Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Marketing Focus During (and After) Coronavirus

“We’re All in This Together”. This seems to be a common marketing theme lately. And while many companies are using their marketing channels to provide genuine help, coupled with certainty that their products/services will continue to be supported, a few simply use this statement as a book cover, loosely wrapped around their existing or worse, exploitative offers. Yea, that’s not really agile marketing.

If you think about it, right now, given everything going on, our ultimate B2B/B2B2C target audience is the CEO. Why? Because they are knee deep in crisis mode at the moment and are formulating/executing plans that serve to prevent their company from getting badly injured or worse, going out of business altogether. Whatever solutions they are mandating are permeating the organization, resulting in all hands on deck scrambling to execute. Clearly, CEOs have or are preparing for a recession.

 Analyzing Past Recessions to Improve Targeting in This One

In an insightful Harvard Business Review article first published in 2010 titled, “Roaring Out of a Recession”, the authors studied the approaches that 4,700 public companies took to combat the last 3 recessions, in an effort to identify the most effective strategies. They analyzed company data during the 3 years before and after each recession to come up with a quantitative winning formula.

 The Study Identified Several Thematic Approaches

  1. Purely Defensive: Reduce expenses across the board. Lower head count, reduce marketing and operating costs, eliminate T&E, postpone investment in assets and new business development.
  2. Purely Offensive: Use the slowdown as an opportunity to invest in longer-term payoffs like acquiring opportunistic talent, other businesses or biz-dev assets, while increasing marketing budgets to gain market share, under the assumption that in part, competitors may have opted for approach #1.
  3. A Pragmatic Combination of the Two: According to the research, “Companies that mastered the delicate balance between cutting costs to survive today and investing to grow tomorrow did well after a recession.”
But There was also a 4th Approach

A progressive subset of the 3rd that did better than anyone else. According to the article, “This group deploys a specific combination of defensive and offensive moves. They cut costs mainly by improving operational efficiency rather than by slashing the number of employees relative to peers. However, their offensive moves are comprehensive. They develop new business opportunities by making significantly greater investments than their rivals do in R&D and marketing, and they invest in assets such as plants and machinery. Their post-recession growth in sales and earnings is the best among the groups in our study.” The article goes on to include specific case studies of companies who adopted each of the 4 approaches and the results.

In short, those companies that focused on operational efficiency, together with market development and asset investment did the best, 3 years after a recession. Those that focused on employee reduction, together with market development & asset investment did the worst. (see chart below)

No alt text provided for this image
Source: https://hbr.org/2010/03/roaring-out-of-recession

This analysis could be used as a strategic marketing framework for things like ABM, segmentation strategies and predictive targeting. If we focus our value prop and market content towards supporting the initiatives CEO’s are mandating within the “BEST” category, it stands to reason that we could accomplish several things:
  • Potentially reduce what will likely be longer sales cycles by adjusting our value prop and content to align more closely with the ’BEST’ approach, ensuring quicker buy-in and investment support at C-Level.
  • Help enable the inherent success of the very companies that stand the best chance of surviving the current virus economy. Having successfully enabled and supported these companies through a recession together builds a deep trusting relationship that endures, thereby improving CLV.
  • Make heroes out of not only our own sales teams, but those customers on the front lines searching every nook and cranny for operational cost cutting efficiencies, automated solutions, digital systems, platforms and services that allow them to do more with less.
  • If we can predict what changes within our customers’ ecosystems might become permanent post Covid-19 and then work with product/service teams to align development focus around the new normal, we’ll be well prepared to exploit these new opportunities as they become permanently entrenched and standardized.
  • By targeting our marketing towards the companies that are undertaking progressive 4th group solutions, our (potentially smaller) marketing budgets go further and our chances of sustaining and even increasing ROMI improves.
  • Having this framework to lean on as marketing teams work quickly to adjust their focus could help prevent trying to boil the ocean.
“The intersection of opportunity and preparation is something we call luck.” This popular quote seems especially appropriate since we could all use as much luck as we can get right now. At a strategic level, focusing marketing spend on the companies who's survival tactics historically supported their emergence as winners post recession may just be the luck we need.

