In an increasingly digital world, video is becoming the new norm for visual storytelling. It’s no surprise, given that video is a highly visual and effective medium for communicating with a brand’s audience.
Going beyond static images, videos use sound and movement to create a compelling message, making it an integral part of any brand’s online marketing strategy. According to Databox, almost 60% of marketers said video ads tend to drive more engagement than images.
To create online experiences that resonate with customers, every business should consider emerging video technologies that mirror the in-person experience, such as 3D and 360-degree videos that we highlighted in our last article. These immersive tools will build strong customer engagement that push the boundaries of the digital experience.
However, the key to using these tools effectively is to first get back to the basics and understand all of the fundamental strategies that can improve a brand’s video visual storytelling – one that reaches the right audience and generates strong ROI.
Segment audiences for a personalized connection
Creating great video content is wasted if the wrong audience is watching it. As with anything, personalized communication that targets the right consumer will lead to the strongest results. Accenture’s study reveals that 83% of consumers are willing to share their data to create a more personalized experience. It’s clear that consumers desire their favorite brands to truly understand them and their preferences.
Since one-to-one video personalization is not always possible, marketers can simply create one-to-small group outreach that segments customer data into specific categories, whether it be age, gender, location or behavior. A new restaurant opening in a New York neighborhood can target consumers who live in that specific region. A retailer with a new outdoor clothing line can segment their audience to target customers who have bought hiking gear in the past or have searched for camping items. These grouped segments can also inform the video’s message and storyboard, creating meaningful interactions that consumers will resonate with.
Use AI to boost efficiency
Managing video assets for each segment and campaign can take hours of manual work. Delivering video content in today’s competitive world demands an intelligent approach that provides speed and performance. This is where AI steps in to boost efficiency and make it easier than ever for organizations to create and distribute videos, all at scale.
With AI, teams can dynamically format, crop and resize video content, live crop to ensure the main subject is always the focus of the clip, automatically transcribe audio to produce subtitles, and generate short previews for visitors to click through and view more. This technology can also streamline workflows through AI-based auto-tagging, structured metadata and advanced search for real-time collaboration and on-the-fly content changes.
By taking the complexity out of managing videos with AI, companies can be more efficient with video creation and distribution and focus on delivering more engaging visual experiences that convert.
Measure video performance with analytics
To determine success, brands must measure their video campaigns to evaluate what’s working and what’s not. Each data point will help inform the on-going creative and marketing strategy, ultimately improving video ROI. To start, marketers can evaluate the following key metrics:
Who viewed the video?
How does page placement impact play?
How is performance impacted with auto-play?
What cookies are associated with the viewer?
Was there a call-to-action?
Which part of the video was replayed or skipped?
Was there a video abandonment event?
When did the abandonment event take place?
Based on the results, brands can easily pivot their video content and distribution strategy. Over time, these metrics should be updated and refined as marketers gain a better experience and understanding of the different components of video storytelling. With measurable goals, brands can constantly track what is happening to the video content and continuously improve and optimize those metrics with a sound strategy.
Brands can win with personalized, high-performance videos
The power of video visual storytelling cannot be underestimated. As we’ve seen from the pandemic, consumers have quickly adapted to all things video, making that medium even more central to a brand’s online marketing strategy in the coming years. Now more than ever, brands must understand where their audience is and create immersive and engaging videos that resonate.
Implementing these three main pillars creates a strong foundation for delivering the great video storytelling that consumers crave. Once these are established, marketers can move towards new video trends that will take their video content to the next level. In the end, the winners are those brands that deliver more personalized, high-performance videos to customers across the buyer journey.
In the early days of the pandemic, the University of Southern California, like many other educational institutions, had to do a swift pivot when it came to one of its most consequential activities of the year: commencement.
Over the course of 3 weeks, the university designed and set up a virtual commencement experience, explained Josh Koenig, co-founder and head of product at WebOps platform Pantheon, which counts USC as a client.
“They built out their own Twitch-stream-like experience, where they’d have an embedded video feed and chat and other messages,” Koenig said, speaking at the recent MarTech conference. “So they could have 27 different channels of this going on for different schools and niches and audiences.”
When the big day arrived, USC got 77,000 people to engage in the experience, significantly more than could possibly come to a normal in-person commencement, said Koenig.
“The first thing the team said to us when we did the recap was ‘We’re doing this again next year, for sure,'” he said. “Because their ability to reach into extended family networks and friend networks and open the experience of commencement to a much wider audience than they ever could have admitted into an auditorium is not something they every want to give up.”
The new normal
Koenig cited the experience as one example of how the digital transformation spurred by the COVID-19 era is driving lasting change.
At a time when so many people’s interactions with businesses are conducted solely online, Koenig urged the audience to step up to the challenge of delivering a great user experience.
“This is the primary, if not only, channel by which you’re going to be able to reach people, certainly you don’t want them to have a poor experience,” he said. “I think we’re going to see many, many more organizations really stepping up, taking this seriously and striving for excellence.”
