Marketing Strategy

Five Proven Practices for Customer Experience Mapping

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Customers are the most important part of any business, and keeping them happy should be at the top of your list of priorities. If your organization is among those that have created customer experience maps, kudos to you and your team! If not, and this is an itch you want to scratch, read on for five (5) tips to help you undertake this important initiative.

Before we offer advice for mapping the customer experience, it might be useful to make sure we’re all on the same page in terms of what we mean by customer experience. At VisionEdge Marketing, when we refer to customer experience we mean the points of interaction between the customer and an organization. These touch points include, but are not limited to, interactions associated with pricing, purchasing, servicing, payment/billing, support, and delivery of your organizations offerings (goods and/or services).

How customers evaluate their experience is based on their perception of the actual performance of the organization at that point of interaction compared to the customer’s expectation. In 2005, James Allen from the Harvard Business School revealed that while 80% of businesses state that they offer a great customer experience, only about 8% of customers feel similarly about their experience. Understanding this perception versus the expectation, and the gaps across all experiences, enables you to create customer experience performance targets and key performance indicators.

Customer experience mapping is a vehicle for capturing the perceptions versus the expectations across all points of interaction, ideally for each customer segment and/or persona. The mapping process should enable you to develop processes and skills designed to deliver an experience that sets your organization apart in the eyes of your customers, hopefully resulting in customer loyalty and becoming advocates for your goods/services.

Many organizations often mistake creating a process map with creating a customer experience map. While similar, their focus is quite different. A process map describes your company’s internal processes, functions, and activities and generally uses the company’s internal language and jargon. A customer experience map describes the customer experience in, and only in, the customer’s language. What makes customer experience mapping challenging is the fact that the customer experience is typically quite complex, because it cuts across divisions, departments, and functions.

Here are five key steps to help you create your customer experience map:

1. Start with the universal touch points that can be applied across all your customers (you can create more specific experience maps as time goes on)

2. Make a list of all the touch points. For each touch point write a description, method of interaction, and customer expectation. We have found that this step is best accomplished by:

    • Involving as many people as necessary, including members of your customer advisory boards, to identify all touch points
    • Holding working sessions and conducting interviews to capture and incorporate the expected and actual emotional, experiential, and functional experiences for each touch point

3. Document your learnings and produce a visual illustration (map)

4. Use the map to identify areas working well and those that need improvement. Focus on those areas that are known as “moments of truth,” those crucial interactions that determine whether the customer becomes or remains loyal

5. Build a plan to address James Allen’s “Three D’s,” which he believes enables organizations to offer an exceptional customer experience:

    • Design the correct incentive for the correctly identified consumer, offered in an enticing environment.
    • Deliver the proposed experience by focusing the entire team across various functions.
    • Develop consistency in execution.

Sometimes organizations  need help with this, which is why there are experts out there! Don’t be afraid to ask for help–this is an area you do not want to ignore.

Customer Conversations: Identifying Revenue Opportunities Using Customer Analytics

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“We’re not going to make our revenue target for the fiscal year,” declared our customer, a Director of Customer Insights at a global vem-customer-conversations2technology company.  She followed with, “I was barely holding on to key resources this year, and now my budget’s taking another hit!”  I could tell she was feeling tired and discouraged.

After listening a bit more I asked, “What customer analytics could your leadership team use right now that would help close some of the revenue gap, and at the same time demonstrate your team’s value?”  She said, “Last quarter the sales team asked us to conduct a lead aging analysis, which identified some opportunities with the greatest likelihood to convert in the next quarter. They found this very helpful and they are running with it.”  I said, “That’s great!”

Keeping her team’s charter in mind, which is to rank and profile customers by critical dimensions, such as revenue, lifetime customer value, and profitability I returned to my initial question, “What are the burning questions about customers that the leadership team is asking?” Her response, “I don’t know.”

This is a common scenario. With scarce resources, it’s often difficult to get ahead of need – to be proactive in creating value from data. So, we began to brainstorm the kinds of things the leadership team might want to know to help improve the revenue situation.  Since time is of the essence, some of the ideas we discussed revolved around purchase intent behaviors, channels, and touch points that would facilitate near-term revenue generating opportunities.