Steven Kellogg

P.S. On a personal note, I've been keeping my agile marketing skills up to date by recently completing 4 marketing certifications that I'd been working on remotely at Cornell University:
  • 360 Degree Integrated Marketing Certification
  • Marketing Analytics Certification
  • Digital Marketing Certification
  • Strategic Marketing Certification
Covid 19 has forced us all to be much more agile, both personally and professionally. Agile, in part means, "Having a quick, resourceful and adaptable character". Being agile is no longer an option, it is a requirement. And when all this is over, it may just be among the key underlying skill sets we mastered during this extraordinary time in history.

Stay safe.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

 Digital Marketing Maturity Model

Would you say your company is leveraging at least 75% of the features and functionality that your martech stack provides? No? You’re not alone. Over the years I’ve noticed a pattern in adoption of digital marketing tools. Many companies get to a point where they’re using about 20% of the platform’s capabilities and then plateau. Why?

Reasons typically include:
·       Lack of skilled personnel to successfully guide maturity
·       Lack of time to focus on improvements
·       Process limitations that might prevent maturity
·       Data limitations/integrations that prevent maturity

Since digital marketing is typically a significant percentage of the Martech stack investment, it makes sense to work toward continual improvement, stretching, exploring and leveraging all the nooks and crannies digital platforms offer. But how? What should you focus on and how do you measure success?

To that end, I’ve created the following Digital Marketing Maturity model, which acts as a high-level GPS guide in quickly identifying where you currently are, what to focus on next and what success looks like at each stage. It is a compilation of existing maturity models, together with my own years of digital marketing consulting experience.

You’ll notice its broken down into 5 maturity levels, from Crawl all the way up to Best-in-Class, across 9 themes, including CX, Strategy, Targeting, Data, Analytics, Sales Alignment, Tech, People and Process.

It’s no accident that the very first theme is CX, since it is the end game and overarching cumulative goal of maturing the rest of the themes.

Where to Start

Obviously, there are many layers within each stage, but the best approach is to begin with a high-level assessment of where you are now, within each of the themes (columns). It’s important to get consensus on where you are now from all those who will ultimately contribute to marketing’s progression up the line. If the data team thinks you are at the RUN stage and you think you’re at the CRAWL stage, good luck making any progress. Misalignment is one reason companies get stuck in a stage to begin with.

Making Progress

It’s important to only focus on those activities that will pull you up to the next rung for any given theme. Don’t try and boil the ocean and go from crawl to BIC all at once. Take each rung one at a time. Once you’ve achieved it, focus on achieving the next rung, and so on. You’ll have a much better chance of success.

Invariably what prevents many from achieving higher levels of maturity is data. Missing, inconsistent and outright bad data will prevent most efforts to mature and certainly any effort to improve CX. So, when I have conducted maturity workshops I also invite data, CRM and IT stakeholders to the party, so they can collectively identify and discuss potential blockers and solutions on the fly. Another huge benefit is it also aligns support in understanding the impact of improving cross divisional challenges, from a maturity POV.

Action Plan:

Here’s are the recommended steps to pull this off:
1.     Schedule a Marketing Maturity Workshop (invite marketing, sales, CRM, data and IT)
2.     Agenda:
  • Introductions
  • Goal of Workshop (identify and improve marketing maturity across 9 key themes)
  • Review Maturity Model and get consensus on what level the marketing team is currently at across each of the 9 themes
  • Review the next rung up for each theme and begin to identify solutions to get you there
  • Create Project Plan and list of action items
  • Execute
  • Rinse and repeat
So how long does it take to go from zero to hero? Well, almost no one has the luxury of starting from scratch (bummer eh?). There are always legacy platforms, data silos and other integrations that slow the progress, so it really depends. A good general rule of thumb is one rung per year for enterprise and 2 rungs per year for SMBs. I’ve seen some companies go from crawl to BIC in less time, but the entire organization was fully committed and supported at the executive level.

