Proving Theodore Levitt Wrong About Sales

Lori Wizdo

I (Lori Wizdo) am on a plane, flying to San Francisco, to participate in Forrester’s Technology Sales Enablement Forum. As I was prepping for my (limited) role in the event, I had a flashback to one of the most famous disses of the sales profession ever written. 

It’s contained in the 1960’s article "Marketing Myopia”, written by Theodore Levitt, which has become one of the best known and most quoted of Harvard Business Review's articles. The article is essentially about having a business strategy that concentrates on meeting customer needs rather than selling products. A key take away, which most marketing or business school grads remember, is the observation that “had railroad executives seen themselves as being in the transportation business rather than the railroad business, they would have continued to grow.”

However, it is also in this article that Levitt was breathtakingly critical of the sales profession: "Selling concerns itself with the tricks and techniques of getting people to exchange their cash for your product. It is not concerned with the values that the exchange is all about." He went on to explain that sales "does not...view the entire business process as consisting of a tightly integrated effort to discover, create, arouse, and satisfy customer needs. The customer is somebody 'out there' who, with proper cunning, can be separated from his or her loose change."

Well, that might have been true then (who I am to disagree with a marketing legend) but it’s definitely not true now – and certainly not in the tech industry. 

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Yet Another Dumb Move By A Bank

Sucharita  Mulpuru

Until a few months ago Bank of America won the “Best In Biting The Hand That Feeds You” Award when it initiated its $5 debit card fee increase. Citibank may have trumped that in January when it decided that frequent flier miles that it gave away as promotional bonuses in exchange for getting customers to sign up for a new bank account was taxable income that needed to be reported to the IRS.  The absurdity of this move is so large it’s not even measurable.  Because if they pull this off, they will solidify a position as an anti-customer bank at a time when banks could use some customer love, but worse they threaten to kill the single most effective tactic in the entire marketing industry: the promotion. By giving away a gift in return for a customer’s patronage, and then calling it taxable income, this is the ultimate string attached. Does this mean free ice cream at Ben & Jerry's on their customer appreciation day is taxable? What about upgrades airlines sometimes give for free on flights? Or the eyeglasses that Coastal.com is giving away for free?  Most of the time your social security number isn’t captured, so there isn't an easy means to report any promotion or gift to the IRS, but let’s hope we never get to the day where we do have to give away such information in order to take advantage of a promotion. How anyone at Citi could have thought this was a good idea (and not making very clear the taxation consequences) is baffling. Marketing freebies are aimed at getting new customers or retaining existing

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Translate Customer Analytics Into Action

Srividya Sridharan

Companies adopt advanced analytics tools and techniques to convert data into intelligence and drive key customer-facing business decisions. We see that customer intelligence (CI) professionals involved in customer analytics broadly perform three activities:

  • Generate analytics: Create and produce analytical insights using analytical tools and technologies.
  • Apply analytics: Choose the appropriate analytical methodology for the business problem and apply it to the context of the customer lifecycle.
  • Activate analytics: Use analytical output and insights to optimize customer experiences and to drive customer growth, share of wallet, retention, and lifetime value.
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Three Ways To Use CXi Data To Inform Customer Experience Improvement Efforts

Megan Burns

In the two months since I published "The Customer Experience Index, 2012," the number of companies requesting a deeper look at the data has been quite high. Many have asked me to suggest ways to use the information that’s available, so I thought I’d share the analyses I've found most interesting so far:

  1. Compare Customer Experience Index (CXi) respondents to your company’s target customer profile. As part of the CXi survey, we collect a range of demographic data including age, gender, marital status, household income, employment status, parental status, and location. Clients find it helpful to see if differences between our scores and their internal data stem from the fact that we’re surveying different populations. They’re also using it to think through why scores on a given criteria are what they are — for example, if most respondents for a TV service provider have small kids, the firm’s parental controls may have a bigger impact on the “meets needs” score than they would if most respondents had grown children.
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The Data Digest: Introducing the Splinternet Engagement Index

Reineke Reitsma

My colleague Josh Bernoff recently published a report called 'The Splinternet Engagement Index." The idea behind this index is that it's getting harder and harder for companies to keep up with the pace of technology developments. Your customers now live in the splinternet — the fragmented world of web, social, video, and mobile touchpoints. Consumers want to reach you across all these touchpoints, but you can't afford to be everywhere.

