Digital Marketing and CRM

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Presented at the Convergence 2014 event.

“The art of the possible and the science of the probable around dynamic customer relationships.”

3 Key Things to take from this presentation:

Age of the customer – so what?
Evolving to the next generation digital marketing
Monetizing the customer relationship

As a point of interest, Microsoft Evolution is a publication addressing much of the content of this presentation, highly recommended read for marketers and IT professionals involved in that area.

Age of the customer

Possibly not traditional marketing, but early wall paintings were a statement about you and what you could do, the paper press and mass media took marketing to a whole new level reaching many more people than was ever previously possible. Moving through the years, Radio and the power of the voice became the new form of speaking directly to customers and this was obviously brought further to life with television advertising.

It’s only really with the advent of the personal computer, that interactivity with customers became a realisation; marketing has almost gone full circle and we are back to writing on walls again (albeit the digital ‘walls’ of Facebook and Twitter etc.)!!

Social and new technologies change our behaviour, simple examples of this include navigation no longer being just used in the car, navigation on foot by your smartphone is becoming more common place – people want technology and content to integrate into their lifestyles, this truly is the age of the customer.

Organisations need to be where the customers are. Customer experience is critical in this age!

The bottom line is that you need your customers more than they need you because competition exists in everything you do.

Social is a buzzword, as is mobile. The key point is, for the social customer and according to certain statistics, 44% of customers complain via social media (20% expect a response within an hour. From the same survey, it was suggested buyers are 57% (for B-to-B, it is as high as 67%) through the buying cycle before they contact you. This essentially means that these are deep prospects and you are not aware of them!

How do you become aware of them earlier in the buying cycle? Content marketing plays a role in this, if the customer is doing research into a product, they should be reading your whitepaper on the subject!

Customers today are smarter, they are better connected; the next generation of digital marketing could be argued as to not be digital at all but integrated. Integration across digital and traditional channels providing consistency of brand.

Everyone is on the social and digital bandwagon, but not many do it well! A strategy is critical to the success of an integrated journey.

The 55 -65 age bracket is the fastest growing demographic on twitter! Does that surprise you?

YouTube reach more of the 18-34 age bracket than cable channels (US), a video strategy would potentially be better value than traditional TV advertising for this demographic.

You need to evaluate the channels available and how they can fit into your marketing strategy.

What is the most active ‘action’ on the web today? A few things spring to mind, but it’s actually Social Media, this shows what an important channel this is, if used correctly.

“Hey Kids, your parents are on Facebook, is that where you really want to be?” is an interesting sound-byte from the presentation, the demographic of Facebook is changing with more and more teenagers and young adults migrating to Snapchat (and then to other social channels); from a social marketing point of view you need to be where your customers are.

How do you get above the noise?

Know where your audience is. You don’t need to be in every digital channel.
Not every digital channel is right for your business.

You need a strategy!

The ‘New’ Digital is Opportunistic and Integrated into your strategy. It must be flexible in order to react to immediate opportunities.

By 2017, according to Gartner, the Chief Marketing Office will spend more on IT than the Chief Information Office!

Finally, food for thought:

Customer Experience matters.

Evolve to ‘new’ digital marketing and create a process to stay current.

The state of content marketing

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Presented at the Convergence 2014 event.

The key message from this presentation is: Relevant content + Right time + Right channel

In the 1900’s, one to one marketing was effectively the shop keeper servicing a set of customers he knew very well, moving forward 90 years and the first web browsers emerged enabling people to read your content on the web and so reaching a much wider audience; this was a one way street though as the organisation did not know the customer, had no way to control contact with the customer and could not be track or assist the customer though the buying journey.

In the early 90’s, some magazines included a small card that could be filled in with what a reader would like information on from the magazine; for example, a person interested in buying a new freezer could select that item on the card, post it off and at some point in the future a brochure would arrive. These cards would traditionally be batched up and sent to the relevant departments when sufficient numbers were received. What would invariably happen is that the customer would receive the information weeks after making the purchase! A simple change to this process involved dealing with the cards as they arrived and posting out brochures immediately, this helped the customer through the buying decision – an example of the content/time/channel equation.

So what are the challenges of content marketing today?

