Building Direct Digital Relationships In A Sea Of Rising Intermediaries

James McQuivey

There is a fundamental division at the heart of the digital economy. Digital tools make it possible for any company to build a direct relationship with its customers. At the same time, new digital intermediaries can use the same digital tools to create unprecedented intermediary roles. Torn between two lovers, anyone?

We’re in the age of the customer, a period during which end consumers have more access to the basic economic resources that help them make more rational and empowered decisions. The theory of perfect competition dictates that market economies flourish best on a foundation of perfect information that enables perfectly rational actors. The digital technologies we all carry in our pockets — not to mention, have surrounding us in our cars, our homes, and even strapped to our bodies — have initiated a chain reaction, unleashing an unprecedented level of information, which has enabled us — if we choose to accept our mission — to behave like much more rational actors than ever before. (Caveat lector, I didn’t say “perfectly rational” for a reason. See our research on how humans make choices to understand more.) 

The more those technologies spread, the more buyers and sellers enter the system, the more innovation there is — at lower cost, thanks to the economics of digital disruption – and the spiral feeds itself.

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Adopt The Customer Life Cycle To Accelerate Your Journey To Customer Obsession

Sheryl Pattek

In ancient Greek mythology, Cassandra, the beautiful daughter of the King of Troy, had the gift of prophecy with complete knowledge of future events. But the impact of Cassandra’s gift was stymied by her inability to alter the future or even convince others of the validity of her predictions. The metaphor of Cassandra hasn’t remained just an interesting myth. We see it applied in a variety of contexts, including politics, psychology, science, entertainment, philosophy, and business.

Since at least 1949, when French philosopher Gaston Bachelard coined the term “Cassandra complex,” organizations have been grappling with the disconnect between establishing a new vision for the business with the ability to reach consensus and actually move forward toward reaching that vision. Achieving a clear, shared vision is often difficult, as it does not match reality and many not feel a sense of urgency to change, resulting in a lack of commitment to the new vision. At the same time, those who support the new vision are termed Cassandras — they are able to see what is going to happen, but no one believes them. Even Warren Buffett, who repeatedly warned that the 1990s stock market surge was a bubble, earned the title of “Wall Street Cassandra.”

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Empowered Customers Are Now In Control. Is Your Marketing Team Ready To Play By The New Rules?

Sheryl Pattek

In 1860, the year Abraham Lincoln was elected President, Milton Bradley invented his first board game, the Checkered Game of Life. The game simulates a person's travels through his or her life, from infancy to retirement, with jobs, marriage, and possible children along the way. Some squares on the board help you along, with little lithographed hands pointing the way, but almost any spin from nearly every square involves a decision, a choice among as many as eight possible moves. The Checkered Game of Life requires you to make decisions — lots and lots of them — and each of those decisions leads you down a different path, requiring more decisions as you go.

Over 150 years later, the premise of the Game of Life holds as true for the decisions our customers make as it did for the personal decisions outlined in 1860.

In the post-digital world of today, empowered customers have taken control of the relationship they have with the companies they interact with. Your customers now face a maze of media, devices, conversations, and interactions as they make decisions along their path to purchase. As marketers, you must engage customers in the right way across the entirety of what Forrester calls the customer life cycle, from customers initially identifying a need to researching their options, making a purchase, and using the product.

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Will People Really Do That? Hyperadoption Says Yes

James McQuivey

Two weeks ago, I stood on Forrester's mainstage at its 2015 Forum For Marketing Leaders in New York (see a few minutes of the speech below). There, I told an audience of hundreds of our clients about hyperadoption, a term that I'm amazed no one has coined before now. Get used to the word. Because it's the characteristic that will define the next 10 years of your personal and business experience. In fact, in our first report debuting the concept of hyperadoption — released the same day I stood on the stage — I claim that hyperadoption will cause the next 10 years to generate an order of magnitude more change in your life than the past 10 years did.

That's an audacious claim. Because the past 10 years gave you the smartphone and the tablet. But I mean it, and over the coming year, I intend to prove it in my research. 

Forrester clients can read the report, which synthesizes much of the work I've done over two decades, where I've had a front-row seat to the changes in how consumers adopt, such as the first consumer experiences in what was then known as the World Wide Web, including that very rare behavior known as online shopping. That experience, combined with the neuroscience research I've followed since my own days in the lab, has convinced me that the economics of digital disruption now allow people to bypass the ancient, loss-avoiding algorithms running in our heads that used to make us cautious of new things and now no longer do.

As I write in the report: 

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Want To Keep Your Competitive Edge In A Fast-Changing World? It’s Time For CMOS To Lead Strategic Planning From The Outside In

Sheryl Pattek

There’s a particle accelerator in the basement of one of the most celebrated art museums in the world — the Louvre. It's a piece of technology in the most unlikely of places that produces helium and nitrogen beams from a single source to reveal layers of work that are invisible to the human eye.

Why would the Louvre have invested in and put such unconventional technology to work? The better question is, “Why not?” Rather than go on a competitive hunt for more masterpieces, the Louvre devised a strategy to make the most of the assets it had. Staff members were determined to put themselves in the mind of the masters, to think outside in, and to imagine how their artists might have used their precious (and difficult-to-come-by) canvases in more ways than one. Could they discover new treasures that would fuel the Louvre’s leadership in the art world?