After we explored the possible questions, I mentioned a customer analytics study that had been conducted not long ago by Aberdeen. The study found that Best-in-Class organizations that leverage customer analytics have a:

  • 35% year over year increase in average order value
  • 43% year over year increase in annual revenue
  • 42% year over year increase in customer profitability,
  • 25% year over year increases in market share growth.

With that in mind, I asked her whether her organization uses metrics such as profit margin, customer value, customer lifetime value, and customer acquisition (quantity, cost and time dimension) to measure the value of her group. She said, “No, we just measure our output, time to delivery of requests, and budget.” I suggested she might want to take a look at these other more outcome-based metrics.

As we closed the conversation, she had some new ideas on how to proceed and how to measure the value of her team. Just as importantly, she acknowledged that perhaps she and her team may have become too reactive in their analytics and reporting, and that they needed to take the lead by using segmentation, predictive modeling, and data analysis to provide business leaders with direction. In today’s environment, many marketers feel they aren’t at liberty to take action.

Our motto, “better to ask for forgiveness than permission.”

Measuring Influencer Marketing

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Many marketing organizations today have an influencer marketing strategy. The purpose of this strategy is to help with customer acquisition (number and/or rate) and rate of product adoption.  The findings in the 2013 Influencer Marketing Survey support this perspective, “influencer marketing is seen as a customer acquisition and lead generation practice not a brand exercise.”

This strategy entails establishing and tapping relationships with people that are perceived by the market and customer to have the ability or power to affect or sway other people’s thinking or actions. Influencers exist within every ecosystem – these can be members of the press/blog community, analysts and industry thought leaders, industry experts, trusted advisors, etc. The breadth, quantity and quality of your influencers will impact the success of this strategy. 

Before we jump into how to measure influence marketing, we’d like to respond to a question we’re frequently asked, “What is the difference between influencer marketing and public relations?” The answer to this could be its own article, so to quickly explain the difference, we turned to our friend Chris Aarons (@Chris_Aarons), an expert in implementing influencer marketing strategies. 

Chris says, “The simplest answer is that public relations is about communicating your messages to and with members of the press (and some PR firms include bloggers as well) to spread information or news. Whereas, influencer marketing focuses on identifying and securing credible third-parties with extensive networks, who may not necessarily be members of the press, to drive engagement and/or marketing objectives.” We’ll leave it to you to tweet with Chris on how you feel about this explanation!

Back to influencer strategy management… Relevant metrics include:

  • Activity-based: number of influencers, types of influencers, and the degree of engagement by each influencer
  • Pipeline: deals and wins, influencer contributed lead and acquisition cost, sales cycle impact, and influencer lift

Ultimately, what you want to know is whether influence or sway is impacting customer acquisition, and if so, how much and how fast.

Should this be a viable strategy for your organization, you may want to think beyond counting, and create a way to measure influence. In the social world, various organizations are creating influence metrics.  But influence occurs both on and off line, which means you need to be able to measure influence/sway beyond the “social digital world.” As with many key performance metrics, an influence metric is comprised of several measures.  

So how might we construct such a metric? Conceptually we can posit that influence is derived from two variables, quality and impact. The equation would look like:

Influence = Quality (%) x Impact (#)

In addition, factors that affect each of these variables include the following:

Quality Factors:

  1. What percentage of the desired influencers participated? 
  2. How prominently did they feature your company/product? Assign percentages to these or others you if you prefer [Top billing or stand-alone article/blog, subject line mention or tweet,  quote in general or related article, participation in LinkedIn Discussion]
  3. What is the overall sentiment/tone of the influencers’ content/conversation/discussion? Assign a percentage to each of these positive, negative, neutral

Impact Factors:

  1. Quantity – the total number of tweets, shares, likes, comments, click throughs, etc. generated by the influencers
  2. Penetration – how many of the targeted markets/communities were reached (for example – LinkedIn Groups, click throughs to links)

Add up your quality factors, add up your impact factors, and then multiply the two sums. Start by collecting the data and establishing your base line. Monitor the change in your influence metric and analyze the impact of each factor on the score. Once you complete these steps, it will be necessary to evaluate the relationship between the influence score and your number and rate of customer acquisition.