  • Silo in Marketing (Sales, Social, PR, Digital etc.) – all creating and decimating content to the same targets – “random acts of content”.
  • Limited resources in organisation, multiple silos producing content – expensive.
  • Tools are great, but they don’t create strategy or content on their own.

Addressing these challenges, what are the opportunities?

  • Efficiently Leverage resources.
  • Build brand affinity.
  • Build a social community.
  • Be more responsive and engaged.
  • Generate demand and new leads.
  • Cross and up sell.

A content strategy involves marketing, communications and technology; it’s not just about the content!

Know thy Brand:

  • Do you have a clearly defined brand identity and mission?
  • Do you have a core value statement?

Essentially, what is the first thing that a customer will think about when hearing your brand? What do you think about when you think of brands like Microsoft, Apple, Nike?

Know thy Customer:

  • Understand as much about your customer as possible, you will never understand everything about the customer so just go as far as necessary.
  • Create the customer journey for each customer ‘persona’ you have identified and defined.

The content you generate must be unique, relevant and ownable.

If you borrow content, make it relevant to the target audience; don’t just retweet/resend.

What do you think about when the brands Nike and Bose are named?

Nike owns ‘authentic athletic experience’ – Think Tiger Woods, you won’t play like him, but you will feel like him; Nike deliver on this experience.

Bose owns ‘sound’; if you think Bose, you think sound; whether it be little black boxes, headphones, noise cancelling headphones … Sound.

For B-to-B, this kind of marketing may not be totally appropriate but does have relevance.

An example would be a brand like 3M, they are B-to-B and make digital display screens. They create incredible effects through the screens, they no longer aim marketing at engineers with screen specifications – They talk about experience.

 

So, how did they reach out?

  • Targeted social media campaign based on accurate customer persona creating a consistent message about the experience customers would have (and not about the screen composition etc.).
  • Consistent brand and messaging across touch-points like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and the website.
  • Measure! Test, analyse, learn and optimise.

The end result was a much larger increase in interest than the traditional strategy they previously used.

The obvious points to consider include:

  • Talk about things that are relevant to your customer.
  • What does the customer want?
  • What can I do to help the customer journey?

Technology such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM play an important role that is absolutely required today. It allows you to target, measure and connect with user communities. Importantly it is tied to the customer life cycle and provides automation which is critical in this era of marketing and communication.

Microsoft Dynamics ‘to focus on convergence’

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The Microsoft Dynamics senior director has emphasised the company’s desire to develop its CRM solutions as it attempts to become a market leader and compete with the various other offerings available to businesses.

Speaking to Venture Beat, Bill Patterson explained that convergence is the key feature within the updates Microsoft is currently making to its software.

“The underlying pattern is that organisations need to work together in a much more engaging way … no one owns the customer and everyone needs to get better.”

Mr Patterson was speaking at the Convergence 2014 conference in Atlanta, Georgia, where Microsoft further outlined its plans for CRM.

Its changes promise greater functionality, better integration and lower costs, with a new system that will link up with the Microsoft package’s other offerings in terms of business intelligence and project management.

A tech lead for Dynamics told Venture Beat that a key element of CRM is making data visible across an organisation, rather than leaving it to certain departments, potentially driving up innovation and collaboration.

“This year we’ll also deliver embedded insights, so whether a salesperson is researching a competitor or customer or lead, they can get a rich profile with the latest corporate news, key executives, organisational structure, and more,” the anonymous expert added.

Unifying almost everything a business needs in one piece of software is the Holy Grail of automation and Microsoft recognises that it has a long way to go before it can deliver every piece of functionality it is currently gunning for.

However, Mr Patterson expressed his optimism that the tech giant can go on to overtake rivals within the CRM marketplace.

For one thing, Microsoft’s offering continues to be the most cost-efficient available to enterprises across all industries, he concluded.

The launch of these new capabilities is set to begin in the second quarter of 2014 at some point, with a better-implemented social system the most eye-catching proposal from Microsoft.

The perfect customer experience & CRM

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In this blog, I’m going to summarise what Liz Roche, Director of Enterprise Strategy at Microsoft Services and Jeff Marcoux, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Microsoft Dynamics CRM said at their session at Microsoft Dynamics Convergence 2014: ‘Digital Marketing and CRM: The art of possible and science of the probable around dynamic customer relationships.’