What that means, according to Koenig, is being able to respond to changes in circumstances quickly, so that your digital communications are always as effective as they can be.
Structure your operations to enable agile marketing
“Can you can you respond in real time to social media? Can you evolve the experience of your website on a weekly basis, or potentially, if necessary, on a daily basis, because you’ve had to pivot a campaign or you’re sending out a new type of communication?,” he asked. “If the web experience component of your stack can’t move at that speed, it’s really a problem.”
“You want to be able to think strategically, you want to be able to act proactively, but a lot of marketing organizations, they’re frankly, just not there, even though they wish they would be, noted Koenig.
Koenig said marketers need to get beyond the idea of the website relaunch — that this big-bang process that occurs maybe once a year is the way to manage your site.
“What happens inevitably is the website’s unveiled, the relaunch happens. And it’s very exciting, it’s a big improvement, you fixed a lot of things, but it’s also incorrect in many ways,” he said. “There’s no way that you’re going to get it all right and stick the landing perfectly. So there’s this list of things that need to get fixed or adjusted.”
Instead, marketers should invest resources in the ability to iterate early and often — this is achieved by using WebOps. “Rather than thinking of a relaunch that solves all the problems, think about applying a new way of managing and delivering through your web channels,” he said.
It’s not all about technology
One important ingredient for achieving this is a technology stack that can support these iterative processes, but Koenig said you also need to develop clear-cut processes to empower content creators.
“You’re going to figure out how to give people the authority to write something and publish it with minimal overhead or bureaucratic review,” he said. “How do we invest in kind of messaging guidelines and content strategy, so that you can… make content creators really accountable for the impact of what they’re creating, because they know how to be on brand.”
Accountability goes hand in hand with analytics, so that you can steer each iteration toward your big-picture business goals.
“Ultimately, the purpose of all this is that you connect the web strategy with the business value. Your website has a job to do — you have to decide what that job is, ” Koenig said. “And there’s lots of stakeholders for a flagship website for the public face of your brand or your company. But you really got to figure out what’s the most important thing, and then start to measure that and and align your activities around driving that.”
It may be a hard truth for us best-intentioned marketers to swallow, but two-thirds of customers believe that marketers do not care about their needs.
That’s according to a survey of 5,000 individuals by Pega. And when you look at what marketers face, it is easy to see how that kind of sentiment takes root.
“Think about the scale of your business,” said Andrew LeClair, senior product marketing manager at Pegasystems. “You’re trying to manage literally billions of interactions, with millions of customers, across hundreds and hundreds of programs, on dozens and dozens of channels — and that’s a lot of complexity. And unfortunately, that complexity leaves us exposed. There’s not a lot of chances for us to get it right, but there’s a ton of opportunities for things to go wrong, and it only takes one poor experience and the customer is out the door.”
It’s a repeating cycle for many marketers as the demands of conversion, and the technologies at our disposal to create blast after blast, cement this idea that marketers don’t care.
But according to LeClair, a more empathetic approach may not only create better faith with your customers, it may also be better for business.
“Acting with empathy is all about understanding somebody else’s feelings, their thoughts, their emotions, their context or situation, and then being able to adapt to that within a given conversation,” said LeClair, speaking at the recent MarTech Conference. “And that seems pretty straightforward if you’re talking about a human that’s engaging with another human, but when it’s us as a brand trying to do this at scale, we really struggle.”
So here’s how we can turn it around.
As marketers know, the universe of martech is vastly expanding as there are now more than 8,000 solutions available. But while all of that tech creates a host of ways to engage with your customers, that doesn’t mean you should overdo it.
“That’s 8,000 disconnected, siloed applications, each of which has their own brain, their own rules, data models, and unique ways of understanding, interacting, and engaging with customers,” said LeClair. “And even if they’re from the same vendor, we all know that none of these were built to work together. They were each built to help businesses like ours sell products to customers in big batches, in large segments. They weren’t designed to be agile and help us solve customers’ problems during times like these.”
Instead, LeClair said it is crucial to install a central decision authority that sits at the center of all usable engagement channels and collects and analyzes the data. It’s the difference between working with 8,000 “disconnected brains” or just one.
“And what this brain does is based on all the data it’s collected is look at each customer, in each unique moment, and determines what’s their context, what’s their situation. And is there anything that we can do that’s going to add value? Is there a next best action for us to take? And we figure all of that out in real-time, using things like AI, adaptive models, machine learning, then deliver that next best action back out across any of these channels.”
P x V x L
That idea of executing on the next-best-actions is really key if your organization is going to be able to deliver a marketing strategy that is more empathetic to your customers but also works at scale for your business.
The key there, says LeClair, is in understanding the propensity that a customer has to accept an offer, that value that will bring to your business, all within the context of the given situation.
“The next best action is simply the one with the highest total P [propensity] times V [value] times L [lever],” he said.
