Ask the experts report

 Ask the experts report

Innovating and pushing the boundaries of what is possible are part of the very fabric of the technology industry. There will always be new and exciting technologies and trends to explore. This is entirely as it should be. However, in order to gain value from groundbreaking technology and turn it in to something that will deliver significant improvement to their customers, it is vital that organisations strike the right balance.

By all means follow the latest predictions and set aside time and budget to innovate, but make sure the basic building blocks are in place too.

Over the last few weeks we have been sharing excerpts from our latest ‘Ask the Experts’ report, which outlines the key marketing and data technology challenges and opportunities facing organisations at the moment.

These can be summarised as:

  1. Getting the basics right

When implemented and integrated correctly, marketing and data technologies have the potential to drive digital transformation, enable business intelligence, allow organisations to become truly data led and ultimately transform customer experience for the better.

All too often, we see organisations either rushing to buy marketing and data technology, or investing in new technology, which then does not deliver on its promise or expectation.

Businesses need to ensure they have the basic building blocks in place in order to get real benefit from any technology they purchase. What is often overlooked is the hugely important role data plays. Nearly every new trend such as A.I, cognitive computing and IoT has data at its core. Sure, data is not as headline grabbing as the above-mentioned technologies, but none of them are possible without access to, and good integration between accurate and relevant data.

  1. Real-time decision making finally gets real

While there was a huge amount of noise about real-time decision-making and real-time next best action marketing a few years ago, we haven’t as yet seen significant practical application of this technology.

This is set to change from 2017 onwards. Many organisations looked into or acquired technology to facilitate real-time when it first emerged as a leading trend, but it is only now that many are actually practically applying it.

  1. Taking steps towards cognitive computing

The concept of cognitive computing and A.I has been much discussed recently, in the same way that real time marketing was a few years ago. While there have been a limited amount of practical applications of this technology to date, there is no doubt that the concept is set to dominate the landscape for some time.

The next few years will see organisations start to get to grips with what cognitive computing can offer. There are still fundamental kinks to be worked out, more fundamentally, though, businesses need to look beyond a ‘gimmick-led’ application of these technologies and instead investigate how it can be applied to actively improve personalised customer experience.

  1. The growing need for data management and governance

Data management is a huge commodity. Proponents of data value management have long urged organisations to see data as a corporate asset and they are right.

Just like any asset organisations should attach cost and value to their data.

Yet how many organisations are actually doing any of this?  Only a small minority of market leaders.

The majority only considers data in this way when a specific requirement rears its head.  Often this will be a regulatory or technology driven change.

The temptation to wait until a project demands better data management is commonplace.  But project thinking can mean data governance and lifecycle management processes happen in a ‘siloed’ fashion.

  1. Getting your digital estate in order

Organisations are still failing to fully understand their digital estates and the systems they already have. Many are fairly digitally mature, with estates that have grown at a rapid pace. Due to the particularly high turn-over in senior marketing roles, coupled with increasing marketing technology spend, businesses are likely to have multiple systems in place, which are not being utilised or integrated properly.

These ‘Frankenstacks’ of disconnected technology have developed for a number of reasons, primarily due to the fact that organisations have been working in silos for years. This creates a monster of parts, all probably very good in their own area but as a combination stitched and patched together and not always serving the common good.

However, in this age of the customer, consumers expect – in fact demand – a seamless, joined up, personalised experience. Something that is difficult to deliver in a disjointed digital estate.

By closely examining current marketing and data architecture, and the way systems, tools and data presently connect (or fail to connect as the case may be), organisations can gather a clearer idea of how to effectively join up and better manage a digital estate.

 

To read the Ask the Experts Report in full request your copy.

Talk to us if you want to learn more.

Real time gets real…

While there was a huge amount of noise about real-time decision-making and real-time next best action marketing a few years ago, we haven’t as yet seen significant practical application of this technology.

This is set to change from 2017 onward. Many organisations looked into or acquired technology to facilitate real-time when it first emerged as a leading trend, but it is only now that many are actually practically applying it.

The reasons for this are manifold. The tendency is often to purchase a particular piece of technology, without first stepping back and putting together a clear business case and roadmap for the technology. Before purchasing any technology, organisations need to address the following:

  • Why are we doing this? Is there a clear articulation of the existing or soon to be business problem we need to solve?
  • What value is the purchase directly linked to? g. saving money, making money, enhancing the brand
  • What is the measure of success? This is often too generic and not specific enough. It should be clearly articulated and documented.
  • What do we actually need from the technology?
  • Will value be achieved through core functionality or through the use of advanced features?
  • Has this been documented in the business and investment plan?
  • Do we have the right operating model and skills to successfully implement and integrate the technology?
  • Are we already utilising the technology we have to best effect?

All too often these questions are not asked or answered until after a piece of technology has been purchased, which can lead to a significant disconnect between what a business thinks it is getting from a vendor and what it actually needs.

This has been the case with many implementations of real time marketing technology, which is why it has taken some time to see significant practical applications of this.

 

To read the Ask the Experts Report in full request your copy.

