Go #SocialFirst for Customer Care

Remember when “Digital First” was the marketing catch-cry? Or “Mobile First”?

Living in a world of constant change means that, as marketers, we have to continuously refine our approach. We need to test and tweak our messaging, adjust our spend and targeting, and reconsider and re-evaluate our technology stack. That’s right, increasingly, marketing is a tech game. The game of marketing, itself, has changed.

Recently, Qantas announced that Olivia Wirth will take on the role of Chief Customer Officer. This sees responsibility for the areas of customer and digital strategy being added to Wirth’s brand, marketing and corporate affairs portfolio. The reshuffle, puts Qantas at the vanguard of “Power Marketing” – where the head of marketing has responsibility for the end-to-end customer journey.

It also signals the arrival of customer care as a Board level conversation. A small scale survey of Conversocial customers revealed some interesting directions for social customer care. And while social customer care began slowly, it is gaining momentum with significant investments in social contact centre staffing, technology and process.  Social is the “low hanging fruit” of customer service channels because it is:

  • Direct
  • Responsive
  • Public.

The very fact that social customer care is public brings additional pressures and attention to customer care – which in the past has largely been a back-channel activity. Now, as it shifts to “front of house”, the manner in which you deal with your best – and your most difficult – customers, is on display for all to see.

Hey BizCover Insurance, Welcome to the Internet

For the last few years I have been using BizCover for business insurance. It has been very competitive and convenient. Until now.

A couple of weeks ago, my bank noticed a suspicious transaction on my account and alerted me. After a quick call, we realised that it was entirely fraudulent – which meant that my card number had been compromised and needed to be cancelled.

Happily, the new card arrived within days and normal operations resumed. Except, of course, that regular payments had to be updated.

Which brings us back to BizCover.

As a small business owner, I seek convenience and flexibility. I look for the best deal possible. And I have recommended BizCover to many people – colleagues, contractors and other small businesses. Their rates are competitive and they are flexible. You can review policy options, check rates and signup online. It is a fantastic service.

Up to a point.

But what happens when things change? Surely, you can just login and update your details, right?

It appears not.

Now, it feels like I am making a mountain out of a mole hill. After all, tomorrow I will call and sort out the details. But I see this as a more instructive challenge for most digital businesses. Which – for better or worse – is all businesses.

We have spent the last decade figuring out how to get our customers to buy online – and we have done this relatively successfully. But now we need to go further. To figure out how to get them to remain our customers, and to serve them online.

Sure, this can be challenging when you offer a brokerage service. But that’s part of the deal.

If you want the sale, you’ve got to continue to service the channel.

It’s time that fintech – and especially insurance companies, brokers and stakeholders invested the effort to understand this new marketplace. It’s not just about the upfront dollars, but the ongoing relationship. This really is an internet driven commercial world now, and customer service and convenience should not be a special service. It just gives you a seat at the customer’s table.

B2B Marketing Leader Interviews: Jarther Taylor

In the leadup to the B2B Marketing Leaders Forum APAC 2016, I took the opportunity to speak with Telstra’s GM Marketing, Jarther Taylor about the state of B2B marketing, the challenges that lay ahead, and the surprising ways technology and a focus on customer experience is changing the marketing and sales landscape.

 

Jarther-Taylor-Telstra-Business-speaking-B2B-Marketing-Leaders-Conference-Sydney-Australia-2016Gavin Heaton: We hear a lot of talk about the “marketing funnel” and the “sales funnel”. In your experience are these becoming one and the same?

Jarther Taylor: There are three factors driving convergence and of the marketing and sales funnel. So, yes they are becoming one and the same.

Firstly, as marketing increasingly digitised it can deliver better quality and more progressed leads at scale.  That is in the past, a B2B marketer may have had a bunch of responses from a DM piece or an event, and sales would then have the explore and develop that basic opportunity.  Today marketing can not only capture interest, but also progress that interest to a point of being ready to buy and then pass to sales to close the deal and help nurture and drive advocacy post-purchase.