Use this as a high-level roadmap in starting digital marketing maturity discussions. It should help keep the guard rails in place, funnel the collective focus, all while generating alignment and momentum.

Steven Kellogg

Monday, November 4, 2019

DMP, CDP, Data Lakes, Oh My...
A Data Primer for Marketers

As someone who started my professional career in Marketing, I along with many of you have a love/hate relationship with data. Love in the sense that having the right data is all-knowing and can bring you wealth, power and fame. Hate in the sense that not having all of it, or having it and it’s not complete, not accurate and/or not relevant. 

We all know customers fully expect a consistent, cohesive conversation, from the moment they first meet a brand to their last interaction, regardless of channel or device. To pull this off, marketers require…well, you know, data.

The lines between marketing expertise and data expertise continue to blur and may in fact already be almost indistinguishable. Marketers are now expected to be data scientists, or at least be able to have intelligent conversations with those who live and breathe data every day. (BTW that's marketers).

If you find yourself in this position, (and want to impress your colleagues with your data chops) below are definitions and use cases for common data platforms designed to get us marketers closer to customer experience expectations.

CDP (Customer Data Platform)

The biggest difference between a CDP and other types of data platforms is that a CDP is used to manage customer data. It is a data resource used by and typically controlled by marketers. While DMPs tend to focus on top-of-funnel initiatives, CDPs focus on mid to lower-funnel activities.

Think of a CDP as a central repository of siloed pockets of customer data; things like personal identifiable information (PII), transactional data, behavioral data, explicit data, offline data, call center data, etc. that marketers need in order to create specific customer segments or to drive 1:1 conversations. Additionally CDPs can also clean and dedupe this information. The real magic is that it matches all these touchpoints into a single customer record, holding and consolidating a customer’s interactions across channels/devices. Lastly it can feed this information to other platforms, like BI tools, DMPs and marketing automation platforms. It can be a dream come true for personalization, as well as customer insights, especially for those marketers currently frustrated by data silos.

If you are shopping for a CDP, one important point of comparison is the breadth of off-the-shelf integrations each solution has. Make sure the solution can easily integrate to your other data systems. Another point of comparison is the extent with which these customer profiles are updated in real time. These single customer records are useless if they are even a few hours old.

There are a host of CDP point solutions on the market as well as CDP functionality built into some existing enterprise marketing automation platforms. If you are interested in learning more, below is a list of CDP vendors to get you started. It is not an exhaustive list nor a recommendation, but a good place to start additional research:

DMP (Data Management Platform)

First of all, who came up with all these names? Data Management Platform, Customer Data Platform - good grief. I suggest a new acronym: CONFUSED (Customer Or Non-customer Frameworks for Unstructured or Structured Enterprise Data). Not bad eh? It only took me 5 days to come up with that 😊.

Anyway, a DMP is typically used for top of funnel initiatives as mentioned above. While it can ingest 1st party data, it focuses primarily on 2nd and 3rd party anonymous data. It’s great for web display ads, retargeting, look-alike modeling, and other lead gen efforts at scale. 

Publishers also use DMPs to monetize their data. Unlike CDPs that keep an ongoing historical record of activities, DMP data is often kept for shorter periods of time. Basically you can model the attributes of your best customers and have a DMP go out and find more just like them. One important point of comparison is match rate. How effective are they at matching these attributes and stitching together the identity dots across cookies, device IDs and IP addresses? 

If you’d like a more in-depth DMP primer, check out my DMP Primer video I recorded back in 2016. It’s still relevant today.

Below is a list of DMP vendors to get you started. It is not an exhaustive list nor a recommendation, but a good place to start additional research:

Data Lake vs. Data Warehouse

Data Lakes (as well as Data Warehouses) are both used to store big data. However a Data Lake holds raw unstructured data, the purpose for which is as yet undefined. Consider it a dumping ground for any data you think you might want to use sometime in the future. A Data Warehouse typically holds structured data that has already been filtered or processed for more specific purposes. A Data Lake is used by Data Scientists, while Data Warehouses are often used by the broader business. Companies often need both, as each requires different amounts of storage capacity and specialized tools to manage.