Customer Conversations: Taking the Budget Conversation from Effort to Impact

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In a recent conversation with one of our customers, a VP of Marketing at a well-known Imagecompany, we discussed the challenges associated with her leadership’s request to submit the fiscal year’s budget before her team had finished the planning process. “Without a plan”, she asked, “how can the right investment be determined and requested?” Before it was even complete, her budget was under fire, and there was the concern that no matter what number was supplied, the budget could be cut back. Understandably, frustration ensued.

This very situation is an example of why it is so important to build a measurable marketing plan that is directly aligned with business outcomes. Once the outcomes are identified and it is understood which ones Marketing is expected to impact and how, the conversation shifts from talking about activities to talking about business value.

Here is the advice we offered, and perhaps you have some additional thoughts:

  1. Comply with the request. If you can, avoid allocating dollars by activities. Rather, try to allocate the dollars by marketing objective.
  2. Finish the plan, including the required investment. The plan must illustrate the connection between marketing activities and programs, and the marketing objectives and business outcomes.
  3. Use the plan as a scenario analysis tool.
  4. Take the allocated budget and apply it across all the programs, activities, and tasks, indicating where there are variances. This will provide insight into whether you have any funds that can be moved to cover shortages. If you can, and all the efforts are adequately funded, then you are set. If not, you will need to determine if the objective can be accomplished by eliminating certain programs, tasks and activities. This is where the fun part begins.

If you’ve created the plan so that the line-of-sight is clear, the implications to the outcomes will become evident as you allocate funds across the different scenarios. It will also become clear whether slight or major adjustments to activities, programs, or performance targets are required. If major adjustments are needed, or should it appear that the funds are too lean–there just isn’t enough wood behind the arrow to warrant even doing the tasks–you will need to engage in a prioritization conversation.

Which outcomes are more important?

Which objectives are more important?

It may even be necessary to change a strategy or eliminate a business initiative. Or, it may just turn out that the leadership team believes that everything must be addressed and give you the money. Then of course, the onus will be on marketing to deliver, but you will have the means to be successful.

Analytics: The Essential Ace in Every Hand

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None of us would agree to play a card game with cards missing from the deck; we would know that the odds of winning would be significantly diminished. Yet surprisingly, many marketers are willing to implement marketing programs sans analytics.

In the past few weeks I have attended several marketing conferences. At each event, marketers are talking enthusiastically about how to make Web sites, SEO, social media, email campaigns, and mobile better. However, there is very little conversation about how to be smarter. Analytics is an essential card — actually an ace — in every marketer’s deck for enabling fact-based decisions and improving performance, and most importantly, for being smarter.

While the ace alone has value, when played with other cards its power is truly revealed. And when it comes to analytics, the other card is data. Yes — we have all heard the common complaint about the elusiveness of quality data. Unfortunately, data quality has been an issue in organizations for so long that it has now become the ready excuse for why marketers cannot perform analytics. To harness the power of your analytics card, identify your data issues and create a plan to address them.

Another reason that you may overlook this missing card in your deck is that guessing or gut instinct has been working well enough. Unfortunately, this approach may not suffice in the long-term and your “luck” may run out as organizations push to make “smart” decisions. As marketers, analytics is our opportunity to actively contribute to fact-based decisions. Through analytics, marketers achieve new insights about customers, markets, products, channels, and marketing strategy, programs and mix. It also enables marketing to help improve performance, competitiveness, and market and revenue growth.

As the importance of analytics gains momentum, marketers with analytical acumen will be in great demand. According to some resources, the complexities of data analysis and management are becoming so enormous that there is a shortage of people who are able to conduct analysis and present the results as actionable information. Taking the initiative and honing your analytical capabilities will enable you to make sure you have this ace in the deck — and preferably, in your hand.

