marketing plan

Best-in-Class Marketers Prove They Create Value

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In 2000, the Advertising Research Foundation probably didn’t realize that their report about marketing’s ability, or lack thereof, to measure its value and contribution would initiate numerous studies, conferences, and products on the topic.  This year’s joint VEM/ITSMA Marketing Performance Management Survey* , which looks at how marketers and C level executives would rate marketing’s value, revealed that 85 percent of the nearly 400 study participants are seeing increased pressure for marketers to measure marketing’s value and contribution.

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A key component of the annual study looks at the comparison of the number of marketers earning an ‘A’ grade from the C-Suite for their ability to impact the business and measure their value with their counterparts who are falling short. The grades remained relatively consistent with prior years, with only a quarter of the marketers earning an ‘A’ for their ability to measure and report the contribution of marketing’s programs to the business.

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By now one would think this journey would be nearing completion, but there appears to still be plenty to learn.  Over the years, the study has revealed that ‘A’ marketers exhibit a number of differences from their colleagues–they are better at alignment, accountability, analytics, automation, assessment, and alliances.  The investments in these capabilities and how they approach the work of marketing has enabled them to serve as value creators for their organizations.  On the other hand, the marketers in the “middle of the pack” focus more on enabling sales, and the laggards operate primarily as campaign or program producers. In this day and age, with all the technology that marketers have at their fingertips, it begs the question “Why can’t ‘B’ and ‘C’ marketers get close to C-level executives and show their value?”

Become a Value Generator

Marketing organizations that create value are proactive.  The ‘A’ marketers hold themselves accountable for contributing to business outcomes even if senior leadership doesn’t. They believe it is their responsibility to identify, investigate, evaluate, recommend, and prioritize market and customer opportunities. These marketers implement continuous change to maximize the organization’s success, and enable it to stay abreast or ahead of market, customer, and competitor moves.  ‘B’ and ‘C’ marketers don’t seem to do that, don’t ask the right questions, or don’t know how to show their value.

Make Marketing Performance Management a Priority

According to the data, organizations that are performing well when it comes to customer value and business growth, are those where the marketers excel at performance management.  ‘A’ marketers prioritize performance management, establish a clear roadmap for performance improvement, and focus on aligning marketing to the business not just sales. They have regular two-way dialogue with senior leadership and are motivated to select and report on the metrics that matter most.

Here are three qualities of this elite group that any marketing organization can emulate:

  1. Be a business person first, a marketer second
  2. Provide customer and market insight to inform business strategy, in addition to enabling sales
  3. Tap experts to hone skills and improve capabilities

Join the conversation with VisionEdge Marketing and ITSMA in our webinar, The Link Between Performance Management and Value Creation, Tuesday, June 17th, from 10:00-11:00am CST.

*VEM has been conducting the survey for 13 years. ITSMA has co-sponsored the survey for the past three years.

 

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.

Loyalty vs. Retention Measurement

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Companies who want to retain or expand their relationships with existing customers are finding that measuring and modeling customer loyalty is very valuable. We were recently asked “Do you need to measure loyalty if you are measuring retention-aren’t they the same thing?” Our answer, no, they are not the same thing, and you may need both.

Retention is a measure of whether an existing customer continues to do business with you. That is not to be confused with loyalty, which measures a customer’s predisposition to select a business entity as a preference, and indicates a certain resistance to competitors. Loyalty is a behavioral disposition that suggests that a customer will consistently respond favorably toward a brand/company, and also suggests the willingness to engage. As you can see, there is a distinction and it’s important to understand that a customer who continues to do business with you may be retained, but not necessarily loyal.

Responding favorably covers a lot of territory-from passively choosing to remain a customer, to actively choosing to advocate for a brand/company. Therefore, while measuring retention, once you define what a customer is in terms of tenure, it is a matter of counting. Loyalty takes a bit more sophisticated measurement and needs to take into account three potential behavioral responses if you are going to use the concept to build a model:

  • Expansion–the likelihood the customer will increase their level of business, such as by purchasing more of the same product or other products in your portfolio
  • Influence–the degree to which they can be influenced by the company in a way that positively impacts the company, such as seeking out advice, paying online, complying with new policies
  • Advocacy–the extent to which a customer is willing to actively promote the company, such as online reviews, supporting the company’s position on an issue, participation in case studies, serving as a reference, or making referrals.

Note: The Net Promoter Score (NPS) methodology attempts to account for these 3 behaviors, but the primary goal of this score is to help you ascertain the number of promoters vs. detractors.

You will want to determine which of these behaviors (it can be all of them) best define loyalty for your company. If you don’t know, the answers to these five questions will help you get started:

  1. What is the ideal customer for your company? What do they do/not do? What does a less-than-ideal customer look like?
  2. What does your company want from its relationship with customers and why?
  3. What can customers do to support the company’s mission?
  4. What can customers do to help the company improve service and reduce the cost to serve?
  5. What can customers do to reduce the cost of doing business with them?

