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If People-Based Marketing is a Must, All Marketers Should Learn How to Activate the Strategy

The Merkle Summit never ceases to amaze me with the level of expertise that is shared during the three days of content and networking.

Day two was jam packed with content and sharing about the “how” – the activation of people-based marketing. It’s great to get on board and say “yes, that’s the direction our company wants to go.” But the people who are creating competitive advantage are actively taking the first steps toward activation, and others are already on their journey.

I recapped day one in a previous post, and the remainder of the event was just as informative. Day two began with Matthew Nolan, Product Director, Marketing Technology for Pega, whose customer decision hub is the real deal! It uses artificial intelligence to make real-time next best action decisions, no matter which channels are used.

Matthew mentions that as marketers, we have to do what it takes to be relevant. Did you know that 80% of CEOs believe they are delivering a superior customer experience, but only 8% of customers agree? Customers have always been demanding, but Matthew mentions the one lever that’s different today is the technology.

We need to reset the way we think about customers. Ultimately, it’s customers, not products, that drive revenue. Relevance is the new ROI. Everyone is going digital, but in that digital environment, consumers are craving deeper emotional connections, they trust brands that reflect their identity, and they seek more meaningful experiences. How do you do this? With AI. People can’t be everywhere all the time. AI can help drive decisioning at every touchpoint, at every stage of the customer journey.

Pega is working with a client now that uses more than 20 channels! It uses the following to help customers with decisioning:

  • Decision management (data informs all channels and connects them)
  • Machine learning then scales decision management
  • Text analytics & Natural Language Processing
  • Robotic process automation

The next session, which I was particularly eager to see, was Rethink Your Agency Operating Model for the Post-Digital Age with Brigitte Majewski, VP, Research Director, Forrester (@ForrBmaj). Her session didn’t disappoint. Not only did she dive deep into the ideal agency operating model, she brought people-based marketing to life, sharing her personal story of stellar customer experience at the Shriner’s Children’s Hospital.

Brigitte discussed the five dimensions of the empowered customer:

  1. Self-efficacy – defined by wanting to have the perfect experience. Consumers have raised their threshold of expectation.
  2. Information savviness – did you know the modern consumer consumes 5x more content than 30 years ago? And not only is it about access to content, but also discernment about the content they trust.
  3. Device usage – consumers are using a multitude of devices, often simultaneously.
  4. Digital/physical integration – consumers expect their mobile devices to coordinate with the store experience.
  5. Willingness to experiment – consumers will happily try the mobile app – and just as happily abandon it for the next one.

Old ways of marketing no longer cut it with the empowered consumer, and companies need to move to the post-digital mandate – contextual, personalized experiences, not just advertising. Elevating your customer experiences will have a seismic effect.

After Brigitte spoke, Adam Lavelle, Global Chief Solutions Officer, Merkle (@Alavelle) discussed the first of three marketing imperatives: Making your advertising more addressable.  Addressability is not just about an ad, it’s about all parts of the e media ecosystem. Marketers should know the person before making the impression. World-class marketers are seizing the opportunities that media platforms now provide – targeting customers one-to-one, efficiently, and at scale.

Adam’s content was a great lead-in to our next presenter, David Peterson, VP, Target Media Network. He discussed Target’s Approach to People Based Marketing: Learn How Target Has Unlocked Its First-Party Data to Reach, Engage, and Convert Shoppers into Buyers. I have never met a person who doesn’t like Target, and many feel my pain when I say I rarely get out of that store without spending at least $100.

But on the whole, 2016 was not a good year for retail. And as 2017 began, brands were faced with some big decisions about how they move forward – some shuttering stores, others making workforce cuts, all in an effort to stabilize themselves and deliver profits. Rather than making such huge cutbacks, Target decided to invest heavily for growth in four areas, aimed at providing the personalized experiences that customers crave:

  1. Stores
    • Remodeling to create a more inspirational shopping experience and a better connection to digital
    • Opening 130 new stores in urban markets where they haven’t traditionally had a presence
  2. Supply chain – improving product availability and delivery options – at store, ship-to-store, and ship-to-home
  3. Style – introducing 12 new brands to offer increased style at great value
  4. Digital –
    • Improving the customer’s digital experience and its connection to the store experience
    • Investing in data and technology to deliver people-based marketing

While they were investing, the Target team assessed themselves and found three major challenges they were facing:

  • How do we measure marketing spend?
  • How do we identify more of our own guests to grow scale?
  • How do we know our customers to deepen the relationships?

