For today’s business owners, your only source of competitive advantage is your relationship with your customers. In the Age of the Customer, successful enterprises are those that have powerful relationships with powerful customers. Here’s how you can develop those relationships:
A Database of Record
The first thing that your business needs is their own database of record, which needs to be synched with your CRM (customer relationship management) tool. To gain a wider aperture of customer context, you need to gather that rich behavioral data – your customers’ web activities, the links they click, the keywords they use, the content that they read and share, and the campaigns they respond to.
Building the Brain
Once you have that core database, you need the “brain” to sift through that data. You need to map you data to the customer experience – that’s how you make the seemingly random buying process make sense. Decide which content should be sent to each segment, and which content should be send right after that.
Execute Across All Channels
The third piece is multi-channel execution. Marketing automation allows you to send emails, or integrate with direct mail. Marketing automation now helps you to automate and measure inbound marketing as well – think social marketing and content marketing. Outbound marketing and inbound marketing, combined with rich data and mapping, brings customers the most relevant information, and fosters the most valuable relationships.
Make it Measurable
The last piece, of course, is analytics. How do your customers move through the buyer’s journey? Which programs are driving the most revenue? This final step is about moving marketing from being a cost center to a profit center, and it’s also about continuing to nurture your customer relationships. When the marketing department or your consultant can justify spend, you can justify asking for continued investments in your customer relationships.
So, How Do We Get Started?
This can sound daunting. When you have millions of contacts, how can you be “customer obsessed” with every one of them? The classic “I Love Lucy” scene in the candy factory comes to mind – the more you have coming down the conveyor belt, the more impossible it becomes to do everything yourself. To scale, you’ve got to apply the right technology and processes to your system.
If you haven’t done any of this before, start with an internal audit. What information about your customer do you have already? Operationally, how are you arranging your marketing today? How integrated are you today? Are you siloed, or are you breaking some of those silos down?
Once you know where you are, you can improve. How can you move closer to marketing that’s responsive in real-time? How can you create profiles of your customers with the data that you already have? It’s all about identifying white spaces, and then filling them in.
If you have no sense of your customer life cycle, start by asking existing customers – start small, with less than five customers, but be incredibly thorough. Do market research on the purchasing path of your most valuable customers, and you’ll get an idea of the path you want to create. How do your customers tend to hear about you? What kind of exploration do they tend to do? Which channels do they research your product on? What’s the timing of their path to purchase – is it all in one fell swoop, or over a long period of time? Once you have a high-level view, you can get more granular.
Finally, keep in mind that if customer-obsession is your goal, there are four things that your organization must be able to do:
- Run lots of campaigns, and do it fast. Your prospects and customers won’t all be influenced on the same channel, so your marketing needs to be on as many channels as possible.
- Forget batch and blast. Segment your leads to each segment with relevant content.
- Understand your customer base. Who is ready to buy? In B2B, that entails lead scoring; in the B2C world, it means other kinds of scoring – who is a valuable, lifetime customer?
- Be able to measure and optimize the whole thing. This is a left-brained, quantitative world.