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Marketers: Embrace the Extended Customer Lifecycle

2014-17-June-Capilano-Suspension-Bridge.jpgIn the past, marketers had the job of using a handful of channels to create brand awareness and offers to engage customers on a broad level until a sales team could come in and take control of individual accounts, or until a customer visited a local store. Sales teams or store employees were then responsible for delivering a personalized experience and for building the relationship.

Not any more.

With the social and economic changes driven by digital technology, marketing has a much larger and more complex role, extending throughout the duration of customers’ interactions with a brand. These interactions can happen in forums that are “owned” by the brand, for example on a company website, or on online communities, where the brand has little control. So, it now falls to marketers to negotiate overwhelming amounts of data, channels and influences to inform and build relationships that will impact the bottom line.

These responsibilities may seem daunting, but because of this landscape, marketers stand to gain a more strategic role within their organizations. For marketers to be successful, they will need to embrace an increased role in shaping the overall experience of the customer, including how they conduct business transactions, how they engage with support and service functions, and how the company drives loyalty.

Social and Mobile Rewrite Rules of Marketing Game

The traditional customer journey has fundamentally changed. Through the pervasive use of smartphones and tablets, consumers engage with brands on their own terms, expecting immediate access to information and services, and expecting these interactions to be personalized. Social media and mobile applications have had the greatest impact on driving this expectation.

As each individual is used to building his or her own social networks and determining their own app settings, consumers now expect the connections they have with brands to also feel personal. The challenge for marketers is to create a digital dialogue with the consumer, utilizing every interaction with the brand as a conversation touch point. At each interaction, marketers need to demonstrate that the brand knows the person as well as the person knows the brand.

With the amount of online information available to consume, they come to know brands quite well. In both the Business-to-Consumer and Business-to-Business models, customers can now do so much research about a brand that “67 percent of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally” according to SiriusDecisions. Each digital interaction with a brand provides more information to the company about a consumer’s interests and preferences enabling them to continuously enrich their digital dialogue and solidify the relationship. Marketers need to ensure that the customer has the best experience during the early stages of their journey and create strategies to proactively engage with these potential customers.

Challenges of Navigating the New Marketing Landscape

Businesses have much more to lose in this new digital world if marketing doesn’t find and nurture customers earlier in the cycle. If marketing teams are not reaching buyers when they are searching for answers online, they risk losing to organizations that use digital channels more effectively.

To add to the complexity, marketers have to deliver the right message as the consumer navigates across multiple channels. Customers need compelling brand experiences whether they’re engaging through social media, a mobile app, a website, a call center or an in-person conversation. The sheer volume of content that marketers have to generate to achieve this kind of communication is staggering. But in a world where consumers’ digital experiences often define their brand experiences, it’s crucial for businesses to get things right.

Managing the data that informs all of these interactions is also a challenge for marketers today. Internal metrics combine with external resources to provide more detail on customer behavior, purchasing patterns, communication preferences and individual tendencies than marketing teams have ever seen before. The trick is to master the data management so that a marketer can use the data to deliver the right message to the right consumer at the right time.

Data can also provide information to the marketer that shows, across their ideal customer, which tactics and channels are most effective to drive bottom line results and deliver the best return on their marketing spend. This allows the marketer to then create the “standard” for their ideal customer and nurture future prospects to become not just customers but brand advocates.

Benefits of Accepting the New Paradigm

These changes require marketing teams to take a fresh look at organizational structures, skillsets and technologies. Marketing teams that are built to access, use and manage data, manage customer engagement across online and offline channels, and develop content strategies that deliver a personalized customer experience and create an ongoing digital dialogue can realize unprecedented business results. The objective for marketers is to create the ideal customers for their brands: people who actively engage online, buy quickly and often and advocate for the brand.

To do this, marketers must take responsibility for the overall customer experience and relationship.

Title image by Deymos Photo / Shutterstock.com

About the Author

Andrea Ward is vice president of Marketing for Oracle’s Marketing Cloud where she is responsible for leading all aspects of marketing including product marketing, social business and communications, web marketing, demand generation, field marketing, marketing operations and customer advocacy.

 
 
 
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