We run regular ‘Knowledge Bench’ events. Find out more.

 Talk to us if you want to learn more.

The Knowledge Bench – Key take-aways

 

On 22 November, myBench hosted a festive Knowledge Bench event at Bar Soho, London, where Data and Marketing Technology experts gathered to hear the latest 2017 market predictions. The informal advice forum was led by Dan Telling, Managing Partner at myBench, and sponsor IBM’s Derick Wiesner, IBM Commerce and Digital Marketing Agencies Segment Leader, Europe. The panel addressed the six big issues that will be shaping the marketplace in 2017 and discussed the challenges and opportunities that will arise.

Six predictions for 2017:

  • Rise of the machines – everyone will be buying cognitive computing! Be ready for the effects on marketing acquisition and CRM and watch early adopters start deployment.
  • Thinking Teapots – web enabled products will start to think as part of a wider IoT ecosystem with retailers rushing to enhance their website functionality and marketers starting to sell to devices.
  • Fluffy Little Clouds – organisations will continue to wonder if the Cloud will bring stormy weather or a smarter way to get value out of software.
  • Plausible Deniability – data security, information security and management will be top of the agenda with more breaches and greater concerns around legislation as there is a move towards General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
  • Get Real – we will finally start to see many more implementations of real time software, organisations may have bought it up to three years ago because it was the next big thing but many were not ready to use it. They finally are now!
  • What does one do with a Unicorn? – confusion and excitement will continue to reign around Data Management Platforms (DMPs), what they are and the promise they can bring.


Key take-away tips from the experts included:

  • Don’t over look the importance of understanding people and different cultures, people are the basis of everything marketers do.
  • Don’t get dazzled by the next big thing. There needs to be a point to technology, over and above it just being the next big thing.
  • Make sure you are asking the right questions when selecting and implementing new technology. ‘Where is the value?’ should be top of this list
  • Buy-in from the C-suite is absolutely key. Have a solid plan in place for how to achieve this (tip: answering the above question re: value will help!)
  • Hold onto your hat regarding new skill sets as marketing becomes an increasingly technical function.


Missed this event?
The Knowledge Bench is an informal forum for interested and like-minded people to get together and share challenges, network and see what’s new. If you’re interested in attending the next event please visit mybench.co.uk for more information.

Over the last few weeks we have been sharing our advice for achieving data technology success, featuring excerpts from the ‘Ask The Experts’ report. To read the report in full request your copy.

Find out more regarding our ‘Knowledge Bench’ events.

Get in touch if you want to learn more.

Ensuring data technology success: a summary

All too often, we see organisations either rushing to buy marketing and data technology, or investing in new technology, which then does not deliver on its promise or expectation. They are all driven by a desire to stay one step ahead of the competition and carve out an advantage in an increasingly crowded and fast-paced environment, yet many fail to achieve the desired results.

Frustratingly, the technology to enable them to do this is available, however it’s just not being selected and implemented in the right way. In order to really unleash the potential of marketing and data technology organisations need to shift their mindset, this is not an easy task, but with access to the right skills and expertise, it is achievable.

Over the last few weeks we have been sharing excerpts from our recently launched ‘Ask The Experts’ report which details the critical steps organisations need to take in order to achieve data technology success. These steps can be summarised as follows:

  1. Don’t start with technology

Understanding how your customers interact with your brand, how they will in the future and what disruptions in the market might change this relationship are key to mapping customer experience. This understanding can then be used to develop a customer-focused strategy, which, once in place, can indicate what specific role technology needs to play in delivering this strategy.     

  1. Conduct an audit

Before purchasing any new technology, organisations first need to fully understand current systems, as many already have multiple systems in place that are not being used properly. By closely examining current marketing and data architecture, and the way systems, tools and data presently connect, organisations can gather a clearer idea of where there is a genuine need for new technology. Often, organisations can get as much value from using its current system better, than putting a whole new technology in place. 

  1. Choose the right technology for your needs

There are more marketing and data technologies available than ever before. Having the skills to know which technology will not only deliver results for your specific needs, but also fit with your existing systems, is vital. Niche expertise and experience is required for this, however this is not commonly found within in-house marketing and IT departments so seeking independent, expert advice can save considerable time and money. 

  1. Keep it agile

Do not make the mistake of rushing and not effectively managing expectations across the business as this often means new technology is viewed as a failure if it does not deliver quickly. The key is to carefully balance the adoption of the technology with what you’re trying to achieve, in order to bring greater value in the longer term. 

  1. Choose your team wisely

Having a tight, expert team is the difference between success and failure. This is especially true in terms of integrating new technology with existing systems. If new technology is not integrated correctly, then adoption rates are likely to be low, it will be perceived badly and ultimately it will not provide the required return on investment or solve the issues it was brought in to address.

The pace at which things are moving – not just in terms of customer demands and technological advancements, but the speed at which marketers are expected to react to – is becoming increasing rapid. By following the above steps organisations will be well on their way to achieving data technology success but it won’t be without the need to invest some serious time and investment. In getting it right however, the potential benefits, could be huge.

