As marketing shifts from campaigns and brand-building to analytics and cross-channel personalization, there's growing importance inunderstanding and shaping each customer's experience.

There are more than 1,000 technology vendors happy to sell products andservices that promise to help, but ultimately all marketers must adopt their ownplans to make the most of those technologies. And that can be the hardest part.

Lars BirkholmPetersen, RonPerson and ChristopherNash (shown L to R) have been working on this problem for years at Sitecore,where they consult with customers on how to make the most of the company'scustomer experience platform. Now they've sharedtheir thinking in a book: "Connect: How to Use Data and ExperienceMarketing to Create Lifetime Customers." The book willgo on sale Monday. 

A Roadmap for the CX Journey

Although the book blends with their company's philosophy, it is also platformagnostic. "It's not like we talk about Sitecore, Sitecore, Sitecore,"said Petersen, who explained the team's findings are based on interviews with1,094 organizations around the world. The heart of the book is a customerexperience maturity model they developed, a roadmap for a years-long journey inorganizational transformation.

The trio offered a quick overview during a SitecoreSymposium session, which was the topic of a CMSWirestory by Ryan Bennett. We continued the conversation later in the day as the authors met with journalists.

CMSWire: This book closely parallels the structure for Sitecore, but there arequestions I have about consumers in general. A lot of consumers areprice sensitive or privacy sensitive, and may react poorly to this model. The EU is raising a lot of privacy concerns. I wonder if you could comment on some ofthose concerns.

Petersen: What we're trying to achieve in this model is being able togive the most relevant experience in every touchpoint. Of course, we want to usedata to provide those experiences. There are studies that show consumers reallywould like to have relevant experiences, but there is also a fine line betweenproviding a relevant experience and going beyond that to create a creepyexperience. You remember  what Target did with the pregnant woman?  

You have thepower because you have a lot of data, you have the capabilities to personalize.But it's also about transparency and using the data right, so that it's a usefulexperience for the consumer. By doing so, consumers will react to that, theywill engage with that. We can see that with many of our customers who are doingthat today. And the feedback they get is how well consumers convert into theirdifferent goals. For the most part, it's an amazing uplift in conversions.

CMSWire: As I understand it, this system can analyze the data to separatea price sensitive customer from a value shopper from someone who just wants goodtreatment and good customer support.

Petersen: There are different sets of data that can be leveraged. Whatis your profile? Are you spontaneous, methodical? Are you price sensitive? Themore you understand that, the more we can react to it as an organization. So ifyou actually go to a Best Buy and we know you have our app and we have the IP sowe know you're in the store, we could push some promotions that would be veryrelevant to you. If we know you're more price-sensitive, we can react to that andgive you offers based on that. [Editor's note: Petersen used Best Buy as ahypothetical example.)

CMSWire: I noticed you put a lot of emphasis in the book on involving people withinan organization. It seems to me having the technology is one thing, but gettingpeople in an organization to adopt the technology, implement it and create workprocesses around it is really the harder part. How do you see the people part ofthat?

Person: I think I wrote that chapter. Before joining Sitecore, I spent about15 years doing performance improvement from the strategic to the operationallevel. The people and the stakeholders are always the most difficult part of anyprocess. It doesn't matter if it's IT or any other kind of project. It's notWeb, it's not IT, it's not anything. It's always the people. I think it'schapter 5 where we talk about how you've got to get the people on board. You'vegot to get the stakeholders on board. You have to have a model for organizationchange. 

As it is, the Standish Group from Canada has about 30 years of data thatshows IT projects have a 70 percent failure rate, and that's when things aregoing right. If you don't have executive buy-in, you will fail from the start.So you have to have that, and then there is an entire process to go through toget everybody on board. There are a couple of different OD -- organizationaldevelopment -- models to use. I put the burning platform in there becausethat's a very common one: "We've got to change or we'll die!" And you can onlydo that so many times before people say, "meh."  And the other one is the trapeze: how do you support people as you go through change.  I think somecombination, going half-way on that, helps the people go through.

And there has to be -- besides executive buy-in -- there has to be a vision,like [Sitecore CEO] Michael [Seifert] gave us. "No, we don't have thoseproducts right now, but that is the vision of where we're going to be." Peoplecan't be betrayed, either.

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CMSWire: In addition to executive buy-in, it seems to me there would also have to bebuy-in at the very bottom of the pyramid, with every worker on board across thecompany. Is that right?

Learning Opportunities

Person: Yes. And some of our chapters talk about the processes used todevelop digital goals. You need cross-functional teams of experienced people whothen go out and say, 'Here's why we did it that way.'  They can go out andstart to spread the word. [This is true] when any kind of OD is made. I did oneat Medtronic -- the heart valve company -- and we had about 150people involvedall the way from the director of operations down to the line foreman. Weselected experience people at all levels to do the task flow and everything fora complete reorganization.

This is a change of thinking for marketers too, because they have to changehow they're thinking. They can't be old newspaper marketers ... I'm adamantabout this. There's a guy named Michael Porter who is a professor at Harvard.Michael Porter is the father of competitive strategies. He studied industriesthat go back to the 1890s. He studied railroads, large home appliances, jetairplanes and a couple of others. And in every one of these industries he foundthat when there was a major change in technologies, it was like when lakes do anentire flip and the bottom comes to the top. 

You end up with two or three winners at the top, amass of mediocrity in the middle where everyone is cutting each others' throats,and then a few down there at the bottom...  We have just gone through thatkind of change, we're right at the inflection point now and there are reallyonly going to be three winners left -- IBM, Adobe and Sitecore. We are not aCMS/WCM industry anymore, we are a customer experience industry or whatever youwant to call it. That's just my person opinion.

CMSWire: When I think about this model, I envision a very centralizedcompany. Butthese days, companies are global. They're all over the place. Can youexplain how to coordinate this approach on a global basis?

Petersen: In chapter 12, we cover how to fill out the roles and howto build out the teams within the organization. We break down the maturity modelinto different layers. We have a simple version. Then we get into the differentcapabilities you needs, and what are the different roles in the organizationthat you'll need to get the most value out of this. You can do a lot withmarketers at the low level, but as you begin to evolve through maturity, you'llneed more dedicated specialists on your team. 

We also cover how you'd organizethat team. We talk about creating a CX center of excellence. If it's a globalorganization that is dealing with different markets, [we discuss] how to radiate that out ina hub-and-spoke model for different markets. For bigger enterprise withdifferent brands for different markets, how can you radiate that further.

Person: The biggest demoralizer for any human is to be pushed and notknow where they're going, or how they're going to go forward. Most people willchange, 1) if they have a motivation, if executives give them a vision, and 2)if they have clear steps -- "I need to do A, B and C and then I'll get safely tothe other side of this vision of the future."

Murphy: Are there specific social technologies that you advise corporations to use in coordinating this kind of change?

Nash: We actually don't. But one thing we are using is gamification.We have a couple of different concepts on this, but we've created a board gameto help facilitate the people-process aspect of this maturity model. The stepsin the board game are to assess your maturity, identify an objective with whichyou want to align, identify the digital goals that drive the objective, and thengo for the low-hanging fruit of the optimization.  

What I find really important is that you get eye-level so that you're talking about the basic stepsof this process in a down-to-earth, human way. Otherwise, it's kind ofacademic and theoretic and problematic. But when you're talking about a processlike this in a game format, it's actually quite effective and rewarding. It's afacilitator for the process.