Since Target opened its doors in 1962, data has been a foundation to their marketing, starting with tailoring direct mail and eventually delivering personalized marketing via receipts. And they started using email around 2000. So, the concept and practice of people-based marketing isn’t new to Target. What’s new – and challenging – is digital!

David explained that they began their new marketing ventures by identifying and knowing who their guests are and what Target can do to make their lives better. The Target executive team even traveled over the course of a year to meet with guests and learn about what’s important to them and what motivates them to shop. The information they gained has been very helpful strategically.

David showed a couple of great videos during his presentation, culminating in a tagline that sums up the retail giant perfectly: When good brands meet real people, great things happen. I wouldn’t expect anything less from a company like Target. As a Target shopping expert, I am highly qualified to say they are doing a great job at knowing their guests.

Merkle partners with many clients like Target to develop and execute people-based marketing strategies. But another dimension to Merkle is the alliances with technology providers that help to activate people-based marketing. Merkle was recently awarded the Adobe Emerging Partner of the Year – UK, Ireland, Western Europe, and the Nordics. In a session titled “From Marketer to Experience Ambassador,” Sarah Gormley, VP, Brand Marketing, Adobe (@scgormley) and David Skinner, VP, Strategic Alliances & Partnerships, Merkle (@dmskinner) spoke about the alliance and Sarah’s experience, from being the CMO at Girl Scouts of America to joining Adobe and marketing its cloud services.

Sarah and David’s session kicked off with a killer video showcasing the Adobe brand across solutions with the central focus of building a compelling customer experience. One thing that always fascinates me is their ability to always be “on brand.” And their brand is about leveraging content to connect with customers everywhere they are.

By 2020, 85% of relationships are expected to be managed without any human involvement. It won’t be people, but platforms and software, managing interactions. But Sarah emphasized that lack of human interaction in the decisioning does not indicate the lack of a human on the other side of the interaction. The customer is a human, and we can’t over-index to the lack of humanity in the marketing process. 

Marketing partners (like Merkle) help Adobe customers get greater business value out of their Adobe solutions, giving them the support they need throughout the critical junctures of the journey to people-based marketing.

One final topic they touched on is an important one for Merkle and is becoming a mainstream topic in the media these days: diversity in the workplace. Sarah noted that Adobe is very transparent in its efforts to level the talent playing field. They are always investing to change and be a market leader, not the market norm. They recently began a mentoring program in which Sarah participates as a mentor, but her top tips for success are gender neutral:

  • Show up, and bring a positive attitude
  • Leverage your network
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for help
  • Better to be thoughtful than be right
  • Don’t forget to have a little fun

Adam Lavelle came back on stage to introduce the second of three imperatives, Making your customer experiences more personal. Adam shared that it’s important to think about context: “A ‘moment’ is a point in time when a customer makes a decision to engage with a company.” Being able to create personal experiences lies in the decisioning. Decisioning is the capacity to draw from the same customer intelligence used for targeting your addressable advertising, weigh that understanding against the current context to predict behavior, and issue guidance or commands to inform the best experience possible – all in a moment.

Day two concluded with a session titled Personalize Your Customers’ Experiences, presented by: Wayne Blum, Director, Digital Marketing & Ecommerce Operations, Nestlé Waters North America (@waynegblum). Wayne discussed an initiative within Nestle called “PCE” for Personalized Consumer Experiences. The company’s vision is to be incredibly data driven to 1:1 personalization through its messaging, its management of relationships with consumers and retailers, and its personalization of products.

The PCE transformation is taking Nestle Waters from traditional brand awareness to integrated branding; from competing media silos to customer journeys that account for all touchpoints; from marketing to proxies to engaging with people.

How do they take a traditional CRM approach and use the information to build customer value? It’s not just about getting impression or search ranking, it’s about tracking digital exhaust and harnessing it, structuring it, and building insights with it. It’s about gaining increased media efficiency, improving service levels and advocacy, and growing conversion across contact points.

You can view the sessions that were streamed during the 2017 Performance Marketing Executive Summit, by visiting Merkle’s Livestream page here. Learn more about the 2017 Marketing Imperatives, or connect with us to discuss our people-based marketing can impact your organization.