Why Driving Authentic Connections Is Now Part Of The Marketing Mix
CMO EXCLUSIVES | August 20, 2013
by Michael Hinshaw
The majority of us (I hope) understand the importance of improving customer experience. Without our customers, we couldn’t even be in business. They’re central to everything we do—and we need to treat them that way. But too few companies are making customer experience a key factor in planning their marketing campaigns.
- Building customer loyalty begins at the first touch point many prospective customers encounter—your marketing.
- Integrating customer-experience data into their marketing campaigns has become essential to the success of Hallmark, UPS, and Verizon.
- Take what you already know about your customer and simply start using it better.
The traditional marketing mix consists of the product (or service), place, price, and promotion—i.e., the “4 P’s” of marketing. Now, customer experience may not start with a “P” like the others, but thinking about how customers touch your brand is crucial to how they perceive and interact with it. In fact, building customer loyalty begins at the first touch point many prospective customers encounter: your marketing.
In June, Robert Reiss, host of The CEO TV Show, moderated a panel of executives from three major companies. What he gathered was vital insight into how and why their companies are so focused on making customer experience their 5th marketing “P”. These executives have learned a lot in the process—and I’ll bet there’s something of interest to your company, too.
Completely Integrating The Customer Experience Into Marketing
Though this is changing quickly, marketing is still more art than science. You need to see where your market and customers are headed before they even arrive there. It’s tricky, but for those executives who truly understand who their customers are, it can be a well-oiled machine. For executives at Hallmark, UPS, and Verizon Wireless, integrating data regarding the customer experience into their marketing campaigns has become essential to their businesses’ success and building loyalty.
Lisa Macpherson, SVP of marketing at Hallmark, said customers want transparency and authentic interactions. And that insight has led the company away from strictly calendar-based, seasonal marketing campaigns.
Instead, it is leaning more on behavioral and transactional data to connect with customers better. It’s no longer about a generic Valentine’s Day advertisement, but targeting what a customer has purchased in the past. It even goes so far as to mirror the tone and style of past purchases in its communications (e.g., intimate, heartfelt marketing messages reflective of customers’ cards).
Alan Gershenhorn, chief sales, marketing, and strategy officer at UPS, talked about how his team leverages the company’s unrivaled knowledge of supply chain and logistics to make personalized strategy recommendations to business customers. UPS claims to be in the business of “helping [its] customers become more successful.” But there’s actual substance behind that statement. By building the marketing relationship on specific new revenue and cost-saving opportunities mined from the customer’s history, UPS is truly making customer experience the 5th P.
At Verizon, the company is unlocking the power of customer experience in life-cycle marketing. Ken Dixon, VP and CMO, said Verizon uses a customer’s purchasing history to create specific product recommendations or advise a customer that it might be time to upgrade his or her software to receive all the latest and greatest benefits. But it takes it one step further. Verizon is also looking at the purchases of people who recently upgraded phone models, using the preferences and experience of similar customers to improve the quality of its recommendations (check out this Wikipedia entry on Collaborative Filtering if you want to know more).
How Your Company Can Incorporate Customer Experience Into Marketing
So all of this is well and good, but what can your business do right nowto start bringing the customer experience into your marketing? The common thread throughout Macpherson’s, Gershenhorn’s, and Dixon’s answers is this: Take what you already know about your customer and simply start using it better.
Most likely, you already have your customers’ purchasing histories. Take a page from Hallmark, UPS, and Verizon and delve right into what your target market buys from you, as well as things like when, where, and how they do so. Understanding your customers’ past behaviors helps you to anticipate how they want to interact with the company. Do they prefer for you to make product suggestions? Would they rather you speak to them based on their needs that season? By thinking about what you already know about the customer and their experience preferences, you’re able to focus all of your marketing efforts around them and show your company is authentically interested in providing the best experience you can.
So maybe customer experience doesn’t start with a P. But understanding your customers’ preferences does. And if you can understand and deliver on those, you’re on your way.