate part of your organisation, but a key tool in your integrated marketing strategy.
By Jennifer Kirkby, consulting editor
Let me give an example of the old world order. I recently received a call from The Financial Times as part of a telemarketing campaign. Because I was listed as an ‘occasional’ FT reader, so far so good, he knew me. The offer was free papers for a month and access to the premium online service, all for £1. Unfortunately, that meant a direct debit that would be taken if I didn’t cancel, and a pile of paper I would have to dispose of. The salesman’s offer meant work for me and so wasn’t attractive. I stated that I had no intention of continuing the direct debit and I didn’t want a paper each day as I read my news online, so I wouldn’t waste the FT’s money by taking up the offer. However, if he could make me an offer for use of the online information… but he couldn’t, and I doubt he even recorded the fact for the FT marketing team.
This call was all messages to persuade me ‘buy’ – I could hear the flick of his script to answer my objections. Yet, if he had listened to my needs, alerted the FT and made a relevant offer, then it would have been a service. And, the FT would benefit from the call, whereas now all it has done is lowered the response rate to their telemarketing campaign.
But the really interesting point is that the FT doesn’t appear to have realised that the internet is a primary channel to market. Its telemarketing objective was to get confirmed readers in order to earn more advertising revenue. But surely an online sign-up and behavioural tracking facilities is more valuable, both for end user and advertising customer, than an offline direct debit which doesn’t mean I actually read the paper? Shouldn’t it be converting more people to online interaction?
And what of their advertisers? Are they still looking at traditional awareness and response campaign evaluation, rather than trying to understand how the medium of newspaper advertising contributes to customer value and engagement in this changing world. Have they too got an internet function that is an adjunct to rather than integrated part of the whole customer contact mix?
Do they still lob out more and more expensive direct mail, sales promotion or TV advertising messages to customers who are not listening because of the noise; but using the internet and word of mouth to find their options?
Amazon did not get where it is today through messaging, it was set up and driven through the early days by an ethos of listening and service – with a strong dash of entertaining experience.
The nightmares of multichannel
In the ‘old world’ of ‘persuasive’, messaging companies constantly complain about the problems of multichannel contact and media fragmentation. Contact optimisation software sales are on the rise, because having a machine to remove the hassle and politics of choosing who to target what campaign message to is appealing. Yet as Forrester has concluded, it is really only beneficial for large scale direct marketing, and is a “buzz term to seemingly manage customer fatigue, when what is needed is an integrated marcomms strategy and plan.”
Meanwhile, ‘listening’ and ‘service’ still fight for a place at the table. Marketers complain that campaign budgets are only forthcoming if the finance director is convinced of the direct effect on sales. “Money for ‘service’ communications? Forget it,” they cry, “try convincing the FD”. At the same time, contact centres struggle to prove their worth and are still sent offshore (despite the reshoring for important customers) to cut costs. Whilst, over in the B2B world, only 55 percent of sales people reach target, because around 40 percent of their time is spent researching the customer information they need to serve prospects better.
Why are we in this muddle?
How have we tangled ourselves up in this ‘spaghetti junction’ of channels and media that is disengaging us from customers?
- Because, customer contact is fragmented into specialist functions that have no accord. Sales rarely work with marketing who rarely work with service – although this is changing fast in good relationship management companies. Within marketing there are advertising departments, direct marketing teams, PR functions, field marketing arm, and e-business. Each of whom have separate targets and budgets and no unison. Angus Jenkins of the Centre for Integrated Marketing has found that 75 percent of companies in the UK operate in this way.
- Beliefs about the brand
- Brand engagement – a feeling of belonging
- Transactional call to action
- Service – element of feeling cared about
- Experience – degree to which a product experience is demonstrated, eg trialing or imagination
- Because we muddle the meaning of the words marketing, channel, media and marcomms discipline, and so operate in a tower of Babel. Marketing used to be ‘anticipating and providing for customer needs, profitably’; in the marketing mix, channel was the place or route to market, and media the means of mass market promotion. Now marketing frequently means promotion, media is only used by marcomms experts, and channel is any method of customer contact. So multi-channel marketing can mean your distribution strategy, your contact strategy or your communications operations. It is time the marketing profession agreed protocols as IT professions had to do for open source software.
- Finally, we do not R&D the effects of the internet and digital channels because we don’t have the budgets to run pilots. And that means we don’t make that important mindset change to accommodate the new consumer behaviour, or have the data to prove it to the CFO.