 BONUS: AI vs Machine Learning 

These two buzz words are thrown around everywhere, even in real estate broker ads. So what’s the difference?

According to the Artificial Intelligence Marketing Association, “Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the emulation of human intelligence process by machines be it a computer or an IOT device. The process involves learning (extracting meaningful insights and patterns), predicting (use the gathered information to help devices make plausible future decisions) and self-correcting (the art of getting more efficient every day). This is made possible by the three major wings of Artificial Intelligence — Machine Learning (ML), Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Deep Learning (Neural Networks). AI has established itself in every business sphere around the world -encompassing everything from Rule-based machine learning to visual classification. Its applications range from object recognition to preventing high-end cybersecurity threats.”

Artificial Intelligence is what Tesla uses to drive cars autonomously. It’s what manages intelligent stock trading systems. Here are some very interesting stats about AI, published by CMO.com

Machine Learning is what the iPhone uses to blur backgrounds in Portrait mode. It’s what virtual assistants use in their speech algorithms, (using NLP Natural Language Processing). Waze, Google Maps, any of the driving direction apps use lots of machine learning to find you the quickest way there. 

All in all, it’s a great time to be alive and enjoy all this cool technology! Hopefully you now have a better understanding of these terms. Now go impress your favorite data architect, or better yet, your boss.

Steve Kellogg

Monday, September 2, 2019

The Customer Circle of 5ths

We all know CX will likely become the main key competitive differentiator at some point. It already has in some sectors. To help drive this home, I recently created what I am calling the 'Customer Circle of 5ths', to help Marketing, Sales, Service and PR/Brand Departments visualize how each contributes to this, and what the cause/effect relationships between them are, from the customer's POV. 

This also turned out to be a simple visual that identifies and delivers the core criteria almost every customer needs in order to say 'yes'.

In music theory, the circle of fifths is the relationship among the 12 tones of the chromatic scale. In this article we'll explore the choreographed relationships between marketing, customer experience and branding, using my own version of the Circle of 5ths.

The goal of the Circle of 5ths is to quickly understand how CX, Marketing and Branding each contribute to delivering the most important criteria customers need in order to say 'yes'. So what are the most important criteria?
Think about any purchase decision you've ever made. There were 3 things that likely had to be in place before you said 'yes':
  1. Relevance
  2. Trust
  3. An Emotional Connection
Lets take the example of booking a flight. You had to first find an airline that went to your destination (relevance). Then you had to have confidence that their planes were safe (trust). But those two things alone usually aren't enough to say yes, all other things being equal. There had to be an emotional connection. So, in our example if you had established relevance and trust with 2 airlines, but you only had a positive emotional connection with one of them, that's who you'd very likely have chosen.

So how does marketing, CX and branding all contribute to providing relevance and trust, while fostering a positive emotional connection? In short, CX drives an emotional connection to brand, which drives acceptance/engagement in further marketing, fueled by a CTA that contributes to a positive interaction, which starts the cycle all over again.

Let's look at a B2B example:

A lead might enter the Circle of 5ths at any part of the cycle, but the flow is always the same. Each time they complete the circle, ever increasing levels of relevance, trust and emotional connections are (hopefully) established.

So what actions can you take from this? You see the dependencies these have on each other. If one falls short, the entire circle suffers.

Stating the obvious - whether you are in marketing, sales or customer service, you have to be ruthless about creating a positive interaction. Every activity you are involved in that the customer either sees, reads or hears will impact the whole circle.
  • For marketers that means having a full view of all interactions (both positive and negative) and adjusting messaging accordingly. Insist that CTAs are relevant and easy to act on. The adage, help, not hype fully applies here.
  • For marketing automation, that means enabling technology that delivers a different message to everyone, based on certain rules related to the latest achieved levels within the circle of 5ths.
  • For sales and service that means having a full view of all interactions (both positive and negative) throughout the customer journey and adjusting responses accordingly.
So if you're looking for a simple way of explaining how marketing, branding and CX all support each other and/or visualizing the impact of a single positive interaction, see if this helps.

