As a seller, you work hard to understand what makes your customers happy—specifically, happy with your products and services so they’ll buy more of them. And in today’s technology-saturated world, that means collecting customer data. The more data you have, and the better you can use it, the greater success you’ll realize in your customer experience management (CEM) efforts.
But the devil is in the details, as recent Aberdeen research makes painfully clear: Though 70% of sellers collect customer data across at least seven channels (and 58% across nine or more),i only 6% are extremely satisfied with their ability to turn that information into timely and effective business decisionsii—leaving a whopping 94% who are less than thrilled. Why? Problems with data quality, sufficiency, and timeliness are the top reasons cited, all of which impede companies’ ability to deliver a unified view of the customer across key stakeholder groups like marketing, sales, and service.
Still, you have to wonder about the 6% who are extremely satisfied with their use of customer data. What practices differentiate these companies from their unhappier peers, and how can you learn from their example?
The Silver Bullet: Customer Engagement Analytics
Okay, maybe it’s not exactly a silver bullet. But customer engagement analytics (CEA)—the use of analytical tools that help you parse structured/unstructured customer and operational data, then employ it to create tailored, multi-channel marketing campaigns—comes pretty close. Aberdeen reportsiii that companies using CEA, defined as “insights-driven marketers,” significantly outperform those that don’t on a wide range of KPIs, as shown in the chart below:
The Benefits of Insights-Driven Marketing
Yet the success of insights-driven marketers doesn’t stem from simply capturing more or higher-quality data; in fact, the majority of companies collect more data than they know what to do with. Instead, it comes from their ability to leverage that data better by converting it into actionable insights and intelligence that make their marketing more effective. There are two components behind this achievement: 1) the technologies they use, and 2) the best practices they employ.
The Right Tools for the Job: Top CEA Technologies
So what technologies form the backbone of CEA? Leading insights-driven marketers deploy a mix of solutions. The most common include the following:
- Web reporting and analytics, used by 70%
- Business intelligence (BI), used by 60%
- Customer analytics, used by 47%
- Predictive analytics, used by 35%
- Text/sentiment analytics, used by 17%
- Speech analytics, used by 14%
- Video analytics, used by 14%
Additional technology enablers include customer relationship management (CRM), used by 76%; web content management tools, used by 73%; social media monitoring, used by 66%; and brand management, used by 62%.
Practice Makes Perfect: Key CEA Success Strategies
While having the right technologies lays the foundation, that alone won’t guarantee results. Insights-driven marketers also follow a shared set of best practices that help them realize CEA’s full potential. The following strategies can help you do the same.
1. Create a unified system of record that all key stakeholders can access. Most insights-driven marketers use their CRM system to create and maintain a 360-degree view of customers. By having a single system that sales, customer support, marketing, and other customer-facing teams can access, you enable them to build off each other’s efforts rather than inadvertently undermining them (for example, instead of sending a “buy now” message to a client who’s already purchased the product you’re promoting, you can offer discounts on accessories or services related to what they’ve bought). Establishing a shared view of the truth also makes it easier to customize client interactions and send a consistent message across all customer touchpoints.
2. Standardize and integrate. Because the data from different channels comes in varied formats—for example, text-based versus numeric—insights-driven marketers use data quality and integration tools to standardize it. This puts structured data (from databases or other predefined models) and unstructured data (like customer comments from social media, website visits, or phone conversations) into similar forms, making it equally analyzable and useful for engagement efforts and campaign customization. Another crucial step is to integrate the standardized data, which is often captured and stored in different systems, to help give all stakeholders a single view of the customer journey. Work with your IT team to implement tools and data management policies for both standardization and integration, then revisit them regularly to make sure the right people are getting the information they need to meet customer expectations and optimize CEM results.
3. Segment and tailor. By segmenting their customers, insights-driven marketers achieve a “net promoter score”—which measures the willingness of clients to recommend their products or services to others—six times higher than businesses that don’t, a benefit that underscores the value of segmentation in helping marketers communicate effectively. BI tools can help you segment your customers by specific criteria, such as historical purchasing patterns and demographics, based on your business interests and campaign targeting strategies.
Next, run analytics for each customer segment to identify trends and test assumptions, such as whether marketing messages targeted to a particular group elicit expected response rates. You can also use analytic and BI tools to drill down into marketing campaign results by different criteria, tracking both customer activity (such as purchases) and campaign responses (like open rates or coupon redemption rates) to identify what works and what doesn’t. This gives you critical visibility into how different audiences respond to different messages, allowing you to tailor subsequent campaigns to better meet buyers’ needs and wants. The same tools can help you prioritize customer feedback data so you can respond faster and more effectively to problems or negative comments.
For online marketing, web analytics and content management tools can play a valuable role in helping you meet customization goals. Web analytics tools allow you to track how customers interact with specific online content, while web content management tools help you personalize the web experience by delivering targeted messaging and materials for each audience—a practice that garners a 75% greater increase in annual company revenue for companies using it.
4. Stay on top of mobile and social. One of the biggest emerging B2B trends is the burgeoning use of mobile technology, with more than half of B2B buyers using smartphones and tablets to research and make purchases. Recognizing the importance of this trend, insights-driven marketers are 51% more likely than non-CEA users to optimize their websites to ensure user-friendly mobile access, a smart strategy you can adopt to differentiate your business. They also use social media monitoring tools to track customer conversations and brand feedback across numerous portals, then integrate the insights gleaned with account data from other digital and offline channels—a practice that results in a 91% greater increase in their positive social media mentions compared to companies that don’t take this step.
5. Choose the channels your prospects and customers prefer. As the number of customer data channels continues to grow, ensuring that you connect with customer segments using the methods they like becomes more crucial to CEM success. Follow the example of insights-driven marketers by implementing feedback surveys and CEA tools to continually track and map prospect and client usage patterns, then fine-tune delivery to communicate with them the way they want. And remember, more isn’t always better. Optimize your use of resources by analyzing key metrics of each channel to assess which ones contribute best to your marketing objectives, then eliminating the ones your customers don’t favor. You can also establish a “voice of the customer” (VoC) program to obtain direct feedback from customers on which channels they prefer; this report from Aberdeen offers proven tactics to ensure VoC success.
6. Set goals and measure results. Be sure to create a formal process to define the KPIs relevant for your business and industry (such as those listed in the chart above), a step taken by the majority of insights-driven marketers. Then use BI and CEA to analyze account and operational data so you can measure how each CEM activity impacts customer behavior across the buying journey.
i “Customer Analytics: Making Big Data Work for the Marketer,” Aberdeen Group, August 2014; also “State of the CEM Market 2014: It’s All About the Better Use of Customer Data,” Aberdeen Group, March 2014. The nine channels used are email, web, phone, events and tradeshows, print/mail, social media, in-store/in-person, online video, and online customer communities.
ii “Customer Engagement Analytics: How to Use Data to Create (and Keep) Happy Customers,” Aberdeen Group, May 2014.
iii These and other statistics and recommendations in this article are based on information from the three Aberdeen reports listed above.