Kevin Cochrane believes in people; specifically, he thinks every bit of business success is powered by human success.

Good marketers connect with people. Great marketers engage with people over time through one-to-one relationships and deliver consistent digital customer experiences.

“Relationships are the softer side of business and require a certain artistry, supported by technology, to flourish,” said Cochrane, chief marketing officer for Jahia Solutions, a digital experience provider based in Geneva, Switzerland.

Marketers have to build relationships on trust. In turn, trust can cultivate long-term relationships and loyalty. It can even build brand advocates. 

But trust is fragile, and to keep it, Cochrane emphasized, marketers have to uphold their promises. They have to maintain their expectations of privacy, especially with regard to the way they handle customer data. Mishandle that data — and violate your customers' trust — and your customers will emotionally disconnect with your brand, he warned.

Cochrane’s philosophy is crafted from his more than 20 years in the content management and digital marketing industry. He has held executive roles at Interwoven, Alfresco, Day Software, Adobe and OpenText. He also sits on the board at Jahia Solutions and Digital Clarity Group.

You can hear more of Cochrane's views on developing trust, building loyalty and making relationships the heart of your digital customer experience strategy when he speaks at CMSWire's DX Summit this Nov. 14 through 16 at the Radisson Blu Aqua hotel in Chicago.

Marketers: Respect Your Audience

Nicastro: You say, "the way you handle your customer data defines you as a company." How can marketers balance personalization-driven marketing and privacy?

Cochrane: To achieve balance between personalization and privacy, marketers need to be transparent with consumers about what information they have about them, how they plan to use the data and give the customer the choice of opting out of any data collection. 

Successful marketing is a relationship that engages people in a one-to-one dialogue. That dialogue depends on discovering, accessing and then leveraging detailed information about each customer for a personalized experience, both online and offline.

This is about getting back to basic respect. Marketers must respect their audience and treat each person as a human being (versus a monetizable data point) to build trust and find that balance. One way to nurture trust, just like any other relationship, is to be transparent around the information you have on your consumers at all times. As a consumer, I have a right to know what information is being collected about me, how it is being used to my benefit and to control how much of it I want to share.

Nicastro: Are marketers forgetting in this digital world that human experience is at play?

Cochrane: Absolutely. In today’s digital world, there is a huge tipping point between the need for businesses to scale quickly and the promise to deliver an exceptional human (customer) experience. Marketers now collect and analyze massive amounts of hard, cold data on customers without remembering there are people behind that data. 

This approach dehumanizes consumers and encourages marketers to view them as monetizable objects. This approach needs to stop because it weakens a marketer’s ability to foster authentic, one-to-one relationships with people based on empathy, ethics and basic human decency.

As we embrace the third wave of digital marketing, we need to put people back in the heart of the entire brand experience — from pre-acquisition to post-login. We need creative brand experiences that are tailored to individuals in the right moment and the right context. 

For example, if a customer purchases a flight to France, it would not be in their best interest to receive hotel deals for Argentina or South Africa. Each experience a person has with a brand is critical in establishing a long-lasting relationship based on trust and respect. Every interaction, whether online, in-store or via a mobile app, must be helpful, relevant and positive. If not, that person will vote with their mouse and simply move on with just one click.

Nicastro: You believe relationships require a certain artistry, supported by technology, to flourish. How can marketers execute this vision?

Cochrane: Relationships, online or in the physical world, take a certain level of artistry to flourish. Think about your significant other: you put them first in your world or pay the price, right? The same holds true for enterprises today in that they must consider their customers with the care, attention and priority they would give to a valued personal relationship. Technology only amplifies (or detracts from) the relationship you already have with people.

That said, in today’s customer-savvy world, brands have to deliver a consistent experience across all touchpoints or risk becoming obsolete. Today’s consumers expect to have the same customer experience, regardless of the platform they use, to access the information they want. For example, mobile is all-too-often underestimated so mobile sites often do not reflect a clean brand experience.

To implement the vision of having a robust, personal relationship supported by technology, marketers need to consider the essential factors of good marketing: elements of the brand promise and image, transferring the right content in right timing to the customer and ease of access and use for customers to engage from any preferred device or touchpoint.

Marketers can collect real-time data to gain insight into how people interact with their brand which, in turn, can inform their strategies to deliver meaningful digital experiences to customers. This convergence of data, along with understanding what the data means in terms of customer behavior and preferences, gives marketers the ideal tools to address consumers’ needs and cultivate authentic relationship with the help of technology.