Steve Kellogg

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Email Deliverability Causes and Solutions

We work hard to protect, nurture and grow our email DBs. For many, its our most effective marketing channel. Yet, according to Return Path, 20% of our emails never make it to the Inbox. Why? Only a small percentage of email deliverability issues are the result of bounces. The rest are being driven by 2 significant factors:
  1. Increased protection by ISPs against malware attacks and other malicious activities.
  2. Growing complaints by email recipients about unwanted/irrelevant emails, causing ISPs to implement their own mitigation strategies and solutions.
Below is a comprehensive summary on the subject, both from my own learnings and from other experts.

What affects email deliverability?

ISPs (such as Gmail, Hotmail, or Yahoo) decide which emails land in the inbox and which are blocked or bulked, all based on your overall email sender reputation.
  • Blocked: The ISP takes action against poor IP reputation and refuses to accept your emails altogether. It doesn't get worse than this.
  • Bulked: The ISP accepts your email but routes the message to BULK or SPAM folders vs. Inbox. This is also determined by your overall sender reputation.

How is sender reputation measured?

Each ISP measures your IP/domain reputation separately based on several different metrics. Repeated issues with one or more of the red flags below will increase the chances that an ISP will block or bulk your messages.  
  •  Bounces
  • Complaints
  • Engagement
  • Authentication
  • Volume and Frequency
  • Blacklists and Spam Traps


There are two main types of bounces: soft bounces (temporary failures) and hard bounces (permanent failures).
  • Soft bounces technically have made it to the email server, however they did not reach the sender. This can happen because:
  • You’re sending to someone who’s mailbox is full
  • You’re sending to someone who’s account has been temporarily suspended
  • There’s been an error or outage at the receiving mail server
  • There is a problem with authenticating you as a sender, or you have a high degree of other reputation issues
  • BTW, an out-of-office reply is technically not a soft bounce, as it did make it to the inbox.
  • Hard bounces happen when the domain does not exist, is invalid, or the mailbox has become inactive. It is a permanent failure.
According to Oracle deliverability expert Pradeep Mangalapalli, bounce rates up to 3% for hard bounces and up to 5% for soft bounces are considered acceptable thresholds.


ISPs track every time a subscriber flags an email as spam. In some cases, ISPs share this information with email senders through feedback loops (a process by which certain email senders may be able to receive notification when recipients report emails as spam).
There’s a lot more to sender reputation than a spam complaint; however, a recipient marking an email as spam is the strongest negative signal to ISPs about an email. Spam complaint rates above 0.2% are considered high, and may result in poor deliverability. At ISPs, like Gmail, a spam rate as low as .08% can “start to affect” your deliverability.


ISPs track how subscribers engage with your emails through: opens, clicks, scrolling through a full email, deleting without opening and marking as read without opening. 


Spammers will spoof legitimate domains to send their emails, so it's important to adhere to all the latest security standards to protect your subscribers and your brand. ISPs will block messages that don't pass these authentication protocols:
  •  Sender Policy Framework (SPF): ISPs cross check the domain in your From address against the IP address listed in the public record in the Domain Name System (DNS). ISPs generally don’t block email solely because of a missing SPF record. However, it is one more data point that contributes to a sender’s reputation and it helps protect your brand.
  • Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM): Email senders generate public and private key pairs. ISPs lookup the public key in the public DNS record, and verify the matching private key in the email header. These days, messages not signed with a DKIM signature are very unlikely to see the inbox.
  • Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance (DMARC): The purpose of a DMARC record is to tell inbox providers WHAT you want them to do with email that doesn’t pass SPF and DKIM: allow it, filter it, or reject it. Soon, publishing a DMARC record will be necessary to ensure good deliverability to reputable inbox providers.

