The IBM State Of Marketing Survey 2013 is the fourth annual survey by IBM presents an interesting reflection of the internal turmoil that social change is having upon businesses. The survey was taken from more than 500 marketing professionals from around the world across 15 industries.
The survey looks at the difference between companies that use technology across multiple channels to influence the customer experience. The survey shows that the top performing companies not only do better in their marketing performance they also do outperform the others financially. The question is what are they doing better and what can you take away from this and use.
The first thing to highlight from the survey is the size of the problem: each year $83 billion is lost in sales in the U.S. due to poor customer experiences!
Before we get into the report I want to clear up what is meant by customer experience; how it has changed and how it is evolving.
Customer experience is the sum of all experiences a customer has with a supplier of goods and/or services, over the duration of their relationship with that supplier.
If we rewind the clock brands had control over the communication channels and they were limited in numbers e.g. commercial radio, TV and print. Brands had the upper hand – one person complaining couldn’t do much damage and the channels for commicating were quite limited email, post and telephone. Fast forward and there are a multitide of communication channels accessible though multiple devices and users can easily communicate their thoughts and opinions e.g. reviews, recommendations…Ads have become less effective and people trust people more than ads.
If a brand communicates a promise e.g. quality of a product, service levels… it sets an expectation with customers. If you buy a Ferrari you probably have a different level of service expectation to a Ford; similarly if you paid for a 5 star hotel vs. a 3 star hotel…we expect value, service and reassurances on our choices. Brands now are more visible than ever through their messages and these are now delivered across a host of channels not least of which is social media – where consumers themselves judge and respond to the brand.
Yet when you audit a brand across its Touch Points things can often seem inconsistent. The IBM State Of Marketing Survey 2013 shines a light into how high perfoming brands are delivering a consistent customer experience compared to those that aren’t. In simple terms people are more likely to remain loyal to a brand that delivers against its brand values.
Key Takeouts From the IBM State of Marketing Survey 2013
The three areas were leading marketers outperform others are:
- 1. Knows Customer Context and Integrates Accordingly: in plain English – uses integrated marketing technology across channels, delivers personalized communications e.g. emails and responds to customers in real time.
- 2. Acts on Insights – Systematically: in plain English – they measure choose the right metrics (focused on improving customer experience and revenue generation), use data to find out how to better target promotions and offers to customers, consistently building on what they learnt before.
- 3. Takes a Broader View of the Customer Experience: in plain English – they make it happen in the detail e.g train staff, undertake customer surveys, track customers levels and use these to improve their customer focus
1. Know the Customer Context and Integrates Accordingly
- Leading marketers leverage individual behavior and context to make the most of every interaction across channels such as call centres, face to face, websites, social media and mobile.
- Leading marketers also automate decisioning processes in emerging digital channels. This is where marketers change a message, product or promotion according to how the profile of the customer.
- Leading marketers are integrating offline and online, inbound and outbound marketing
- In terms of social and mobile channels, leading marketers:
- use location-based targeting
- mobile messaging campaigns
- location based gaming – watch the video on this page beyond a few leading brands I actually couldn’t find many examples and think not sure that many brands are using this at present.
- user-generated content
The big ask from all marketers is to have an integrated marketing suite. With the challenges of fragmented channels, higher levels of segmentation and personalization marketers are looking for easier ways to manage their brand communications: from distribution of owned media and paid media through to analytics.
The other key trend is adapting to the mobile opportunity particularly for email: fitting content to mobile screens whilst also linking in opportunities to socialize the content and messages.
Key actions for brands:
Although this is a marketing report you can see that customer service, marketing, HR (employee training) and brand management are converging particularly with regard to social channels. A greater degree of coordination is needed across channels to ensure consistent brand delivery.
Brands need to audit their channels and prioritize the use of the channel and how they engage customers through them.
If your a small business what are the lessons from this? Well small businesses can learn from this as well.
- Segment your customers
- Even low cost platforms can help personalise messages – e.g. Infusionsoft, HubSpot and even Aweber – these platforms are affordable for most businesses
- Track your objectives and metrics regularly
- Invest in social and mobile – the first step to take is to look at your Google Analytics and get a register on how much traffic is coming to your site through mobile and social channels
2. Acts on Insights – Systematically
Leading marketers in this section do the following:
- Understand what is working and generating money and what isn’t – they then take corrective actions. This means they track campaigns e.g. adwords, do split testing on landing pages…to optimise spend vs return
- They understand if there is friction to doing business – again they correct the marketing
- They identify the value of customers down to individual level
Two points here are knowing what to sell to your customer and how to up sell and cross sell. This focus on revenue generation is the lifeblood of business, yet many marketers are clearly not focused on the money generation.
One of the other big goals of marketing is to understand what influenced a customer to make a purchase. So if a customer was looking into buying a mobile phone online they might visit a vendor selling mobile phones, review sites, social media sites, they might see ads relating to the phone they want (repeatedly if retargeting is used). Most people will spend time comparing prices and doing research about the phone and services.
Marketing attribution is a method used to assign a value to each channel that played a role in influencing the purchase. When implemented effectively, marketing attribution helps to determine the value of conversions and the influence of different routes. This in turn can then help prioritize the use of different marketing channels. So, top performing marketers do this better.
Whilst larger brands will use more sophisticated attribution platforms and techniques e.g. IBM Coremetrics, Adobe, Encore Media Metrics…even small businesses have access to Google Analytics and can achieve attribution.
At a simpler level small businesses can understand the traffic sources to landing pages and optimise/change their mix e.g. adwords to improve their conversion rates.
3. Takes a Broader View of the Customer Experience
This is putting into practice how the business looks after and understands the customer. As an example after having a new Mercedes delivered you would get a call from Mercedes asking if they ask you a few questions about your experience in buying the car and how it was delivered. For businesses simply taking that you know your customers is not enough. Research has shown that customers rarely give the truth face to face unless in a stressful situation e.g. a product has failed.
Investing in auditing the customer experience and understanding how to improve it counts. In other words if you serve your customers and value them better than your competition then you will hold onto them longer, have lower customer churn and hence grow your business more easily. It also costs more to get a customer than keep them.
Leading marketers do three things more effectively:
- track and monitor customer service levels across their touch points
- look to improve the customer experience
- invests in processes and resources
For small businesses: The tools for customer surveys are easily accessible, e.g. SurveyMonkey, and providing customers with a method to feedback is critical to knowing how to improve and therefore keeping a competitive edge to your business.
This is a very high level report and really I think could do we showing more case studies and examples to provide more context to some of the key points and validate the insights. I appreciate they do not want to favour any brands but if nothing else pointing to best practice would be helpful as would removing the jargon.
The big key takeout for any business is to refocus on the customer. No matter what size of business you are recognizing that customers are talking about you, your competitors and sifting through information prior to buying. Being social, mobile and using personalized communications is not in the difficult box anymore. Building loyal customers is a vital part of how you compete and that means delivering on your brand consistently.
IBM are leaders in social technology and the use social business methods to promote innovation, collaboration as well as in the delivery of socially integrated marketing solutions. Having worked with large brands you often find that they actually rely on many third parties for the delivery of these methods and rarely have a full internalized capability.