2 min read

Financial services ‘must get to grips with marketing’

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British financial services firms need to improve their use of new marketing channels if they are not to be left behind by their rivals, with the sector typically behind the curve when it comes to the adoption of innovative advertising solutions.

Strict legislation around data protection and complex target audiences have been two factors in retail and investment banks’ unwillingness to change their marketing plans, an expert has claimed.

Ben Mott, client services director at Smith & Milton, wrote in the Guardian that brands such as Red Bull and Virgin have been at the forefront of developing social media strategies and engaging with consumers – compared to these global corporations, financial services companies are lagging behind.

One factor in this confusion is a lack of integration – the “siloed, product-led nature [of retail and investment banks] means their divisions all have their own voices”, declared Mr Mott.

“With the advent of social, they are trying to reorganise this internally instead of focusing resources externally to engage with customers,” he explained.

Social media can be extremely complex for financial services organisations, forcing them to deal with a number of different issues while putting pressure on them to keep sensitive information as secure as possible.

“A lack of trust in the financial services category makes it hard even for the good companies to use it effectively. In fact, most customers have their head in the sand when it comes to communicating with the big bad world of banking,” the expert indicated.

However, this does not mean firms should simply ignore the possibility of connecting with British consumers – if anything, it heightens the urgency with which they should be adopting engaging marketing techniques.

It is important financial services organisations keep track of changes in marketing approach if they are to regain the trust of prospective customers, concluded Mr Mott.

Natwest Business Banking, owned by the Royal Bank of Scotland, recently praised the impact Microsoft Dynamics CRM had on its marketing policy.

2 min read

DMA warns over consumer trust

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The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) has encouraged firms not to lose the trust of consumers when partaking in marketing mail and telemarketing projects, as this can end up having an averse reputational effect.

This is the number one risk of using data that has not been automatically screened against a ‘do not contact’ list – getting in touch with people who have opted out of a service will cause frustration and annoyance, possibly causing long-term damage to a brand.

Its warnings follow on from the recent publication of the DM Commission’s annual report revealing the majority of its investigations in 2013 were into consumer complaints about companies making nuisance calls.

Although the Advertising Standards Agency and the DM Commission do not have the power to issue fines, unlike regulatory bodies such as Ofcom, businesses will still feel the hit if they alienate prospective customers.

Chris Combemale, the DMA’s executive director, urged firms to ensure their opt-out registers are utilised effectively in the future.

“Consumer trust is essential to effective one-to-one communication, but this is all too easily jeopardised by not making the simple check to see if someone wants to be contacted or not.”

Watchdogs such as the Information Commissioner’s Office – which is capable of fining companies harshly for breaking its rules – have recently got involved in the problem of spam texts and unwanted calls, explained Mr Combemale.

“But the biggest risk businesses face is from losing consumer trust, which means losing potential customers and potential revenue. This should be incentive enough for businesses to check their consumer data,” he concluded.

More than 5.5 million phone numbers and addresses are registered with the Medical Protection Services, while about 20 million are connected to the Telephone Protection Service. It is a legal requirement for companies to check their customer data against these registers.

Businesses with customer relationship management technology in place can use this to keep track of their trading information, helping to make it less likely that nuisance issues will arise.

2 min read

Marketing and loyalty

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The importance of bringing in new customers in digital marketing is often discussed – a well-crafted campaign that can attract a host of new buyers for a particular product is a desirable happening in both the B2B and B2C worlds.

However, it’s equally crucial to maintain those relationships once they have been generated – particularly in B2B, where consumers will have the expertise and awareness to simply switch to a new seller or provider if they feel their needs are not being met.

But what is the best way to maintain a relationship with a customer? The days when a basket of fruit twice a year would keep them sweet are long gone, with companies keen to cut costs and looking for potential savings from every aspect of their operation.

Business consultant Maite Baron recently suggested that adding value to existing links can ensure customers stay on side, or even allow businesses to up-sell contracts if they are capable of offering additional services.

Writing for Small Business, she pointed out that gaining new business only to watch it fall away because of a lack of maintenance is not a sound business policy, particularly not in such straitened economic times.

“It’s like running a bath without the plug and constantly having to fill it up to replace what’s leaked away. That’s not only wasteful of your time, money and resources, but can eventually ‘contaminate’ your marketplace and see your reputation go down in flames,” she pointed out.

Staying in touch with customers as regularly as possible is vital when it comes to keeping track of their needs, as is being as responsive to any changes in the market that could affect your relationship.

If firms can keep adding value in this way “not only will the business become appreciated and recognised for the service level it offers, but bit by bit it can rise through the ranks to become potentially world class at what it does,” posited Ms Baron.

Customer relationship management tools are one way in which firms can keep on track of this process, ensuring they are listening and responding without having to over-spend on doing so.

3 min read

Getting Started with a Social Strategy

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Webinar hosted by Francois Ruf, Principal Group Program Manager at Microsoft during the Convergence 2014 event in Atlanta.