You may want to engage a number of stakeholders in conversations around these questions. Once you determine the behaviors that define loyalty, you can build a model and begin to measure loyalty. It may be necessary to take different customer segments into account, and as a result you may need more than one model. To validate the model, you may need to conduct some research with customers who meet the loyalty criteria as well as customers you believe do not. Then, set about defining how you will use the model to measure and improve loyalty.

Customer loyalty is an intangible but extremely valuable company asset. By distinguishing retention from loyalty you can begin to understand the customer experiences, interactions, perceptions and attitudes that drive and impact loyalty.

Peace of Mind as a Key Dimension for Measuring Customer Experience

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All of us are customers, and as such, we all have buying experiences (good and bad) that shape our opinion of the company from which we are buying. There have been numerous discussions on how the exchange between buyers and sellers has evolved from creating products, to building customer relationships, to creating compelling customer experiences. This idea reflects the notions that how customers experience the process of acquiring and using a product/service and the exchanges along the way matters. More and more companies realize that they are competing on the basis of customer experience. In fact, recent research suggests that customer experience is a better predictor of loyalty and word of mouth than any other measure. So what is customer experience and how do we measure it?
 
Measuring and improving customer experience is difficult in part because there isn’t a widely agreed upon definition of what constitutes a customer experience. This lack of definition also creates the potential issue of customer experience devolving into everything. But there has been some great progress on the definition and measurement front.
 
Before we discuss some ways to measure customer experience, let’s step back and review the thinking to date. With the focus on customer retention in the early 1990s, Frederic Reichheld and others began to research customer loyalty and the association between loyalty and profit. It is from this research and others that many organizations adopted the “zero-defect” service philosophy as a way to reduce customer defection. Customer satisfaction emerged as a key measure. Research suggested a strong relationship between satisfaction, recommendation, and business outcomes such as repeat purchase. Two key tools emerged to measure these concepts: SERVQUAL and the Net Promoter Score (NPS). Using five dimensions, (reliability, assurance, tangibility, empathy and responsiveness) SERVQUAL became a way for companies to benchmark their service quality. A key concept behind SERVQUAL is to assess the gap between expectation and service received. Current thinking suggests that experience is more about how customers assess the value received in relation to their expected outcome of the interaction. SERVQUAL may be a good tool for measuring the expectation gaps but it isn’t necessarily the best tool for measuring and managing customer experience. Why is this? A service encounter may be judged as “good” or “meeting expectations” but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the customer achieved their desired outcomes. The SERVQUAL tool doesn’t examine the experience before or after the service encounter. 
 
Shortly after SERVQUAL, came the Net Promoter Score, which Reichheld and others claim is the sole metric a company needs to understand its effectiveness from the customers’ perceptive. A tremendous amount has been written about NPS and many companies trust and leverage this score to their advantage. But, it is not a measure of experience or the quality of experience. In 2011, Dr. Philipp Klaus and others began to explore alternative ways to measure customer experience that would be based on the cognitive and emotional assessment of value from the customers’ perspective and that captures how well the organization performed on its ability to deliver value customers’ received. They looked at four primary dimensions associated with customer experience quality:
 
  • Product experience (perception of choices and comparative offers)
  • Outcome focus (ability to achieve their desired outcome)
  • Moments of truth (service expectations and encounters)
  • Peace of mind (confidence in the service provide and perceived expertise of the provider).
By using these 4 dimensions to evaluate customer experience quality, Dr. Phillip Klaus came up with 4 conclusions:
 
  1. Peace of mind has the strongest impact on customer satisfaction, loyalty and word of mouth.
  2. Moments of truth are the next most important attributes to positively impact loyalty and word of mouth.
  3. Outcome focus (the customers’ ability to achieve their goals) effects loyalty and word of mouth but only to a lesser extent than peace of mind.
  4. After peace of mind, product experience has the strongest impact on customer satisfaction, but not as much impact as the other three dimensions on loyalty or word of mouth.
This research offers a different view into how to define and measure customer experience. If you plan to create a measure of customer experience, consider how your organization is set up to deliver on these attributes and how you would measure each of these dimensions.

Tales from the Toolbox

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Are you feeling a bit like a kid in a candy store when you consider all of the available marketing technologies? Marketing technology has been evolving at a rapid pace, and with so many choices, it’s easy to be overwhelmed. These technologies are often referred to by three letter acronyms such as DAM/MAM (digital asset or marketing asset management), MOM (marketing operations management), MAP (marketing automation platforms), and MRM (marketing resource management). They include everything from platforms and tools, to support Campaign Management, Digital and Online marketing, Social Media platforms, Marketing Analytics, workflow, Performance Management, and reporting. Marketing technology and all that it entails is here to stay, but the challenge is to keep up and select the right tools. The technologies you choose, how you implement them, and the processes and skills you need to properly use them will greatly impact your capabilities, and how well the technologies serve you in improving and proving the value of Marketing.  
 