Volume and Frequency

When spammers spoof a domain, they take the opportunity to send extremely high volumes of email all at once. ISPs look at the history of your email volume and frequency. If there's a spike, this can affect your reputation. Sending higher volumes of emails is okay as long as you are consistent. ISPs are more concerned with past trends and spikes rather than overall volume.

Blacklists and Spam Traps

Spam traps are email addresses that either belong to an ISP or belong to an inactive user. Often ISPs will monitor email addresses that have been inactive for a long period of time, and convert these dormant email addresses to spam traps.
There are two main types of spam traps:
  • Pristine: Email addresses that are created and published online but never register for any marketing emails. If a spammer crawls web pages to harvest published email addresses, they may pick up a pristine spam trap.
  • Recycled: If a mailbox goes inactive for a long time, the ISP will convert it to a spam trap to identify senders that mail to inactive subscribers. It's not known for sure how long an email address remains inactive before it is converted, but anything over 12 months is generally suspect.
The net impact of a spam trap is that you get blacklisted. Landing on a blacklist can have various effects on your deliverability. In some cases its not a big deal, however getting on some blacklists, like SpamCop, can be severe and can take significant time to correct.

Email Setup

Emails that have HTML errors, such as image references or links that are dead can cause deliverability issues.

A Word About 'Sender Scores'

As you can see, deliverability issues are caused by many factors and can be difficult to accurately analyze. In the past, as spam decisions shifted towards sender reputation, the concept of an overall Sender Score emerged as a simple benchmark to help us quickly spot trouble. Because of increased complexity however, this simple sender score is no longer accurate or valid and should not be used as a KPI. As Kevin Senne, Sr. Director of Deliverability for Oracle states: “Senders were desperate for some kind of measure to explain email deliverability, and this number was something that they could look to as a guide”. Again, according to Mr. Senne, the problem is:
  • No major ISP uses the Sender Score metric to determine delivery or inbox placement.
  • The score doesn’t reflect the reality of deliverability success or failure.
  • It is mainly a US based system; the scoring does not accurately reflect performance for senders in EMEA, APAC, or Latin America.
 The best method of measuring deliverability currently is by monitoring the percentage of inbox placement across each ISP/domain separately, as well as monitoring open rates. For those that don't have access to Deliverability Tools, Oracle deliverability expert Pradeep Mangalapalli recommends using a unique open rate of around 10% as a general indicator of deliverability health. The best way to prevent deliverability issues is to follow the best practices below:

Best Practices to help mitigate deliverability issues:

  1. Avoid using third party lists to acquire new leads or grow your email database
  2. Obtain consent from contacts before sending them emails
  3. Regularly monitor bounce back rates and bounce back messages
  4. Regularly monitor and run reports to check spam complaints
  5. Review engagement metrics to help refine email programs
  6. Adhere to local and international email regulations
  7. Send targeted emails based on interests and contact preferences
  8. Regularly segment out inactive contacts (users who have not engaged with your emails in about 12 months). Repeatedly emailing recipients who aren’t engaging with your emails can be bad for your reputation for several reasons: 
  9. Addresses that don’t open or click on your messages are much more likely to mark messages as spam. 
  10. Unengaged addresses may have been repurposed into spam traps. 
  11. Unengaged recipients can make your traffic look unwanted by lowering your open rate percentages. 
  12. Stick to a consistent volume of email sends from month to month. 
  13. Consider email design best practices, such as using preheader text, alt text, and image-to-text ratios.

Other recommendations:

Manage Your Inactives. Suppressing all email records with no activity in the last 12 months is a scary thought for most of us, as it could greatly reduce our list size. There are email scrubbing services that will try and determine which specific email addresses have been converted to spam traps, honeypots, etc. so you don't have to suppress all inactives, just those that have been identified as harmful. Vendors include FreshAddress, Informatica and BriteVerify, among others.