Secondly, the buying process (which has replaced the selling process) is non-linear.  Gartner as a good model for this fluid approach of buying – Explore, Evaluate, Engage, Experience.  This fluidity and uncertainty is more culturally acceptable in marketing.  That is marketing leaders understand the customers may shift from being close to ready to buy (Engage) , to back to the Explore phase.  Sales management drives for a steady progression through the funnel, and sales teams are not ‘permitted’ to have an opportunity go from 30% certainty to 70% certainty back to 50%.  Marketing can help ensure that sales resources only engage during Engage!

Thirdly, the importance of customer experience across the buying and usage cycle is increasingly seen as a differentiator.  While at one point, sales was at the end of the line and customers were then exposed to usually less resourced service organisations, this has shifted with the introduction of Net Promoter Scores and the consumerization of business products (e.g. “why can’t my experience with you be more like Uber, AWS, Apple, etc.”).  This means than marketing, who has traditionally been responsible for representing the customer in the organisation, has a far great role to play across marketing, sales and service.

Gavin Heaton: Up to 60% of purchase decisions are made before a buyer reaches out to the brand. How is this changing the work of sales people?

Jarther Taylor: Sales used to be the ‘smartest person in the room’ when it came to B2B selling.  That is, the technical expertise on the product was what customers were after and went to the vendor to get that information.  Today most of the studies that support the 60% number show that digital research and speaking to peers is done well before engaging with the vendor.  I had a discussion with IDC just over a year ago, where they gave me multiple examples of customers wanting to now minimise the amount of time they spent with sales.

So sales need to get engaged earlier on in the piece.  That is, they need to be present in the online forums that customers are doing research in.  Marketing can help this through digital strategies like content marketing and social selling. Social Selling has proven extremely successful both at IBM and Telstra in building advocacy, trust and engagement with customers.

So with customers doing more research and having more knowledge before they get to the sales person, the conversations shift.  Sales need to have the capacity and capability to discuss options with a customer, challenge their thinking and add value to the buying process beyond taking an order.  For many sales organisations this is a major shift in culture, capability and structure.

 

Gavin Heaton: As consumers, we have become adept online purchasers. We plan and buy our own travel, research our purchases online before shopping around and so on. How is this self-service approach impacting the B2B vendor?

Jarther Taylor: Self-service in B2B tends to reside the in the Experience phase of the buying process I referenced above.  That is, once a commercial relationship between a customer and vendor has been set up, many of the more mundane actions can be done through a self-service portal.  Let’s say I’m an OfficeMax customer, then my office administrators can order approved stationary via an online portal.  Managing your billing or usage of technology via a self-service portal is also popular for many XaaS solutions.  AWS ,for instance, pretty much has it all online.

As a B2B vendor this can potentially mean a loss of engagement opportunities with a customer, but is also means that the engagement can be a lot richer.  For instance, rather mourning the loss to sell additional items in person, usage data of a product can suggest that the next best product is.  So it drives efficiency and also advocacy because you are offering the customer more useful products and solutions.

Another efficiency gain is the post-sales service can be scaled.  That is a contact centre can manage a much larger number of customers in a much more personalised manner.  Customers get better and more relevant marketing, sales and service engagement.  And as a vendor I am keeping my costs down.

Demand Generation and the New Marketing Order with Carlos Hidalgo

IMG_4215Despite numerous attempts to live stream a discussion on demand generation with author Carlos Hidalgo, I was forced to revert to Plan B. And Plan B involved a cup of coffee, a quiet room and a Skype video call with CEO of the B2B demand strategy firm, Annuitas, and upcoming keynote speaker at the B2B Marketing Leadership Forum in Sydney, Australia. Having read his book – and been heavily involved in B2B marketing most of my career – I was keen to learn some of the insights and approaches that have transformed B2B marketing in the last decade.

Gavin Heaton: In your book, you call out the challenge of B2B marketing training. In my experience we are seeing students graduate from marketing degrees with no clear understanding of B2B. Do you see this too?

Carlos Hidalgo: We are not seeing B2B taught at university. At a recent speech at a local university, a junior asked “what does B2B stand for?”. We are starting to see alternatives. eLearning has become a very useful way of educating people about B2B marketing – with places like eCornell doing a great job.

Gavin Heaton: You also talk about “marketing enablement”. What does that look like? What does it mean?

