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Belated Takeaways from Forrester Marketing Forum

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I wrote this on the flight home from an excellent Forrester Marketing Forum on April 22-23 at the Hyatt Century Plaza in Los Angeles. They had a great speaker line-up, many of whom had refreshingly engaging presentations. (Lots of funny stories and pictures is a plus!)

There were all sorts of great high level points, but I’ll focus on two of them: adaptive marketing (since this was the subtitle of the conference) and Granularity.

Adaptive Marketing

This was all about “adaptive” marketing, and showed several interesting case studies on what large companies are doing to adapt their marketing to their customer. When I first heard the word “adaptive,” it kind of made me yawn. Maybe it’s because it’s an abstract 3-syllable word, or maybe it sounded too operational to me. But once I started to listen to the presentations, I realized that they’re actually talking all about my favorite subjects: analytics, customer centricity, and testing!

They picked the word “adaptive” because Forrester is seeing the trend of companies really starting to become data-driven. Once you have the right data, act on it, and adapt your marketing to match the data, you’ve become an adaptive marketer.  Carlton Doty, one of Forrester’s analysts, talked about several companies that truly adapt to their customers.  This means that they have asked themselves about what metrics reflect what’s important to their customers; they’ve created good surveying, social and feedback tools; and they make customer-centric metrics such as Lifetime Value, Cancellation Rate, and Net Promoter Score centerpieces of their CMO dashboard. What’s really unique, however, is that they ACT on the data they get, and that is what makes them adaptive. It’s really just as simple as that. It’s not about having a ton of data… it’s about having the right customer-centric data and then changing your organization’s behavior QUICKLY to respond to it. In other words, adaptive marketing is really what the web analytics industry is striving for: smart, real-time, data-driven marketing to delight their customers!

Granularity

David Williams, the Chairman and CEO of Merkle talked a lot about the death of mass marketing, and how increasing degrees of marketing granularity (aka personalization or relevancy) are now possible and are even more necessary to continue to compete. I’m not sure that this is big news to anyone anymore, but he’s right. But if it’s not news, then why are so few of us tackling this? It’s extremely time consuming, expensive and difficult to pick the perfect message at every point of the customer’s experience. Most of us plebes simply don’t have the budget and revenue upside to justify the effort yet. (But, when you’re ready, Merkle has just the database platform for you!)

Disney definitely has already taken the granular approach. Tom Boyles, the SVP of Global Managed Relationships at Disney’s Parks and Resorts had a great perspective to share. Their mission is to know their customer and act on it. (Another way to say this is simply being relevant, right?) But, they have taken it a step further to explicitly define what their customer would like to do next.

Much of the time, the appropriate action would be “nothing,” but it’s a great starting point to start to build a highly granular customer experience that feels very personalized. Don’t get me wrong; this is waaay easier said than done. I think Disney has probably spent millions and years getting this right.

Tom anticipated the complaint from the audience that, “we don’t have the resources that Disney has, so what can we do in the meantime?” He had a really uplifting point to finish his talk on.

He tied the answer to your organization’s core values. If organizations started to base their decisions on truly figuring out their customers’ needs (banking example: “I need to help my customers figure out how to pay for their kids’ college.”) and then filling them rather than starting with a focus on profitability and growth (“I need to acquire as many customers I can at this allowable CPA.”), the long term profitability and growth would naturally follow.

{One thing that I didn’t notice is how Disney defines the success of a super-granular experience. How do they know that the Disney World visitor really had a better experience when they received 20 emails during their Disney vacation?}

I had a fantastic time at Forrester’s Marketing Forum, as usual. I look forward to returning next year!

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