Over the last few weeks we have been sharing our advice for achieving data technology success, featuring excerpts from the ‘Ask The Experts’ report.To read the report in full request your copy.

Bench also runs regular ‘Knowledge Bench’ events, which are informal forums for interested and like-minded people to get together, share data and marketing technology challenges. Find out more or Register to attend.

 

Talk to us if you want to learn more.

Ensuring data technology success: Choose your team wisely

Digital marketing evangelist Avinash Kaushik was spot on when he said “invest 90% of your effort in the people”. Having a tight, expert team is the difference between success and failure when it comes to marketing and data technology. An organisation can select the best piece of technology in the world, but its true value cannot be unlocked without the appropriate expertise to implement, integrate and optimise it. For instance, a particular technology may claim to deliver X,Y and Z straight out of the box, but in reality it will need careful configuration and this means having the right talent available.

Many organisations may find however that there is a talent gap when it comes to this process yet, in bringing together a virtual team of subject matter experts, this void can be filled. This requires a mindset shift; developing relationships with contractors or even gaining support from a third party agency that can manage this process and the required expertise.

This is especially true in terms of integrating new technology with existing systems. Organisations need to really understand how certain technologies work with others, as well as the strengths and limitations of both existing and new technologies. For example, making sure marketing automation tools work closely with CRM tools to help track the entire customer experience.

If a new technology is not integrated correctly, then adoption rates are likely to be low, it will be perceived badly and ultimately it will not provide the required return on investment or solve the issues it was bought in to address.

It’s also not just technical expertise that is needed. Your team also needs to be expert communicators and bridge the gap between both marketing and technology, but also the rest of the organisation. While the ‘war’ between CIOs and CMOs might not be quite the battle it has been made out to be, the fact remains that all too often, marketing technology can often be purchased in silos, which are then not integrated. For example, 85% of CMOs say the biggest barrier to cross channel marketing is customer data that is unavailable or spread out across disparate data sources and assets[1] and all too often, marketing, digital and data are seen as departmental issues, when in fact they are enablers for every part of the business.

Indeed, for organisations to become truly customer orientated, an overall cultural shift is needed, which is championed by the leadership team. This can be achieved by obtaining stakeholder buy-in across the business and by ensuring that they are regularly communicating about how the implementation and integration process is progressing and highlighting success in areas where value can be demonstrated quickly. A failure to do so, will only bring about further challenges and inefficiencies within the overall strategy.

Over the last few weeks we have been sharing our advice for achieving data technology success, featuring excerpts from the ‘Ask The Experts’ report.To read the report in full request your copy.

Bench also runs regular ‘Knowledge Bench’ events, which are informal forums for interested and like-minded people to get together, share data and marketing technology challenges. Find out more or Register to attend.

 

Get in touch to find out more.

 

[1] Econsultancy Data Driven Marketing Trends 2015

 

Ensuring data technology success: keep it agile

When it comes to implementing new systems or software, many organisations make the mistake of rushing and trying to implement technology too quickly. This is perhaps understandable, as there is often immense pressure to deliver results. Indeed, 55% of big data projects fail as they cannot demonstrate value quickly enough[1].

However, this approach rarely delivers true value in the long-term and in fact, can often be counter-productive. By rushing implementation, and not effectively managing expectations across the business, the technology is unfairly viewed as a failure.

The key is to carefully balance the adoption of the technology with what you’re trying to achieve with it. This is precisely why developing a roadmap prior to implementation is so important. Built into this roadmap should be incremental targets, some of which can be delivered quickly in order to demonstrate value up front, as well as clear objectives that the business can work towards.

These ‘quick wins’ are critical for demonstrating the value of a system and getting that all in important buy in. This stage should not be underestimated, particularly as businesses are placing more pressure than ever before on return on investment. CRM can sometimes be viewed within organisations as a concern and previous experiences with holistic technology can leave people scarred. However, if the process is delivered in an agile fashion with expert help, businesses can create pockets of value very quickly. A lengthy implementation and failure to demonstrate value swiftly, will only further alienate an audience that might already be skeptical.

It is also imperative that organisations have access to the right expertise in order to implement their chosen technology in the most appropriate way. While taking an agile and iterative approach is often recommended, some technology needs a long-term approach. Businesses need to be able to identify this upfront and communicate it widely to manage expectations too.

Over the last few weeks we have been sharing our advice for achieving data technology success, featuring excerpts from the ‘Ask The Experts’ report.To read the report in full request your copy.

Bench also runs regular ‘Knowledge Bench’ events, which are informal forums for interested and like-minded people to get together, share data and marketing technology challenges. Find out more or Register to attend.

Talk to us if you want to learn more.