The main message of the talk was that technology changes human behaviour. A simple example: when was the last time your mobile phone was more than 10 feet away from you?

And can you remember being this attached to your phone 20 years ago?

It may be difficult but it’s worth it

Today, 40% of all internet traffic is coming from mobile devices. For a marketer, this means that the focus needs to be shifted accordingly. All touch points must be mobile-responsive, especially the website.

But this is far from all that you have to do to be able to stay on top of today’s pace of change. The purpose of adapting your business to relevant new technologies is not only to generate more leads, but, perhaps more importantly, to enhance your customers’ experience.

During their talk, Liz and Jeff argued that there’s a need for a new CEO – Customer Experience Optimisation. As you already know the power balance between a supplier and a buyer has shifted significantly in the past few years. This means your customers can decide to switch to your competitor much more easily than 15 years ago. However, if you manage to delight them every time you interact with them, why would they ever risk leaving you?

According to a recent research by Watermark Consulting that was carried out in 2007-2011, businesses that delivered great customer experience as the first in their market generated revenue that was 27% higher than the broader market, and 128% higher than those who only started focusing on customer experience years after the market CxP leader.

What does this mean? You can’t lose out by treating your customers exceptionally – now.

Unite your strategy

Jeff suggested that to design the perfect customer experience, you need to integrate your strategy, brand, marketing (marketing ROI) and technology implementation across all your digital and traditional channels. Some of us dislike the word ‘holistic approach’, but this concept is exactly what exceptional customer experience is about: creating a world in which your brand is unified and stands for excellence.

As well as integrating your business processes, you also need to integrate all your customer data into one database. Why? So that Sales, Marketing and Support are on the same page when communicating with your leads – no more asking the same question twice. Working from one database also speeds up the process of passing over leads and allows your teams to act upon a single set of criteria for qualified leads.

Another advantage of having all customer information in one place is being able to analyse their profitability throughout the customer’s lifecycle. This way you can determine which types of customers are most profitable for your business, and decide about focusing your entire resources on them – because it’s much better to delight your more profitable customers than to deliver great customer experience to the ones that cost you more than what they spend.

Customer’s point of view

Another important thing to pay attention to when designing customer experiences is the fact that your customer’s idea of the relationship is quite different from your idea. In business, we are used to dividing the sales funnel into certain stages (for example: attraction, acquisition, development, retention and growth); and so are our customers – the trouble is, their stages are different.

According to Liz, customer’s stages look more like this: engagement (for example, seeing an ad on LinkedIn), transaction (request for information, buying a product), fulfilment (delivery of request) and post-sale service (answering questions, service transaction). Once this chain of events has taken place, it happens all over again. To take advantage of this process, you need to plan a process that takes these stages into consideration.

The macro & micro journey

Liz & Jeff suggested creating customer journey plan that defines not just the customer macro journey (major events like the first and last point of contact, sales conversion etc.), but the micro journey – which includes every step of the way. Design how you’re going to engage your customers on every level of their customer journey – throughout the 4 aforementioned stages (engagement, transaction, fulfilment, service). Plan what you’ll do to interact with them and what the goal of each interaction will be (for example, offer them samples of your product with the goal of getting them to give you more information about themselves).

Next, define the channel through which the transaction is going to take place (a sales rep) and an interaction point through which you’ll let the customer know about this offer (phone call). Finally, decide which business process will be dominant in this action (sales, marketing, support).

Remember that your planning ahead must be flexible enough to take advantage of new opportunities. This means not planning everything to the last detail, but rather defining a clear path that you’ll follow and creating a formula for refusing and accepting new opportunities as they emerge.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM: Product roadmap and future vision

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In this blog, I’ll summarise what Jujhar Singh, General Manager at Microsoft Dynanmics CRM, talked about in his presentation titled ‘Microsoft Dynamics CRM: Product roadmap and future vision’, hosted at the Microsoft Dynamics Convergence 2014. The amount of info from this conference was a bit overwhelming, so today I’m just going to give a quick summary on the following points and I’ll dive into detail on a later blog:

  1. A summary of how CRM is getting on
  2. The schedule for the releases for the rest of the year
  3. Microsoft’s highlights/summary of each of the releases

In future blogs I’ll go through each of the planned releases in more detail, examine the different technologies and enhancements that are being offered in each and give an opinion as to what impact they’ll have.

