Consider the following scenario: It’s a hot summer day and a prospective customer walks into your store to buy an air conditioner. He evaluates several models and then buys one — but not from you. It turns out your competitor located two miles away is offering the same model at a 20% discount. How did he know this? He scanned the product's bar code using the RedLaser app on his iPhone, which displayed several local retailers with lower prices than yours. If he had been willing to wait three days for shipping, he could have purchased the exact same model while standing in your store from an online retailer at a 30% discount.
This type of technology-fueled disruption is affecting all industries, not just retailers. Since the early 1900s, businesses relied on competitive barriers such as manufacturing strength, distribution power, and information mastery. But this is all changing in the age of the customer, where empowered buyers have information at their fingertips to check a price, read a product review, or ask for advice from a friend right from the screen of their smartphone.
To compete in the age of the customer, your business must become customer-obsessed. As Forrester’s Josh Bernoff (@jbernoff), SVP of Idea Development and author of Groundswelland Empowered, advocates in his latest research: “The only source of competitive advantage is the one that can survive technology-fueled disruption — an obsession with understanding, delighting, connecting with, and serving customers.”
Hello, everyone. As a new analyst on Forrester's Customer Intelligence team, I'm taking over coverage of enterprise marketing platforms. I'll range everywhere from cross-channel campaign management to interaction management to analytics and optimization tools.
I'm thrilled to join Forrester. We live in a time of extraordinary change in the way we conduct marketing. Businesses succeed and fail on how they bring the Customer Intelligence role to bear. I have the enviable task of following Suresh Vittal — who's since taken over the leadership of the CI role — as well as Dave Frankland, Zach Hofer-Shall, Fatemeh Khatibloo, Srividya Sridharan, and Joe Stanhope. As an aside, if we meet up, be sure to ask me the story of how Joe lured me to Forrester.
Extraordinary times imply that extraordinary challenges lurk underneath. CI professionals face the test of integrating data into a holistic view of customers. Recently in my report "CI Teams: Blocking and Tackling Is Not Enough," I dug into why data integration is such an omnipresent issue. As you might expect, a number of factors -- the explosion of touch points, the staggering amounts of data generated, budget, and skills -- contribute to the problem.
Relationship marketers love customer lifetime value (CLV) as a concept because it puts the customer at the core of the marketing investment decision and sneaks a peek into the future worth of the customer. But in reality, arriving at customer lifetime value is often a herculean task and the assortment of CLV approaches available doesn’t make the process any easier.
My latest research, titled “Navigating The Customer Lifetime Value Conundrum,” highlights key considerations for firms who plan to embark on the CLV journey. As a continuation of this research stream, I asked our Customer Intelligence community members what their experience with CLV was and a few interesting points emerged:
Inclusion of intangible value. At what point is it important to account for the intangible, non-transactional value that customers are generating especially through all the emerging channel interactions such as referrals, recommendations, likes, user-generated content, etc.?
Blurry definitions of "best" customers. Traditionally, resources are channeled toward your best customers with positive net present value (NPV). But often there is conflicting choice between investing in high-value, low-usage customers and low-value, high-usage customers. As a result, defining your "best" or "worst" customer/segment is not as obvious as a positive or negative NPV.
Diversity of CLV users. CLV is not just the domain of marketing or customer-focused teams, but it touches other stakeholders in the organizations. How do non-marketing stakeholders such as finance teams in your organization view this metric? Is CLV as important to non-marketing stakeholders as it is to marketing?
I was intrigued by the recent announcement that MasterCard and Brighter Planet were teaming up to mine carbon emission data based on corporate cardholder data. This announcement got me thinking about unlikely data partnerships across verticals to productize data and form mutually beneficial partnerships using data as the currency.
But what’s really interesting is that it elevates the conversation of customer intelligence beyond better campaigns and ROI to the use of customer data for sustainability efforts — a relatively uncommon use case for customer intelligence.
The concept of data sharing or data partnerships is not new — entire business models exist on making these services available to organizations for smarter targeting and remarketing. Retail data co-ops, online media audience aggregators, and data coalitions are just a few examples of these models. And MasterCard even sells its MasterCard Advisors solution to provide merchants with enhanced data and targeting capabilities.
Leaders of competitive and market intelligence teams know that something is wrong. They tell Forrester this every day. They describe it as being similar to when your car doesn’t drive quite right, but the mechanic can’t find a problem, or when you feel sick, but the doctor gives you a clean bill of health.
You know that something needs to change, but can’t seem to find a point of view to guide you toward the right way to change.
The most frequently used word to describe this problem is “credibility” — and is usually couched in questions such as “how can we build credibility with sales?” or “why isn’t our content credible with sales teams?” Forrester’s practice serving sales enablement professionals will discuss the challenge of building CMI credibility with sales during our February teleconference.
Across the tech industry, marketing and portfolio teams place massive amounts of content into sales portals and measure their success from the usage data — views, downloads, prints — from these repositories. During a recent research interview, one sales rep at a leading software company said, “I know that a lot of materials are supposed to be on our sales portals, but in my nine years, I haven’t ever taken the time to look.”
Your supply chain is broken if a sales rep can succeed for a decade without ever using your materials or even visiting the primary site holding your content!
Successful sales enablement reaches beyond just sales. Marketing functions such as customer and market intelligence (CMI) supply materials to your direct sales teams. This content can significantly improve sales impact if it is timely, relevant, and in-context, which for CMI means:
Timely - the right information available to sales teams at the right time.
Relevant - content that sales teams can easily adapt into customer content.
In-context - framed by the business outcomes that customers use to make purchasing decisions.
The words of "War," Edwin Starr's 1969 Motown classic, began ringing in my head this morning. It was brought on by a Harvard Business Review blog post by Steve W. Martin, "Why Sales and Marketing Are at Odds — or Even War." Within tech vendors, sales and marketing teams often fail to communicate or align go-to-market strategies. Forrester's sales enablement visionary Scott Santucci discussed the different languages of sales and marketing in his blog over two years ago. As for my own experience with sales and marketing:
A few years ago, I sat with the chief marketing officer and chief sales officer of a Fortune 100 tech vendor. The conversation didn't focus on customer problems, which should be the starting point for sales enablement professionals. The conversation didn't focus on sales efficiency issues such as sales cycle duration or win rates, which should be critical imperatives for all sales and marketing professionals. Each of these executives controlled massive budgets but neither one sincerely trusted the other. Their words were about aligning sales and marketing programs, but the real conversation, when read between the lines, was about control, boundaries, and politics. They were at war!