 

[1] Infochimp big data research 2013

 

Ensuring data technology success: choosing the right technology for your needs

This the fourth post in our series of articles about achieving data technology success. In our last few LinkedIn posts we have talked you through the reasons for placing the customer at the very heart of any marketing strategy, how you can go about developing a robust data strategy and why all organisations should complete a technology audit before investing in a new system. The strategy and audit are very important first steps in the journey to data technology success and today we help guide you through the process a little further, offering practical advice about how to choose the right technology for your needs…

When implemented and integrated correctly, marketing and data technologies have the potential to drive digital transformation, enable business intelligence, allow organisations to become truly data led and ultimately transform customer experience for the better.

However, marketing and data technology implementation all too often does not deliver the benefits it should. Recent research from Oracle found that only 8% of those questioned felt that marketing technology had been implemented well. 40% did not think technology had been implemented even partially well and 40% were unconvinced by marketing technology’s benefits.

Once you have mapped out your ideal customer experience, examined your existing technology and subsequently identified a specific need for new technology, then comes the challenge of selecting the most appropriate technology for your needs. Yet, in an age when there are more marketing and data technologies to choose from than ever before, having the skills to know which will not only deliver results for your specific needs, but also fit into your existing eco-systems, is vital.

As it stands, the niche expertise and experience required to wade through all the available technology options, identify the best fit and see how it can be successfully integrated into existing systems, are not commonly found within marketing or IT departments. As such, seeking independent, expert advice can save considerable time and money.

Organisations like Bench provide granular and specialist expertise in the implementation, installation and adoption of marketing and information management technology, including Adobe, IBM and SAS amongst others. Our dynamic and flexible team of experts are one of only a few in the world to have this level of specialist knowledge, in each of their respected fields and this means we can offer tailored support and a ‘one stop shop’ for all requirements. In short, Bench can save you money and offer more commercial value too. Call us today to discuss your requirements in more detail.

 

To read the report in full request your copy.

Bench also runs regular ‘Knowledge Bench’ events, which are informal forums for interested and like-minded people to get together, share data and marketing technology challenges. Find out more or Register to attend.

Get in touch to find out more.

Ensuring data technology success: conduct an audit

In our last report excerpt we talked you through the reasons for placing the customer at the very heart of any marketing strategy. We explained the reasons why the customer should come first when it comes to buying data marketing technologies and what initial steps need to be taken to ensure organisations choose the very best technology for them. In this latest instalment, we discuss why businesses should complete an audit of existing technology before committing to buy any new data technology sets and how they can roll one out efficiently and effectively. Read on to find out more…

Before purchasing any new technology, organisations first need to fully understand the systems they already have. Due to the particularly high turn-over in senior marketing roles, coupled with increasing marketing technology spend, most businesses are likely to have multiple systems in place, which are often not being utilised properly.

Yet, by closely examining current marketing and data architecture, and the way systems, tools and data presently connect (or fail to connect as the case may be), organisations can gather a much clearer idea of where there is a genuine need for new technology. An audit, for instance, may avoid the need to make unnecessary purchases, particularly when technology already exists within organisations, but that is perhaps being under-utilised. This often happens when there is a lack of staff knowledge for using and maximising particular systems, which could be easily resolved with additional training; often a much cheaper alternative to a brand new system!

Configuring or integrating existing technology in a smarter way however can only be achieved successfully if organisations have access to a team of people with the right skills and expertise who can help establish how and where the technology might be better capitalised on. This is where organisations like Bench can help. We work with companies to set-up, manage and run data technology solutions which deliver results and really drive commercial revenue. If you’re unsure of where to start, pick up the phone to us today and see how we can help.

To read the report in full request your copy.

Bench also runs regular ‘Knowledge Bench’ events, which are informal forums for interested and like-minded people to get together, share data and marketing technology challenges. Find out more or Register to attend.

Get in touch to find  out more.

Making the most of data

How to make the most of data with Adobe Campaign…

In order to deliver the most relevant messages to your customers, it is important to first understand them. Insights about your customers could include purchase cycles, product or service preferences, web browsing history, or calculated attributes such as propensity or model scores. Harnessing this information correctly can allow you to send the best offer, or the product of most interest, to the customer; ultimately improving marketing effectiveness.

Getting your Data Right

Data can be a daunting prospect, with it often coming from multiple source systems with various degrees of data quality, so it is important to approach it in a structured way. That said, using Adobe Campaign and making the right data available does not have to be a huge project, as a phased approach can deliver incremental gains and improve campaign success.

There are different ways to present data to Adobe Campaign, including:

  • Overnight batch loads (perhaps the best approach for larger datasets)
  • Real-time connections (this can pull small amounts of data to augment a triggered campaign, or be pushed by an external system)

Where multiple systems connect to Adobe Campaign, it’s important to manage the potential duplication of customer data. Luckily, processes can be easily defined to make sure you always have the full view of customer touch points. Further, as it’s not best practice to store data relating to clicks, opens, URLs, campaign and delivery meta-data, Adobe Campaign can allow for the export of this data to a marketing DataMart; meaning it can be used for broader reporting, and analytical purposes, with your choice of Analytics tool.

