The digital marketing world is working hard to shift from channel specific communications and optimizations to a more consumer centric, customer journey model of communications. Every digital marketing technology company is building an omni channel story of some sort into their webinars, sales pitches and tech stack so it sounds super easy – but it’s not!
I work with a lot of clients, some pre-internet (older insurance companies like Progressive) and some post-internet (startups, Amazon.com). Post internet companies have an advantage with a customer centric view of the world because they are starting from scratch with regards to how they collect data, which channels they use to communicate and their sales channels.
However, everyone has issues getting to a true customer centric communication platform across all channels. Here are the top challenges I see:
- Organizational challenges. In order to have a central focus on the customer you have to have an organization that is built around customers and not products or divisions. This is super difficult in larger organizations where distinct marketing teams work with discreet customer groups whether that is by industry or by stage of the customer journey – Branding, Acquisition, Conversion, Retention, Win-Back. In smaller organizations that tend to work with a smaller audience type (B2B or B2C) it is easier to organization around the customer. But, you run into the next challenge type.
- Technology challenges. The internet was built on technology that optimized individual channels. Ad servers like DoubleClick connects display media with an on-site conversion. Search platforms like Google AdWords and Bing Ads do the same thing but are built specifically for paid search. Facebook is the same for their social platform. Each one of these technology platforms are tuned to deliver the media based on the levers in that channel but they don’t have a consistent identification at an individual level ACROSS the tools. So, we are stuck with the best optimization platform for each channel or selecting a platform that “works” with multiple platforms, but doesn’t give you the consistency of communication across the different marketing communications platforms.
- Data challenges. Data challenges are more prevalent in pre-internet companies that have built up databases around different functions: Acquisition, lead nurture, churn, product usage, customer service and retention. I see this a lot in big organizations that may have a great acquisition data system, but aren’t using any of the same data or tactics to minimize churn and build lifetime value through retention.
- Leadership & Vision. It is easy to talk about customer centricity and being customer first. However it takes executive leadership and a commitment to the vision to build an organization that has financial incentives aligned with customer centricity across channels and has the patience to get through through painful technology and data transitions.
- Employee Talent. New technology has given us great capabilities in connecting different channels and devices to a single person – commonly called ‘people centric marketing’. The technology is still relatively young compared to channel specific platforms which means that not as many people have had the opportunity to train on and use the different tools. In addition, the general marketing population doesn’t have the understanding of what these platforms can do or have a marketing communication strategy that can take advantage of the new tools. It is much easier, for example, to find someone who can do a great job optimizing paid search campaigns or drive a comprehensive organic search program than to find someone that can create a true omni-channel communication strategy driving powerful technology.
Omni-channel is hard. Personalized communications to an individual throughout their relationship with the brand over time is harder. The technology to make this more of a reality is available now, whether it is customer orchestration platform like KiteWheel that connects different channels and leverages their best of breed capabilities or the big platform like Google that is building capabilities to deliver messages across their entire media ecosystem with a unified identifier. There is no doubt that customer centricity is the major focus of innovative marketing organizations and will be the driving force in the digital marketing industry over the next 5 – 10 years.