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Can Your Marketing Strategy Compete with a Shoe?

AcxiomJune 03, 2015

These days when I get into discussions about the advancements in marketing tools, channels and capabilities, I am reminded of the time my coach beat me in front of a crowd with his shoe. In his words it was “to teach you a lesson you will never forget”. The lesson was to focus on the foundation or anything built on top will have weaknesses. More on the shoe incident later, which is not what you are thinking, let’s talk about marketing and importance of building a solid foundation.

When I speak with my peers in the industry, there is a sense of excitement about the new tools.  Marketers are looking at Big Data to augment customer intelligence, and moving from a multichannel approach to omnichanel engagement to evolve beyond campaigns to relationship marketing.  As we start looking at the coming wave of wearables, connected cars, and smart homes, the opportunities for an exponentially larger consumer data footprint will significantly enhance customer intelligence, and provide even more channels of engagement. 

Looking ahead is important. The capabilities these developments provide for enhanced recognition, connectivity and engagement are too valuable not to pursue. Along with the focus on these emerging forces, marketers have to continue to keep the foundational understanding of customers strong and continue to strengthen it. In early days of CRM a very key message shared was that technology can help do things faster, but if you are doing things incorrectly you end up doing the wrong things faster. That holds true today just as much as it did then.

I wanted to get some anecdotal insights for some key foundational elements. To do that I reached out to friends and family, asking them to share memorable or recent examples of how brands have engaged with them. Below are some foundational areas predicated on real customer experiences. It is amazing how the perspective of a customer can change, and how that can either win prospects, deepen existing customer relationships, or erode a brand’s customer base and outlook for new ones.

 

Who is the customer? 

This may sound very basic, but do we know who a customer is?  Whether it is transactional data to understand preferred products and offers, propensity data to understand interests, or something as simple as knowing age and gender. Without the understanding of who the customer is, the messaging could be less impactful or even completely off the mark. If we understand the customer and their purchase behavior, the messaging can be valuable to both.

“I shopped for men’s shoes frequently at a footwear company and am on their mailing list. All the offers are for ladies sandals and handbags… now they all go to my junk folder”

“I added a blouse to the shopping cart but did not buy it because I was just looking around. I received an email a couple of weeks later that inventory was running low, with a discount code in that email. I bought it right away because it was for a summer wedding and I did not want to miss it”

 

What has changed for our customer?

A brand’s customer base is constantly evolving. It is changing in composition with new customers being added and others lapsing. It is also evolving due to changes in existing customers’ needs and preferences. Understanding that is critical because it flows directly into determining lifetime value, next best product, next best offer etc. This applies to all categories, whether it is financial products, apparel, automotive, electronics etc.

“My previous car dealership sends me offers to trade in the car I bought from them. I sold that car 10 years ago!”

“I bought clothes for my toddler from this company many years ago. My child is 8 years old now but we’re still getting emails and catalogs which I don’t look at since we no longer have a toddler in the house. I throw the catalog in recycling bin on my way back from the mailbox”

 

Are we sharing the right content across channels with customers?

Is the message relevant for the customer? This applies both to very customer specific offers or more general ones. The risk is that if the content is not relevant it takes a customer just a click to unsubscribe, unfollow, or just tune the messages out.

“I shop with this brand frequently and really like the products. I even liked them on Facebook but found their posts uninteresting. I then unliked their page”

“I was out shopping and received an offer on my cellphone, maybe it was just chance, but it was awesome”

What are they likely to be interested in?

Transactional data can be valuable in showing interests and patterns and what shoppers are likely or unlikely to buy. As customer needs, desires, and preferences change, they are open to offers from other brands looking to acquire new customers. This is where propensities, models and segment information can help both for acquisition and retention by increasing relevant offers. They add context to transactional data considerably.

“I bought a sofa, now I keep getting mailers for sales on sofas. How often do they think I buy sofas?”

“I changed jobs and moved to a new apartment. Immediately my offers changed to really good offers on more luxury car models. I ended up buying a car earlier than I thought I would”

Coming back to the shoe incident. You must be wondering what kind of coach beats someone with a shoe. As an injured goalkeeper for my college soccer team I played table tennis in rehab. I really enjoyed it and started looking at racquets made with different types of woods, carbon fiber layers, and different speed and spin ratings. At Stiga table tennis camp, Coach Christian Lillieroos told me I was too focused on racquets and not enough on foundational technique. To prove his point he wagered that he could beat me at a game using any racquet or even his shoe.  15 minutes later he defeated me while using his shoe as his racquet. Christian Lillieros went on to coach the US national team and as he predicted, I never forgot the lesson.

We don’t always know what future will bring; less than a decade ago there was no iPhone or Facebook, no beacons and geo-fencing.  Looking ahead at the emerging trends like IOT, big data, wearables, connected car, connected home, augmented reality and virtual reality etc., there are many possible futures. A lot of exciting possibilities are emerging today and there are many more to come. The key is driving towards better engagement with customers. It’s crucial today and will continue to grow in importance. Lets get ready, don’t get beaten by someone