Integrations

Connecting Adobe Campaign to other systems allows information to flow between systems in both directions. Examples of this might include something simple, like configuring the SMS connector, or alternatively a more complicated custom integration with a CMS. Adobe Campaign is a very flexible platform with various “out-of-the-box” integrations. It simply requires configuration, with the framework, allowing for further custom API integrations if desired.

Integrations can also enable omni-channel communications to be managed from a single workflow, including email, direct mail, call centre and SMS. Managing communication through the Adobe Campaign platform ensures the consistency of the message, based on the latest information available about the client.

Automating Campaign activity

Automating campaign activity could take the form of either scheduled campaigns, where campaigns are set up to run on a set date for a period of time, or automated workflows.

Automated campaigns are usually driven by the mapping of customer ‘life-stages’ and the creation of a journey to better engage with them. Two common examples of these sorts of campaigns might be a ‘Welcome Journey’ or a ‘Lapsed Customer Journey’. With the relevant data available in Adobe Campaign, it is reasonably straightforward to setup these campaigns and better engage your customers. A customer would only usually be selected for a welcome campaign once; however, it is important to convert a customer from a one-off purchaser to a regular buyer. Using information about the customer’s first purchase, the customer can be automatically selected within a campaign and progressed until the campaign goal is achieved.

There are various considerations when implementing automated campaigns. It is important to manage contact pressure; when a customer receives too many communications in a short period of time. This could cause disengagement with the brand and ultimately un-subscription. Another important element is to ensure the validity of content you are using in your communications. If you have an offer code that lasts a month, you will need checks in place to update it once it has expired.

Other automated campaigns are triggered via an external event; this might be an abandoned basket in a web based sales process that triggers a follow up email to re-engage the purchaser. With the use of a mobile application, location based information can be used to trigger relevant messages when a user is near or in a store.

In order to best leverage these sorts of campaigns, you must first have in place the correct underlying data in order to understand and engage with the customer.

Dynamic Personalisation

With the correct data and channels integrated, you can now create highly personalised, relevant communications to better engage with your customers. Using information you have about a customer, you can dynamically alter the imagery, offers or copy within a customer communication. This might be as simple as an email hero image change for each segment in your ‘Welcome Campaign’, or alternatively, it could be a specific product promotion in a weekly newsletter based on previous purchase habits. Dynamic content can be abstracted into reusable blocks, which can be selected in multiple campaigns and deliveries.

Talk to us if you want to learn more… about data, personalisation, campaign automation or Adobe Campaign.

Written by Rich Perkins

Navigating the rapids of marketing operations

All too often that initial enthusiasm and creativity buzz of a new marketing concept is squashed due to internal blockers, disjointed processes, teams working in silos and stakeholder conflict.  As time to market drags, marketing relevance fades, as does your will to live…It doesn’t have to be this way though.

Marketing operations should be an opportunity accelerator, guiding the marketing organisation into providing real value to the company, by supporting the whole enterprise into better working practices allowing revenue opportunities to be met.

TIME FOR CHANGE

“I cannot say whether things will get better if we change; what I can say is they must change if they are to get better”.Georg C. Lichtenberg

Convincing people to change is one thing, getting them to actually change is something else.  They get the invite, they listen, there is a reassuring agreement that the overall process needs change.  But how easy is it to slip back into the comfort zone and existing ways of working?

PROCESS ALIGNMENT

The high-level steps to deliver a piece of marketing could be considered the same across any industry, a concept is born; worked on; signed off; then deployed.  Simple, isn’t it?

  1. Concept
  2. Creation
  3. Approvals
  4. Deployment

 

If you can apply such simplistic logic across industries why can’t that be applied within the same organisation across marketing teams?  How has this process become so different, complex and administrative heavy?  Unfortunately, all to easily.

Teams, or even individuals, create their own processes, which evolve over time to suit their needs.  Specific documentation is generated; different technologies are utilised; and procedure knowledge to answer why we produce something has since left the building…

Although seemingly working in silo that is rarely the case.  Interaction across teams and departments such as finance, legal, and external agencies are still happening its just that how those interactions happen is not efficient.

A single organisation working with a single agency, providing a completely different set of documentation to them depending on what internal team it came from.  Sounds crazy, but it happens.

A collaborative effort

Enforcing a new process that has had little involvement from the individuals it will directly impact is doomed for failure.

Bring the teams together, understand their current working practices: –

  • What process do they follow?
  • Who do they interact with?
  • What are their constraints?
  • What documents are created, when and for whom are they intended?

 

Challenge the as-is

This process is by no means easy, push to understand the rationale behind why something is done.  That spreadsheet you complete for department X, what do they actually do with it?

Agree the to-be

Design the new consistent approach: –

  • Define the marketing process – Providing each entity with what they need when they need it
  • Limit documentation – essential detail only to allow development, report on and audit
  • Remove duplication of effort – if you have already provided information don’t recreate it
  • Technology is your friend – process automation, collaboration, auditable

 

SUPPORT AND GUIDANCE

The introduction of new operational processes and sometimes new technology to manage operations can cause uncertainty for individuals.  A couple hours training and a ‘get on with it’ is not enough.