When you select and leverage the right mix of technologies, you and your company will be able to use these tools:
  • As a source of competitive advantage
  • To automate/streamline, measure, and enhance your capabilities
This brings to mind some sound advice from my father. I loved going to Sears with him (yes I just dated myself, no Home Depots or Lowes back then) and marveling at all the Craftsmen tools. When we first started building my tool box, we created a list of the basics and the order in which to purchase them: a sturdy tool box, a measuring tape, a hammer and nails, screwdrivers and screws, pliers, and a wrench. Money permitting, I would purchase one of the tools from the list and he would then carefully instruct me how to use it safely and properly. As you examine your marketing technology (tools), do you have the basics and know how to use them proficiently? If not, your first step is to create your list; this becomes your technology road map.
 
On subsequent visits, there was always a new shiny tool that I coveted for my growing toolbox- a drill, a vise grip, a saw, a chisel, etc. As I would reach for a tool he would ask these questions:
  • Do you know the purpose of that tool and what problem it solves? 
  • Is it a general-purpose tool or something that is designed to solve a specific problem? 
  • Do you already have all your general-purpose tools?
  • How likely and how frequently will you face that specific problem and really need the special-purpose tool? 
  • How does it fit in with the tools you already have?
  • Do you know what it takes to use it and do you have a plan to learn how to use it properly?
It seems like my dad’s advice serves marketers too as we choose our marketing tools. Develop your requirements and selection criteria; create your road map so you have a plan for what tools you need to add, for what purpose and when. If the situation changes, modify your road map. Take into account what you will need to make the tool work (data, processes and skills) and build this into your timing and investment. Have a plan for usage and adoption otherwise the tool will just look pretty in the toolbox.

Transitioning from Service Provider to Value Generator

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Are you one of those superhero marketing organizations? You know, the “1-800 I need a presentation, brochure, case study, or email campaign NOW” marketing organizations that takes urgent requests and turns on a dime? 

Feeling pretty good about your responsiveness? If you said “yes,” we’d tell you congrats for being such a terrifically honed tactical machine, but—and, yes, there’s a “but”—we’d also tell you it’s your own fault if you feel as if you’re a hamster on a wheel. 

There’s a difference between being a service organization to Sales and being a value generator for the company. As marketing professionals, our future depends on being the latter. 

Let’s clarify the difference. 

And, if you decide you are primarily a service organization to Sales and desire to be a value generator, see the five key steps at the end of the article for ideas on how to make the transition.

Service Organization to Sales 

You know you’re a marketing organization that operates as a service organization if your day-to-day work primarily involves converting inputs (requests) into desired outputs (presentation, campaigns, collateral, etc.) through the appropriate application of resources (talent, information, etc.). 

When Marketing acts as a service organization, its objectives and priorities are typically focused on service delivery (time, quality, and budget) and on Sales satisfaction (measured in “qualified leads generated by marketing”). Those types of measures often dominate the conversation between the two organizations, and this type of marketing organization aims to serve and solve tactical problems as efficiently and effectively as possible. 

Some marketing organizations that operate in this fashion can be proactive, but ALL marketing functions that operation in this fashion must excel at being reactive. The challenge for these organizations is that it is very difficult to actually measure the contribution and value of Marketing, and the impact of investments in Marketing. 

Value Generator 

You know you’re a value generator if the work you are producing increases the worth of the organization’s goods/services, or it is focused on initiatives that create better value for customers, leading to appreciating share of wallet or loyalty, or better value for shareholders who want to see their stake appreciate. 

Marketing organizations that act as value generators may be reactive at times, but true value generators are proactive. They believe it is their responsibility to identify, investigate, evaluate, recommend, and prioritize market and customer opportunities. These marketers focus on improving and implementing changes that will maximize the organization’s success and enable it to stay abreast or even ahead of market, customer, and competitor moves. 

Product adoption/acceptance, customer acquisition, customer retention, customer growth, market share, etc. tend to dominate the conversations among this group. 

Marketing Defined 

In 2007, the American Marketing Association (AMA) redefined Marketing as “the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.” 

Most of us have come to accept that we have the main responsibility of achieving profitable revenue growth derived from acquiring and retaining profitable customers. 

This definition and focus suggests that Marketing as a business function is intended to be a value generator, a task we jointly and equally share with our very important partners in the sales organization. 

