Intimacy Issues Are Tearing the Heart Out of Your Customer Relationship

September 20, 2017

Note: A version of this post originally appeared on The Future CMO Club website.

Want to think less like a marketer and more like your customers? Put yourself in their shoes. One terrific way to know someone better is playing the Never Have I Ever Game. You’ll quickly find there are experiences that most all of us share.

Here are three statements to get you started:

  • Never have I ever been on a bad second date.
  • Never have I ever changed healthcare providers due to an unpleasant experience.
  • Never have I ever had a service issue with my internet/cable provider.

Chances are you answered “I have” to all three. Chances are your customers would answer the same way. These are universal frustrations, after all; nothing makes you feel like a stranger more than someone failing to recognize you, and/or forgetting all of your previous interactions.

Which means you know precisely what your customers think when your brand treats them with similar indifference. It’s alienating, it’s offensive, and in this culture of 24/7 engagement, it’s completely unacceptable.

Even so, it happens all the time… and it’s killing your customer relationships.

Here’s the problem: too many marketers are focused on wooing new customers instead of honing a better, more intimate understanding of the customers they already have. The CMO Club and my firm, Signal, recently surveyed CMOs and senior marketers at top B2C brands across the U.S. about their marketing and customer experience priorities, and found that 74% of executives cite ‘Growing new customer acquisition’ among their top objectives. However, while more than half of marketing execs say they’re displeased with their brand’s performance on metrics like retention rate, customer lifetime value and Net Promoter Score®, only 44% rank loyalty and retention as a top priority.

This schism is crippling the bottom line. Not only does it cost a lot more to bring a new customer up to the level of profitability of a lost customer, but customers who are highly engaged with a brand make 90% more frequent purchases, spend 60% more in each transaction and are four times more likely to advocate the brand to colleagues and acquaintances.

Building this kind of hyper-engaged, unfailingly loyal relationship depends on knowing our customers as well as we know ourselves. We must know their likes. Their dislikes. Their wants and needs. We also must recognize them throughout the customer journey, across the complete spectrum of channels and devices, accumulating additional information and insights about them each step of the way in order to supply the individualized interactions they demand.

To make it happen, we need to leverage all of our rich first-party data, including CRM, POS, website and mobile app behavioral data, as well as in-store purchases, online transactions, loyalty program participation and service/support contact interactions. We can’t offer personal and relevant experiences if we don’t harness customers’ historical data and real-time intent signals.

We need a unified view of the customer tied to a persistent, always-on identity asset allowing us to recognize customers across channels, and we need to apply that rich data to critical moments in engagement.

We need to get back insights from our tech and media partners in order to measure and attribute the success of our marketing efforts — and improve our customer experiences.

Last but not least, we need full ownership and control of our customer data and identity assets in order to retain control of the customer relationship, as well as thwart intermediaries who prevent us from understanding and optimizing the customer journey.

A customer identity solution fulfills these needs. Customer identity — the ability to recognize individuals on a 1:1 basis across devices and channels — ranks as the most essential asset for delivering personalized experiences, according to the CMO Club/Signal survey.

But most B2C marketers still don’t have all the pieces in place to effectively resolve customer identity, the survey found. Only 33% have integrated disparate platforms to create holistic customer profiles, just 25% can combine historical data and real-time customer context across platforms, and a mere 20% are able to identify individuals in the moment across all touchpoints.

These are major hurdles that brands must overcome. But it’s also a golden opportunity for aspiring CMOs to effect meaningful organizational change. By spearheading identity initiatives that tap the full power of the brand’s data, marketers can boost customer retention, drive revenue and fast-track their careers, all in one fell swoop. If your company’s CMO never has ever used first-party data to target customers across channels or achieved a single view of the customer, it’s time to change the rules of the game.

Kathy Menis

Kathy is an expert in technology marketing, with 20 years of experience creating and leading strategic, results-driven marketing programs. As SVP of Marketing at Signal, she oversees all marketing initiatives, including the company’s brand, product marketing, and go-to-market strategy.

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