It is imperative to have a support structure in place to eliminate any challenges as soon as they occur.  Confidence and trust in anything new can be quickly be lost and a negative perception can transform into reality.

KEEP THE FAITH

“Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts”. Arnold Bennett

Hands up who has been guilty of saying “It was easier the old way”?  It can be too easy to turn against change and lose sight of the bigger picture before giving it a chance.  No-one should expect to get it right first time around.

REVIEW AND IMPROVE

Strike a balance of process stability and continual improvements.  Continue to evolve operations with the business, don’t let the operation restrict the business from growing.  Listen to what is or is not working, bring people together again, develop and tweak where necessary.

It may not be easy, but it is certainly achievable! Talk to us about Marketing Operations

Written by Ben Wyatt

How ready are you for Uber personalisation?

This is not a commentary on the use of car sharing apps and how they seem to know exactly where I am and what I need, but more of a focus on how we drive highly sophisticated messaging to our customers in way that delivers the most relevant offers and content, specific for that individual.

What is personalisation and uber [extreme/hyper] personalisation?
At its simplest, personalisation may involve salutations from “Dear Customer” to “Dear Andy”. We’ve been doing that for years and no longer see that as particularly sophisticated, however you might be surprised to learn how many people still don’t do this yet!

More often than not, it will involve tailoring messages, communications, offers or content to meet the particular marketing segments they operate in. This level of sophistication gives us the opportunity to evaluate different profiles and offers to see what works and what doesn’t.
Uber extreme personalisation takes this concept to the next level, creating a highly individualised message from all of the information we know and understand about the recipient. In short, we create communications that often unique to the individual.

We do this because in today’s highly connected, information-centric world, our customers expect us to know exactly who they are; they expect us to understand how they interact with us and how we have interacted with them; they expect us to be able to recognise them and acknowledge them in a way that demonstrates this, AND they expect us to understand how they interact with us on their mobile, their tablet or desktop computer.

They do not expect to be treated like anyone else, let alone in the same way as all of the other mid-value, recent purchasers. We create the segment of one.

How do we make it happen?
By bringing together data we gather on our customers, from every touchpoint, transaction, system and silo we create a full 360-degree view of the customer. Data is sourced from their account behaviour, web activity, retail, CRM and call centre systems – everywhere that has customer data that can be used to define the customer’s relationship with us.

We use this to identify the most common levers on which we want to base our personalisation.
We analyse and develop scoring models or segments that assist us in defining not only the basic inclusion into a certain marketing activity, but also the pool of offers/marketing messages which are applicable. We use this to determine which order those offers should be presented in. We identify whether we should provide the same number of offers as everyone else and whether imagery and messaging should be tailored differently.

Pulling all of this information together enables us to direct our target communications platform, such as IBM Marketing Cloud, to gather the appropriate content, per block, per customer, to create the most appropriate message for that individual.

What are the numbers?
How many customers do you have? That’s the maximum number!

More realistically, look at one of your emails. How many blocks of content do you have for marketing offers? How many offers do you have for each block?

As a simple example, five email content blocks with two permutations each gives us 32 variations of content (25), five permutations for each block gives us 3,125 variations (55) etc. Scale this up to modern offer and content management systems and we hit many millions of permutations very quickly.

What are the challenges?
Data: bringing it all together in a coherent way is incredibly difficult for the uninitiated. It’s not uncommon for an organisation to have many different touchpoint and information mastering systems. So, creating the complete view of the customer to ensure that relevant information is not missed is critical.
Analysis: it’s great to create all of these unique versions and we can certainly track who received what. The next stage is to analyse and interpret the results, it’s impossible to make definitive interpretations of our creative “segment of one” (it’s either 100% successful or 100% not!). Our focus moves towards trends in offer acceptance across segments.
Content: with extreme personalisation we raise the bar on customer expectations. Delivering the same content, week in and week out, rapidly makes our communications look tired and will lose the impact that we started out with. We have to define and manage new and compelling content that keeps our communications fresh and relevant.
Creative: we need to ensure that our messages look good as well as being compelling and relevant, what happens to your beautifully designed email templates when someone has one content blocks or five content blocks. Do you create white space?

In conclusion
Uber personalisation, when done well, gives us the opportunity to demonstrate to our customers that we really understand them, that we appreciate their needs and have the right products and services to meet their unique situation.

It builds the personal relationship that the customer has with us and broadens the opportunity to test and present our offers in different ways. It’s the least our customers expect nowadays, meaning it’s no longer an option, but an absolute necessity.

Written by Andy Addison

 

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How to get started with Campaign Management

Marketing automation software is widely acknowledged as being key for enabling scalable, co-ordinated, relevant and personalised communications to customers and prospects across multiple channels. Yet, in most companies have yet to implement anything of this kind even though they may have acquired the software.

Companies have held back or persisted with ‘what we have already’ as many still believe that marketing automation is complicated, expensive and difficult to prove ROI – and whilst we still see examples of failed projects – the reality is that the majority of these have failed due to a lack of proper planning and requirements definition and linking it to measures of success.

