Welcome to customer obsession.
I was prompted last week to write about two considerations I seem to constantly recommend. I found myself, once again, locked in passionate conversation as I tend to do when I’m approached on the topic of marketing and technology. We talked about the headaches and I found myself again, casually bringing up two opportunities for consideration, the same two I’ve been spending most of 2015 articulating:
Where are the headaches?
It all started when a friend of mine was expressing her frustration in the ownership, governance and responsibility tied to digital infrastructure in her organisation. Not information systems but digital assets like cloud hosting, websites, apps, and information management. The frustration seemed similar to a conversation I’d had the previous week around the merging of two CRM systems and how this could be an opportunity to better leverage other assets like websites to drive more leads to the business.
Both of these conversations seemed to stem from that similar place I spoke to all year, each asking their own version of the same questions:
What are the business objectives of our digital assets?
How do we best use the website?
Is social media relevant?
Why should we be put anything in the cloud?
Why would I want to give my data to someone else?
Is ‘cloud’ safe?
Is ‘digital’ a marketing function?
What about the business needs of this asset?
From small, family-run businesses here in Melbourne, to large, multi-faceted, multi-billion dollar global enterprises, and then again back down to global and local NFPs with low-functioning infrastructure and sub-par software deals running on a handshake. No matter its scale, the role of digital, the role of cloud and the use of technology in business is moving from a support service that is a network of enablement tools, to mission critical.
One word. Customer.
It all began with the customer.
Forrester Research is the one that coined this current business season ‘The Age of the Customer’, describing ways to win as a ‘customer obsessed’ approach. This seasonal sentiment is shared by Jim Blasinglame author of the award-winning book by the same title. In it, he illustrates that the decision-making power has pivoted to the customer through the power and ubiquitous nature of technology.
The 2011 book Winning the Zero Moment of Truth, published by Google saw this coming as well, and here we are today… Trying to navigate the ‘Age of the Customer’ who is with no doubt, primarily reached through digital channels…
Digital, by today’s use of the word, tends to reflect a humanity’s interaction with a piece of technology; typically, through a screen. It’s hard to consider that a screen like the iPhone is only a decade old, I was recently fortunate enough to work alongside executives from Nokia & Microsoft who worked on ‘Windows Phone’ prior to the late Steve Jobs’ iconic introduction of the-the very first iPhone. Not only did the introduction of the iPhone scuttle everything they’d worked on for the years prior, but it challenged the way designers think about the experience before thinking about the function. The project, in it’s entirely was almost immediately scrapped and Microsoft started over, from scratch.
I make this anecdote because it’s important to understand that the ubiquitous nature of technology only getting started and surviving the ‘Age of the Customer’ means surviving both physically and digitally, through the enablement given to us by technology. Incremental measurement, immediacy, multi-channel, accessibility, and more… The commercial and financial success of Apple, as a case study on its own, shows that our world, whether physical or digital want to be closer to technology and this is just the beginning.
Recognising that ‘digital’ is the bridge between technology and humanity allows us to see the critical nature of digital in this ‘Age of the Customer’. This is how we reach 24/7, this is how we automate, this is how we measure, trend and progress in our understanding of our customers. Putting the customer at the center of what we do, and obsessing over their behaviour in order to drive the right business decisions.
Navigating this path brings me back to the headaches identified by my friends and colleagues alike. The response needs to be one of two things, a Digital Transformation, ensuring the business has the appropriate governance structures, succession planning and digital assets to do their best work. Or the business needs to address their own Marketing Operations, understanding that the ‘Age of the Customer’ is a revenue generation opportunity that creates a body of work that spans both the customer lifecycle and the business value chain. Arguably, this is outside the ‘campaign’ approach of most marketers, but it doesn’t replace it and what is increasingly common, is the talent you find insidemarketing, to get the job done in this space.