Carlos Hidalgo: What do we have to invest to make our marketing people succeed? Sales have had enablement and skills training for years. Companies have become very good at sales enablement. But on average, most marketers are self taught. There’s no true marketing enablement within firms. We need to fix that, and there are a few key areas:

  • Truly uncover and diagnose who our buyers are and how they buy
  • Qualitative research – we need to understand this and do it better
  • How to speak to customers about their buying behaviours to uncover insights
  • What are the conditions that push or lead people into a buying path
  • What does and should reporting look like
  • Doing qualitative analysis on reports – after all, the rest of the business runs according to financials, KPIs and metrics
  • Putting together training curriculum – let’s support our marketers
  • We need to document and understand marketing KPIs

We also need a better understanding of our buyers, their behaviour and the way that this impacts our marketing programs.

Remember, marketing is being asked to do things that it’s never done before.

Gavin Heaton: When I speak with CMOs and CIOs, they think the answer is already in place. Technology. Has technology solved the sales-marketing alignment challenge?

Carlos Hidalgo: Technology has made the marketing-sales alignment worse. Often a CMO will say, “We just need to get our martech stack in order.”. But technology is an enabler to a strategy.

We need to retrain sales as they’re not as front and centre as they were 101-5 years ago when information was hard to come by. They don’t need to sell in the same way, but be educators to help their customers think through their problems. The buyer probably already knows more about your products.

Sales need to “unteach the buyer” – so that we can open the conversation and position ourselves as the expert on the challenges that the business is facing.

When it comes to marketing and sales alignment, the problem isn’t alignment at all. They’re not aligned around a “common sense of the customer”. As marketers, we have been taught to think that “sales is your customer”. This is only true when marketing is producing content. Marketing needs to lead sales and help develop a “continuity of conversation” – and that conversation these days is largely digital. The two need to work together to provide that continuity.

Gavin Heaton: You write about demand process transformation. What does that look like?

Carlos Hidalgo: This is about aligning people, process, technology and strategy around the customer. Aligning content by the buyers journey. For those organisations that do this well, we are seeing benchmarks being blown away.

Gavin Heaton: So who decides this kind of transformation is important?

Carlos Hidalgo: Who thinks this is important? Say a VP or CMO. I am seeing more people with the title of VP of Demand Generation. Typically they have marketing automation and up to 15 technologies in place. But no one is closer to the customer. We are not seeing the breakthroughs.

Typically we need someone open to the idea that what is happening now is not good enough. And then they start to look for marketing automation strategy or demand generation strategy. New ways are required to deliver the breakthroughs. It’s about true change management.

Gavin Heaton: What is the role of an external change agent? How useful and when should they be used?

Carlos Hidalgo: When I went out on my own, I consulted back to my old firm. My client presented back the same presentation that I created. What they needed was what I was advocating. External change agents can be the people you can invest in beyond the reach of your firm. They bring important experience across many organisations.

From an internal perspective, you need someone who can be objective and not worry about politics and sacred cows. External change agents are not in the “day to day” so they have a perspective that we can easily miss from the inside. As an employee we are too close.

External change agents are also vital in getting things done. Most clients who say “we’ll do it ourselves” find that 12 months later nothing has happened. .

See Carlos Hidalgo live in Sydney

Remember, you can see Carlos live in Sydney at the B2B Marketing Leadership Forum, and he is running a limited capacity workshop on demand generation on Day 3. Be sure to book in early.

Join Me and Carlos Hidalgo and Meet the Modern Buyer

Marketers are doing more, spending more and creating more – yet only seeing marginal results. These days, B2B marketers need to transform the way they do the work of marketing. It’s about changing culture, thinking about demand generation in a new way and thinking from the outside-in to focus not on what and when we want to sell to customers but to understand how they want to buy.

One of the keynotes at the B2B Marketing Leaders Forum APAC, Carlos Hidalgo and I will be discussing that it takes to be a successful B2B marketer now and in the future. Carlos will also be running a demand generation workshop to help you understand how to integrate strategy and tactics into your ways of working. He shares some of this thinking in this clip below.

In preparation for the forum next month, Carlos will join me for a discussion on demand generation and the modern buyer. You can watch – and maybe even join our discussion live – this Wednesday morning, Sydney time at 7am. Watch the stream live on Blab – or here on my website.

