Marketers for many organizations are facing evolutionary pressures to transform marketing practices and processes to the always-on state of Adaptive Marketing, a new iteration of direct marketing that wants to engender a unique brand experience for individual customers. 

At the heart of Adaptive Marketing is a customer-focused organization that is committed to constantly re-craft product offerings, sales initiatives and marketing tactics to match individual customer needs and wants. Adaptive Marketing is fueled by a matrix of customer intelligence analytics and maps into enabling continuously improved customer experiences. 

For Adaptive Marketing to work, organizations have to transform the marketing infrastructure to accommodate the fluid requirements of being always-on. Changes are made to how media is set up and managed, agency relationships take on new purpose. Digital asset management goes to the next level to constantly dish up customer-responsive images, marketing calls-to-action and other personalized and time-sensitive content. Agile practices have entered the marketing realm -- and creativity and science are now partners.

To derive right-time customer intelligence, multiple kinds of data analytics are needed to tackle the many different kinds of customer data, as well as the variety of sources for that data. Right-time analytics are now being tapped for everyday marketing decisions and to reflect the true nature of social and customer interactions: synchronizing the organization with customers, their interactions and their communications related to the organization and its products.

Data analytics and customer intelligence are becoming invaluable to point the way to marketing solutions in real time, constantly reflecting changes in customer behavior and market trends.

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Personalized Customer Experiences

It may be through Adaptive Marketing that organizations have a powerful approach to nurturing positive customer experiences. Adaptive Marketing provides personalization at the experience level, based on customer data analysis to understand ever-changing customer needs and interests. Adaptive Marketing may be a more valuable approach for B2C companies, but there are lessons to be learned for B2B enterprises too.

Instead of seeing customers “in bulk,” Adaptive Marketing pulls each customer into more individualized "segmentation" as part of the data analytics behind personalized brand experiences. Product and experience personalization obviously can work well to increase customer satisfaction and the desire to come back again for more. Analytics technology, along with marketing management tools, can help provide quick responses to customer needs.

Marketing performance-related analytics and marketing management platforms are also part of the story for Adaptive Marketing, particularly using analytics to tie outcomes of marketing efforts to enterprise strategic goals and desired business results.

Consumers are increasingly comfortable providing their information with companies they know will use it to help personalize their products and communications, or companies providing essential services such as insurance. According to a recent study in the U.K., 75% of consumers that have an existing relationship with a company are happy to share their information with it, while 62% would share their information with a company selling products or services they need.

The Challenges of Customer Intelligence

Marketers and enterprises are now challenged to gather customer data from disparate and frequently fragmented sources. Data analysts must resolve customer identity across these diverse sources to aggregate the right data in a usable fashion to feed into analytics processes. Often, marketers are faced with tackling large volumes of data as well as multi-structured content, two forms of Big Data. Then data must be analyzed, insights derived, and decisions made as to actions to take -- all of which comprise an iterative, always-on process.

Tibco Spotfire recently shared the results of a study done by the Columbia School of Business, emphasizing the value of sharing customer data across the enterprise, eliminating information silos:

A majority of senior corporate marketing executives (91%) believe that successful brands use customer data to drive marketing decisions, according to a study from the Columbia School of Business. Yet, 39% say their own companies’ data is collected too infrequently or too slowly for them to turn that data into actionable information. The report notes that one of the biggest obstacles to turning data into actionable insight may be a lack of effective data sharing across departments and divisions of the company."

In order to leverage the opportunities of big data, the report suggests marketers need to better:

  • Collect meaningful customer data -- including real-time data -- from a variety of sources
  • Link that data to metrics developed for measuring marketing ROI
  • Share data across the organization, linking datasets together at the customer level
  • Utilize this shared data to effectively target and personalize marketing efforts to customers

Marketers are also faced with deciding how to proceed with utilizing analytics. With so much data to process, at times it may be appropriate to formulate questions to be answered or problems to be solved. Other times, the right path may be to let the data point to previously unknown patterns, as is often done with Big Data analytics.