Five Initial Steps for Making the Transition from Service to Value Orientation 

1. Own your company’s positioning 

Creating customer value is increasingly seen as a key source of competitive advantage. The aim of all businesses is to create a value proposition that is superior to and more profitable than those of competitors. That value proposition becomes the basic ingredient for the company’s positioning. Trout and Ries introduced us to the idea that the company positioned as the leader gets about 50% of the market, No. 2 gets 25%, No. 3 gets 12.5%, and the rest of the competitors split the remaining 12.5%. Marketers who are value generators are responsible for positioning, and a key first step to transition to a value creator is to create and maintain the company’s positioning and all that entails. 

2. Focus marketing on real value creation activities 

Take the lead on keeping conversations and investments focused on developing a continuous stream of products and services that offer unique and compelling benefits to your customers. Some of your first efforts might include, but shouldn’t be limited to, product and process efforts, gaining insight into the needs of well-defined segments, harnessing data and analytics to accelerate efforts within existing markets or to create new markets, and reconfiguring company and/or industry value chains. Establish and own a sustainable process of value creation. If the work at hand doesn’t meet the criteria, discuss where it fits among the priorities for Marketing. 

3. Develop a deep understanding of strategy 

Marketing strategy is the critical link between marketing goals and marketing programs and tactics. Strategy selection provides focus and enables an organization to concentrate limited resources on building core competencies that create a sustainable competitive advantage to support pursuing and securing the best value creation opportunities. It provides the guidance and direction for channeling the organization’s marketing resources to generate market traction, penetration, and dominance. 

4. Speed up 

Opportunities don’t linger in today’s fast-paced dynamic customer-driven market. Remember, the time value of money concept says money received today is better than money received in the future. Speed of opportunity execution is just as important as speed of opportunity identification. 

5. Define measures of success tied to value and impact 

What more is there to say? 

* * * 

Although the two types of marketing organizations are not mutually exclusive, marketing organizations on the hamster wheel rarely have the time, talent, or budgets to be value generators. 

The rub is that today’s executives often expect more from marketing than servicing Sales. The C-Suite expects a measurable return on its marketing investment. To meet that expectation Marketing must be able communicate how it is relevant and to more resemble a value generator than a service provider. Generating value for the business requires working the numbers, then tracking and reporting on the performance to the numbers. 

Taking a customer-centric view rather than an internally oriented Sales-support revenue-centric view and “doing the math” facilitate the creation of a marketing organization that is relevant, that can measure its value—and, more important, affect revenue and profit. 

Think “Outside-In” to Improve Your Marketing Strategy

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As you are finalizing your plans for 2014, it is an excellent time to revisit your approach to strategy. Strategy is about defining and setting the long-term direction for your organization. Marketing as one of the primary external-facing entities (sales is another) within an organization plays a central role in strategy development and execution. 

During the past few years, many companies have focused heavily on internal processes, looking for a way to reduce costs and improve productivity. While this is essential to survival and driving short-term earnings, it doesn’t help a company address shifts in the market, new technologies, new channels or the entrance of new competitors. 

This is the domain of strategy, and successful strategies leverage an outside-in approach, which takes seeing your customers as assets. If you want to take an outside-in approach to strategy you must be willing to continuously invest in learning about and from your customers and to translate this knowledge into initiatives that will enable you to gain a competitive advantage, improve your market position and ultimately your shareholder value. 

We hope you will check out George Day and Christine Moorman’s book, Strategy from the Outside-In: Profiting from Customer Value, which discusses taking an outside-in vs. an inside-out approach to strategy. 

Inside-out thinking begins with more traditional questions such as “what are we good at,” “what are our capabilities,” “what are our products,” and so forth, and can make a company rather myopic. The book explores how organizations that take a customer-centric view — looking at everything the company does through the customers’ eyes — focus on creating and keeping customers by delivering exceptional customer value. 

In their book, the authors remind us that when companies “hunker down, cut R&D, slow innovation, no longer experiment,” and put internal issues above serving customers, they are putting their survival at risk. This is all part of the inside-out thinking. Their work found that “outside in” companies perform better because they immerse themselves in the market, doing more experimentation in order to gain market insight and draw actionable ideas. 

How do you know whether you are an inside-out company? If you are continually surprised by bad results, seem out of touch with who your customers are and what value you are delivering to them, the entrance of a new competitor or the emergence of a new product category, you may be falling into the inside-out trap. 

Outside-in companies depend on marketing to help them be customer-centric and to increase the direct dialogue with customers in order to see and adapt to patterns sooner. This responsibility as well as finding growth opportunities and positioning the organization for the future falls to the CMO. Successful CMOs are passionate advocates for customer value and build strong relationships with R&D and sales. 

By taking an outside-in approach, marketing can develop strategies that will improve its ability to attract, keep and grow the value of customers, thereby improving its effectiveness and value — critical components of marketing performance. As you build your marketing strategy and offer counsel to your leadership team, we hope you are taking an outside-in approach.