LeClair gave the example of a customer “on our app during a lunch break clicking on a bunch of pages.” Those clicks are streaming directly into that centralized brain, the decision hub, which is re-scoring the profile in real-time to see if that activity is suggesting any change to the customer’s current state — like if they may be becoming a retention risk.
“Then, what we can do is instantly recommend our next best retention offer and surface that right in the mobile channel as she’s online,” he said.
But perhaps that same customer a bit later purchases something, which giver the marketer a new opportunity to suggest something that pairs with that purchase.
“The second that purchase data comes in we rescore her again. P times V times L, and now her new next best action isn’t that retention plan. Instead, we switch to a rewards offer,” he said.
“If we’re going to engage with empathy, it’s not enough just to know what to do. We’ve then got to get that decision out to the customer during their moment of need, and then be able to adapt and shift that experience in real-time in order to ensure that it’s always relevant to their current situation.”
Showing we care
While creating a centralized decision authority and leveraging it to execute next-best-actions that are relevant to the customer can go a long way towards showing more empathy as a marketer, sometimes it is important to remember who is really in charge of that relationship.
“What we need to do is engage the customer on their terms,” said LeClair. “They’re the ones that are in control. It’s not about when we feel like talking to them. It’s constantly listening, constantly monitoring their context and engaging during their moments of need only when we can add value.”
We hear a lot about how to choose a solution for your martech stack, but less about what you do once you’ve made a decision. At the recent MarTech virtual event, one session took on that topic: “So, you have a new CDP… Now what?”
“We chose a vendor, everything’s going to be awesome,” said Ben Thompson, director of e-commerce analytics and tag management for Bluestem Brands, the parent of Fingerhut. “But it doesn’t always go that smoothly, does it?”
Even after Bluestem committed to adopting Tealium’s Audience Stream CDP, Thompson described a situation in which key stakeholders were anything but enthusiastic about getting the technology into place.
“We had some pretty strong internal resistance to the CDP,” said Thompson. Bluestem’s IT group wanted to maintain tight control over the data and the processes around it; the legal department was worried about GDPR and CCPA. So Thompson shared how Bluestem overcame these challenges and explained what he learned along the way.
The current process
Before you adopt a technology, there’s likely someone at your company whose job it is to perform the ugly, ungainly process of bringing together data and making sense of it before it can be used in marketing.
Here’s how Thompson described the status quo at Bluestem: “The usual process for one of these campaigns, whether it’s email, social or other media looks like this — you have all of these silos, and you need to get something from each of them. So what you’re going to do is you’re going to query it and combine it using SAS SQL or whatever your favorite tool is. You’ll export it from there. You’re going to move the file around on FTP sites, etc. You’re going to import it into another system.” Then and only then could you activate and run the campaign that you were planning.
“For us, assembling campaigns like this meant we needed to invest a lot of time and money just to create a one-off campaign that didn’t help us build a unified [customer] profile,” said Thompson. “It required skilled coders. And finally, it was just plain slow.”
At Bluestem, the person in charge of social media was performing that process, and you might think he would feel threatened by a new technology coming along to take over. Instead, advised Thompson, you need to enlist that person to help identify what data elements should be included in the CDP. That person was also key to helping measure and evangelize the great results achieved by the technology, given all the time saved. In Bluestem’s case, said Thompson, they saved that person 40 days every year by automating the process of gathering the targeting list. And he got to spend his time perfecting the social media presence instead.
The use cases
The second important element Thompson described is the assembly of use cases to prove the value of the technology.
“Someone in your marketing org has wanted to do something awesome for a long time, but has probably hit technical walls,” said Thompson. At Bluestem, they wanted to identify people who had abandoned a cart or performed a similar activity, then email them a custom 10% discount that could only be used by the recipients. But it wasn’t possible with their existing tech stack.
“Audince Stream’s Webhook integration talking to our internal promo service was able to accomplish this,” said Thompson. “So now, when you abandon on Fingerhut.com Audience Stream sees that, tells our promo service to tie you, tells our ESP to email you that promotion. And we have a happy customer who can come back and complete their purchase with a nice discount that’s not going to get out to the masses.”
This single use case brought many in Bluestem’s marketing organization onto the CDP bandwagon, because it was something they’d wanted to accomplish for a long time.
Thompson described how accomplishments like this helped win over key decision makers who’d been preventing the project from moving forward.
The steering team
As you roll out the solution within your organization, Thompson recommended assembling a steering team that’s accountable for providing regular updates to stakeholders and leadership.
Thompson recommended that this group have a couple of marketing folks, including a key decision maker. Additionally, you’ll want team members from web development, legal and email operations, as well as whoever is running display and social campaigns and whoever is running the website from day to day.
The data cleanup
To be able to fully utilize a solution like a CDP, you need to clean up and organize your data. Specifically, Thompson advised looking for data that isn’t used or isn’t accurate, and eliminating any stray sources of PII that could cause trouble down the line.
Then you want to design the framework for bringing in data, including offline data. The person who was performing the manual processes previously will be a great resource in this stage.
