The goal of marketing still revolves around accelerating new and repeat sales. But the means to that end has shifted over the past few years.
This fundamental shift can be tied, in part, to digital innovation. However, it’s not just about technology. It’s about the lifestyle shift and what could be considered a "workstyle" shift, which I define as a person’s expectations and preferences in how they work and engage with a company.
How can companies transform the ways they engage with customers and partners and connect to their existing marketing automation systems? Here are three significant points to consider.
Focus on Conversions, Engagement
The marketing funnel, technically, is dead. Yes, prospective customers still move through a buying cycle. But the difference is that they have many more ways now to learn about a company and connect with existing customers.
Content strategy is still important, but a conversation and engagement strategy is now a prerequisite. For example, the majority of customers expect companies to offer social customer support.
Companies should move away from things like the separate knowledge base, support portal, partner portal, customer blog, idea place and docs system and create a central hub or owned online community for customers and partners. Regardless of the technology used, there are three key elements to a winning conversation and engagement strategy:
- Connect: Build relationships and create value among customers and partners. You’ll also empower individuals to discover people and information that matter to them.
- Communicate: You'll ensure customers and partners have access to the right information at the right time. From there, you can turn the communication into accessible and valuable intellectual property.
- Collaborate: Your customers are the single greatest untapped resource for driving innovation. By really listening, you can not only create better products but optimize your marketing approaches by adapting to their needs.
CMOs are Top Tech Buyers
According to Gartner, CMOs are fast becoming the No. 1 tech buyers. Customer relationship marketing, marketing automation, mobile, online communities, customer analytics and other tech purchases are driving this shift.
Additionally, since 2011 there has been growing focus on cloud technology investments. In these situations, the hosting and technical aspects are provided as a service rather than handled on-site by the company. This trend means less internal IT involvement is needed to keep key systems up to date.
With this shift — and as the pace of innovation by technology vendors accelerates at an ever-increasing rate — the appetite for proprietary systems continues to decline. Just look at it from a personal perspective. Would you prefer to buy a pre-built laptop with a few key add-ons or order a box of parts to build your own computer?
Theoretically, you’d get exactly what you want with the latter option -- that is, if you didn't make any mistakes as you put the computer together. However, it would require the right skills, a long time and custom on-going support. This is where the old adage “time is money” comes into play.
Marketers today need pre-built, cloud-ready, auto-upgraded solutions to drive more business faster versus being slowed down by systems and support.
Connect Conversations, Marketing Systems
Ultimately marketers need to make technology decisions that help them stay on top of customer behaviors and emerging market trends. This is how the dots between marketing automation and the conversations are connected.
Intuitive and seamless connectedness between customer dialog and marketing automation systems creates a competitive advantage. Here’s why companies should do:
- Although it’s hard to collect much pertinent contact information from a conversation occurring on Twitter or Facebook, the opposite is true when a company creates an online community or central customer hub. This enables them to more easily connect an engaged person’s profile information into the marketing automation system. At that point, tomorrow’s leading companies will have additional criteria to score and rate leads and contacts.
- The feedback and thoughts shared by a customer in the central hub can be leveraged for further communications and campaigns. At this point, the company has both profile information and activity data to better segment target audiences within their marketing automation system.
- Additionally, most companies will soon be automatically tying activity within their marketing campaigns, such as webcasts or click-thru’s on email campaigns to rewards, points and potentially access to certain places within their community.
The Quest for Business Value
Where many marketing organizations are failing today is that they are not connecting digital engagement investments to metrics that drive the business -- lead generation and opportunity creation.
And it's not their fault. For instance, all the investment made in social over the past few years has often translated to either little return on investment or at a minimum an unknown quantity when it comes to results. The roadmap for customer interaction moving forward will demand major improvement in this area. Otherwise marketers will risk showing up at the executive table with little proof that their investments are driving business results.
We've taken a strategic look at the reasons for and value of connecting marketing automation with customer and partner engagement. The rewards for accomplishing this transformation can equate to a company thriving versus struggling to survive.
My last piece of advice is simple -- move fast but deliberately and always be open to embracing new workstyles and the technologies that encourage them.