It’s NBA finals time, and for the fourth year in a row, my Miami Heat are playing for the championship. While the big three (James, Wade, and Bosh) are extremely talented, it takes more than just the talent of these superstars to deliver the third championship in a row. To cement the Heat’s legacy and put the team in the position to claim another title as the best ever, the Heat has surrounded the big three with the right roles, staffed with the right role players. These role players on the Miami Heat know what’s expected of them and recognize the vital part they play in the Heat’s success. It’s Ray Allen hitting a 3 when he’s called upon or Birdman blocking a critical shot to keep Miami’s lead. Each member of the Miami Heat understands that while the big-three superstars may ultimately make the difference, it’s really the way the entire system works together that propels the team to victory time and time again.
And while this may surprise you, for your marketing team, it’s no different. Without a doubt, you have your superstars that go the extra mile to rev up your marketing engine. But do you have the right role players to help your marketing operating system work well as a unit? Do they know what’s expected of them? Do you know what role players you need and what to look for when you hire them?
The rumors turn out to be true. Apple is buying Beats for $3 billion, just slightly less money than originally suggested. Now that it's official, I'm confidently reiterating my conviction that Apple cannot be spending this unprecedented sum on Beats for either its headphones or its subscription music business. Because while the company may be worth that much, it's not worth that much to Apple, the world's most innovative consumer electronics and consumer software maker. Because choosing to buy Beats purely for its existing businesses and revenues would represent Apple significantly lowering its sights, aiming to graduate right from innovative leader of life-changing technology to kinda-cool company that makes stuff teenagers like. Not that selling to teenagers isn't a good thing; it can certainly bring in money, but it doesn't typically generate long-lasting brand relationships.
To be clear, if Apple is buying Beats purely for its headphones or music subscription business, then Apple is making a mistake. However, there are those of us who still believe that Apple hasn't thrown in the towel. And why would it? There are still many consumer markets to dominate — entire markets like wearables and home automation tech and even in-car experiences, all of which are in their infancy — and Apple still has the smarts, the brand, and certainly the money to make a run for any of those things, if not all of them. So why would Apple instead sign up to become a holding company for fashionable but not life-changing brands?
If you have children or are involved with children, you know that just as soon as you’ve figured out how to engage with that cute little baby in the right way, everything changes. Before you turn around, that baby you knew is starting school, graduating from college, and moving on to a career of her own. And as the baby grows and changes, your approach to engage with her on her terms must change too. If you’ve ever tried to talk to a teenager in the same way that you speak to a 10 year old, you know exactly what I mean.
While we understand and instinctively know how to change our approach as children grow up, we don’t often think of our buyers growing up. But, in the post-digital age, they are growing up and changing frequently. And as marketers, you must adapt and change your approach along with them.
And that’s where my new report, “Rethink Marketing In The Customer’s Context” (subscription required) can help. Expanding on a report published on February 21, 2013, my new report provides a framework for business-to-business (B2B) marketers to recast their approach with the full customer lifecycle in mind.
Start now to update your approach and:
Put the customer at the center of marketing thinking. Today’s market realities demand that B2B CMOs replace internal sales-driven marketing funnels with a full customer-life-cycle approach that aligns with the ways customers now make purchase decisions and build relationships with their vendors.
A media frenzy arose last night when the Financial Times suggested it had word from the inside that Apple is closing in on buying Beats Electronics for $3.2 billion. The immediate response from all quarters has been puzzlement and on multiple levels. As the sun rose today, so did the doubts about the impending deal. Generally, large strategic acquisitions — like when Google bought Nest for a similar figure — can be justified on the basis of buying something you don’t already have: a promising new technology, a large customer base, or entrée into a desirable industry. None of these things apply to this acquisition by Apple. Acquisitions at a more mature business stage can typically be justified purely on a revenue or margin basis or the desire to snap up a brand with more energy. Those don’t apply here, either. Even those who have tried to stretch the argument a bit have suggested that Apple could be buying Beats purely for a quick road into the music streaming business as a hedge against Spotify — except that Apple owns the music industry and doesn’t need Beats to build the music streaming offering that the company has denied for years that it should even consider getting into.
Do you approach data analytics with the same enthusiasm as a big pile of leafy vegetables? You know you need to consume more of it, but, man, that steak, fries, or big piece of chocolate cake just seem so much more appealing.
Recently I asked Forrester webinar listeners (mostly marketing folks) to rate how they approached data analytics. It's a small sample, I know, but bear with me for a second.
Of the 16 people responding to the poll, six said that they were somewhat effective, and nine said that they were not effective or didn't use data analytics at all (the figure here shows the actual results). Taken together, that's more than 90%.
I found this fascinating because, just about a year ago, I teamed up with ITSMA and VisionEdge Marketing to explore the state of marketing’s performance management. While quizzing participants about reporting and dashboards, we slipped in a question or two about data analytic effectiveness, and the distribution of responses in 2013 are similar to this poll: Only 10% of those surveyed gave themselves a “thumbs up” for data analytic proficiency. What’s going on here? Do marketers really approach data with the same gusto as a large plate of kale?