Make it easy to unsubscribe. This sounds counter intuitive, but making the unsubscribe process as easy as possible is a really good idea. The truth is, if someone doesn’t want to receive your messages and they don’t see an easy way to unsubscribe, they always know where the “report spam” button is. Remember, someone who opts out can always opt back in, but even a small number of spam complaints can really hurt your reputation, not to mention your ongoing ability to deliver messages to those who want to receive them.

Be conscious of your sending frequency. If you feel like you’re doing all the right things with your email program, but you’re still landing in the spam folder, it may be a good idea to examine your sending frequency. Between your regular newsletter, special offers, and other announcements, you could be sending your recipients more email than you think. Exactly how much email is “too much” differs for every sender, but if your reputation is suffering, even moderately reducing the amount of email your recipients receive from you is a good idea and a great place to start.

Summary. Imagine if you were to gain access to 20% more of your DB! Those in charge of marketing automation platforms are making this possible by learning the causes, solutions and tools, as we become email deliverability experts.
Yet managing inbox placement is only half the battle. You still have to focus on level of engagement in order to keep your overall sender reputation in good health. A solid mix of good email data management, relevant content and continuous real-time deliverability monitoring is what currently works in keeping the inbox door wide open.

Steve Kellogg

Sources used for this post: Oracle Deliverability Plus, Litmus, Return Path


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

When Would NOW be a Good Time?

While this "I want everything now" mentality completely matches the expectations of my kids and their friends, it isn’t just Millennials who expect this. According to a recent Salesforce report titled, “State of the Connected Customer”:
  • 64% of consumers expect companies to respond to them and interact with them in real time.
  • Millennials: 66%
  • GenXers: 63%
  • Baby Boomers: 62%
And in case you thought this was just for B2C, it’s even higher for B2B:
  • 84% of business buyers expect companies to respond to them and interact with them in real time (according to the same survey).
This is not just about customer support response times either. “Instant” seems to be the new expectation across all interactions.

Now, I know it’s easy to summarily dismiss this. I can hear some of the reactions, “Customers may expect this, but it’s not necessarily what they are getting. And even if they are, it’s just not possible for our company to deliver this.” We don’t have the:
  • Infrastructure
  • Resources
  • Technology
  • Processes
  • Time
  • All the Above
Response time improvements have historically been focused on customer support. But TIME also fosters and helps drive the 3 things required for any sale:
  • Relevancy
  • Trust
  • Empathy
The truth is, customers don’t care about your constraints. And while those experiencing your brand might cut you some slack in certain response-time scenarios, it is safe to say that TIME plays a major role in the success of your:
  • Marketing Effectiveness
  • Sales Conversions
  • Customer Support Satisfaction
  • Overall Customer Experience Perceptions
Time has now become ubiquitous with connectivity. The more connected you are with someone/something, the higher your expectation of timely interactions, no matter where you are in the relationship, or in the sales cycle. And once the brand has achieved an interaction response benchmark, the expectation is that it will be achieved EVERY SINGLE TIME, regardless of channel or device. So, big peaks and valleys within your interaction response times may likely do your brand more harm than delivering consistency, even if the timing is less than ideal. Inconsistency breeds uncertainty, which erodes trust.

The concept of Agile Marketing has surfaced, in part as a methodology in addressing the Now Economy. It is an iterative approach to marketing taken from Agile software development. The core tenants include:
  • A focus on change vs. a focus on a plan
  • Quantifiable testing vs. opinions
  • Rapid iterations over larger, longer, complex campaigns
  • A “fail fast” approach due to small experiments
  • Collaboration vs. business unit silos
The goals of Agile Marketing are to improve the speed, adaptability and predictability of change.