 

How is CRM getting on…

The answer is “pretty good!”

The talk started with a quick summary of how CRM is fairing as a product, with the slide below showing the headline figures. You can see that online is where it’s all heading and Microsoft has been pushing hard to get that message across in most of its marketing material.
 
State of business

 

To make sure that the sales continue to grow, they then focused on the 5 main areas of investment in CRM over the next year, which break down as follows:

Mobility strategy

Release Schedule

The areas of investment are being broken down into 8 (yes that’s right 8!) releases between now and the end of the year. Each release, generally speaking, has a major focus but most of the releases try to touch on each of the 5 areas of investment highlighted.

The release schedule is broken down in the following slide. Though actual dates are pretty vague this does give a good idea of when each release should roughly fall.

microsoft dynamics crm roadmap

 

Highlights/Summary of each release

Leo – Customer Care Release

There was a lot of emphasis that this is a non-disruptive release, and this basically means that it’s an “opt in” release, so not one that will be forced onto all customers.

 

CRM Leo update

 

The main areas focused on is the customer care area, and they have summarised this in the slide below. It is worth noting that this does not include all of the data that will be included in the later Parature release.

Customer care crm

Leo Demo

Subra – Social Listening/Trends Release

This one is basically the integration of the recently acquired company Netbreeze. It’s actually quite an exciting integration (social trends and social listening) and one that some of our customers have been longing for!

 

Microsoft Social Listening

 

Mira – Marketing Release

The main focus of this area was that the marketing functionality is no longer “silo’d”, it is all integrated and interoperable. There was also a run through of the functionality that will be available in Marketing Pilot regarding the marketing automation and being able to view the journey.

 

Market smarter Mira

 

Vega – Offline/Mobility Release

The main focus is to improve the offline experience and the main areas that will be affected are outlined below.

 

Vega relentless pursuit

Mobility

 

Electra – Marketing Release – Wave 2

The main focus with this release is going to be on adding in SMS and Mobile, but it will also be addressing the social integration (being able to see the Netbreeze integration in marketing) and looking at landing pages. There is also some interesting looking interaction changes between the sale and marketing functions and how they can view each others actions.

 

Electra

 

Libra and Hydra Releases – Social Wave 2

Effectively this is some more follow up to the Netbreeze integration. The three main areas are:

  1. Creating leads and contacts directly from the social integrations
  2. Geo analysis will allow you to see where social connections are coming from (so where tweets were tweeted from)
  3. Social triggers, which basically means being able to view social feeds and be able to respond to social feeds through CRM. This is something that, depending on how well it’s done, could have a few companies that produce software that just does this quaking in their boots!

 
Libra Hydra

 

Parature Release

I’m not going to get into Parature here because there are several talks and videos purely on Parature, but I’ll give a summary of this in a later blog.

 

Parature integration plan

 

 

Well folks, that is where CRM 2013 is heading this year!

Microsoft are giving themselves a LOT to get through but even if they only get half of it done it will still give a huge wealth of extra functionality. There are some bits that I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on and some bits that I don’t really see the point of, but I’ll go through each of those in each of the blogs on the separate releases.

Internet marketing in 2014

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In his talk at the Microsoft Dynamics Convergence 2014, Sinan Kanatsiz, CEO of KCOMM, talked about using internet marketing to boost brand engagement. Sinan offered a high-level overview of everything that’s changing in internet marketing today and building on what he said, we offer you our insight on what we think is relevant for B2B marketers today.

Be consistent, build trust

According to Edelman Trust Barometer 2013, 64% of people need to hear a message 3 to 5 times before believing it. This means, always striving to deliver new messages might actually be counterproductive, as simply redressing one message multiple times might help you build higher trust. Of course we wouldn’t recommend you to keep tweeting the same 140 characters 5 times in a row – but forming a few core messages and pushing them out in different forms (infographic, blog, video, etc.) has proven to be a successful practice.

