Brand Relationship Is Dead — Long Live The Digital Customer Relationship

Marketers, you are officially on notice: The very idea of brand relationship is going to become irrelevant thanks to digital disruption. If you continue to focus on building a wonderful brand relationship with your customer, you will one day awake to find that someone else has taken your place in your customer’s life — not with a more compelling brand relationship, but with a more compelling digital customer relationship.

Someone out there is building the “ultimate customer relationship,” a type of digital bridge I write about in my most recent Forrester report, "Start to Build Your Ultimate Customer Relationship." That ultimate digital customer relationship is the type of relationship that digital tools and services enable and that digital consumers welcome. They’re happily signing up for anything that tethers them to a source that can give them more of what they want, more easily than before. Even with the supposed threat of privacy all around us, consumers are diving into deep digital relationships with companies or brands that deal with the most sensitive aspects of their lives. Weight-loss app Lose It helps users log personal information such as calories consumed and tell others of their goals, leading to the loss of more than 27 million pounds so far; Square gets consumers to email cash to friends — thus introducing them to Square and inducing them to sign up; and Airbnb has welcomed more than half a million listings of spare rooms and apartments that have been visited by more than 9 million guests. What’s more personal than your weight, your money, and your spare room?

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Three Ways That The Right Message Will Help You Win The B2B Marketing Game

Second only to March Madness (with the latest from Warren Buffet), this is my favorite time of year for sports — conference championship weekend and the run-up to the Super Bowl. While the Patriots fell short this past Sunday and Belichick is far from my favorite coach, I have to admit that his belief that the team must continuously understand the field they play in and adapt their game plan to win hit home for me as lessons that marketers can learn.

While X’s and O’s matter in the NFL game, as I discussed in my “How To Build A Strong B2B Brand“ report (subscription required), for business-to-business (B2B) marketers, maintaining a strong brand with a clear, compelling, and relevant message is the key to meet empowered buyers’ changing needs head-on and win the battle of mindshare and wallet share. As a B2B marketer or sales enablement professional, it’s time to put your brand and go-to-market message front and center — and make sure that it accurately provides value to your customers across all of the stages of the buying journey.

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B2B Marketers Expect Bigger 2014 Budgets: How Will You Spend It Wisely?

Sound the fanfare! Business-to-business (B2B) marketing budgets are on the rise!

Today, Forrester published results from a joint study with the Business Marketing Association (BMA) that looks at CMO-level expectations for overall program budgets, the composition of the 2014 marketing mix, and spending related to technology and innovation. BMA members may download a complimentary copy here.   

In this research (subscription required), we found that, on average, B2B marketers expect to see budgets increase by 6%, compared with last year.  This outlook is cautiously optimistic since 45% of respondents hope to hold budgets flat with 2013 and another 22% expect to see still more decreases. Pressure to hold the line on spending continues as 73% of respondents say they still feel budget pressure. (You can also see AdAge coverage of this survey here.  And from CRM.com here.)

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Customer Marketing: The Flip Side Of The L2RM Coin

Let's face it. We probably should have called it "lead-to-loyalty" instead of "lead-to-revenue." (Lead-to-revenue still sounds better . . . at least we're not talking about the funnel . . .)

What I am talking about is automating marketing — what Forrester calls the integrated set of goals, processes, and metrics that shape marketing practices from lead-generation-to-revenue events.

We see business-to-business (B2B) CMOs from companies large and small ramping up technology, processes, and new marketing skills to get their teams to better focus marketing activity on customer engagement and to measure their departments against revenue performance.

But here's the kicker; managing leads to revenue shouldn't end with a signed contract but should continue across the entire customer life cyle. It's about turning leads into long-term loyal customers. After all, a revenue event is a revenue event; it doesn't matter if it happens from engaging with a prospect or with an existing customer.

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CMOs, Brand, And The Customer Experience Imperative

January is the month of renewed goals and better-you resolutions. Machines and classes at the gym are packed, diet and weight loss books are flying off shelves (or onto tablets), and money-saving commitments are redoubled. These are some of the more common New Year’s resolutions and, not surprisingly, are also some of those most commonly broken. The right thing to do is neither easy nor sustainable. To borrow from the poem that inspired Steinbeck, “the best laid plans of mice and men / Often go awry . . .

Many enterprises run into this conundrum when it comes to customer experience. They talk a big game about their resolve to master the discipline of customer experience but then let existing organizational structures, budget priorities, and operational processes provide excuses that limit progress.

Today, I published a new report, “The Convergence Of Brand, Customer Experience, and Marketing,” in which I lay out the new paradigm for the connection between these three disciplines. I also offer three roles for the CMO to play in aligning brand, CX, and marketing — a strategic imperative that CMOs must take on or risk irrelevance in a world driven by the customer’s needs and wants.

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CES 2014 Roundup In Three Bullets

The madness that is the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) has finally subsided, people are safely home (some never arrived thanks to cancelled flights), and we’ve had sufficient time to read the CES stars and foretell what it means for 2014 and beyond. Condensing this show down to so few points requires omitting some things, even some fun things like Michael Bay’s meltdown and T-Mobile CEO John Legere’s attention-grabbing tactics, but it’s my job to say what it means. So here I go, predicting what will happen in 2014 with three (admittedly long) bullets:

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Why Microsoft Trumps Apple In The Battle For Consumer Mindshare

As the opening of the 2014 Consumer Electronic Show (CES) dawned in Las Vegas, consumer technology firms pitched their innovation wares. Forrester’s latest TRUE brand compass research shows that innovation is a key to successfully building a sustainable consumer technology brand, but that innovation alone is not sufficient. 
 
In August 2013, Forrester conducted Consumer Technographics® research with 4,551 US online adults to uncover the drivers of a successful 21st century consumer technology brand. This research is part of Forrester’s TRUE brand compass framework designed to identify which brands are winning the battle for consumer mindshare and to help marketers build a brand that is trusted, remarkable, unmistakable, and essential (TRUE). This framework has two core components: 1) An overall TRUE brand compass ranking gives a snapshot of a brand’s resonance — the emotional connection a customer has with a brand, and 2) the TRUE brand compass scorecard reveals a brand’s progress along each of the four TRUE dimensions.  
 
In a surprise upset, Microsoft trumped Apple and Samsung in the TRUE brand rankings. In fact, Microsoft was the only brand in the survey to achieve the coveted trailblazer status— indicating that the Microsoft brand is “at the forefront of brand building with a unique and distinct brand identity that sets it apart from other brands.”  Both Apple and Samsung achieved leader status.
 
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The Agency Landscape Is In The Crosshairs — Be The One To Call The Shots

The agency world is going through a teething stage, as agencies mature from the cooing softness of being social or mobile specialists, nurtured by large adoptive holding-company parents, and develop into more complex and thoughtful entities. I recently wrote a report (see the blog post about it here) that lays out the ways in which digital agencies, creative and media agencies, and large technology developers will align. Now I am on the hunt for an insightful, analytical, and objective opinion leader to take on the role of establishing, analyzing, and evangelizing the role of agencies as they evolve in this new era.

The role, like other Forrester analyst roles, is one-part analysis, one-part writing, and one-part speaking. The person who fills this slot at Forrester will be able to engage the CMO of a large CPG firm, the CEO of a large agency, and the leadership team of large integration firms, without skipping a beat. You’ll need to be a great writer to get your story clear and distributable and be able to assess the core elements of what makes an agency and a client work well together.

If you like to think deeply, write clearly, and then roll up your story into an executive discussion, send me your resume, or apply here.

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