Nicastro: You say all employees are responsible for execution of customer experiences. Who — and how — outside of marketers can help?

Cochrane: Throughout the entire customer journey, each touchpoint needs to be personalized and based on real-time intelligence. Delivering a consistently tailored customer experience across all channels depends on each employee being equipped with complete information about the entire set of interactions a customer has over the course of their lifespan with a brand.

That means that anyone working in the brand is responsible for the entire digital experience a customer has with a brand, relative to their position and contribution of value to the customer. Every employee is accountable for seeing opportunities to better serve the customer and do what he or she can to deliver on them. This includes everything from a customer service representative not handing off calls and/or recording the information customers have already shared so the customer does not have to repeat information, to IT making sure technology integrations are smooth and marketing people creating relevant, holistic brand experiences.

Learning Opportunities

The reason a business exists is to provide value to the customer in a cost-effective and profitable manner. Every employee contributes to that responsibility through their role and expertise or they would not be part of the organization. It’s just that simple.

Nicastro: You've posed the question, "Are CIOs the new heroes of digital marketing?" What did you mean by that?

Cochrane: With organizations increasingly digitizing all aspects of business, technology has called the role of the CIO to the forefront in facilitating great user experiences. Marketing departments have prioritized digital transformation to better provide customers with customized content, and, in order to do so, marketers must work with CIOs to ensure the right infrastructure to deliver on that promise.

Digital marketing has shifted from a transactional exchange to a holistic customer experience. While marketers understand what customers need, CIOs understand how technology can facilitate that. When the CIO understands what the CMO and marketers are trying to accomplish, the CIO can use their expertise to consider, design and actualize an effective digital platform to meet these needs.

CIOs are no longer limited to purely technical operations in isolation. Rather, today’s CIO now focuses on strategy, employee engagement, business process AND technology. When the CIO partners with the CMO, whose focus is in making the brand promise visible and exceptional through every customer touchpoint over time, the enterprise will naturally engage in transformational activities so that everyone wins, including customers, employees and partners.

In other words, the CIO is now leading the way in organizing the technology that supports digital marketing to be effective in today’s business environment and has now, effectively, become the hero of digital marketing.

Nicastro: Tell us something cool about yourself that has nothing to do with Jahia, digital experience and your professional life.

Cochrane: There is nothing that makes me happier than to see someone smile.

For me, one of the things that makes me smile is running. When I was younger, I was a severe asthmatic. Significant exercise could trigger debilitating attacks that oftentimes led to emergency room visits. Finally, when I was 11 years old, I decided to do something about it. And I decided to start running.

I started first by running around the block in the neighborhood I lived in. And after that 1/8-mile loop, I'd have an asthma attack. A few days later, I would do it again. And have another attack. But I kept at it. Eventually, I graduated up to two loops around the block. And later three, and still later, four. Three years later, after graduating the eighth grade, I could run 2.25 miles without an episode. Entering high school, I decided to go all-in. And I tried out for my high school cross-country team.

The first two weeks went poorly. Having never run more than 2.25 miles, I couldn't even run the basic 4-mile loop (the "Bernal Loop") without falling behind due to asthma. But I went back out every day.  

At the start of the third week, I started at the front of the pack on an 8-mile loop. And one mile in, just before the varsity crew started to widen their stride and take over, they laughed at me and said I would never make it on the team. And I dug in. And I widened my stride. And I kept up, running through constricting airways until they opened back up and I flew through the streets of my hometown to lead the team.

Two weeks later, I was promoted to the varsity team. That season, I was voted Most Inspirational, and later, running varsity that spring in the 2-mile and 1-mile in track and field, Most Valuable. It was this, my freshman year in high school, that I got a nickname for being the team mascot, the team cheerleader. Because from the time I completed that first big run at the front of the varsity pack, I always took those a bit slower under my wing to keep their enthusiasm high, give them a sense of accomplishment and to fill their hearts with pride. Because their effort mattered.  

And while some people ran faster, had it a bit easier, their success was no less than anyone else's. We ran as a team, and everyone completed the race. Every day at the track, we all walked away winners.

My passion for running informs me of the greatness of big goals and the perseverance to achieve them. And reminds me of the challenges others may face and how my own experiences can give them hope that they too can do great things. Because it's not the success of achieving a personal goal that matters, it's the journey itself that is the success and that helps us each be better people, encourage others and make the world a better place.

I believe each of us has to find that one thing that restores our energy so we can live more fully every day. May anyone reading this find that kind of passion for themselves — it’s what changes the world.