Change is important

Sinan mentioned that every 2 years, his businesses undergo a transformation – changing their whole website’s CMS, look & feel and content. In addition to this, he makes sure their social media profiles are always changing looks in order to keep their followers interested. The only things that remain constant is the website domain, the logo and company colours. Why? Because the marketing world today is changing so rapidly that sticking to the same design for too long might limit youryou’re your audience’s horizons.

You might be asking, how does he know that he doesn’t take a step in the wrong direction? Sinan, as many others, can predict which changes are likely to be successful by using powerful predictive analytics that are embedded in today’s CRM systems. Marketers love predictive analytics because they get to test marketing messages without spending an extra dollar, which is something they could never do before.

Interesting content

As the amount of content available on the internet grows by the minute, those who are keen on reading it must find new ways of getting through as much information as possible as quickly as possible. How could content marketers not help them with this? Sinan Kanatsiz in his talk argued that infographic is the new white paper – packed with facts but much faster to read. Similarly, the video is still on the rise and shows no signs of stopping: YouTube is the largest television network in the world at the moment.

Visual content in general is very powerful because it creates impressions very fast – it takes as little as 300 milliseconds for a person to form an impression. The point is to create messages that are better at being spotted and create the right impression. Create messaging that’s appropriate to these media, push them out via the right channels and you should receive more traffic than with traditional text-based content. Of course, text-based content is still very powerful and won’t be leaving anytime soon. How to make sure it’s successful? Whatever you’re writing, your story must be well thought-through, have a depth, a character and conflict.

Use customer data

Data, data, data. Information about your target audience will help you create more tailored messaging. The top 5 most important data for marketing success according to Experian Data Quality are: contact data (54%), sales data (44%), demographic data (38%), preference data (31%) and behavioural data (26%). Use your customer data in your email marketing, to segment your database and create more personalised messages. Greeting the email recipient is always a good idea if you want to make the impression that you care. Also, pay attention to what devices your target audience uses to connect with you – are they mobile? 40% of all internet traffic is now from mobile devices – are all your touchpoints ready for this?

SEO

Despite the spiking growth of social media in the past few years, search engines are still the most trust worthy sources of content for customers. This means SEO is crucial to your digital success. It’s important to take SEO seriously and follow the best practices; especially make sure you use powerful meta tags, your content is up-to-date and you keep building backlinks from reliable websites. It’s a peculiar fact of internet marketing, that sometimes even though your links from other websites won’t be read by many people, search engines are still going to rank your site higher than they would without these backlinks. This may not be a very romantic thought, but it does give you a higher chance of reaching your audience with your other, relevant content.

Integrating media

Unless you target a very unusual target market, your audience is very likely to be on several media at once. Be everywhere they are. Whether it’s your website, email or social media, your messaging needs to be consistent across all channels. Integrate your social media into your website and you email, and use a CRM system to map the movement of your audience across these channels.

 

So how to engage your customers best?

Always focus on building a relationship. Engage with your audience via several touch points, ask them questions and get them to provide feedback to you. If nothing else, ask them what kind of content would they like to read from you or what has been their experience with your services so far. Use humour and real, relatable stories to engage them. People who make other people laugh evoke an emotion in them, and such positive emotion creates trust. Don’t be afraid to cross personal boundaries and create content that’s more relatable and more engaging. Who doesn’t want to connect with others while they’re connected to the internet?

B2B Content: The Revolution is Now

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This talk was given by Marisa Kopec, Vice President and group Director of Serious Decisions at the Microsoft Convergence 2014.

According to statistics, companies distributing content onto their website claim that 60-70% of their content goes unused. Why is this?

Marisa argued that traditional workflows and content processes are breaking down. Why? There is a lack of “Audience” based content pieces and an override of “Product” content. The content you are distributing must be personalised in order to attract your audience and the buyers of your product. However marketing campaigns should already target this problem, by designing your content into your different categories of your buying processes.

Who is your audience? Who are you targeting? You must architect your content to suit your audience. Originating your content influences your audience to share your content not only online, but physically throughout their network. To ensure you reach out to the correct people, you must ensure your topic list and business issues are relevant to your audience.

Within businesses, there is a conflict between employees and teams on who they believe has the responsibility in producing and creating the content for the company. Is your workflow integrated? If it is then you shouldn’t have the following issues; do your employees have clear roles and responsibilities suitable to them? Or are your employees conflicting and competing with one another with their roles and responsibilities? Are you revolutionised as a company? When producing content within your company it shouldn’t only be a whitepaper or a document. You should be thinking ahead on how you’re going to distribute your content, throughout social media, emails and campaigns.

