Three Trends for Gaining a Competitive Edge

Posted on by Chief Marketer Staff

By Alice Stein and Jay Henderson

Not long ago, the Holy Grail of marketing—reaching the unique individual—was beyond our grasp.  Marketers were forced to paint in broad strokes to reach segments of hundreds, thousands or millions.   Thanks to technology advancements, marketers today are able to engage segments of one and do so at scale across their growing customer and prospect base.

Today, understanding customers as individuals is no longer enough.  Marketers are being challenged to understand that individual in context – not only who she is and what she prefers, but why.  In an era where the customer is king, marketers must do everything possible to earn their trust and loyalty to continue to drive profits. However, the scary fact is that 91% of companies have limited or no understanding why a potential customer may leave without making a purchase.

This was the topic of discussion recently when Boston’s American Marketing Association and IBM hosted an interactive discussion on the three trends marketers must invest in to remain competitive: experiential marketing, customization and maximizing mobile.  By doing so, organizations can set themselves apart from their peers and deliver a robust, personalized customer experience and build brand loyalty.

Experiential Marketing
The potential to create engaging brand experiences lies within the massive data sets organizations have collected on customer behavior. But how do marketers unlock the potential of this vast amount of data?   It’s not that marketers don’t recognize the opportunities of big data but rather they are overwhelmed by the vast amount of it. In fact, more than 82% of CMOs interviewed for IBM’s Global CMO Study felt unprepared to deal with onslaught of big data.

So the challenge is for companies to turn big data into insights which then turn into actions. Marketers can leverage analytics that can cull through this data and make actionable suggestions in real time. Increasingly these sophisticated analytics are integrated with or baked into systems of engagement which will help bridge these insights into execution.  Using analytics, companies can understand and even predict the best communication message, channel and time of delivery to meet each individual customer’s needs.

Content Customization and Personalization
We all know what bad marketing feels like. (Hello, spam.) So how should good marketing feel? It’s marketing so relevant that customers perceive it as a service. It’s messages that your customers actually look forward to rather than earmarking it straight into the junk mail folder.

There’s a tremendous opportunity for marketers to take a leadership role in delivering on this brand promise through personalization. It’s no longer just about providing a discount on slow moving products or a batch promotion, but rather sharing the right piece of content, at the right time, that makes the brand essential to the customer. By doing so, organizations will create a deeper sense of loyalty and convert more one-time customers into repeat buyers and even advocates on your behalf to their network of friends.

Maximizing Mobile
There are lots of shiny new objects in digital marketing that have marketers scurrying about to make sure they don’t miss out on the next big thing.  Some may ultimately end up being fads (Hello, SecondLife), and others have staying power (Hello, mobile). Mobile marketing’s explosive growth and pervasive consumer adoption are signaling that mobile is undoubtedly here to stay.

Mobile has a diverse and complex ecosystem of channels, and as a result, marketers need to think more broadly than a single monolithic “mobile” strategy. Instead, it’s thinking about your mobile website strategy; your mobile application strategy; your mobile messaging (push notifications, SMS, location based targeting) strategy; or your mobile advertising strategy. Moreover, you need to both be more effective within each mobile channel and better coordinate mobile with other channels.

Outpacing Competitors
Over the past five years, we’ve seen a shift in the consumer mindset that has pushed their expectations of retailers to an all-time high. Marketers now have a huge challenge to differentiate themselves by tapping into this new consumer attitude.  By leveraging experiential marketing, personalization and mobile marketing, organizations can deepen customer engagements. In a world of a “do more with less” mentality, marketers must focus on these areas in a thoughtful way to have any hope of outpacing their peers.

Alice Stein is president of the American Marketing Association, Boston Chapter, and Jay Henderson is strategy program director, IBM.



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