“Avoid being tempted to just toss everything in, as it will cost you more,” he said. “And you’ll have a lot of information just sitting there that you may not use.”
Share your results
“So you’ve done a lot of work to line up your quick wins, build a strong steering team, you’re actually firing up a few use cases and development,” said Thompson. “Make sure that along the way, you’re really showing these results to your stakeholders and your partners.”
Thompson said Bluestem developed some key reports that could be shared widely to help gain momentum around the implementation of the CDP.
Don’t stop iterating
Once you’ve gotten some quick wins under your belt, it’s important to continue innovating.
“It’s easy to rest back on the initial wins that you’ve had,” said Thompson. But it’s really tricky to think of new ways to win with your CDP.”
Thompson said Bluestem had been successful with personalizing their homepage based on a shopper’s previous behaviors, so they’re shown products they’ve demonstrated their interest in.
“So we took this building block and let it shape some new use cases,” Thompson said. “We took those audiences and actually started shaping whole campaigns around them. We made cold weather campaigns for people who were fans of coats, fireplaces, boots, other wintery gear. We also made a toy campaign for anyone who our model said could be toy buyers or who Audience Stream had seen browse or buy them in the past. And we made a cleanup event targeted at customers who are browsing tools.”
“We continue to run these campaigns and shape new ones as we’ve improved bounce rates,” Thompson continued. “We’ve improved our revenue per visits or funnel depth from all of these.”
Thompson also recommended evolving the steering team over time, tackling new channels, and introducing the CDP to different departments within the company. As you do that, he suggested you develop a ticketing system to handle all of the incoming requests.
“Make sure, especially early on, that you sit down and walk through step by step with the requester,” so you understand what they’re looking to achieve, advises Thompson. “So many people think of the CDP as the magic box because you’ve done some magic things with it. And they’d be surprised at how many options they have and how specific their requests may need to be.”
Finally, Thompson encouraged marketers to continue to explore the functionality within the CDP, noting that tools he wasn’t even aware of initially — Audience Sizing and Jobs — have become his favorite features.
Oftentimes, when we visualize the perfect buyer’s journey, we’re looking at it from a marketer’s perspective, imagining what we’re trying to achieve with our initiatives. But, ultimately, the definition of the perfect journey is in the eye of the buyer. The buyer doesn’t really care about your programs, your channels or what technologies you’re using, they’re just trying to get enough information to make a purchase decision.
We recently spoke to Integrate CMO Deb Wolf about the perfect buyer’s journey and the obstacles marketing teams face when trying to deliver the ideal customer experience. In the lightly-edited conversation below, you’ll find Wolf’s specific tips for building connections between siloed channels, technologies and teams, as well as the reasons why this is so important today.
Q. As a B2B buyer yourself as well as a seasoned marketer, could you share your thoughts on the perfect buyer’s journey?
A. When we buy marketing technology or services as a customer, we want to understand the mission of the company we’re doing business with, we want to understand their products and their functionality. We want to understand which customers actually use their solutions and what value they gain from them.
There’s a natural progression of the information customers are looking for and it’s not linear. Just like any B2B purchase, we may have 16 to 20 potential people who are involved in the decision process and we all have different needs. My perspective as the approver of the buying decision is different than that of the user of the system. They’re going to look for more details on the functionality, whereas I’m going to look for more value. And what procurement needs, or our privacy people or security people need, are entirely different than what we need as the users.
So tailoring the experience to whoever it is that’s looking for information about your company is what makes it perfect for that buyer. As marketers, we need to treat our buyers the same way we’d want to be treated.
Where are we failing to make connections?
Q. Can you describe some of the different silos that we see in marketing today that prevent us from delivering the ideal buyer journey?
A. Silos tend to exist across four different areas in marketing: channels, technology, data and your own team. They’re ultimately interwoven, but I think it really starts with the teams and the way in which we work.
Marketing teams have many specialists and few generalists. Event marketers plan events. Demand generation professionals drive leads. PR folks have been focused on earned media. And few, if any, of those marketers are looking at that entire buyer or account journey.
We don’t really have a role within the marketing organization whose job it is to build a horizontal buyer’s journey. That has to be done through a collaboration across teams in order to create the experience we’re trying to provide. There are few people who are really thinking about the impact that the entire experience leaves on our potential customers.
If we think about our demand channels as swim lanes — with each different specialist area in its own lane — it seems like sometimes our teams are in a race against each other. Everyone wants to be the first to have a conversation with the customer, the first to get credit for driving the lead, etc.
Nine times out of ten what you’ll hear from marketers is they have this desire to delight the customer with the right content in the right channel at the right time. And they can describe what they think of as the ultimate buyer’s journey. But they lose their way when it comes to executing it.
There’s so much technology involved. That’s one of the other challenges. Each of those channels is associated with a different part of the marketing technology stack. Many marketing organizations can have upwards of 50 to 60 different pieces of technology in their stack today.