Most of us are already working with a time and resource deficit. Try to find a way each quarter to bolster you analytical skills. Attend a conference, read a book, take a class, and bring in experts you can learn from. Here are some key analytical concepts and skills to add:

· Quantitative Decision Analysis
· Data Management
· Data Modeling
· Industry and Competitive Analysis
· Statistical Analysis
· Predictive Analytics and Models
· Marketing Measurement and Dashboard

If you can build your analytics strength, you’ll always have an ace in your pocket.

The Six C’s of a Customer-Centric Marketing and Sales Pipeline

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Just like Sales, Marketing is responsible for managing a predictable, reliable demand generation pipeline with a plan that ultimately produces higher value opportunities and maximizes revenue.

We believe that the traditional approach to the pipeline — Awareness, Interest, Demand, Action —or the more modified version of this pipeline — Awareness, Interest, Consideration, Purchase —is outdated. Why? Because customers are no longer passive recipients or a sidelined spectator.

In today’s environment, customers are actively engaged in the buying process, leveraging a mix of vehicles from search engines to customer generated blogs and reviews, from online communities to social networks, and from broadcast to personalization designed to create engagement and enhance experience. Therefore, how we approach, define and leverage the pipeline must also change.

Marketing and Sales teams have tried to tackle the change by jointly defining what a qualified lead is. This is working for some companies but not all. Why? We have to change how we think about the customer engagement process, not just our terms.

One of the best ways to change our thinking is to alter the language we use to define and describe the customer buying pipeline.  However just addressing our thinking is not enough in the complex, multi-touch, digital marketing world we live in. In addition to shifting the paradigm it is critical that we store all of the information coming in from our customers and prospects so we can track and measure the effectiveness of our marketing efforts, and the best place to do this is in your CRM system.

Perhaps this six step idea of how customers engage will strike a chord with you and will more accurately reflect how Marketing can measure its contribution. These six steps are:

. Contact

. Connect

. Conversation

. Consideration

. Consumption

. Community

These may seem like a new twist on an old idea, but language matters. These labels aren’t about what we do TO a prospective customer, but rather what we do WITH them. These revised labels suggest collaboration between the buyer and your company. Another key difference from the traditional approach is that these labels are behavioral in nature. This makes it easier to define what behaviors for each measurable stage you want to be able to affect and measure. Together, these steps create the string or series of behavioral events most prospects exhibit on their way to becoming and remaining a customer. Let’s briefly examine each of these.

Contact

While awareness is an important factor, what really matters is establishing contact. Prospects may be cognizant of your company and its products and services but until they demonstrate some degree of interest, you may be wasting time and money. Making contact means you need more than a vague idea of the market or customer set, you must have actual contact information. For some organizations, they are just beginning to build their contact database. For others, they have an extensive existing contact database they may be adding to and maintaining.

For most companies, though, this information is stored in their CRM systems, which if set up properly tracks every single customer or prospect you are engaging with.  CRM systems, such as salesforce.com, are the basis for all Sales and Marketing campaigns so when getting ready to contact the people in your database you need to make sure you have a well thought out lead and contact lifecycle built to capture all this contact information.  If your response lifecycle is constructed properly you can “count” the number of people who gave you their contact information and permission to contact them.

Connect

With contact made the next thing is to connect. What is the difference between a contact and a connection? A contact is an observable signal of hello from a person; it doesn’t mean they are eager to get to know you better. A connection suggests at least the virtual exchange of a handshake and the establishment of some type of rapport. You can approach measuring Marketing’s impact on creating connections in much the same way as we measured contacts: the number of connections made, the cost to acquire and maintain, and the rate of conversion from connection to conversation. We’ll be able to use a version of these metrics for each step.

Unfortunately, you can’t tell how deep a well is by measuring the length of the pump handle. That is, just because the connection has been made, doesn’t mean you have a customer or even someone who is inclined to engage in a conversation beyond the casual and polite visit to borrow a thing or two or yack about the weather. It’s about becoming a follower — downloading material from your website, signing up for your newsletter, participating in your webinars, etc. This is why the conversation stage is so important. This is the first stage that truly signals more than a passing interest.