Because, somewhere in the 1990s, we lost the knowledge of how the media multiplier works in reinforcing customer communications to build rapport and engagement. We are slapdash about distinguishing communication objectives (eg improve understanding of the benefits of product x with segment y) and business objectives (eg improve margin by x percent). And measures are not relevant -advertising awareness is measured when the objective is to send people online for a sale; telemarketing responses ignore the awareness generated. We still measure the transactional, ie awareness, enquiry, sale, retention; rather than what Angus Jenkins has called the CODAR measures:
Starting with the customer unravels the mess
So how do we unravel this mess and take advantage of the new tools we have to engage customers so that we stand out in the noise?
Wrap interactions around the customer and organise ourselves for the customer’s journey. Forget channels and disciplines, plan customer lifecycle programmes that build up the process to:
- Sales, cross-sales and repurchase, and
- engagement for recommendation and retention
So, for example, ensure you have programmes for engaging with new customer segments, making a sale, welcoming a customer (or onboarding), detecting important events and retention.
To do this means a change in mindset, marketing services agency management, and organisational structure. The latter is likely to be virtual teams for delivery of the programmes (eg welcome programme) based on employees with specific discipline skills (eg experiential marketing, field marketing, and segmentation analysis).
The lifecycle programmes should be put in place at the ‘creating value’ part of customer value proposition development- they are an important part of the customer value proposition over and above the basic product - and be based on the touchpoint mapping and customer experience design of the ‘designing value’ stage.
The programmes need to be orchestrated in an integrated marketing (interactions) fashion, without preconceptions about the role of each channel and with rigorous analysis on effect - something that a recent CIM advisory group have called ‘open planning’ (www.shapetheagenda.com) and others have called ‘media neutral planning’.
A very important part of the success of this method is the briefing of all staff to ‘live the brand’ at all interactions.
Taking advantage of digital contact
It is in this atmosphere that the internet can be integrated into the whole. Digital channels allow for better data, listening, co-creation and the services that add value by helping individuals achieve their own goals. Customers then are not passive receivers, but active participants in the communication.
- As an alternative to advertising, build in search engine optimisation into your enquiry programme. This will help consumers find the information they need more quickly.
- As an alternative to call centres, use self-service, which has been christened the online version of the supermarket revolution.
- As an alternative to direct mail, use user-driven content to make recommendation or to tailor the site to a target market.
- As an alternative to lead generation, use external business content in your SFA system to improve salesman’s targets (See Unleashing the value of your SFA system – Dow Jones)
- As an alternative to bill board advertising, use mobiles to send videos of relevant services in the area the customer is in.
Peter Simpson, ex commercial director of First Direct, has called this “moving from direct marketing to personal marketing.” Whilst Saatchi & Saatchi’s Worldwide CEO Kevin Roberts has said recently: “The last 12 months have been about driving interactive and embedding it at the heart of every client.”
Case studies in integration
Forrester found recently that only around 15 percent of large companies claim to mostly integrate their interactions, whilst just under half do no integration at all. Meanwhile, the American Marketing Association has just rediscovered integrated marketing and defined it as “a planning process designed to assure that all brand contacts received by a customer for a product/service are relevant to that person and consistent over time.” Here are some examples:
IT software enquiry programme
Company A’s objective was to gain appointments with C-level decision makers to demonstrate a product. Firstly, a customised mailing alerted directors that they would receive a personalised URL on which would be case studies and other information about industry issues pertinent to each type of manger. To get past ‘gatekeepers’ a charity donation was offered for each URL used. The website also contained a survey about issues which the users could track responses to. URL use was followed by personal telephone calls to answer any questions, followed by a relevant email. The potential customer thus had had a variety of channels to use if they wanted to find out more. Download tracking and survey responses were analysed each week to tailor the programme.
Pet supplier customer development programme
In analysis, many customers showed a preference for shopping at retail stores, so instead of forcing them to choose between store or online shopping, the company decided to integrate its e-commerce business into its marketing department. There, staff designed multichannel programmes including one for customer development (or cross-sales). Emails were sent to customers on a ‘permission’ basis containing relevant product reviews and ratings by other customers. These generated click troughs to the website, where customers could either order online, ask their local store to call them, or just review the product before they went personally to the store. Behavioural response was monitored in order to tailor the programme to different segments. Customer feedback on the products was used to keep the reviews fresh and up to date.
To underline the importance of this, at Technology for Marketing and Advertising 2008, at Earls Court in London in February, three of the four main key notes are:
- The power of online marketing: how agencies can put digital at the heart of band strategy by Saatchi & Saatchi
- How consumer will reshape the way brands and marketers use the web by Google
- Falling in Love 2: relationship marketing for the Facebook generation. By Digital Strategy Consulting
All three recognise the way the wind is blowing and should help you shift the blinkers to innovative, integrated, interactions – with the internet centre stage to provide the listening service.
Search engine optimisation
Multichannel marketing and integrated communications