And remember, book-in to the B2B Marketing Leaders Forum. It’s Asia Pacific’s only dedicated B2B marketing conference.

Lufthansa Takes You on a Virtual Journey

One of the key marketing challenges that we face in the customer journey is moving from awareness to trial. That is, we want potential customers to “try out” our products or services.

This can be particularly challenging when your product or service has a substantial price tag attached.

Think of travel.

There are a whole series of steps that we go through when we are on a travel journey:

  • Ideas and inspiration: We seek out amazing stories, pictures and reviews of places, people and experiences so that we can plan our own adventures
  • Planning and projection: We start to actively curate our activities, destinations and journeys, connecting the dots and figuring out our itineraries and (gasp, horror) budget. In this stage we are not just planning our activities – but actively imagining what it will be like to BE there
  • Lock and load: When we’ve checked, double and triple checked, confirmed our budget and dates, now we wade neck deep into the process of locking dates to a loaded credit card. Yes, it’s commitment time and the pressure is on (so many websites, so many things that can go wrong)
  • See ya, see ya, wouldn’t want to be ya: Wave goodbye to your friends and family and take the leap into the unknown
  • Wish you were here: Well, we say this to be kind, but if the planning and projection phase was well done, you’ll be taking hundreds of selfies all around the world and using them to induce raging envy across your social graph
  • Reflection and longing: Planes aren’t the only things that land with a BUMP. So too does our travel ego. Coming back to “reality” can be a confronting experience. To cope, we return to our #RunningWithTheBulls selfies to remind ourselves just what the travel rush was all about and how we really are #travelheroes.

In amongst each of these steps, there are hardly any that an airline can directly impact. They can inspire us with their media activities, advertising and profile. And they may even help us to plan – albeit in a small way. A good airline will make locking and loading a breeze and but it’s really when you are in the plane that they can make a huge impact.

But experiencing airline travel is expensive, right? And price alone is a barrier.

This virtual travel experience from Lufthansa by 3Spin is a very interesting innovation that I expect will see plenty of others follow.

Lufthansa have touched on many aspects of the travel journey – turning a largely imaginative process into something that is more tangible. More experiential. In fact, it’s not just the destination that is inspirational, it’s the experience of the virtual reality itself. And with a clever mix of digital, analog and old fashioned customer service, they’ve created something far more than just a 360 degree virtual experience. They have created an EVENT – a point in time and space that will create memories. Stories. And hopefully for Lufthansa, bookings.

It makes me think there may be something to this VR lark after all.

Cyber Security is Now an Important Part of Your Brand

In workshops, presentations and executive briefings, I continue to push one clear message. Experience is the Currency of Your Brand. This new consumerverse that we have found ourselves in goes beyond the simple notion of being “customer centric” – to the heart of what it means to be invited into the lives of our customers. For no matter whether we are engaging prospects in a buyer’s journey and nurturing their engagement through to a purchase, or we are working with a community of passionate brand advocates (and yes, they do exist), it’s important to remember that the brand – our brand – never really sits at the centre of our customer’s lives. They sit at the centre of ours.

Increasingly, the experience of engaging with a brand occurs online. When you map out a customer or buyer’s journey, it soon becomes clear that the majority of brand touchpoints are digital. It could be a banner or Facebook ad that kicks off the process for a buyer. It could be an Instagram photo or associated hashtag. It is estimated that around 60% (or more) of the purchase decision is made before customers engage a brand – so that is a significant percentage of non-owned brand experience that is taking place.

Moving your customer from unknown to known

One of the simplest ways of moving your potential customer from unknown to known, is for them to share some information with you. It could be their name, an email address or a Twitter handle. They may leave a comment via Facebook or Instagram. Or they may even call your call centre. But as soon as they do, it means you have an opportunity to engage them more directly. It’s a great opportunity for personalisation or targeted content/engagement.

BUT there are also risks.

Cyber security is about brand trust

When storing customer’s details, you have a duty to do so securely. Not just because of privacy policies or even local laws. Your duty is to protect the TRUST that has been bestowed upon you. And we will hear more about this through 2016. As I write, books are being printed on the subject of “trust” by thought leaders, analysts and marketers around the world. It’s a hot topic because it has a direct impact on our ability to deliver our brand promise. This flows on to brand reputation and even market capitalisation.