 

The presentation was focussed on the Microsoft Social Listening product set which will be available from Q2 2014 in Dynamics 2013 and forms part of the ‘Social Stack’.  Francois discussed the high-level strategy for organisations to develop a social platform utilising the technology stack provided by Dynamics 2013.

 

Everyone is becoming more aware of the connected world, vast amounts of data is generated online every day and the growing challenge for any organisation is how to process the relevant data.  This truly is the age of the customer, with 1.2 billion posts per day on Facebook and Twitter alone!

 

Many potential customers are 57% (according to some statistics) through the buying cycle before they even reach out to an organisation, these interactions happen on sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter among other online places, if you are not actively interacting at these touch points the potential buyers may not even be aware of your organisation.

 

Consumers also expect much more agile organisations with 20% expecting a response to a query within 1 hour via social media.  44% of consumers now complain via social media.

 

In a social age, organisations must be aware of and be able to address:

  • Trust – People trust people, not organisations.
  • Transparency – People are able to know everything about your product, the good and the bad.  They also know all your competitors.
  • Access – People are able to easily get recommendations from friends, their network and the global community.

 

It will be no surprise that conversations in social media have become more influential to the buying process than the traditional sales and marketing tactics.

 

This has a BIG IMPACT on the sales, marketing and customer care processes in your organisation!

 

So what can organisations do to better engage online and better leverage the potential of social?

 

The biggest opportunities will cover:

  • Customer Experience – Understanding the consumer, learning from competitors, engaging with the customer socially.
  • Social Media Marketing – Brand reputation and presence, lead generation, etc.
  • Risk Management – Discover marketing and customer risks in real-time, an early warning system.
  • HR – communication and spotting top talents.
  • Analytics and Big Data – Understand your data by including social data and trends.
  • Collaboration – Internal to maximise network and knowledge within the organisation.

 

How do you get started with a social strategy?

  • Start with listening.  What are your opportunities, where are the touch points with customers?  Do most of your potential customers interact on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or a combination?
  • Listen to competitors.  How are they approaching social?  Can you learn from what they are doing?
  • The Business Case.  Align your goals with your core business KPI’s.  How would you measure success?  The number of followings on Twitter may not indicate success for your organisations strategy.
  • Evaluate tools and vendors.
  • Build a roadmap.  Start simple but have a complete end to end scenario.
  • Assess the knowledge already in the organisation and assess education and training requirements.
  • Get Executive sponsorship.  You have your opportunities, competitor information, a business case, an understanding of your organisation and a roadmap.

 

Organisations must be careful about some pitfalls; the social strategy must be organisation wide and not just part of a small silo (such as marketing for example).  Not aligning the strategy with business goals is another common issue, what are you trying to achieve?

 

With Microsoft Dynamics, the entire social stack is seamlessly integrate into Dynamics 2013 giving you the power to unlock social for your organisation.

 

2 min read

CRM: Making Social Media Work to Your Advantage

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It’s taken a while, but the B2B world is beginning to embrace social media in a way that the B2C bods have been enjoying for quite some time. Social media platforms give us opportunities to instantly exchange information, build contacts and engage with groups, share ideas and open dialogues. It’s changing how we talk to customers, market products and services and network professionally.

Maybe that’s why it’s taken so long for B2B organisations to latch on; the term ‘social media’ doesn’t clearly highlight the potential in the professional sphere. But that’s not to say that the potential isn’t there; now, social media is no longer just about being sociable. Increasingly, these platforms are being utilised in the corporate environment to facilitate the exchange of information amongst colleagues.

Customer data + social media = success

Can you see where I’m going with this one? Over here, you’ve got the fantastic information resource created by a CRM system like Microsoft Dynamics. Over there, you’ve got brilliant ways to share information through social media. Just imagine if you could bring the two together…

No surprises, then, to see Microsoft engaging with Yammer, the internal company communication platform. You might go as far as to say it’s a no-brainer. The new model allows teams with access to the CRM system to plan customer strategies and engage other colleagues in achieving those goals. The potential to speed responses, enhance service levels, inspire virtual teamwork and solve issues quickly is exceptional.

The real beauty of the Dynamics/Yammer connection is the simplicity. Like every great social media platform, it is intuitive, uncomplicated and open. It frees businesses to work differently and think differently, without requiring extensive training for users. So customers will see the benefits almost instantly.

It’s all up to you

Companies that already use Microsoft Dynamics will appreciate the benefits of the Yammer connection quickly. Is there a downside? Not really. The only challenge I can see is the challenge we’re all familiar with from social media. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what additional functionality the system has – it will always be defined by how individuals use it.

Some people will use it just to view news and stay updated. Others will make it an integral part of their working day, maximising the potential of a tool that can support great CRM in lots of different ways. Either way, thanks for Microsoft Dynamics and Yammer, social media has a firmer foothold in the professional sphere.

2 min read

What is the Effect of CRM on Customer Relationships?

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Customer Relationship Management is now considered something of a proven success. It’s all about making the right offer to the right person at the right time and if a system can help you do that, then you’d be a fool not to sign up surely.