PDF’s are beginning to go out of fashion. As a marketer you should be thinking ahead and into the future before designing and creating your content. Not only will people be looking at your content on a computer, they will be looking at it through their mobile devices.

Mobile is booming ever more and soon we will need to produce all our content that can be seen on small screens, which will influence a different design process. Over time your team will adapt into originating the content for your company rather than typically sending out your usual run of the mill product fact sheet or whitepaper. The personalisation of your content is significantly important as it is more likely to transform conversations into more buying prospects.

Currently there is usually a missing link between sales and marketing. Marketing is creating content which is completely irrelevant to the way sales are trying to sell. Future plans for content should always be discussed between teams in order for the buying and selling process to be in line with one another. This will trigger a company or person to take action into the buying process, and once that is complete, we can take it to the next level to help them convince their one internal process to pick our business.

Introduction to Dynamics Marketing

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This is a summary of a Microsoft Dynamics Convergence 2014 talk that was hosted by Jamie Fiorda, Director of Worldwide Product Marketing at Microsoft and Kishan Chetan, Principal Program Manager at Microsoft.

Some people believe that Microsoft isn’t for Marketers, however the truth is Microsoft have hundreds of solutions for Marketing. Using these solutions enables marketers to create amazing customer experiences. These solutions allow you to create new possibilities not only with your customers, but with how you’re marketing processes get done and the way your brand is perceived. Word-of-mouth for your brand and marketing takes your budget further and allows you to stretch your money throughout multiple resources. Without this it becomes less efficient.

Personalise your Marketing. Customers appreciate when their experiences are personalised to them as an individual, as these are more influential to remember. Your customers should be centred. Great Marketing starts with great planning. With great planning, you get great execution.

Microsoft has created a Product called “Spring Break 2014”. The product has a Seamless Data Flow, allowing integration between CRM & Dynamics Marketing. It allows marketers to keep a close eye on their leads, campaigns and goals. It’s basic layout presents a much easier and faster work flow. Being a marketer you shouldn’t need to have somebody technical to organise this product for you. Microsoft have gone a step further and created this product with one view. This allows you to design, change and track multichannel campaigns all within the one window.

When opening the application, your first view allows you to track your budget. This is an important part of marketing to know where your spending has gone and in what particular areas it has been useful. It breaks your marketing down by the percentage of use and displays it in a chart which is easy to understand.

Within the demo of the Product, Kishan demonstrated creating a campaign. The layout of the campaign was very clean and manually easy to use. I believe marketers will save time and effort with this particular area of the product as everything you need is within the one window.

Within the Campaign there’s a “Drag & Drop” feature. This allows you to manage your campaign process and how your full campaign will flow. You can insert marketing lists, content, emails, social media, the list goes on. You can take your campaign in different directions for those who have engaged and those who haven’t, and you never need to leave the window.

It also allows you to view how effective your campaign is, for example in the setting up of an event or webinar; it displays how many people have registered without needing to click anything.

Jamie mentioned that 80% of marketers spend their time creating activities and only 20% on impactful work. So merging this product with your CRM system should hopefully, alter those percentages.

Content marketing: insights from experts

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As a part of our blog series covering the Microsoft Dynamics Convergence 2014, this blog highlights the key points of the ‘Marketing thought leaders on creating amazing customer experience – 1 hour, five speakers’ session.

The five speakers at this event, all of who only had 10 minutes to speak, were Jason Miller, Senior Content & Social Media Manager from LinkedIn, Marisa Kopec, Vice President and Group Director from Sirius Decisions, Jeff Marcoux, Senior Product Marketing Manager from Microsoft, Heidi Tucker, Vice President of Global Alliances from InsideView and Sinan Kanatsiz, CEO of KCOMM.

I will quickly take you through the insight these people offered in their talks and will try to relate it to your experience as a B2B marketer.