April 22, 2014, was not just a regular Earth Day. It was also the 50th anniversary of the 1964 World’s Fair, one of the most amazing wonders of the world for its time. The 1964 World’s Fair, along with the famous Isaac Asimov, set people’s imagination on fire with a glimpse of the future of technology and a series of predictions of what our life would be like in 2014. And as we reflect back to what the fair and Isaac prophesized about life 50 years into the future (or exactly where we are today in 2014), it’s uncanny how much of what was showcased and predicted are now a part of our everyday life. From satellite phones to multimedia communication, interactive 3D TV, and driverless cars, our world has definitely changed. But sadly, the infrastructure that supported it all, the fairgrounds themselves complete with the iconic 140-foot-tall unisphere, has remained stuck in the past, a relic of that historic point in 1964. And for marketers, this tale provides an important lesson to learn.
If you think Big Data is something only B2C marketers need worry about, you’d be wrong.
As business buyers turn to the digital world to help them explore and solve pressing business problems, marketers will find that the data needed to propel their firms into the digital future is increasingly big.
The challenges we face in closing the gap between the amount of data available and our ability to get value from it are equally big. Nevertheless, to become customer obsessed requires understanding your buyers much better and data is the key to that understanding. During Forrester’s Forum for Marketing Leaders last week, I told B2B marketers that it’s time to make a date with their big data destiny. (The prior link is to our forum coming up in London -- you can also listen to my April 30 webinar to learn more on this topic.)
My colleague Brian Hopkins believes that - to exploit the business opportunity hiding in big piles of data - marketers must understand that data is increasingly:
Google acquired Nest for billions, and then Facebook spent several more billion on Oculus VR. We’re only a few months into 2014, and already billions have been spent by some of the world’s largest digital players, with each of these companies eager to own the next big thing. Mobile is right here, right now, but everyone knows that very soon, there will be something else. But what else?
In the battle to find and claim the next device that everyone will want, these companies will soon realize that next big thing is not a thing at all: It’s your voice.
Voice control suffers from the same things plaguing augmented reality or virtual reality: It has been around for so long that we think we know what it is. Any fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation knows that voice control involves invoking an invisible computer with a command, “Computer,” followed by a query, “How many Klingons does it take to screw in a light bulb?” Maybe that’s a question you don’t want the answer to, but the computer — as voiced by Majel Barrett in the TV series — would know it.
It’s possibly a long history of popular depictions of voice control that made us collectively show so much enthusiasm for Siri when Apple first debuted it in 2011. It’s also partly to blame for why we quickly turned on Siri, declaring her soothing semi-robotic tones to be merely amusing at best or irrelevant at worst.
When Microsoft recently announced its long-rumored Cortana voice service for Windows Phone 8.1 as a catch-up to both Siri and Google Now’s own voice interface, the interest was modest, perhaps because if Siri hasn’t changed the way millions of Apple users use millions of Apple devices, how can Microsoft initiate a wave of behavior change when it has so few Windows Phone users?
Here at the Adobe Summit in Salt Lake City, one announcement that’s creating buzz among the 6000-plus attendees is a new customer profiling feature. Called Master Marketing Profile (MMP), Adobe says this new capability gives marketers a view of customer data that spans a broad range of third-party systems, real-time analytics, and behavioral sources. (First of its kind in the industry? Not sure; Demandbase may care to differ, but I’ll let them settle that score separately.)
Dynamic customer profiling is something all marketers should get excited about.
It’s the type of technology evolution, when coupled with the right marketing practices, that is closing the gap between the amount of data available to us as marketers and our ability to get value from it. From my perspective, B2B marketers need to make a date with their big data destiny, and the time to schedule this appointment is now.
Empowered business buyers — sporting digital devices giving them information about and access to the products they want as consumers — now bring these always-on, always addressable expectations into the office. This presents big problems to B2B marketers, content to lead with products and features, who now find they need to fulfill these expanding digital expectations by getting closer to customers and knowing much more about them — a tough problem if access to, quality of, and practices around using customer data are underdeveloped.
In 2010, we entered a new 20-year business cycle where successful companies will be those that better understand and serve increasingly powerful customers. But what happens when government authorities with very specific rules about how companies communicate with customers regulate these interactions?
Wealth management, insurance, and pharmaceuticals come to mind as example industries where marketers and relationship managers feel this oversight most acutely. How do you thrive in the age of the customer when how you interact — and the data you maintain — is controlled by law?
These are questions that I plan to explore next week with marketing and client experience executives from the financial services industry at "The Forward Thinker" sponsored by EarthIntegrate. Thinking through the issues around how to be more customer-obsessed in an industry where every communication could be monitored or audited, I believe that the main challenge is not to stray outside the regulatory guidelines while meeting growing client expectations for responsive, online, anytime, anywhere engagement — all while maintaining the intimacy that high-net-worth investors, for example, expect of their advisor relationships or that insurance members expect of brokers.