Or would you? What about luck, what about learning from mistakes? Their role in forming strong, lasting relationships with customers could be being sacrificed at the automated altar of CRM.

Just over 59 years ago, Alan Turing, the pioneer of modern computing, tragically took his own life. His name lives on, not just in a shameful story of how a national hero was all but killed because of his sexuality but also in the Turing test.

The experiment is still the ultimate test of artificial intelligence. It basically involves a blind conversation between a machine and a person. If the computer can convince the person they are a human being then the holy grail of artificial intelligence will said to have been reached.

That, in an ideal world, is what our CRM systems should be doing. People like dealing with people.

No machine has ever passed the Turing Test.

Computer CRM works on a relatively simple model. What a customer did in the past, they are likely to do in the future. There’s logic – of course, these are computers – in that, but what about the flash of inspiration and the happy accident that a human can bring to these transactions? They are sadly lacking, and the way they work also limits the opportunities of customers to chance upon things they may really want.

Already, experts in education and philosophy worry that we’re living in a world where predictions rule the day. Google autocompletes your search query based on what you’ve already looked for. Will we end up going down the same well-trodden paths?

Marketing research from the University of Maryland’s Professor Rebecca Ratner confirms that humans remain reassuringly human. That is, infuriatingly unpredictable to the extent that subjects in her study often choose to do things they had no particular wish to, even when offered an alternative which they knew they preferred. We’ve all probably got memories of doing something out of duty or because we feel we ought to.

In marketing terms that’s possibly interesting, but almost impossible to work with. Until you discover that Professor Ratner’s team found that these less-preferred choices reinforced the pleasure of the preferred choice and made subjects more loyal to it for longer.

So, perhaps we should turn off the CRM occasionally and throw our customers a curve ball. What is your experience with the effect of CRM on customer relationships?

2 min read

Marketing Personas: Do your Lead Nurturing Correctly

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In content marketing one-size-fits-all is not always a successful approach. Particularly in business to business marketing, clients are looking for answers to their problems and we all have our own very individual problems. You need to develop a number of ways of talking to your audience.

One way you can learn the right language is to look at so-called ‘social buyers’ who make full use of online resources as they make their purchasing decisions. The conservative estimate is that these buyers are spending six-and-a-half hours-a-week researching their choices.

This is your chance to reach them, and develop personas that will allow your content to speak more effectively to them. Here’s how:

  1. Ask the right questions
  2. Social media is more revealing, so it’s more valuable to marketers and also infinitely more complex than the old age, location, income bracket way of segmenting a potential market.

    Demographics are still useful to the definition of your marketing personas, but you need to go much deeper. This can be an almost endless process if you’re not careful, so try to keep focused. The key questions include: what problem are they trying to solve, where do they find the information they trust and can they make buying decisions?

    If you have a strong relationship with some customers then don’t be afraid to ask them directly.

  3. Use your data
  4. The marketing gurus reckon you should be able to find five customer personas to match five marketing voices you can adopt in your content.

    Of course, people aren’t as simple as that, but it’s a useful exercise, and you’ll find that outside the strict lines of the five persona model you will find cross-overs of interests and problems which will allow you to tweak content slightly to speak to different groups.

  5. Expand your brief
  6. Persona development is a function of marketing, but it’s much more than that. You’ll certainly need to speak to the people in your organisation who have the most face-to-face or phone contact with customers to learn what makes them tick.

2 min read

Building Customer Relationships: Are You Doing it Well? Checklist

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We all are B2C customers with our own set of expectation about vendor’s business processes. We don’t tolerate ‘hiccups’ well unless the particular company happens to be our preferred provider.

When it comes to the B2B market, this is somewhat similar but a lot more complicated. The stakes are much higher, and the higher rationality of B2B relationships is a double-edged sword: customers are more reasonable but it also takes plenty more effort to persuade them.

So how is your company doing when it comes to success in building customer relationships? Look at our quick checklist below and assess if the following statements apply to your own business:

We act up because we realise the person dealing with us is risking their career and the whole company is risking their reputation – for us. We do everything so they look great in front of their customers.
We know we’re the experts and our customers look for solutions, not products. That means we keep improving our product and/or service based on previous feedback so the clients have increasing confidence in our abilities.
We keep the quality of our service consistently reliable rather than over-delivering in some tasks and failing in the others.
We sometimes act selflessly: we act humble and human because we know people buy from real people and this boosts our chances to get recommended.
We treat our customers as individuals: before and after the sale. We target our campaigns specifically to them and we use a single business funnel for each customer.
We understand our customers’ business and environment: we know what troubles them and why they came looking for us. It’s about them, not about us.
Our sales reps have personal responsibility for their sales: we follow up even after we make the sale.
Our sales reps know all about our product and the competition too.
We deliver unique value: we go the extra mile and deliver more than the client would be able to source or create themselves.

So how did you do today?
There is always room for improvement.

And remember: actions speak louder than words and solely measuring customer satisfaction is not enough. You need to be proactive and deliver what they want before the smile fades away from their faces.