While Agile marketing lays the foundation of delivering greater speed, innovation, and faster pivot vs. persevere decisions, it will not inherently deliver NOW. One of the biggest barriers to achieving “real-time” interactions is – you guessed it – data, along with the infrastructure that supports it. The foundation of any digital transformation, data, and especially the speed in acquiring, integrating and interacting with data, often becomes the weakest link in meeting time-based customer expectations. How many times have you been exposed to retargeting ads long after you’ve already bought the product or service? Those that are fast eat those that are slow in today’s NOW economy.

Many companies still have a long way to go before even considering speed, as they continue to juggle connecting siloed data sources, aggregating and standardizing online and offline data acquisition points while focusing on improving customer experiences.

As companies continue to make progress towards their own digital transformations, it’s easy to get distracted by all the strategies and technologies available. And while things like relevancy, intuitive interfaces, cohesive communications and ubiquitous personalized experiences across channels and devices are all important customer expectations, a significant focus on improving timing throughout every interaction with your brand can generate a systemic lift in the improvement of other customer expectations, even if you improve other areas only marginally.

I buy groceries from the same store, not because they have the best variety or prices, but because they always have the shortest lines. When evaluating business goods and services online, whoever consistently responds to me the fastest throughout the entire sales cycle often gets the business.

As buyers, we can only give companies moments of our time, literally. There are just too many distractions and disruptions. As marketers, our best chance of success is to react and respond during those brief moments that customers graciously give us. As Dr. Paul Marsden, consumer psychologist and Head of digital Insight for the SYZYGY Group argues, “In the Now Economy, content is no longer king, convenience is king.” And convenience is typically driven by time.

So, as you determine Business Requirements for marketing, sales and service hardware, software and tools, as well as other internal processes and systems, consider adding more weighted value to the impact interaction timing improvements can provide throughout the entire customer lifecycle.

BTW: What could possibly be better than achieving real-time interactions? Achieving predictive interactions, where the brand knows what you want and need, even before you do.

Steve Kellogg
Digital Transformation 9-Year Veteran. 

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Friday, July 15, 2016

Meet the New Digital CX Gatekeeper

Me: “Hey Siri, delete all emails that aren’t relevant to what I’m interested in.”

Siri: “OK Steve, I have deleted all irrelevant emails and will prevent them from showing up in your inbox from now on. Would you like me to also block ALL future irrelevant content, from any source, on all your devices?

Me: “Yes, and make sure you block irrelevant web content while you’re at it."

Siri: I’m here to protect you, Steve.”

And this is only the beginning. At some point we won’t even have to ask.
Siri and other available AI personal assistants will “auto-magically" manage this for us. If you are a digital marketer, a chill may have just gone up your spine.

The amount of irrelevant content we receive on a daily basis is already overwhelming enough, but when you consider the scale at which IoT connected devices is growing, (estimates of 1 trillion connected devices by 2030 compared to about 20 billion connected devices today, up from a mere 500 million in 2010), we’ll all soon be bombarded with constant alerts, warnings, notifications, announcements, etc. from the things we own and use.

As I mentioned in my last blog, it's likely that at some point virtually every product we own will have a digital component to it (and inherent connection). From wearables to appliances to pets to consumables to car parts to tennis racquets -- virtually everything we have and use in our lives. More connection points means more inbound communications, all clamoring for our immediate attention.

The need for full-time support in managing and prioritizing this continuous deluge of alerts, messages, notifications (and yes, even marketing messages) will skyrocket. And that full-time support will likely reside within our mobile phone. It makes sense. It’s with us at all times, it’s always connected and,  has in fact become the first screen.

Our phone already collects data, behaviors, locations, purchase history, etc., so an AI personal assistant would already have the real-time details of what we're focused on at any given moment. This along with historical information would help guide the decisioning to delete, hold or pass thru prioritized content, constantly learning, improving and adjusting the hierarchies based on our behaviors.

There are  currently 3 flavors of AI personal assistant services:
  • Hybrids –  some combination of the two (Facebook M)
There’s little doubt these AI personal assistants will become an integral part of our lives, especially as connection points continue to increase and the technology gets more intelligent and useful.

Steve Kellogg
Digital Marketing Leader,  Strategist and Technologist