Let’s assume then that your company is keen to implement a marketing automation solution. What should be your first step? Or rather, what should you be doing before you even speak to any of the software companies and hear about seamless integration, single views of customer data, or automated omni-channel campaigns?

Step one

Step one, is the ‘requirements definition’. This is the key stage in the entire process.

While the overall business strategy may have been defined, it’s all too easy to just say ‘improve customer engagement’. For this to work, you need to find out how you are actually going to enable this. You also need to ask yourself, what considerations do you need to define?

Stakeholders

First identify who has contact with consumers from the business – both inbound and outbound – and requires access to the solution. E.g. in the case of the call centre – does an operator need to know what has already been communicated to the consumer when they call in? Should they also know if the consumer has already clicked through a link in an email but shown interest in a different offer or product? If the call centre operator updates information during the course of the call, can this information be acted on immediately in the solution?

How is the business structured? Is it centralised or de-centralised?  Does the solution need to support regional marketing operations where brand guidelines and content templates are managed centrally, but adapted locally?

Channels

Which channels does the solution need to support? Is it direct mail, email, SMS, mobile app, call centre – what is the role for each channel within the business? How do customers interact with the business and expect to be communicated with? Some solutions will have native engines built in to them that allow automated execution – whilst others require API integration to enable their usage. What does that mean for your business?

Communication programmes 

Defining the customer journeys and contact strategy to deliver against business objectives and also the consumers’ expectations for how you engage with them? Welcome, Upsell / Cross sell, Lapse / Retention, Abandon Basket, Order confirmation / Dispatch can be defined based on segment objectives and customer preferences but in order to enable these we need to have the data available for the solution.

Frequently companies will have multiple disparate pieces of consumer profiles residing in various applications. As a result, departments often have access to only a snapshot of consumers’ profiles, obviously this would be more informative if they had a picture of the consumers overall relationship and behaviour.

Being able to leverage and act on full insights around consumers, the ability to deliver personalised, relevant and timely content and access to testing / results across all channels is key to optimising communications effectiveness and customer engagement.

Contact pressure

With automated communication programmes comes the problem of customer fatigue, should a customer fall into multiple journeys, that could potentially see them receive a number of messages across different channels all in one day? If this does happen, this can lead to frustration and ultimately disengagement with your brand.

Planning messaging can be managed and prioritised to enable only the most relevant messages to reach the customer.

Is the solution going to be used to manage all service messaging? If not then how do you integrate the service messaging into the contact history?

Systems and data

These are inextricably linked but probably the most vital area and often the one that is not given enough consideration until after the software purchase decision has been made.

Companies sit on massive volumes of data, stored in various applications and departments and as a result, data integration of just the core operational (behavioural and transactional) data is key. That is before we start to integrate new channels or sources of data into the equation such as mobile app behaviour, i-beacon information, website behaviour, social interaction.

This is often the greatest challenge when setting out on a marketing automation project and this brings the need to ask ourselves:  what information sits in which system? What data do we need to form each? How do we access it? Is it batch or real time requirement? Is an API integration required or do we use a Federated Data Access approach?

Data integration

Once you have the answers to these questions then the next challenge is the design of the underlying data solution that is going to manage this single view of the consumer. Bringing together all of the communication activity, consumer behaviour, and tracking information from multiple sources will support the solution moving forward, but this is an entire project in itself!

Step two and beyond

If the correct level of requirement definitions has been undertaken through step one, then step two is easier for both the software supplier to answer against and also for the business, as they will clearly understand what they will be buying. In the long-term, this will mean it is far more likely that the software, if successfully implemented, will achieve the required business objectives.

Written by Peter Russell 

 

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How do you use Technology to Optimise Marketing?

When I was asked write a post on how to use marketing optimisation technology it raised a few questions with me:

  1. What is marketing optimisation?
  2. What are people doing today?
  3. How can technology help?
  4. What are the potential barriers to leveraging that technology?

 

What is marketing optimisation?

We’re all familiar with “right offer, right time”; it’s the marketing phrase that was drummed into me when I first started out (twenty and a bit years ago). The difference today is the scale of marketing messages and channels that our target audiences are exposed to and interact with. We are constantly fighting for a share of their wallet, whilst also fighting to ensure our marketing budgets are being used in the best way.

We do this by:

  • Developing a multitude of different strategies and approaches for each of our campaigns.
  • Implementing contact clash and fatigue rules, to ensure we don’t over market.
  • Investing heavily in subject line testing and design to ensure our messages are opened.
  • Creating compelling and relevant offers for each of our campaigns
  • Creating multiple target cells so that we can analyse what worked and what didn’t
  • Targeting those most likely to convert with rich and relevant content to drive response rates
  • Capping volumes to keep costs down
  • Incorporating propensity scores into campaigns to cherry pick the best people to send the offers to.

All of this contributes to optimal marketing, but often it misses one major component, putting it all into practice at the same time, across all of our touch points and all of our customer engagements, to make sure we maximise response whilst minimising spend. Marketing optimisation applies this logic and capability across all campaigns at the same time.

