Magazine article CRM Magazine

Transforming Customer Connections

Magazine article CRM Magazine

Transforming Customer Connections

Article excerpt

As marketing's quest to accelerate new and repeat sales remains unchanged, the means to that end has entirely shifted over the past few years. This fundamental shift can be tied, in part, to digital innovation; however, it's not just about technology. It's about the lifestyle shift, and what could be considered people's 'workstyle' shift--which I'll define as a person's expectation and preference in how they work and engage with a company.

This article explores how companies are looking to transform how they engage with customers and partners while connecting to their existing marketing automation systems specifically centering on three undeniable facts that are the crux for the transformation:

1. Customer conversations and engagement, not marketing content, is king

The marketing funnel, technically, is dead. Yes, prospective customers still move through a buying cycle, but the difference is that they have many more ways to learn about a company throughout the buying process and to connect with existing customers. Content strategy is still important, but a conversation and engagement strategy is now a pre-req. For example, the majority of customers now expect companies to offer 'social' customer support (as reported in 'The Social Customer Service Year in Review: Insights for your 2014 Strategy").

The best path for companies is to move away from the separate knowledge base, support portal, partner portal, customer blog, idea place, docs system, etc. and move toward creating a central hub, or owned online community for customers and partners. Regardless of the technology used, there are three key elements to a winning conversation and engagement strategy:

* Connect: Here is where you'll build relationships and create value among customers and partners. You'll also empower individuals to discover people and information that matter to them.

* Communicate: Through open communications, you'll ensure customers and partners have access to the right information at the right time. From there, you can turn the communication into accessible and valuable intellectual property.

* Collaborate: Your customers are the single greatest untapped resource for driving innovation. And by really listening you can not only create better products but also optimize your marketing approaches by adapting to their needs.

2. Within two years, the CMO will spend more on technology than the CIO

According to Gartner, the CMO becoming the #1 technology buyer is not only inevitable, it's right around the corner. CRM, marketing automation, mobile, online communities, customer analytics, and other tech purchases are all driving this shift.

Additionally, a shift that's occurred since 2011 and one that continues is the investment focus on cloud technologies where the hosting and technical aspects are provided as a service vs. being handled by the company. This trend means less internal IT involvement while ensuring key systems automatically stay up to date.

With this shift, and as the pace of innovation by technology vendors accelerates at an ever-increasing rate, the appetite for 'building it yourself' continues to decrease.

An analogy to this trend is this--would you prefer to buy a pre-built laptop where you can choose a few key add-ons (memory, etc. …

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