Data-Driven Insights And Technology Change March Madness . . . What CMOs Can Learn

If you’ve been following my posts, you already know that I love sports. But, if this happens to be your first time reading my blog, I’ll admit it right now . . . I’m a sports fanatic. In fact, I’d say I’m just slightly to the side of being obsessed. Seriously obsessed.

Second only to the Super Bowl for me is March Madness, the greatest time of year for NCAA college basketball. What makes it so great is the passion and enthusiasm that takes over every one of the 64 teams that make it into the tournament. And, of course, the Cinderella stories that seem to emerge, year after year.

In South Florida, we love our world champion Miami Heat, and even our Miami Dolphins, which seem to just flop around year after year. But who would have thought that the University of Miami Hurricanes basketball team would be the talk of the town in 2013?

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It’s Time To Engage Your Customers And Make Them The Center Of Your Universe

The travel poster might read something like this: “Satisfy your thirst for adventure on the newest frontier with a luxury, guided expedition to the latest exoplanet.” Like just about everyone else on this planet, you’ve probably seen, heard, or know something about the film Avatar. What you may not know is that Pandora is based on a very real and recently discovered solar system — Alpha Centauri.

It has about the same mass as Earth. Like Earth, it circles a star. And at a mere 4.4 light years away (just a hop, skip, and a jump in astronomical terms), it’s close enough to make an interstellar journey feasible. While Alpha Centauri isn’t habitable (minor detail), some of its neighbors might be. As intriguing as such a journey would be, it would also be daunting. It would require an in-depth analysis of a constellation of factors. And it would mean asking and answering a litany of questions. What would a successful journey look like? What would it take to reach the destination in terms of technology? What kind of budget would be required? How do you convince early voyagers that a trip to Alpha Centauri would be the best journey of their lives and answer their WIIFM (what’s in it for me) questions?

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CMOs, Be Agents Of Change With Customer Insights

I love the Oscars with all of its glitz and glamour, celebrating the year’s best films. And while this year’s crop of Lincoln, Argo, and The Silver Linings Playbook are all great films, one of my all-time favorites is still Moneyball. Although the discussion about the Moneyball story isn’t new, it’s still a great lesson of what we can learn about using data and insights in new ways to change the game. Billy Beane harnessed the power of data based insights to assemble a winning team. He ignored the conventional measures of success — batting averages and stolen bases — and hired a number cruncher to rewrite the rules of the game. By applying data-based insights to day-to-day decisions, Beane stacked up win after win, ultimately challenging the American League record for consecutive wins.

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B2B CMOs, Have You Started 2013 Strong?

Welcome to 2013. This is the year during which business-to-business (B2B) CMOs will have to step up as strong officers of the business to propel innovation forward and drive business growth, as customers continue to do their own shopping for big-ticket items. The task: to deliver experiences that customers seek along their buying journey, which is no small feat for B2B CMOs to accomplish who have been beholden to a sales-led approach all of these years. A laser focus on a few key imperatives will ensure that B2B CMOs succeed in making the leap to the age of the customer.

As we stated in our recent report “2013 B2B CMO Imperatives” (subscription required), be sure that your 2013 initiatives:

  • Embrace customer insights. Accept the fact that customers are now in control of their buying process. Respond with strategies that build in-depth customer understanding and leverage the skills and resources that can turn that understanding into actionable insights.  A new position of data scientist will become one of the most sought-after roles for B2B marketing organizations in 2013. Why? The ability to make sense of the data deluge by identifying market trends, correlating unrelated data sets, and delivering predictive go-to-market strategies delivers winning results. My earlier post on the 2012 elections shares a best practice from Obama’s team. Start now to partner with your human resources colleagues to define the resources you need to succeed in 2013.
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Connected, Customized, Personalized . . . My Day At CES 2013

After spending opening day at CES, I couldn’t agree more with my colleague Sarah Rotman Epps in her blog post that CES matters more now than ever to every marketer, product strategist, and C-level executive in every industry. Across the CES floor, connected TVs, tablets of all sizes, and a new breed of “phablets,” combining the form factor of tablets and smartphones into one, confirmed the fact that we’ve left the PC-dominated world behind for a mobilized and connected home and work life where content and context will dominate.

What struck me while I walked the floor at CES was that Peppers and Rogers were actually way ahead of their time. Remember them, the ones who wrote The One to One Future way back in 1996, well before the digital age became a reality? Their vision continues to become a technology-powered reality. With CES showing an abundance of new ways to connect with mobilized customers, the ability to target, reach, and effectively communicate with customers one-to-one, customizing and personalizing messages and offers to their unique needs, is increasingly within the reach of the marketer.

Available channels to the customer exploded on the CES floor to include everything from connected TVs and other devices in the home to all types of mobile devices and ruggedly made tablets built for the enterprise and everything in between. All are connected and share content in the right context to the devices consumers or business customers want, when and where they want it — just like Peppers and Rogers dreamed would happen.

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Stuck In The Middle…Delta Makes It A Remarkable Journey

Last week I started my trip to Boston on a packed flight in a middle seat. If you travel as often as I do and have been stuck in the middle, you know how unpleasant it can be. 