Marketers now must be dynamically responsive to change and must more quickly decide what to do. So Predictive Analytics are becoming more important to many organizations that want to derive future views that will guide their decisions, particularly those regarding potential customer behaviors and desires.

Behavioral models are built based on certain objectives, such as projecting the propensity to buy particular offerings, using different customer attributes (predictors). The results are put to use to do a better a job of finding the right customers and specifically providing what they need.

New Work and New Roles To Do It

Adaptive Marketing holds great promise for improving understanding of customers and for enabling high quality and individualized customer experiences. But the "guts" of Adaptive Marketing, including highly sophisticated and complex analytics processes, are placing serious demands on marketing functions. Just by itself, the work to be done to constantly collect, aggregate and reconcile customer data from so many disparate sources can be quite overwhelming and fraught with problems.

Learning Opportunities

Adding in new processes, practices and management for the complete Adaptive Marketing function, quite a bit of new expertise has to be put in place. Not only are sources of customer data distributed and varied, the media landscape itself is fragmented.

Tremendous efforts to orchestrate all of these aspects of Adaptive Marketing are required to make all the pieces work together and to be able to monitor and manage effectively, as well as continuously open the way for unique customer experiences.

For the analytics area, data and business analysts who are also experienced marketers are important to success with Adaptive Marketing. These roles must be adept at interpreting analytics results for things like customer behavior, and equally adept at communicating the implications to marketing and management teams. New Marketing and IT partnerships are essential to ensure that business and technology work well together.

Alignment with enterprise strategies need to take place at the C-Level for Adaptive Marketing to be successful and effective. Scott Brinker introduced the new role of the Chief Marketing Technologist in 2008; marketing organizations are slowly embracing this role as a partner to both the CMO and the CIO for creating and enacting the right marketing strategies with the right marketing technologies. Brinker sees the Chief Marketing Technologist as “an equal blend of a marketing-savvy technologist and a technology-savvy marketer.”

Brinker also details some of the attributes of the "rank-and-file" marketing technologist role:

They cover a wide swath of technical skills, from wrangling data and analytics, authoring lightweight web features, synchronizing disparate marketing software platforms, SEO, web APIs. They're a cross between an entrepreneurial marketer and an enterprise IT manager -- and with pretty good web coding chops. Think of a great technical Web 2.0 entrepreneur, and you've got a pretty good estimate of a marketing technologist."

From Insight to Action

The increasing importance and use of data analytics for Adaptive Marketing and customer experience improvement does not reduce marketing functions to quantitative endeavors. Data and analytics are stepping stones to more precise intelligence so that better decisions and actions can be determined more quickly and accurately, in ways that benefit both the customer and the enterprise. Improved customer "intimacy" is likely to result. Getting closer to customers is somewhat the "holy grail" of most marketing endeavors.

In the IBM 2010 Global CEO Study, 88 percent of CEOs said “getting closer to customers” was the top priority for their businesses over the next five years. Many company leaders see opportunities through the right analytics to understand customer needs, desires and behaviors, to improve customer attraction and retention, and to ultimately drive revenue and growth. The analytics performed by marketing from program start to post-mortem also provide the means to tie marketing activities to tangible outcomes like successful products and revenue growth.

Marketers now have to understand the interrelationships between many kinds of data, evaluate the aggregated meaning, and then determine how to take insight to action. Marketers have to be self-optimized to derive continuous insight, rapidly make effective decisions and take actions that will improve the customer experience on a daily basis.

There’s a lot of work to do to enact Adaptive Marketing and all the pieces that make it work, but it’s time to move beyond traditional marketing approaches and basing digital marketing plans on "gut" notions. 

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Source:Forrester Research, Welcome to the Era of Digital Intelligence

Editor's Note: To read more of Julie's thoughts on marketing:

-- The Customer Journey: Content Marketing for B2B Software Buyers