Wednesday, November 16, 2016

What Trump’s Looming Customer Experience Challenge Can Teach Marketers

Following Donald Trump's election victory, we have seen the inevitable flood of blog posts suggesting the lessons marketers must learn from his success. While such a newsworthy event provides easy fodder for this sort of speculation, I remain unconvinced there is much marketers can or should consider as of yet. The real lessons lie ahead--Donald Trump has much to teach us about long-term brand health and customer experience in the years to come.

Simply put, Donald Trump hasn't won the war--he's earned the right to fight in it. In the language of marketing, the election "marketing funnel" is complete and the country has "acquired" Donald Trump, but he won't get a chance to start "delivering on his brand promise" until after his inauguration on January 20, 2017. American citizens and history will not evaluate Trump based on his campaign or election win but on what he does next. Whether Trump delivers the "customer experience" citizens expect and earns "satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy" will determine if the "President Trump brand" is ultimately judged successful or not.

Too much can be made from Trump's victory as a marketing lesson. Marketers all face unique challenges, but few must address ones as complex as a presidential election. There isn't a brand in the world with an 18-month buying cycle that ends when 120 million consumers complete a transaction simultaneously. Few brands face as diverse and complex a set of decision criteria; this election included concerns of authenticity, trust, hacked data, ethics, legality, temperament, discrimination, and external interference, not to mention the actual issues at stake (which sadly went largely unmentioned during the campaign.) Moreover, what might we expect to learn from Trump's victory considering he failed to earn more votes than his opponent? Had Clinton won 107,330 more votes in just three states, today we'd be reading blog posts telling us what we can learn from Clinton's victory--and the lessons would be very different.

But no matter who won, the customer experience challenges would be the same, and that is the lesson marketers really should take away from this or any other election. To read more about what marketers can learn from Trump and from those brands that win the acquisition battle but lose the customer experience war, please continue reading my post on the Gartner blog.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Your Brands Need a Customer Experience Transformation Before A Digital Transformation

Source: Pexels

There is no doubt that brands have to adjust to an increasingly digital, mobile and automated world. But for all the focus on "digital transformation" in recent years, many brands still miss the mark, investing in technology and strategies that see slow adoption, fail to drive business outcomes and do not improve the customer experience.

The key to success in the future is not simply to improve your brand's digital acumen and footprint but to do so in the right ways that serve your customers' needs and expectations. Identifying and solving your organization's digital gaps will seem daunting unless you first concentrate on your customer experience gaps.

Modern organizations often split functions into channel-based silos--a digital group is responsible for achieving digital goals measured in digital ways while a physical- or phone-oriented team is tasked and rewarded for success only in their own channel. The problem with this approach is that consumers are neither completely physical nor digital.

When a customer uses their phone from inside a retail store to check on product details or pays using a digital wallet, are they being physical or digital? When a homeowner feels cold and says "Ok Google, make it warmer," causing their Google Home and Nest devices to send more fuel to the furnace and lift the temperature, are they being physical or digital? When people play Pokemon Go, viewing the world through their phone and traveling physically to collect digital rewards, are they being physical or digital?

Too many digital transformation efforts can operate on digital islands and thus miss that consumers easily and willfully switch from physical to digital channels with ease. Consumers do not object to merging or shifting real-world and digital channels when it benefits them; they object when brands force them to switch because doing so is best for the brand.

Many brands tried to keep website customers on the site and measured success only when the customer converted online, but increasingly marketing leaders have come to realize they can be more successful by interrupting web surfers with offers of assistance via phone or by sending them to nearby stores that have the customer's desired inventory. Brands typically attempted to keep customer care callers holding on the line for a representative, but it is now routine for customers to hear hold messages that remind them of convenient digital service options at their disposal.

While the technical capability to offer these sorts of multichannel experiences were not particularly difficult, the organizational challenges were often daunting. Who gets credit for a sale that starts online and is completed offline or by phone? Contact centers are rewarded for keeping call abandon rates down, but what happens when customers accept the invitation to hang up and use Twitter, instead? These questions only arise when digital strategies and outcomes are isolated from broader measures of business or customer success.

To learn how customer experience strategies can help and direct your digital transformation, please continue reading on my Gartner blog.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Content Is Vital, But It Isn't King

Source: Unsplash
Shortly after Obama’s first inauguration, he must have signed the "Content is King" Act of 2009 which required the use of this phrase at every marketing conference and on every agency blog. I have not been able to find a record of this bill, but given the ubiquity of the ridiculous term, the law is clearly enforced assertively. #ThanksObama!

Content is important. Our era of always-on media and fractured channels makes it vital for brands to develop, manage, coordinate, and disseminate content in smart ways. But is it the king?

I’d like to drive a stake through the heart of this phrase and do my part to ensure no one ever utters it with a straight face. Let’s explore why content is not king and why it is vital we identify what is our brands' king.

If Organic Content Is King For Brands…

Why is organic reach on Facebook still falling?

Why have the number of posts per brand skyrocketed 800% while the number of shares per blog post has plummeted 89%?

Why has the number of Fortune 500 brands with a blog declined?

Why is the number of B2B marketers who say their organizations are effective at content marketing falling?

Why has the number of consumers who say they have little or no trust in the brand information they see on social networks increased 50% to 150% in two years?

While organic and paid content are subject to different consumer attitudes and actions, the problems brands face with paid media help further illustrate why content is not king. Consumers trust friends, families, and online reviews more than advertising; a quarter will block ads this year; and email clickthrough rates have been dropping for years.

The data on organic and paid content suggest that, for the most part, consumers do not trust or welcome marketing communications. What consumers want from brands isn't great content but great experiences. Content can be part of a great experience, to be sure, but it still starts with the experience.

For brand examples that demonstrate how content serves customer experience and why it is important your brand pledge allegiance to the right king, please continue reading on my Gartner blog.