So, you can imagine my surprise when Delta turned my stuck-in-the-middle experience to a remarkable one of customer delight.   

Delta exceeded my expectations by delivering on the promise of what Forrester calls a TRUE brand — trusted, remarkable, unmistakable and essential. In our 21st Century Brand Marketing Playbook, we discuss how these four traits will strengthen the brand pillars that support consumers' new expectations of brands. And how brands that can forge an emotional connection with their customers will enjoy a sustainable competitive advantage. By delivering a remarkable brand experience, Delta strengthened its brand promise, created a strong emotional connection with me, and more.

Here’s how Delta changed my unpleasant travel experience to a remarkable one:

  • I was sitting in a middle seat on a flight from Atlanta to Boston on Monday afternoon
  • First thing Tuesday morning, I received the email below from Delta apologizing that my travel experience was not as comfortable as they would have liked.
  • And, they didn’t stop there. They deposited 500 miles into my SkyMiles account for the inconvenience.
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Shaq Admits: The Game Has Changed. If You’re A B2B Marketer, Your Game Has Changed Too.

Ever since the mighty three joined the Miami Heat, the great Shaquille O’Neil has been relentless in his criticism of head coach Erik Spoelstra, Chris Bosch, and the Miami Heat’s ability to play with the “big boys.” Even an NBA championship didn’t seem to make a difference. This weekend, Heat fans across South Florida were rewarded with Shaq finally admitting he was wrong. In Sunday’s Ft. Lauderdale Sun Sentinel, Shaq was quoted as saying “I was wrong. I didn’t want to admit it, but I was wrong. The game has changed.” Finally, Shaq was acknowledging that there were more ways to approach winning in the NBA than having “bigs” in the paint. He understood that the Heat organization had changed the paradigm of the game by playing small and nimble to reach the finals last year and to win it all in 2012 . . . with more to come in the future as this new paradigm quickly becomes an NBA reality.

Being such a huge Heat fan, I loved reading this over the weekend. But what does this have to do with B2B marketing?

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A Brand Crisis Is A Terrible Thing To Waste . . . What’s Your Crisis Management Strategy?

While I’m not usually a political or news junkie, in looking at the activity of the past few weeks, it’s been quite a few weeks! It ranged from the saga of David Petraeus to the absurdity of a famed Nascar driver intentionally crashing a competitor (resulting in fist fights between the crews), brands' use of Twitter during Hurricane Sandy (the good and the not so good), and finally the culmination of BP pleading guilty to 14 criminal charges and paying a record $4.5 billion in fines and penalties resulting from the 2010 oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. Each of these stories highlights how important it is to have a strategy in place to protect your brand in times of crisis. While every one of these examples is interesting, in this post, I’ll concentrate on the insights we can gain from the Petreaus and BP incidents to manage brands effectively through a crisis. 

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Data Elected Our 44th President . . . B2B CMOs Must Make The Right Data Work For Them

No matter what your politics, from coast to coast, the country is breathing a sigh of relief that the 2012 election season is finally behind us. Already, quite a bit has been written about what marketers can learn from the election. So, in this post, I won’t be talking about the huge dollars spent on advertising, how social, digital, and mobile communication continued to be important touchpoints, the impact of grassroots marketing, or how important effectively communicating the candidate’s message or brand affected the outcome. No need for another political pundit in the mix!

While all of these areas have something to teach B2B marketers, what I found the most fascinating is how the use of data, the right data, served as the foundation for Obama’s successful re-election. Starting on election night, the analysts on the best-known news shows were already talking about how calm and confident the Obama team members were. And, why were they confident? According to Obama’s team, it had the data to back up its march to a second term. The team members believed that data and how they used it was one of the biggest advantages they had over the Romney campaign. Think about that for a minute. Obama, traditionally seen as the image and message guy, ran his re-election campaign based on using the right data effectively. And, it worked. 

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At The Starting Line . . .

Following a 25-year business-to-business (B2B) executive marketing career, I joined Forrester’s CMO & Marketing Leadership Team as VP, Principal Analyst, less than a month ago. And, what a month it’s been! A whirlwind of meeting other Forrester analysts, attending the Seizing Opportunity From Digital Disruption: A Forum For eBusiness & Channel Strategy Professionals in Chicago, leading a session on rebuilding brands at the CMO Club Summit in San Francisco, and meeting with as many CMOs and marketing leaders as I can.

I’m not sure exactly what I expected my first month to be like, but I will tell you that I’ve quickly learned that as CMOs, we all share strikingly common concerns that will form the basis of my research at Forrester. When asking what keeps you up at night, the CMOs I’ve met with so far from a variety of industries confirm my practitioner experience. We are all trying to effectively understand and respond to the significant marketplace and customer changes happening as we enter the always-connected and empowered age of the customer.  

With this in mind, over the next year, I will be exploring the following areas that have consistently emerged from my discussions with you:

  • Aligning marketing strategy to the newly empowered customers with an emphasis on understanding the buyer's journey.
  • Helping CMOs understand how to think about technology, make sense of the ever-expanding technology options, and then partner with their CIO to create a robust and flexible technology infrastructure for marketing.
  • Understanding the evolving role of the CMO and defining marketing organizational design and associated skill sets required for the future.
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