Big rock content

The first person to speak was Jason Miller. Jason focused on the relevance of content. He explained that 1 piece of big rock content that you can ‘live off’ and re-purpose for the next half a year will bring much better value to your company than 20 pieces of smaller, ad-hoc content. Here, the most important thing to watch out for is that your big rock content will address the issues your target audience faces. If your big rock content achieves this, you can rehash it into multiple webinars, blogs, infographics, videos and so on. When the advice you’re giving wears off, have another piece of big rock content ready and never look back (except for performance metrics, always look back for performance metrics).

Jason Miller also mentioned that the rock piece of content must not only be informative, but just as importantly, must be educative and inspirational. A good piece of advice is to aim for various types of content – switching between easy-to-read, entertaining, more ‘meaty’ and thought-provocative pieces of content. And if you’re striving to decide whether your content is relevant or not, ask yourself whether it offers information-only, or original insight that helps your target audience understand how to fight their battles more productively.

Coming back to performance evaluation, when we’re evaluating the performance of a piece of content, it’s also easy to fall into a trap of virality. Just because your content has gone viral, doesn’t mean that your target audience has seen it. Isn’t it much better to be noticed by 10 prospective customers than by 1500 uninterested people? Rather than focusing on virality, track how many new leads you create with every piece of content and how many such leads actually convert.

Selfies and content marketing

The second speaker, Marisa Kopec, in her talk said that the content marketers produce today is a lot like teenage selfies. Why? Teenager take selfies regularly in vast amounts and flood their social media with them, without any concern for those who’re going to see it.

Marisa argued that the customer journey today is, more often than not, misunderstood. Marketers often don’t know what content is appropriate for their leads at every stage of the business funnel. The problem is that marketers think they know what their audience wants to hear, based on what the marketers themselves would like to hear – forgetting they know their solution much better than the potential customer.

As a result, much like selfies, content created without this insight ends up unused and in worse cases, damages the brand. Eventually, leads drop out of the business funnel sooner or later, simply because they haven’t been persuaded that your company can be of help. So how do you prevent this from happening? Talk to your target audience. Engage with them on social media or get an external agency to find out more about them, if you must. Collect plenty of data to learn about the ‘day in the life’ and relate it to your product’s benefits. Putting yourself in the shoes of your customers is a much wiser way of doing business than keeping yourself busy by pushing out quantity of content.

Trans-media marketing

After Marisa, Jeff Marcoux went third and he used his 10 minutes to speak about trans-media marketing. Trans-media marketing stands for presenting you brand via different media in different ways (unlike Omni-media, where you send the same message across all of your channels). Although you must stay consistent in the core ideas you’re presenting, you’re always showing your audience a different side of your brand – a different side of the story. Jeff mentioned the Game of Thrones – the audience’s experience is different whether they watch the show, read the book, or engage with their maps, because each time they learn different information and immerse themselves deeper into the story.

To replicate this successfully, define which sides of your company you want the customer to see. Do you contribute to charity or enjoy squash evenings together? Involve all of your employees in presenting your brand via different media, with different messages – your employees will be forced to think about the business identity more often and your customers won’t get bored of you so quickly. Once you start engaging your customers in varied ways, you’re likely to create richer content and a richer customer experience too. Double win!

Customer intimacy

As the fourth presenter, Heidi Tucker spoke about building customer intimacy. She said what many others were already suspecting – that having big data is not really an advantage unless you can turn it into smart data. This means, just having thousands of names, job titles, companies and industries in your database won’t make you a better marketer.

What will make you a better marketer is making sense of your data and using them to create a bond with your customers. How? Find out more about your leads – have they recently changed jobs, published a book or are they going to be hosting an event soon? When you manage to capture some information about their recent activity, contact them and let them know how you can help them in their new situation. Personalised messages like this tend to get a much more positive response rate than generic ones. Heidi says you’re likely to close these deals faster, at a lower cost (even despite the time you dedicate to the research) and with higher margins.

Of course, to do this on larger scales would be extremely time-consuming. Start by doing this once a week – allocate 1-2 hours of your time to find out more about your leads and record this information in your customer database. Even if you don’t make a sale in each particular case, you’ll always learning more about your target market.

Marketing in 2014

The last speaker, Sinan Kanatsiz talked about the ways internet marketing is changing in 2014. He dedicated his 10 minutes to talk about powerful content, customer relationships and trust, customer data and marketing channel integration. His 10 minute speech was just a short version of another one of his talks at the Microsoft Dynamics Convergence 2014, where he talked about these points in more depth. You can read about his presentation in this blog.