When you ask a marketer what’s core to their system, they’ll tell you it’s a marketing automation system. But they’ll also tell you that their comms team is using a different piece of technology to monitor coverage, their event organizers have technology they use for registering people at events and scanning badges on the floor.
The biggest challenge is all of the data that this technology creates. Data comes from all of those different siloed technology channels, and campaigns and, at the end, a marketing operations person has the goal of trying to make sense of it all.
When we think about all of these silos, you can sum them up as the way your team operates, the technology from which they’re operating, the channels across which they’re driving, and then, ultimately, the data that it creates.
How did we get here?
Q. So how do you think we got here? How did we get into this position where we have all these silos?
A. My theory is that we have a lot of high performing marketers that are just driven to succeed — it’s one of the natural traits that you see across the marketing persona in any of the different areas that we’ve talked about.
So, typically what happens is you end up having a marketer who thinks: “My job is to do this. I have budget aligned to do this. And, ultimately, I live in a world where I’m heads-down on trying to accomplish that thing, so I can be successful.”
Part of this disconnect between disciplines stems from marketing teams being decentralized — they could live in business units, they could be regionally based, and now we’re all living remotely. So the discussions that used to happen over a water cooler don’t even happen over a water cooler anymore. I think this starts with our teams, and how we align work and think about getting work done.
Q. That makes a lot of sense. So what are the consequences of this situation for the buyer?
A. When I think about these poor buyers, they’re really focused on one thing and one thing only, and that’s finding the right solution for the problem they’re trying to solve.
In the past, a traditional B2B sales engagement had buyers working one-to-one with the salesperson and it was very personalized. Salespeople would answer questions and get buyers the kind of information they needed. But now, marketing has filled in a lot of that space.
But so many times, we are not providing buyers with the kind of information they want, which means that, ultimately, they’re not going to believe in our brand. This is a brand experience from the moment they start looking at your organization. And if you can’t provide them with a great customer experience, I’m not sure that they think you’re going to be a very good vendor for them to deal with.
A lot of B2B buyers today have become highly consumerized. They expect the B2B buying process to be like the B2C buying process, only it’s not. When you look at B2C and you think about how advanced we’ve gotten in understanding the buying needs of the consumer, then you try to mirror that in the account needs or the B2B buyer needs within a larger decision-making process, I think we’ve failed the buyer altogether. Ultimately, it leaves a bad taste in their mouth and a bad first impression of your brand.
First steps toward building necessary connections
Q. So, do you think marketers want to break down those silos that are causing these disconnects?
A. I do. When you ask marketers what they’re trying to achieve today — and we just did some research in the August timeframe — the one thing they’ll tell you is that they have more data than they know what to do with. They say: “Don’t give us more data; we have data coming out of every part of every piece of technology that we have. How can you help us piece that data together?” A better buying experience, that’s what we’re really trying to do. We’re trying to get as much information to those buyers as we can, so that we provide them with that optimal experience.
Most marketers are pretty brand savvy, so they want the relationship that a potential customer has with their organization to be very positive. But what’s holding them back are these organizational structures that we talked about, the technology that we talked about, and this mindset that focuses on single channel execution.
Rather than thinking “I’m driving this campaign or event or webinar” they need to think “I’m part of this customer journey. I need to help the customer achieve what they want to achieve.” And that requires a lot more work cross-functionally to bring technology together in a place where you can actually understand the performance of specific campaigns and activate an omni-channel buyer’s journey. It’s only then that you can provide those buyers with the next best thing to do. When you’re pulling so much data out of so many different types of technology, it’s hard to activate anything and move them along the funnel.
A new definition of success
Q. So how can marketers begin to break through? What are the steps that they need to take?
A. First, this is about getting your data together and really understanding who you’re even marketing to. If you have incomplete or inaccurate data from any of these different campaigns, and we get a lot of that, that’s the first problem you need to solve.
I think a lot of marketers are dealing with marketing databases that are somewhere in the range of 40% marketability — meaning that only 40% of the records have all of the information you’d want to know about a buyer in order to be able to market to them. If you don’t have all that, if you have incomplete and inaccurate data, that’s no way to make a first impression.
Nobody wants to get an email or an invitation to an event that says “Dear D. Wolf.” What about my first name? It’s so impersonal. That kind of information is key as a first step in starting off a great customer journey.
Q. What excites you about the opportunities for a great buyer’s journey?
A. One of the most important and interesting things about what’s going on in marketing teams today is the future of marketing work. What are the roles that we don’t have today that will be more focused on the entire buying journey? You’ve seen this with things like account based marketing. Five years ago, we didn’t have an account-based marketing manager — that title did not exist in a marketing team.
And today, you’re starting to see roles that originate maybe in demand gen, but really touch an integrated function across all of the different channels that we’re using today. That’s one of the super exciting things I’m seeing. What is it going to mean for the future of our teams and the future of people that are just coming into marketing today?
Perhaps it won’t have occurred to them to think about marketing more from a specialist standpoint and they’ll asking questions like:
How do our top-of-funnel demand marketers expand their efforts into mid funnel?
