Why the future of marketing is a two-way customer conversation
By 2020, a majority of chief marketers and marketing executives have big plans to own the end-to-end customer journey.
At least that's what 86% of the nearly 500 CMOs and senior marketers surveyed by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) on behalf of Marketo said was their intended goal. And these marketing execs said, in a report called "The Path to 2020," that they planned to achieve this end largely through the ability to personalize messages to customers across technologies, locations and physical objects.
Sanjay Dholakia, CMO of the marketing automation software vendor Marketo, told Marketing Dive it was jarring how definitive that finding was underscored by the research.
"Loyalty, retention, cross-sells, and upsells will become the domain of marketing over the next four to five years, which indicates that marketing will play on a much bigger and broader stage strategically. Marketing becomes essential to a much bigger transformation around the customer," Dholakia said.
Personalization, not marketing channels, are key to the customer journey
To meet this marketing challenge, Dholakia said marketers need to prepare for, embrace and execute on the idea of personalization at scale, pointing out the astronomical potential number of interaction points with customers that digital marketing provides.
“As the touchpoints multiply, we as marketers cannot think in terms of channels with a separate marketing team for each one,” he said, adding that the Internet of Things is forcing this change where marketers need to think of the customer experience as one cohesive journey.
From a strategic standpoint, Dholakia explained the customer experience must be at the core of the entire marketing program. He said social media, for example, is a channel that many marketers view as a way to push messages at people rather than engage in two-way conversations, which should be the approach they take.
"By 2020, marketing leaders see social as the top way to engage with their audiences. It highlights the idea that instead of trying to create social programs, marketers will be trying to make all programs social," he said, adding, "Your communications and actions must build off of all of the other ways that the customer is raising a hand to engage."
If a customer has downloaded a company white paper, signed up for an email newsletter and has attended an industry-specific webinar, you have to prioritize having a consistent conversation with them across all channels, including social, web, paid advertising, email and mobile.
In order to create this engagement and experience, he said marketers must listen more by adopting tools and strategies that allow them to listen to customers explicitly and implicitly by tracking activities such as:
- Webpages customers spend time on
- Social media posts engaged with
- Emails opened or not opened
- Interactions with call centers
- Digital ads clicked
In order to accomplish this task, marketing teams must sift through layers of engagement, so as to ultimately win the customer over by providing a clear value add through conversations and experiences.
Marketers also need to create a single view of these signals, behaviors and interactions – a concept sometimes referred to as having a single source of data truth.
“Today, too often, marketers have 52 databases that don’t talk to each other,” he said. “It is impossible to create a cohesive, engaging, and delightful experience for customers without these two essential things.”
EIU made it a point to single out this aspect of customer-centric marketing out in the report, especially noting that it's importance is coming directly from CMOs and marketing leaders worldwide.
“I cannot emphasize enough that you will not be able to succeed in the new marketing world without this single ‘source of truth,'" Dholakia said. “I urge all marketers – and really anyone who touches marketing within their organization – to start thinking about this now to future-proof their business.”
There is real sea change in marketing where everything is becoming a two-way dialog in real-time.
"As one CMO in the report said,'‘If you’re still thinking of the CMO as chief megaphone officer, then you’re stuck in the ’90s,''" Dhalokia said.
Giving the customer center stage is necessary.