Trust is also a hot topic because we are now seeing far more sophisticated digital attacks that are difficult to detect and fix. Take, for example, the strain of malware that impacted the Melbourne Health computer networks in early January 2016. Malware is a type of malicious software that is used to gain access to computer networks to gather information, show unwanted information/advertising and to generally disrupt computer operation. In more extreme examples, we are seeing a type of malware called ransomware encrypting whole networks and hard drives and demanding a ransom to unlock the system.

As IT News reported:

The malware downed the hospital’s pathology systems and forced staff into manual workarounds.

It made its way into the health department through an unnamed zero-day exploit in Windows XP computers, past the agency’s full enterprise antivirus suite.

cyber-security

The Melbourne Health attack has been programmed to “self mutate” which means that it is constantly changing its own internal software structure, writing and re-writing itself as a way of escaping detection. Three weeks after the infestation, it seems that the Melbourne Health IT Team is starting to come to grips with the challenge.

But ask yourself – could your business cope with three weeks of business disruption? How would your new “autonomous vehicle” product team deal with the kind of challenge that Fiat Chrysler encountered last year? Would your new “internet of things” startup cope with a security breach due to something like the Heartbleed bug?

Perhaps the greatest lesson we can learn from the Ashley Madison hack is about the importance of trust and fidelity. To paraphrase Ashley Madison’s tag line – “Customer attention is short. Have good security”.

Five Insights into the Psychology of Twitter

Statistics and sampling are an amazing thing. Even if, like me, you have a healthy scepticism about the way that data is analysed and interpreted, it is difficult – if not foolhardy – to downplay the inevitability of data. Just look at the various disputes around the veracity of climate change – where statistically irrelevant interpretations have derailed important decisions, changes and commitments. Eventually, even the hardiest data curmudgeon will need to yield to the truth of the climate science data – perhaps only as their seaside apartment is swept into the arms of the sea. For though there may be outliers and anomalies in the data, sampling – where carried out correctly – can yield tremendously accurate insight. As Margaret Rouse explains on the TechTarget website:

Sampling allows data scientists, predictive modelers and other data analysts to work with a small, manageable amount of data in order to build and run analytical models more quickly, while still producing accurate findings. Sampling can be particularly useful with data sets that are too large to efficiently analyze in full — for example, in big data analytics applications.

And it is sampling that makes Twitter one of the more fascinating social networks and big data stores of our time. While Facebook grows its membership into the billions, its underlying data store, its connection and interaction architecture and its focus on first tier networks also limits its capacity to operate efficiently as a news source and distribution network. Twitter on the other hand, with its 200+ million members, provides a different and more expansive member engagement model.

During our recent forum presentations on the voice of the customer, Twitter’s Fred Funke explained the view that Twitter was “the pulse of the planet”. Using tools as simple as Twitter search or Trending Topics, Twitter users can quickly identify topics that important to them – or to the broader local, regional and global communities. And, of course, with the new IBM-Twitter partnership, there are a raft of tools that allow businesses to go much deeper into these trends and topics.

In doing so, however, we have to ask. What are we looking for? What information will create a new insight? Which data points will reveal a behaviour? And how can this be framed in a way that is useful?

Five Buyer Insights that Drive Engagement

Just because interactions are taking place online doesn’t mean that they occur in isolation. In fact, our online and offline personalities are intricately linked. And as the majority of our digital interactions take place via text, linguistic analysis will reveal not only the meaning of our words but also our intention. Some things to look out for and understand include:

  1. Buying is an impulse: As much as the economists would like to believe we act logically, we know that buyers are emotional creatures. We buy on whim. On appeal. On impulse. And there is no greater impulse these days to share an experience (good or bad) via Twitter. Look particularly at the stream for comments tagged with #fail. It is full of opportunity for the responsive marketer keen to pick up a churning customer having a bad customer experience.
  2. The customer journey is visible: While we are researching our next purchase, digital consumers leave a trail of digital breadcrumbs that can be spotted using analytics software. For example, we may tweet out links of videos that we are viewing on YouTube, share blog posts related to our pre-purchase research and even ask directly whether a particular product lives up to the hype. Just take a look at the #lazyweb stream around the topic of Windows10.
  3. Understand the pain to optimise the opportunity: When engaging via social media, it is important to understand the challenges or “pain points” that your customers (or potential customers) are facing. Rather than spruiking the benefits of your own products, focusing on an empathetic understanding of your customer’s needs more quickly builds trust and is grounded in a sense of reality. The opportunity with social media is to guide the journey, not short cut it.
  4. Case studies build vital social proof: No one wants to be the first to try your new product. Showing that the path to customer satisfaction is well worn is vital. Use case studies to pave the way.
  5. We buy in herds: Mark Earls was right. Not only do we want social proof, we prefer that proof to reflect on our own sense of belonging to a group or movement. Remember that we go where the other cows go, and structure your social media interactions accordingly.

The folks over at eLearners.com have put together this infographic on the psychology of Twitter. They suggest that we tweet for love, affection and belonging. It may be true, but sometimes we just also want to vent. And every vent is a market opportunity.

psychology of twitter

Fulfilling the Promise of Digital Marketing

From my first line of HTML I fell in love. Like almost everybody, I started with two simple words loaded into a browser. “hello world”. And with that I was hooked. I could sense, right here beneath my fingertips, that the world was shifting.

And again, years later, working with “Koz Community” at IBM – a system that was way ahead of its time – I could tell that those amorphous “audiences” out there were coming together. Connecting with each other and with me. Us. There was a fusing around passions and interests that was closer to performance art than marketing.

Social media turned the screw yet again. Turning the commonplace into uniqueness, transforming text into experience, image into storytelling. It put the levers of the imagination into the hands of everyday people – you and I. And we loved it. We loved the freedom of expression. The connection. The gritty humanity of it all shone through with every update.

But digital marketing – for the most part – has remained lacklustre. But it’s not for want of trying. Having been on judging panels for various awards, I can see that great work is being done. Interesting, challenging, pushing-the-envelope-type work. But the work that is possible and the expectations of clients are out of sync:

  • Client led: Where the client is leading the innovation – looking for ever-newer approaches
  • Agency led: Where the agency works to educate, engage, sell-in and deliver the “new”.

The problem is that we continue to look towards “one-offs”. We think that “strategy” is to do with plans on paper. Or Powerpoint. Or Keynote. We don’t think of it as “getting closer to our customers”. We don’t envision strategy as a process of solving problems. And we don’t see “digital marketing” as a fundamental way to transform the customer relationship.

DH - From Media to Experience (3)

Take a look at the video below. Think about the way that social, mobile, cloud (and ultimately analytics) – the SMAC – are combining to create a transformative customer experience. See how paid, owned and earned media are coming together. But what is most exciting about this is the way that “art” or an artistic sensibility – creativity – is coming into the execution. It’s the “A” in my PANDA framework for visionary marketing.

I have said it before and will say it again – experience is the currency of your brand.

And until we understand this, we won’t fulfil the promise of digital marketing.

Mean Tweets–The Greens’ Sarah Hanson-Young Tweets Back

Public figures attract a lot of bile on social media. But there is a special kind of hatred that seems to be reserved for politicians – especially female politicians. The very public campaigning against Australia’s first female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, will certainly be remembered for the dog whistling and sexism that passed for public debate. It marked a low point in political discourse – one from which we have scarcely recovered.

It certainly seems that many in the Australian population still struggle with successful women on the public stage.

So what is a politician to to? Resort to the broadcast media? Or create their own?

South Australian Greens Senator, Sarah Hanson-Young has taken a leaf out of US Talk Show Host, Jimmy Kimmel’s book, and has started sharing some of the more colourful – and downright rude – messages that she receives via her YouTube channel. Introducing “Pleasantries with Sarah Hanson-Young”, the senator explains:

As a federal senator, I receive a lot of correspondence. Today, I am going to share with you some of the more heartwarming messages.

What I like about this forthright approach is that, where possible, Twitter identities are shared. It’s great to see some of this kind of “feedback” get the ridicule it deserves.

But even better than that, it’s great to see some of our politicians giving some creative thought to the way that they engage with the public. If only more of them actually engaged with technology they might not pass such ill-informed legislation as the Data Retention laws – and we’d all be better off for it.