How do they use all their channels to digitally nurture?
How do they quit thinking about email as the one way to get in front of their prospects and move them along the funnel?
How do we use things like intent data and the buying signals that buyers are giving us? Today, we score these leads based on who the person was and what they did, but this is just two dimensional scoring based on what the marketer thinks.
How can we start using the signals the buyer is giving us to actually point us toward how these campaigns should be run — to infuse more intelligence into what we’re doing from a marketing standpoint?
Those are all super exciting because we’re going to have to conquer and figure out and understand and experiment with our marketing and see where we go.
Q. It seems like one of the challenges might be the psychology of that very driven specialty marketing person who really wants success and wants all the budget to come to their area.
A. Today, we KPI our employees based on a lot of output, like “how many events did you complete? How much press did you get? How many demand campaigns did you run?” But what we’re really more interested in is the outcome.
You can’t look at the outcome in one single channel; the outcome is a revenue-based outcome for the organization. And so you have to look at all of it together, and it shouldn’t be done retrospectively, as it is today. Today, you’ll have a marketing ops person who takes all these different channels and pulls them together to get some picture of what actually happened in this account that closed.
Instead, we should be looking at marketing success metrics like how many accounts we got to and what the outcomes were across those accounts. How many new buyers did we bring in? How did we expand business? These are new outcomes that you can’t answer just by looking at channels or technology. You have to change the mindset of the marketer.
Autodesk faced a challenge with which many marketers are familiar. Teams that were expert in their various disciplines — channel marketing, regional marketing, industry marketing, etc. — had diverged into silos in the absence of a strong marketing performance management program. There was no unified view of how marketing spend affected program goals across all of these initiatives.
Overcoming the pain point trifecta
In short, the company faced three major challenges:
Various marketing teams were operating in silos.
Tracking of marketing spend was poor.
The marketing team was unable to track spend toward performance.
In a recent talk at the MarTech virtual conference, Autodesk’s Zoe Marquardt, the company’s consultant on marketing performance management (MPM), explained how the company managed to tackle these three interrelated problems by instituting an MPM program.
“Without breaking down those silos, you can’t get to a point where you’re tracking spend in a unified way across campaigns,” said Marquardt. “You can’t even develop unified campaigns across the company.”
Alignment and unity to drive success with MPM
As it undertook this initiative, Autodesk had four goals:
To get more visibility into marketing tactics and their performance.
To enable a quarterly planning process with a steering-level review to ensure alignment.
To define expectations for next quarter’s execution and spend.
To enable the company to validate if expectations are met after executing.
“We have achieved [these objectives] to some extent,” said Marquardt. “Of course, we’re always looking to improve and build upon these goals, to get more visibility into marketing tactics and their performance.”
To help it, Audodesk adopted Allocadia’s MPM software, and, by getting all marketing groups across the company to utilize the platform, have been able to achieve an overview of all of the company’s campaigns and tactics.
Marquardt says the company ties tactics with campaigns and performance using the software, and can also tailor dashboards to address the needs of various constituents within the company.
Autodesk now conducts quarterly planning meetings to ensure that all spending aligns with the company’s overarching goals.
“It’s one thing to be able to track your tactics and their performance, it’s another thing to be able to then, return to those individuals who are setting strategy at a higher level to say, ‘you know, does this make sense? This appears to be doing well, but is it really in line with our business objectives?'” she said. “So we do that on a quarterly basis with a steering team.”
At each quarterly meeting, marketers come in with already-defined expectations for the next quarter’s execution and spend, which makes it easier for the steering team to come in and validate those decisions.
Additionally, the quarterly planning session is a time to look over the previous quarter and see whether the campaigns and tactics actually perform as expected.
“Exceeding the numbers you expected for a quarter is one thing, but it’s another to really understand why you’re doing well,” said Marquardt. “And, of course, to do that you have to understand your audiences, your campaigns, and everything that’s in that intersection when you’re actually executing marketing strategy.”
Measuring what was intangible
At the quarterly meetings, and on a regular basis, marketers go into Allocadia and view the marketing performance summary dashboard.
“It’s kind of that quintessential image of MPM at Autodesk at this point,” Marquardt said. “Because it’s this entry point right into the MPM program and marketing execution that would have been impossible a year ago.”
Marquardt notes that the left side of the dashboard shows planned spend rolled up by campaign. On the right, users can click into the Demand Generation Performance charts to view the campaigns and spend that drove that performance.
Each marketer enters in their quarterly plan for a campaign and how much will be spent, then the information on that tactic carries through to execution, and results and actuals that are pumped back in to feed the dashboard summary.
“So we really do have this holistic view,” said Marquardt. “Holistic in the sense that it covers marketing at Autodesk and holistic in the sense that it covers that beginning to end process when a marketer is planning, and then seeing the results and then adapting performance from there, of course.”
Marquardt says the dashboard, and the multiple other dashboards related to it, is a framework that the company established.