 

What are people doing today?

There are two common manual approaches used to get closer to the marketing optimisation goal:

  • Campaign first come, first served – campaigns are executed and selections reduced based on who executes their campaign selections first
  • Offer Prioritisation – campaigns are all executed but outputs are pushed to a staging table. The offers in each campaign are ranked or prioritised to enable multiple offers to be pushed per campaign.

Both of these approaches do give the marketer a level of control over which customers or offers are selected, but they are prioritisation methods solving the “fill problem”, not optimisation (i.e. solving the “best offer problem”).

Prioritisation is also typically product-focused rather than customer focused.

 

How can technology help?

Technology such as IBM’s Contact Optimization module demonstrates how technology can be used to create and develop the processes needed to move towards a more optimised customer communication strategy.

Contact lists and campaign outputs are pushed into the optimisation technology, alongside supporting scores, rules and constraints. An optimisation algorithm then applies all the rules across the data at the same time to identify the best blend of all these targeted lists, offers, scores, business rules and constraints to determine the best average score for all the qualifying campaigns. When it’s complete, you have a refined list of contacts and offer associations per campaign, and are ready to generate final outputs.

 

In summary

Marketing optimisation technology can give marketing organisations the ability to create a highly targeted, highly relevant, highly efficient marketing communication strategy across campaigns. It enables us to manipulate all the levers of our customer engagements to find the right way to maximise our marketing effectiveness, without breaking the bank.

We also have to remember that it is not a magic bullet; it requires a co-ordinated and willing business drive to change. Done right, it has the potential to deliver real and measurable business and commercial benefit

The mantra should be “right offer, right time, right campaign, right people, right channel” – but that really doesn’t trip off the tongue!

Written by Andrew Addison

 

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Real time marketing and Adobe Campaign

As brands focus more and more on building ever more personalised relationships with customers, real time marketing is acting as a key tool to enable relevant and timely communication through a multitude of channels. The result of this can be an increasingly personalised relationship with the customer where they are truly at the centre of the experience, but what is it and how do we implement it using Adobe Campaign?

What is it?

Real time marketing can utilise personalised event data such as website analytics, transactions, people’s dates of births or lifecycle stage, take into account environmental data such as storms, and flood alerts, or advertise an event you’ve got coming up and then thank people for attending.

It can also make use of less direct means such as blog posts and publishing to social media pages or more direct means such as push messaging, email and outbound calls to reach the customer at exactly the right point in time.

How can I move my organisation towards more real time marketing?

There are several things your organisation could do to work towards increased real time marketing, including:

  • Think about what you want to do – is your business B2B or B2C? What is it you are seeking to communicate with the person you’re talking to? Will it benefit the customer and in turn the organisation? In a highly transactional environment does the customer want a message at every turn?
  • Map your customer journeys – this will help you understand the routes your customer takes when interacting with your organisation, and any opportunities that offers. Not every opportunity requires an action. Prioritising the messages can be key to success.
  • Understand the events, behaviours or triggers that enable real time communication – can you access the relevant systems, data points or interactions to act on these identified opportunities?
  • Explore what your data tells you about your customers – behaviours, channels they use or preferences they have? Do you only target certain segments with certain messages?

However, organisations should keep in mind that it might not be right for every business and indeed might not be possible to access and use the data required to facilitate real time campaigns. Just because you can do something doesn’t necessarily mean you have to.

For those that will benefit from real time marketing, taking the time to consider the above steps will help you in reaching the desired outcome from these activities.

I’ve thought about it, I have Adobe Campaign implemented, how do I go about it?

With Adobe Campaign there are several approaches you could adopt to action real time marketing, depending on what you have prioritised within the customer journeys.

Simple trigger or scheduled campaigns – campaign Workflows enable activities to repeat indefinitely and can be simply based on current data, making it easy to setup things such as Birthday emails, or emails that occur a set number of days before or after a recurring event.

Integration with your analytics – Adobe Campaign can integrate with your analytics solution, allowing you to pull through data in near real time, meaning you can easily create emails that work from events such as a customer abandoning a basket.

Transactional or behavioural messaging  – the message centre allows your marketing department to control the look and feel of any real time messaging, whilst integrating seamlessly with your website or other transactional systems such as EPOS, through use of a SOAP based API. Order or booking confirmations can be enriched with relevant content that enhances the brand experience and offers potential targeted marketing messages to be included

For lower volume or less urgent messaging, integration via APIs allows you to connect any of your services directly to the marketing instance. Observed behaviours can be tracked and followed up on automatically within the platform.

A big factor in optimising the personalisation and relevancy is leveraging the content management capability of Adobe Campaign. This system can be connected with most CMS’s enabling organisations to then manage brand consistency across channels, providing access to these assets to be used within defined templates that can populate messages and offers via business rules according to individual customer and executed across any channel.

Used effectively, real time marketing can help organisations to drive all important, personalised customer relationships, something that is more important now than ever. As such, I’d urge organisations to seriously consider using this approach.

 

Written by Peter Russell

 

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