The Splinternet Engagement Index is a single tool that measures customers' engagement with each of the four touchpoints and identifies how likely a group of customers is to demand connections across multiple touchpoints. First, the index measures consumer engagement with each touchpoint (based on a list of eight activities per touchpoint); it then scores the cross-touchpoint engagement.

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The Age Of The Customer Drives Four Insurance eBusiness Mega-Trends In 2012

Ellen Carney

This year, North American insurers overall are pretty darn happy. For starters, there clear signs that the economy is finally starting to gain steam, premiums are on the rise, the market’s firming, and the political will may well shift enough to revisit past regulatory reforms, particularly those that impact health insurers.  And these factors are coalescing into the new strategies for 2012.  In our “Trends 2012: North American Insurance eBusiness And Channel Strategy”, we discuss what factors are driving insurance ebusiness teams to:

  1. Become obsessed about their customers
  2. Get serious about how to collaborate better with their agents
  3. Focus on the infrastructure that supports the digital business
  4. Refine their thinking about what eBusiness means to the insurance ecosystem
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Lessons Learned From 1,500 Website User Experience Reviews

Adele Sage

After more than 12 years of evaluating website user experience, Forrester reached a major milestone — completing 1,500 Website User Experience Reviews. That's more than 100 reviews per year or more than 10 per month. Whew! We've been busy.

These reviews (using an expert/scenario/heuristic review methodology) span B2C and B2B sites, intranets, and employee portals across many industries and countries. What we do: We identify target users and attempt to accomplish realistic user goals for those users, and then we evaluate the experience on a set of 25 criteria graded across possible scores of -2 (severe failure), -1 (fail), +1 (pass), or +2 (best practice) for each criterion.

So what did we find?

  • Many poor experiences. Since scores for each of the 25 criteria range from a -2 to +2, total scores could range from -50 to +50, and passing all tests would result in a grade of +25 or higher. But the average score across all of our reviews was only +1.1, and only 3% of the sites earned a passing score (that's a total of 45 sites out of the 1,500. Yes, you read that right: 45).
  • Fluctuations in scores over time. The average score rises and falls when we look across versions of the methodology and over time. But, finally, in the latest version, there was a significant increase in the average score over the years just prior — a trend we hope to see continue. There's a similar pattern when we compare B2C and B2B sites. B2B sites have consistently lagged behind B2C sites in user experience scores, but we're finally seeing that gap narrow.
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Latin Americans’ Love Affair With Social Extends To Mobile Phones

Roxana Strohmenger

In 2009, we started the Latin American Technographics® product to understand how emerging Latin American markets like Brazil and Mexico are adopting and using technology. During this time, we have seen some very cool findings with respect to social media and social tools. We found that:

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Enjoyable Experiences Are The First Step To Creating Emotional Connections With Customers

Megan Burns

The Holy Grail of customer experience for many firms goes beyond useful and easy to interactions that create an emotional connection with the customer. That’s not easy to do, but step 1 is creating an experience that is at least enjoyable. Now, before you object . . . I’m not talking Disney-level enjoyable here — just generally pleasant and maybe even a little fun. Two brands that proved it’s possible with high scores on the CXi’s “enjoyable” criteria are:

  • USAA (bank): 84%.
  • Courtyard by Marriott: 83%.
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SoLoMo Or So Not Yet?

Melissa Parrish

Are you thinking about SoLoMo yet?  My clients definitely are, and I haven’t been surprised by the number of questions I’m getting about it considering that 86% of US online adults engage in social media and 2/3 of online Generation Y fall into the SuperConnected category of Mobile Technographics®. But what does SoLoMo really mean?

It’s a concept that brings together social, local, and mobile media — and it’s intriguing to marketers because incorporating social engagement, local targeting, and the mobile customer into a single program seems like it should lead to especially creative and effective engagement. But I’ve been researching this topic over the past couple of months and I have a couple of concerns:  

  • First, the way we talk about SoLoMo puts too much focus on the technology and easily lets marketers slip back into technology-first strategies driven by trends rather than audience insights.   
  • Second,  SoLoMo programs often take the form of a check-in offer today. This can certainly be an effective marketing tactic for retailers and brands with brick-and-mortar presences. But isn't there something SoLoMo can offer other brands?
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