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

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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.