Connection is perhaps the most important stage to track when measuring you marketing.  From a metrics perspective the connection is all about who responded to your campaigns – how many hand raises each campaign produced, how every Marketing campaign contributes to the Sales pipeline of your company, etc.  For this to be as effective as possible tracking the results of these connections in salesforce.com (or whatever CRM solution you use) is very important because it keeps Sales and Marketing on the same page and gives everyone context for the conversation that is about to start.

Conversation

Now we’re talking! That’s the best way to describe the conversation stage. There’s a flow of information back and forth between prospects/customers and you. Both parties are engaged. This is where the rubber meets the road. You cannot acquire a customer that requires a considered purchase without a conversation or series of conversations. Once the conversation is in play, the next step is consideration.

Consideration

We must understand the difference between a conversation and consideration. Just because we have a conversation in play with a customer doesn’t mean you have a qualified opportunity that is seriously considering purchasing from you. Consideration involves customers/prospects applying careful thought to your offer and company and weighing their options. Different marketing vehicles, such as customer references, case studies, and third party white papers, will be deployed at this stage to help the customer/prospect build preference and predisposition toward your offering. At this stage it is possible to determine whether you have an opportunity worthy of sharing with sales.

Time is money so in addition to measuring the time it has taken to move a contact to this stage you can begin to quantify the value of the opportunity as well. We can measure Marketing’s financial contribution to the pipeline.  One of the best ways to quantify Marketing’s contribution to the pipeline is by leveraging weighted campaign influence as opposed to traditional Marketing ROI.  Weighted campaign influence enables marketers to attribute multiple campaigns to every opportunity but also assign different campaigns certain weights, because it is highly unlikely that every campaign touch played the same role in creating an opportunity.  Check out Full Circle CRM’s description of campaign influence to learn a little more about this metric.

Consumption

Even though the opportunity has now moved to the domain of Sales, Marketing still plays a role in converting the opportunity from consideration to a contract to consume or an actual consumption of the product or service. And upon consumption, Marketing can now measure the overall conversion rate, and time, the cost from contact to customer, the cost to acquire, and Marketing’s “win” rate (how many of the Marketing opportunities closed and how this rate compares to the win rate of non-Marketing generated deals).

Leveraging your CRM solution to track your company’s Marketing funnel is a great way to concretely track this.  For example, you can set up reports on your Sales, Telesales, and Marketing funnels inside of salesforce.com to see the results of the handoff between Marketing and Sales as well as the volume, conversion rates, and velocity of leads generated from your campaigns.  You can see where Marketing is effective and where it can be improved.

Community

It would be a shame to stop investing in a relationship that has just begun. A customer is your most important asset. Customers are also your most important advocates. In the world of customer generated content, blogs, social networks, and product reviews, marketing organizations need to focus on developing their customer community, the final C in the pipeline. There are numerous ways to build this community, such as using Facebook and LinkedIn or other social networks to create a means for your customers to engage with you and each other. Hopefully these six key measurable stages for developing, implementing and measuring Marketing’s contribution to the opportunity pipeline offer you a valuable approach for understanding how to measure the engagement of your customers. It also enables a more collaborative conversation with marketing and sales. With a new year on the horizon, now is the time to revisit how you frame your pipeline.

See part one of this conversation at the Full Circle CRM Blog

Tackling the “Too Hard To” Pile of Marketing Accountability

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If you’re like us, you probably have one of those piles on your desk that keeps being moved from one corner to another. You know that pile you need to get to but avoid because it will take some real effort to tackle. For many marketing professionals, marketing accountability, analytics and ROI are in this pile. Not too long ago at a marketing conference where Laura was speaking, the organizers had set up round tables with specific topics for discussion over breakfast. Laura was sitting at the measuring marketing ROI (return on investment) table (of course, where else would I be sitting?) which was strategically located right next to the buffet line.vem cluttered desk While she was sitting there waiting for people to join her, she kept hearing people say, “Oh measuring marketing,that’s just too hard.” There were hundreds of marketers attending this conference, and about 2 dozen tables of 10 were set to accommodate the early risers. Yet only four other brave souls joined her.