Putting its strategy to the test, the Louvre used the accelerator to undercover five lost images from the masterpieces of famous artists from Picasso to van Gogh. The device revealed several layers of images that had been painted over in the final version of the painting. No one knew they were there. By putting an unconventional artist-centric strategy in place, the Louvre harnessed its greatest assets. It armed that strategy with the right technology and a scientific approach to uncover the hidden story that lay beneath the surface of a painting.

In the same way, it’s time for CMOs to lead the transformation of their firm's strategic planning process to an outside-in perspective focused on the customer.

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It’s March . . . Time To Bring Structure To Your Messaging Madness

Sheryl Pattek

Being the sports enthusiast that I am, I love this time of year. March Madness is in full swing and down to the Final Four. And what madness this year’s tournament has delivered so far. Exciting opening rounds, Sweet Sixteen and Elight Eight games.  A decision here or there has decided great games, and amazing execution has followed. We’ve seen surprise after surprise of upsets of favored teams by the upstarts — all with the common goal of  cutting down that net.

While surprises, upsets, and last-minute execution shifts may make for thrilling college basketball games and entertainment, they’re not part of a winning strategy for your market messaging and customer engagement, which drive the growth that your CEO expects.

In our discussions with CMOs and marketing leaders across industries and business models, we find that many senior marketing executives still struggle with bringing a disciplined approach to the creation and execution of messaging. Rather, we see messages developed in an ad hoc way to solve the need of the moment, giving little thought to alignment from the customer’s view across touchpoints.

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(Really) Taking On Customer Experience

Victor Milligan

Customer experience (CX) has rapidly moved from an ideal to an operational mandate. As Forrester’s CMO, customer experience is one of my four strategic priorities. It’s also tied to my compensation. How’s that for focusing the mind?

I’m not alone. Creating a superior and differentiated customer experience is a core strategy for most companies — a pillar of who you want to be. It’s likely in your mission statement, annual report, 10-K, strategy deck, or company culture declaration. In a Forrester survey, “improving the customer experience” was tied with “growing revenue” as the No. 1 business priority over the coming year. Great CX is the big ambition in the sky.

For many, it remains an ambition. 

The feedback I get from executives is consistent with my own thinking and Forrester’s body of research in this area. CX can’t be an attitude, tagline, or one-time corporate initiative. It has to be a different way of doing business, a new kind of operating model.

That means addressing the complex areas like people, process, and culture. 

At Forrester, I keep returning to the basics to help us take simple but important steps forward. Here are five observations from the frontlines:

  1. Change your perspective. We have a sense of how customers are supposed to traverse different touchpoints and a sense of the experiences we want them to have. But that’s not the starting point. CX is about the customers, on their terms and in their voice. Sounds basic, but that fundamental reorientation requires a surprising level of tenacity and discipline.
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CMOs: It’s Time To Rally Your Employees Around Brand Building

Sheryl Pattek

Fred Rogers touched the hearts of millions of children through his work in creating and hosting one of the most beloved educational television programs — Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Throughout its run, the show built a strong brand that was recognized as a leader in educating millions of young children. When public funds for the program became scarce, Mister Rogers stood before the US Senate Subcommittee on Communications to passionately defend the educational mission of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. The goose-bumps-producing testimony compelled one of the most impatient subcommittee chairmen to approve $20 million in funding for the show.

Mister Rogers was able to accomplish this inspiring feat by building a strong brand for his show and using that brand to accomplish a seemingly impossible task — creating a community of devoted fans that Congress was compelled to keep alive and growing.

As our friendly neighbor Mister Rogers showed us, it’s possible to build a strong lasting brand by charming a community of involved supporters.

CMOs, it’s time for you to take a lesson from Mister Rogers by rallying and engaging your entire organization to reach the full potential of your brand.

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Why Performance-Based Agency Compensation Doesn't Work

Sarah Sikowitz

I embarked on the topic of performance-based agency compensation because I was getting A LOT of questions about it. Mostly, folks wanted to understand how to structure it. 

As I set out to answer that question, I uncovered a topic that is probably one of the most hotly debated topics in the industry. People are passionate – on the agency side, on the finance side, on the procurement side, and on the marketer side. Everyone has an opinion.

So, instead of doing a straightforward report on how to structure performance-based compensation, I took a step back to dive into whether performance-based compensation is actually achieving the desired results – which is better performance from agencies.

I found that:

  • Performance-based compensation, as it is most commonly structured and applied, is being used as a stand-in solution for a much larger issue – the fact that CMOs are having a very hard time measuring and explaining the impact of their agencies' work on ultimate business outcomes.
  • Adding financial incentives to agency contracts gives organizations a way to measure the impact of agency work and assign that impact a monetary value.
  • These organizations are not getting better work from agencies because of this. And by using performance-based compensation as a motivator, they are missing an opportunity to truly motivate their agencies.
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Change The Interface, Change The World: Microsoft HoloLens Takes Computing’s Next Giant Leap

James McQuivey

Windows 10 comes with holographic computing built into it. And to prove that it’s serious about holography, the company announced Microsoft HoloLens, a headset that lets people interact with holograms in the real world.

Wait, what?

I know what you’re thinking. Microsoft has a credibility problem when it comes to launches of future tech. Remember that this is the company that tried to launch touch-based tablet computing in 2000. Microsoft launched a smartwatch years before anybody else that also came to naught. I’ll spare you a longer list of Microsoft’s mislaunches. It all adds up to a fair bit of earned skepticism. Surely Microsoft can’t be expected to create the computing interface that will do to graphical user interfaces what the mouse did to the text-based user interface.

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