Allocadia is a central component and, within that interface, the marketers create tactics — a paid media execution, a webcast, or any other sort of digital marketing execution — and then, depending on what kind of activity it is, connect it to external software.
There’s no silver bullet and it requires a solid foundation of people, process and technology to realize the much-sought-after single customer view. But it’s not out of the realm of possibility. Those are three key takeaways from a recent session at the MarTech conference featuring Reem Seghairoun of multi-brand apparel company VF Corp and Cory Munchbach of Customer Data Platform BlueConic.
In this session, Munchbach asked Seghairoun how VF Corp, the parent of brands like Timberland, Vans and Smartwool, began looking for a Customer Data Platform. (Spoiler alert: It ended up choosing to partner with BlueConic.)
Where to start
“About a year and a half almost two years ago now, we pursued a journey in search of a technology that aligned with our customer-centricity objectives, and ultimately selected a CDP,” said Seghairoun, adding that VF began with its use cases rather than with a specific technology in mind. “And the journey has been going on since.”
Seghairoun noted that any company that isn’t 100% digital and starting from scratch will have the challenge of dealing with its existing data infrastructure.
“We had pieces of the puzzle in place. So we started by looking at the gaps and what we wanted to implement in the future,” she said. Specifically, VF was looking for a technology that supported sophisticated customer analytics and addressed consumer privacy concerns. It sought a solution that was easy to use that meshed with the company culture. VF considered building versus buying, while always keeping customer-centricity front and center.
Because VF operates multiple brands and has e-commerce operations as well as retail stores, Seghairoun said it was especially important that a CDP solution allowed for the kind of seamless integration that the company strives to provide its customers.
“BlueConic’s CDP has the ability to integrate customer data from stores as well as online channels; it has a lot of the readily-available and pre-built APIs that allow us to connect to the different channels that come and go over time,” she said, noting that integration with customer service was also important for VF.
A very deliberate rollout
Munchbach described VF’s very deliberate approach when rolling out the CDP technology within the company, beginning with a single brand and then expanding to more and continuing to build out the use of the platform.
“We did look at our brands and selected one that seemed to have fresh problems,” said Seghairoun. “So we had the low-hanging fruit, if you will. We wanted to get in there and support the brand while giving a CDP a try,” since it was the first time such a platform was brought into the company.
“That’s why we selected doing one brand at the beginning,” she continued. “But also it allowed us to… get people familiar with the tool and also get the technology team familiar with it and see if implementation can go really well before we scale. Generally speaking, we like to approach newer technologies in this manner.”
Over time, VF has learned a lot about how internal teams leverage data from a CDP and the best way to staff new implementations.
“Taking care of the data front — understanding what type of data you want to bring in, how you want to bring it in — strategizing that work ahead of time, can buy a lot of time when it comes down to the CDP implementation,” said Seghairoun. “The other thing that we learned is just really bringing your users along the journey from the very beginning, can pay off a lot. As we did the implementation, we started learning more and more, and I think we’ve become better at figuring out the type of roles that are useful to have in every implementation.”
How to measure success
Munchbach also spoke about how VF measured the success of the technology adoption. “One of the things that I was struck by from the Timberland team during their implementation,” she said, “was how thoughtful they were about the way they were measuring the impact of this addition to their tech stack.” They thought about cost-efficiencies, workflow efficiencies and their ability to provide the better customer journey that they sought.
Seghairoun shared a little more about the company’s approach, saying: “When we’re measuring how well a product implementation goes for us, we kind of look at three things — one, of course, efficiencies. Does it really do a better job at lowering costs internally? Then the second, but the most important one is, does it align with our consumer-centricity objectives? Does it allow us to have that great relationship and provide the experience we would like to provide our consumers? Monetization comes naturally, I think, as the third part, and organically, if you do well with the first two.”
Marketers currently using Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) consider these platforms nearly as valuable as CRMs and DMPs when it comes to wringing value out of their customer data. That’s according to a survey of U.S. marketers using CDPs in companies with more than $500M of revenue annually, which was undertaken in July and August by Advertiser Perceptions and sponsored by Treasure Data.
Treasure Data CMO Tom Treanor and Stuart Schneiderman from Advertiser Perceptions shared the survey results in a session at the MarTech conference recently.
The results provide very interesting insights into how marketers currently using CDPs view the technology: what they’re relying on it for, how it fits into their stacks and what value it provides.
CDP use cases
The most common use cases for CDPs, the survey found, were to personalize digital campaigns (63%), to unify customer data (63%), and to assist in mapping out the customer journey/experience (60%). Not far behind were to report on campaign performance and ROI (59%), to build and maintain targetable audience segments (58%), and to extract actionable customer segments (56%).
“CDP is on the hook for a lot of various critical use cases,” noted Schneiderman. “Certainly one of the critical use cases is data unification, bringing together customer data from various sources and platforms. And then once you get beyond that critical use case, then it’s about driving better sales communication, aligning with customer journeys, greater reporting and measurement and also driving advanced insights.”