We must stop avoiding this topic and tackle the pile. As Sylvia Reynolds the CMO of Wells Fargo says, “Marketing must be a driver of tangible business results…we must start with the goal in mind and a clear way to measure that goal.” ROI is important for accountability–besides being able to justify spending and enable us to run the marketing organization more effectively and efficiently, knowing what is and isn’t working helps marketing achieve greater influence and serve in a more strategic role. Various surveys suggest that over a third and as much as 42% of marketing budgets are not adequate enough to achieve the outcomes and impact expected.

Perhaps your organization like many others is in the thick of budget planning. A key part of budget planning is to establish and validate the money you plan to spend. The more aligned marketing is with the outcomes of the organization and the more the plan includes performance targets and metrics, the more likely you will be allocated the budget you need to achieve the expected results.

So what does it take to tackle this Marketing Accountability pile? Here are six affordable steps any marketing organization can take to start whittling away at the marketing accountability and measurement pile.

1. Focus. Nothing of importance miraculously gets done on its own. vem focusTo effectively tackle the marketing measurement pile will take all of Covey’s seven habits: from taking a proactive approach and beginning with the end in mind, that is the outcomes you are expected to impact, to keeping the effort a priority when other things present themselves as urgencies to making marketing measurement a win/win for you, your team, and the rest of the organization. More than likely, you are going to need a cross-functional team to tackle this pile – people from finance, sales, IT, operations, etc. working collaboratively together to define the metrics and hunt down and organize the data.

2. Plan an attack. You know that age old question, “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer being, “One bite at a time.” This is true for the marketing accountability and ROI question. If this is a new effort for you, you need to break it into manageable pieces. Quantify your objectives, decide how you will measure them, collect the data that you need to meet the objectives, establish a baseline, gain commitment to the measurement plan, and finally, measure.

3. Get data: “Data is the new creative,” declares Stephan Chase of Marriott Rewards. Establishing metrics, determining effectiveness, understanding efficiencies, all take data. Without data you cannot monitor and measure results. And don’t assume that you have the data that you need to measure your objectives. For example, if you want to measure how many new customers you interest in a new product, you may find that you need first to determine what a “new” customer is. This may require different views of your existing customer records or new strategies for evaluating.

4. Analyze: Once you have the data, the challenge is to generate insights that facilitate fact based decision making. One of the most valuable applications of data and analytics is in leveraging your metrics. The metrics are what enable continuous improvement as you strive to achieve and set new performance standards. Just looking at numbers doesn’t tell you as much as evaluating trends or creating statistical models that help you identify an optimized approach to your marketing efforts. Consider looking at your measurements for what isn’t immediately obvious such as what might have happened if that campaign had gone to the three bottom deciles of customers?

5. Use a systematized process: You may need to set up systems and processes that enable you to capture and track results on an ongoing basis. Many organizations put a substantial amount of energy into initiating these programs and then let them fizzle as other priorities surface. It takes both process and discipline to sustain a measurement effort. Systems help you automate a process so that the process can become a manageable part of your day-to-day operations. Today every marketing organization is moving at a breathless pace. Implementing test and control environment can keep you from having a fatal, head on collision

6. Train. Many marketers are unaccustomed to living in a metrics-based environment. You may need to invest in measurement, analytics, as well as data training and skills development. Start by taking a skills inventory. Find out who in the organization has data management, analytics and measurement skills.vem train Decide what skills they need to perform at your expected levels. Develop training that fills the skill gaps. Doing this in-house allows you to tailor to your needs, but consider courses from universities, associations and external consultants to fill out your requirements.

Moving marketing performance metrics from the “too hard to” pile to the “we can do it” pile can reap rewards for the entire organization.

For more information on Marketing Alignment and Accountability, download our Free White Paper: Charting a Course for Marketing Effectiveness: Alignment & Accountability