Customer Care in the Age of the Customer

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Did you know that over 92% of companies view customer experience as one of their top priorities? And that 60% actually use customer experience success as a competitive differentiator; as a way to stand out from the commoditised sea of commercial products?

In a recent Forrester’s survey, customers using 160 brands across 40 vertical markets were asked three simple questions:

  1. How enjoyable were they to do business with?
  2. How easy were they to do business with?
  3. How effective were they at meeting your needs?

Overall, 53% are disappointed with their experience in using these top brands.

Good customer experiences are good for business

It is accepted that providing good customer service leads to better custom. Remember, its 80% more expensive to gain a new customer than it is to retain an existing customer.

There is also a willingness to consider the company for another purchase; less likelihood of switching business to another competitor; but importantly, a high likelihood that they will recommend you to a friend or colleague. Overall, a good experience directly correlates to a loyal customer who spends more with you.  This correlation appears to cross all 40 verticals surveyed.

So why does over 50% of businesses get it wrong, when 80% of customers say a good experience is what attracts and keeps them as customers?

It’s increasingly difficult to deliver good customer service as the customer service leader must balance customer needs with business needs.  On their plate is revenue, cost and compliance measurements versus customer satisfaction & loyalty.

Information silos

Most companies have a mess of sliced applications and data banks.  In another Forrester survey, over 50% fail in the ability to provide a consistent cross-channel experience to customers. That can mean, a customer hears and sees information differently depending on which channel they use. Information on the web can be different to what an agent tells them on chat or telephone, and different again to what they receive in the post.  There doesn’t appear to be a seamless cross-over from one channel to another – digital or not.

One surveyed company had over 12 different islands of information that had to be accessed a different times by agents depending on what part of the journey their customer was in at any given time.  That’s a lot of information dotted around the place!

Time to be Social

From 2009 to present, new communication channels have emerged, as well as the growth in social & digital channels as a means to interact between customers and businesses. Suddenly huge volumes of enquiries and comments within social networks & channels let to some companies being overwhelmed and unable to cope.

On top of the volume of enquiries, most businesses used their marketers to manage these channels rather than customer service agents. So customers weren’t getting the right answers or level of service that an agent would have otherwise given. It has also been difficult to control and measure SLAs and KPIs based upon the less formalised methods of communicating, such as online services, Twitter or Facebook.

When these newer forms of interacting with customers fails, customers then switch to the traditionally more expensive channels such as phone or email.  These methods require full person support.  The amount of failures isn’t a small figure either – 75% of customer service issues resort back to the traditional method; 67% of research activity; and 61% of purchases.

Bad service cannot be taken likely as it only takes a few bad experiences for word to spread across the digital world.  Regular bloggers and tweeters account for 24% of negative sentiment in a B2C environment, and 37% in a B2B environment.  Those that use reviews within eBay or Amazon account for a huge 73% for B2C and 77% for B2B.  There is no escaping anymore!

Top 12 Trends to Improve the Customer Experience

  1. Understand that your customers expect effortless service
  2. Customer service organisations must adopt a mobile-first mind-set
  3. Use Business Process Management tools to standardise service delivery
  4. Rely on outbound communications to keep your customers in the loop
  5. Invest in proactive engagement
  6. Deliver consistent knowledge strategy across all touch points
  7. Use decisioning to power offers, actions and connections
  8. Listen to your customers and act on their insights
  9. Leverage analytics to improve the end-to-end experience
  10. Realise that an improved agent experience leads to better customer satisfaction outcomes
  11. One way to improve productivity is to use cloud-based solutions
  12. Relevant data at the right time streamlines customer service.

It’s time to focus on people, process and technology to move the needle on online customer service experiences.

  • Customer service strategy should be in line with overall business strategy
  • Understand the customer and how they want to interact with you
  • Use technology that can offer the right service and is future proofed in line with your business growth model
  • Empower the agents with a customer-centric culture – measure and reward them.

 

To understand how Microsoft can help you further your quest for superior customer excellence, take a test drive of Dynamics CRM, a cloud-based solution that manages customer relations effectively to help retain your most important asset – customers.