In recent weeks, a number of Fortune 100 companies have issued agency RFP’s that share a common purpose. They are all looking for a unique agency organization that can truly deliver what they refer to as “Integrated Customer Relationship Marketing”. Some common parameters across all of the documents can be summarized as follows:
- Preferably an agency that was not built out of a historical specialty (like advertising or direct marketing etc), but rather one that has been built from the ground up with the vision of being a truly integrated shop.
- The key disciplines required are digital, direct, CRM/eCRM, data analytics, integrated marketing planning and true channel neutrality.
A key question asked by most of them is: “What is your vision for the future of Integrated Customer Relationship Marketing?” I thought I would take a shot at answering it, and sharing my perspectives with all of you.
Here is my response:
As we move deeper into this new “conversation economy,” true brand engagement and customer relationships are becoming more and more important. Marketers must strive to create ongoing and relevant dialogs with consumers, if they are to have any hope whatsoever of remaining part of the consideration set going forward.
We know it’s been said many times before that, traditional marketing and advertising thinking is no longer effective as consumer media habits continue to evolve at an ever quickening pace. Branding as we know it is for all intents and purposes dead, as most consumers’ first impressions of a brand are what they find in search results or what they read from other people in reviews.
As consumers continue to circumvent traditional media approaches, they are gravitating towards those media/channels that provide easy access to information, advice and recommendations, plus allow them to socialize and be entertained at the same time. In the process, these consumers are building and refining their own trusted personal networks.
If marketers want to be positioned to take advantage of this evolving opportunity, the first step is to forget about continuing to structure your organization in silos like brand, direct, digital and social marketing, and start to think about People2People marketing. If you can seamlessly integrate your marketing efforts and succeed in motivating customers not only to interact with you, but to develop a true brand relationship, you may be able to persuade them to share their personal networks with you. In doing so you will have created a powerful channel and relationship for your brand in the marketplace.
Traditional direct and database marketers will be disappointed to hear that targeting is dying too. As consumers change to pulling information as they want or need it, push marketing becomes less and less relevant, no matter how “targeted” the marketer thinks it is. No longer can you just drop an email to your house file or run a banner campaign with the simple objective to sell more products or generate more leads. You have to become part of the conversation, where they are and when they want to have it. Also, keep in mind that conversations cannot be bought either, and if they are, the community often quickly finds out and retaliates.
The new age of People2People marketers have to be experts in understanding consumer habits and expectations in this new media environment. They need to be the unbiased filter that prioritizes the media/channels and indentifies the ones that will yield the greatest ROI.
This new breed of marketer will avoid the temptation to shout messages at consumers disrespectfully or target thousands of people multiple times with generic messages and offers of little or no relevance. Instead, they will embrace techniques that cultivate genuine and open dialogue with customers, where brands quietly listen and learn, and then respond with relevant content and new features and product innovations that better match the needs of the consumer.
Marketers who embrace this new reality of People2People marketing will be rewarded by clients who not only out perform their competitors, but also deliver industry leading financial results. You may be interested to know that in July 2009, a report by social platform provider Wetpaint and analyst firm Altimeter found that:
“Companies deeply engaged in seven or more social channels (blogs, branded social websites, Facebook, Wikis, ratings and reviews etc.) significantly surpassed their peers in terms of both revenue and performance”.
You may think that this is a tall order, but I know that it’s not impossible. That’s because the solution can be found in the motivations of the conversationalists themselves. After all, conversation is mankind’s natural search engine.
The above being said, the question then becomes – how do you keep the conversation going? You’ll constantly be competing with other conversations for your customer’s time and attention. You spark and fuel conversations with surveys, forums and invitations for contributions that pertain to the incremental value that your brand/product can bring to their lives. Keeping ongoing conversations fresh is where contextual research and newsletters, blogs, websites, videos and social media shine.
The remaining question is how do you monitor results and measure success? According to Susan Scrupski of ITSinsider, seeing results depends heavily on how you organize your business and equip the people who are part of it.
“As you enable the conversation between you and your customers, you enter into collaborative design. Picking up information and passing it into an organization that knows what to do with it is the inflection point between an integrated marketing relationship strategy and actual business success. Taking the time to measure it in the fundamental currency of business is the final step in putting all pieces in place to win in the marketplace”.