Friday, December 30, 2016

Two Marketing Trends Marketers Will (Probably) Get Wrong in 2017

Source: Pixabay
It is the end of the year, and that means every marketers' inbox and LinkedIn feed are full of articles promising the top marketing trends for 2017. Many of the same authors, blogs, and agencies that told you that Facebook sweepstakes, QR codes, Groupon deals, Foursquare mayor offers and Google+ were sustainable can't-miss opportunities are back with a new line of snake oil, er, I mean predictions.

Of course, predictions are an inherently risky business so we cannot fault people for getting some wrong, but we can fault them if they fail to fully test their predictions or promote them with ulterior motives. Too often, marketing trends are pitched with little understanding of the nuances and hard work required for success. They are usually hyped in the broadest of ways, as if every brand in every vertical targeting every audience has an equal opportunity to avail themselves of every hot new idea. And my greatest concern is the way so many "hot" trends are promoted with an urgency designed to infect marketers with FOMO (fear of missing out) by those who, of course, are only too happy to offer the cure.

Marketers love to be on the cutting edge, but our obsessive need to exploit the latest hype can get in the way of building strong, enduring brands if we do not strike the right balance between innovative strategies and the sensible, boring approaches that we know work. Investing in trends is sexier than relying on the tried and true, but they are also riskier bets. Snapchat may or may not be right for your brand, but email is becoming an increasingly overlooked workhorse for marketers. Social commerce may be buzzworthy, but good ol' organic search drives 800% more e-commerce transactions. And turning your brand into a publisher may be all the rage, but marketers must never forget the customer is king and customer experience is what drives loyalty and word of mouth.

To figure out what marketing trends are right for your brand, ask three questions and be sure you know the answers before you act:

  • Why will my customers and prospects care? Be brutal and honest--"because it's fun" or "because we'll be the first in the industry to exploit this platform" are not valid answers that result in awareness, interest, and interaction. The way to ensure customers will care and engage is to serve a need they have along their customer journey with your brand.
  • How will I measure a change in actions or attitude? Again, be realistic, because "being top of mind" or "buzzworthy" is not the same as affecting improvements in customer actions and opinions. Your brand's viral video may attract a lot of eyeballs for being funny, but if viewers' buying behaviors or brand affinity is not altered, then that was not an effective marketing tactic. Innovative trends may lack the same easy means to measure success as do mature marketing strategies, but a pilot isn't a pilot unless you can measure whether it produces business results.
  • Is my brand prepared to do it right? Do you have the skills, resources, data and systems to mitigate risks and execute properly? Brands that fail to appropriately execute "hot" trends can do more harm than good. For example, companies that launched Facebook profiles with the intention of broadcasting information rather than engaging were shamed by customers irate that the brand talked at them rather than listening and supporting them. Doing Facebook right requires tools, processes, and staff, and the same is true of the hot marketing trends hyped for 2017.

To explore how these questions may pertain to live video and influencer marketing and whether your brand can exploit these opportunities in 2017, please continue reading on my Gartner blog. 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Three Simple Actions To Improve Customer Experience in 2017

Source: Pixabay
Just two weeks to go before it is 2017--good riddance, 2016!--and that means it is time to start making your professional New Year's resolutions. At the top of many marketers' lists of goals is to improve their brands' customer experience (CX), but just like my annual January commitment to exercise, that can fade under the intense pressure of daily demands and expectations.

Fear not, because there are simple (but not necessarily easy) actions you can take to ensure your customers will be more satisfied, more loyal and sing your praises next year. Here are three:

Listen to your customers

Listening to customers has not traditionally been a strength of the Marketing department. Marketers tested creative in small focus groups and tracked consumers' clicks, but most of that "listening" was designed to recognize what got people to click and buy rather than what got them to love the brand and remain loyal to it. That is changing as more marketing leaders adopt customer experience management as a strategic imperative, and this means marketers are making greater use of Voice of the Customer (VOC) programs than ever before.

You cannot improve your CX if you don't understand your brand's experiences from the perspective of the customer, and you cannot know that unless you listen. Chances are your firm already has a VOC or feedback platform in place, so in 2017, make better use of it. Get to know the platform's analytics capabilities or import data into business intelligence tools to get more insight from the data. Consider new listening posts to track consumer sentiment at different stages in their journeys with your brand. And expand your feedback mechanisms across the entire range of direct, indirect and inferred data to better understand drivers of satisfaction and dissatisfaction. (Gartner subscribers interested in digging deeper will find our Market Guide for Voice of the Customer platforms helpful.)

For two more easy actions (plus two difficult but important things you can do) to improve customer experience in 2017, please continue reading this blog post on my Gartner blog. 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

What Marketers Can Learn About Customer Experience From Santa Claus

Source: Pixabay
Santa Claus, in the lexicon of marketers, has an extraordinarily strong brand. The Santa® brand we know today evolved over a century ago thanks to Clemente Clark Moore’s poem, Thomas Nast’s illustrations, and The New York Sun’s famous editorial to Virginia, and it was later cemented in our culture thanks to Coca-Cola advertising. His brand has thrived ever since, surviving war, consumerism, and the Internet.

How has Santa survived for so long and what does it tell us about customer experience (CX)?

Santa is free

Parent’s may disagree, but Santa offers a service and charges nothing. Marketers obsessed with sales can mock Santa’s poor business model, but they’d be missing the point. Price is part of every person’s consideration of a brand’s customer experience, and many of the great CX success stories of recent years have come with price tags that are smaller, not larger.

Facebook, Snapchat,, and Spotify are free to users. Netflix has grown by permitting account sharing. Uber offers better on-demand transportation experiences at a lower price than traditional offerings.

And those inclined to laugh at Santa’s bottom line might want to take note of Amazon. The retailer accounted for almost one in three dollars spent over 2016’s “cyber weekend,” more than four times the next top-selling online retailer, a commanding market share that the company achieved, in part, because of pricing that results in minimal profit. Since 2000, Amazon’s revenues have steadily increased from less than $3B to more than $100B, but the company has been unprofitable five of those 16 years (including two of the last four years) and earned net income of more than $1B only once–six years ago. Retail brands that have made more profit quake in fear of what Amazon is doing and will do to their industry and companies. Ho ho ho, who’s laughing now?

Santa solicits input, listens and uses data

Santa knows if you’ve been bad or good, which means his CRM system efficiently handles trillions of data points on tens of millions of children. (Shh, don’t tell the FTC that Santa violates COPPA.) Feeding this huge data lake (literally–Santa stores his data in a lake at the North Pole to keep his servers cool) is the greatest Voice of the Customer (VoC) system the world has ever seen. He knows what every child wants because he asks–he solicits and records individual requests via a massive multichannel system that includes postal mail, email, and, of course, his lap.