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#SMACTalk Episode # 37 – Technology’s Role in the Customer Journey!

We’re proudly sponsored by SAP.

On the Friday before Labor Day weekend, Brian and I were happy to have Shawn Elledge join us on Blab to discuss the role of tech in the new customer journey.  As the CEO of Integrated Marketing Summit we knew Shawn would have a lot to contribute to this topic, and he didn’t fail to deliver!

The New Customer Journey

I asked Shawn to talk about how the customer journey has changed over the past five years, specifically as it relates to the emerging technology.  He replied that “Inbound to outbound has totally changed… thanks to the cell phone, internet… now everything is omnichannel. Make it easy for me to buy your stuff.” And marketers are taking notice, putting more emphasis on technology and its integration across silos and the entire customer lifecycle.

Brian wanted to know if today’s CMOs are tech savvy enough to embrace this new technology. Shawn said that the answer runs the gamut. The CDO role is becoming more common and in those cases there’s definitely tech knowledge being leveraged.  But digital marketing and IT need to be bridged. Technology today is more disruptive than ever. And today’s CMO needs more than just tech chops. He or she needs to be able to integrate initiatives across departments. That, he says, is an even bigger challenge than adapting to new technology.

Data’s Role in the Customer Experience

We’ve discussed in the past how cloud and mobile are changing the landscape, and it’s my opinion that brands need to be focused on putting data to use. While they’ve been collecting massive amounts of structured data for years, now there’s a lot of unstructured data and the two need to be stitched together. History, purchases, demographics, etc., can be used to draw conclusions about our interests and passions. The information can be used to intrude or it can be used to build meaningful relationships between brands and customers. Choose wisely, and use it to create a better customer experience without turning the customer off.

Brian countered that this isn’t just about leveraging data, but about leveraging it at the right time in the right way. Data can be useless without contextual understanding about what it can do for business. Shawn replied that it’s not one size fits all but often he, as a marketer, feels like the NSA. There’s so much data coming in for marketers that it can be almost paralysing. His recommendation is that businesses keep it simple, and then build on it. Start with the basics of understanding customer personas and then look at things like energy, experience and so on. Product and price are rational decisions but emotion factors into ongoing relationships.  

Give Customers What They Want

Marketers do need to be more tech savvy than ever. But buyers? They don’t really care about the details. Customers don’t care that you’re using the cloud to enable your efforts. They care about the bottom line of how they feel about you and their purchase. Are we creating memorable experiences?  That’s the key question. In my opinion, “…we have only one choice and that’s to create experiences that people remember.” Technology enables this. We could never touch customers the way we do today without tech’s facilitation, something I find very exciting.

“Top performing CMOs are twice as likely to tie marketing objectives and technology to the entire customer lifecycle,” is a statistic Shawn quoted. Top marketing leaders are 1.7 times more likely to use integrated marketing channels in their marketing campaigns. They have to be everywhere at once, but evidence suggests they’re doing a good job. They have to get started and they have to keep it simple in the beginning, though.

Brian pointed out that trust, training and tools are mission critical and should be leveraged in that order. Education is also important and ongoing if a business is to succeed, and while trying to embrace every piece of technology is a mistake, it’s important for leaders to be open to possibilities. If you’re not listening or your mind is closed, you’ll miss key opportunities or threats to your survival.

Shawn’s response? There is data to support the fact that marketers who do a good job of integrating across channels for customer experience have proven business results, compared with those who fail to do so. And in my opinion, nowadays five channels isn’t such a big deal. This is the new norm. What matters is whether you’re using data to know where your customers are, and if you understand the platforms your customers are using, before launching campaigns.

Understand the Customer Lifecycle

Shawn added that you also need to know what stage of the lifecycle each customer is in. This is the only way you can know what the right next steps are. There’s a shift to a stage mentality versus the older leads and revenue focus.  

I mention the 80/8 principle as discussed in my book, The New Rules of Customer Engagement—eighty percent of brands said they’re differentiating themselves whereas only eight percent of their customers indicated the same. So it’s not just about what you’re doing, but you must understand if you’re succeeding based on what your customers think and do. Asking them is a good idea!

“We need to go back to the basics of listening and solving problems,” Brian says.

Check out the Integrated Marketing Summit or consider contacting Shawn to submit an abstract. They love having people share their knowledge! We’d also love to have you join us on Blab sometime for one of our recordings. Brian usually hosts and schedules them in advance. Follow Brian and me on Twitter and look for our hashtag, #SMACTalk.

Daniel Newman

After 12 years of running technology companies including a CEO appointment at the age of 28, I traded the corner office for a chance to drive the discussion on how the digital economy is going to forever change how business is done. I'm an MBA, adjunct business professor and 5x author of best-selling business books including "The Millennial CEO" and "The New Rules of Customer Engagement." Pianist, soccer fan, husband and father, not in that order. Oh and for work...I'm the CEO of Broadsuite Media Group and President of V3 Broadsuite, a family of marketing and media agencies that help companies be found, seen and heard in a cluttered digital world. I also give keynote speeches around the world on the topics such as digital transformation, technology and marketing.