When it comes to meeting those critical use cases and driving needed improvements, the respondents found CDPs provided the most improvements when it comes to organizing customer data and allowing it to be acted upon.
The study found that most users were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their CDPs, and Schneiderman noted that breaking down the data further revealed that marketers who’d been using their CDP for more than 2 years were more likely to report being “very satisfied.”
“It’s taking up to that two-year mark to really drive the strongest of satisfaction versus just being satisfied,” said Schneiderman. He and Treanor suggested that it may take a certain time commitment for marketers to learn how best to use the technology and begin realizing the greatest value from the solution.
Schneiderman said the study then sought to determine what, other than the length of usage time of CDPs, was driving these highest satisfaction levels.
“What’s striking, notes Schneiderman, “is that those who were able to make significant strides in data ingestion across multiple sources are much more likely to be very satisfied. Those who are opening that data up to other systems are much more likely to be very satisfied.” Those aligning their data to the customer journey and doing more cross-channel customer journey orchestration were also more likely to be satisfied.
One benefit businesses may be seeking to realize — eliminating staffers that are currently manually manipulating that data — may not be realistic. But the survey respondents did say their current employees are able to be more efficient.
Before adopting a Customer Data Platform (CDP), CarParts.com had a vast dataset of customer behavioral data, but had issues with scaling to take advantage of it. In addition, it wasn’t able to glean insights from real-time signals as it would have liked to do.
“We weren’t really getting to that one-to-one personalization and we felt like we were falling short,” said Houman Akhavan, CMO of CarParts.com, speaking in a recent session at the MarTech virtual conference. “With all of the advancements available in CDPs we saw the value of being able to really understand the voice of the customer and being able to market to them in a very relevant and personalized fashion.”
“Through our SmartHub CDP integration, just this year alone we have generated over a quarter billion personalized one-to-one messages,” said Akhavan, later adding that understanding your customers’ unique attributes is critical to determining how to use a CDP for personalization.
For example, Akhavan said, in the auto parts vertical, the most obvious attribute is the vehicle that a person drives. One might have a Chevy truck and another might drive a Ford Taurus, and the way you would market to them around their vehicle would speak to those unique characteristics.
“But the same thing applies to many different verticals,” he said. “It goes back to really understanding your customer and creating this profile,” that addresses the person’s preferences and motivating factors. Then, and only then, said Akhavan, you can devise a strategy and adopt technology that allows you to speak to that individual in a very personalized manner.
Akhavan detailed the specific characteristics CarParts.com was seeking in a platform, which included:
Scalability – the ability to easily ingest millions of records of customer information, including all of the data being generated by e-commerce shoppers every day.
UX – a user-friendly interface that enables marketers to develop segments and orchestrate campaigns without doing a ton of manual labor.
Incorporation of real-time user signals – because so much data is being continually generated, and customers are quickly making buying decisions, it’s critical that marketers be able to capitalize on this data before it grows stale.
Predictive modeling – once all of the data is available, you need to be able to use it to garner insights about customers and potential customers. Is this individual likely to have a high customer lifetime value, or is the person likely to churn? Depending on the answer, you approach marketing to them in a different way.
With a platform, a central hub, that embodies all of these things, “you can have very custom tailored approaches to these, you know, vastly, vastly different audiences,” said Akhavan. “Without that, you’re not able to get to that one-to-one personalization.”
Chittoor noted that, when talking to marketers, he never encounters a shortage of ideas or a lack of focus on the customer. “I think the limitation that holds back a lot of other marketers…is the lack of the right technology platform which can help them iterate and deliver experiences at the speed of their own ideas,” he said.
The omnichannel strategy for an multi-touchpoint world
Five or ten years ago, each marketing channel was managed in a silo and the folks working on that channel didn’t have the larger picture of the entire customer journey. Therefore, there could be no such thing as an omnichannel marketing strategy.
“Today, consumer behavior is changing and consumers aren’t interacting with you with just one touchpoint, or just one marketing channel,” said Akhavan. “On average, there’s probably at least five to 10 interactions across different channels that are taking place before a conversion event happens…. So, really, having a central hub that’s taking in and ingesting all these insights across multiple touchpoints and marketing channels is really going to allow you to have that true cohesive experience across different channels.”
Akhavan said one good example of this is how the CDP is integrated into CarParts.com’s call center. When a customer or prospect calls in, the agent should have access to the information that person has already revealed online, such as their vehicle or particular parts they’ve been looking at. That way, the person doesn’t have to start from scratch explaining what they need.
“At the end of the day, time is money, and you want to make these seamless experiences and really make them fast,” he said. “Customers appreciate that.”
And they’ve shown their appreciation for that customer experience. Akhavan says click-through rates have increased as much as 400% when messages were personalized. “Who wants to receive a generic message?,” notes Akhavan. “If they see something generic that doesn’t really talk to their needs or motivations, they’ll probably just tune out that advertising.” Additionally, adopting the CDP has allowed CarParts.com to grow revenue from email by 2X.