Quick Take: Gartner Customer360 Event “Thriving in the Digital Age”

Gartner-360-squaremain_9079Back from several large industry thought leadership events including Gartner Customer360 and Forrester Customer Forum, and it seems a perfect time for another blog. Here are my thoughts on some of the highlights from Gartner Customer360 in Orlando, FL:

Digital is hot

Digital marketing was predicted to top the list of technology investments over next 5 years, outpacing even e-commerce. In fact, they declared that the CRM software market to exceed ERP software just in 2014 alone. Fueling this, there are many trends, not just tied to cost reduction, but rather deeper engagement.

Additionally, it was predicted in the keynote that “loyalty recognition will move from a post-transaction activity to one that spans the entire engagement.” We are already seeing evidence of this on our latest work with a hospitality brand that has moved their traditional card based loyalty program digital, mobile and social and they deploy as many as 9 separate customer journeys across the customer’s mobile experience – not just around the purchase.

Journey is Everywhere

You couldn’t go far without seeing the term “journey.” In fact, the exhibit hall was littered by vendors all proclaiming to solve the customer journey, with most using the term simply as the latest buzzword rather than any real substance. This is creating a lot of noise for the customers that have to deal with this.

I was struck by Ed Thompson of Gartner’s comment that if he takes 5-6 inquiry calls each day from brands, a whopping 4 out of these will be about “journey.” People are confused. Ed worked to put some definition around this in one of his sessions.

Define the “Journey”

Ed states that there are 4 flavors of what people have been getting at when they inquire about “journey”:

1. Customer life events (e.g. first job, marriage, new home, retirement)

2. Customer annual life cycle (e.g. insurance or telco contract)

3. Customer journey reinvention (e.g. What many typically mean for the Customer Experience journey mapping process. Specifically, where the customer has the first idea of the journey or need… importantly, they usually start outside of your view and then you “join in.”

**He even goes so far as to break down the 10 common attributes to successful mapping which I have summarized here below:

• Look outside-in from the customer’s view point.

• Have a timeline.

• Identify the customer touch points.

• Describe customer emotions.

• State the customer goals.

• Flag up moments of truth.

• Highlight the “stage,” “actors” and “back-stage crew.”

• Base it on feedback and research, not gut feel.

• Look at how the journey differs for different segments.

• Are visually pretty and easy to digest.

4. Customer process improvement (e.g. identifying broken processes, typically by asking them which re broken, and then trying to fix them). Employees will guess 7 out of 10 of the areas where customers view the issues are but is important to start with the customer. He cautions that as an example a customer doesn’t view an “on boarding process”, as that is your language. All of this will need to be translated.

Ed explained that (A) speed and (B) simplicity are the keys to success from both a consumer and business standpoint. Within their journeys, customers will be expecting to be notified to avoid having to ask (or find out the hard way). As an example he cites telco bill shock, shouldn’t the telco warn you that your next bill is going to look like this.

Congratulations to Gene Alvarez and all his team for running a great event. This was a solid conference and compelling companion when paired along side the Forrester “beyond the campaign” event.

Forrester’s Marketing Forum Goes “Beyond the Campaign”

forrester eventIt was great to see Forrester stick its neck out with the “Beyond the Campaign” event theme at its recent San Francisco and London events.  Despite the risk of alienating the many campaign management vendors (who actually largely stayed away, perhaps as a result)  attendees didn’t really seem to mind, receiving great take-away concepts that really put the new 20-year cycle of marketing into perspective.

Forrester introduced two core concepts at the event: the Context Marketing Engine and Utility Marketing.

Context Marketing Engine

The principle is that everything in the new generation of marketing needs to be based on the context that the consumer is in.  This fits the Forrester event theme because it is delivered not by planning a campaign to a segment, but by being ready to respond to a customer’s personal situation and needs.  The key things needed to enable context marketing are:  real-time data so you know the customer, and all their history so you know all their context, and then you need to focus on the customer journey.   To this end, Forrester recommends that brands build a “context marketing engine” – this is something that has to be built to link up the databases and channels a business already has in place – and it will require new technology to link up the existing technology,   Once it is in place you can collect data, learn, and deliver the best interactions.

Following the session, visitors at the Provenir booth were able to see our Customer Engagement Hub provide a live example of such a Context Marketing Engine.  One visitor said “that’s what you have here… it’s that context marketing engine that Forrester were just talking about!”

Utility Marketing

Forrester outlines that marketers of the future will have a very different role around creating actual value and delivering “useful” things to their customers – to change their lives, make them easier. Consider the Red Tomato Pizza, who now enables its VIPs to order a pizza with just a push of a button from their pizza box fridge magnet (using your home wifi and your membership of the Pizza loyalty program). The customer is getting immediate value in the ease of ordering and time reduction. It simplifies life, solves a specific problem and automates a mundane task.

Forrester describes, however, that today, very few marketers yet get this – they may get the age of the customer, and real-time systems, but few have yet made the critical jump to admit that their output needs to really be useful to the consumer and not just a “good offer.” One of the key points made in this presentation was that brands must work with their agencies to get into this new world – they’ll rarely do it on their own.

Perhaps one of the most useful slides was a description of the 5 ways in which a brand can think of being “useful” to customers. Much aligned with the pizza example above, here are the 5 categories to consider:

  1. Become a trusted agent – use data to show the customer you understand them and their needs, give them advice and help, not push a sale/offer
  2. Solve a specific problem for them – simplifying a sign-on process, or order process
  3. Simplify life – get out of the way – reduce communications to only those that consumers are interested in
  4. Automate mundane tasks – e.g. app-based check-in or orders
  5. Fulfill a new need for the customer

The keynotes all finished up with a good set of recommendations for a brand on how to get started on this track:

  1. This is not a “research only” exercise – this is the start of a 20-year fundamental change of business model – get serious about it
  2. Start with things adjacent to the brand – stay close to home but do something new/better
  3. Ask permission from the customer before doing anything crazy
  4. Understand what can already be done with your current technology – involve IT as soon as possible
  5. Get a good agency partner to help you with the creative ideas
  6. Measure everything that you do.

Welcome to the era of the Context Marketing Engine and Utility Marketing. Congratulations to Luca Paderni and all his team at Forrester for running a great event.

Provenir Reflects on Being Named a Gartner Cool Vendor for 2014

gartnercoolvendor Provenir is thrilled to be named a Gartner Cool Vendor for 2014 in its new report “Cool Vendors in CRM Marketing Applications for 2014.”

In fact, it seems we have set a record for speed in rising to Cool Vendor status. Having only been in in the CRM space for just this past year, Provenir is the youngest vendor ever to be selected as “Cool.” Since the report began in 2007 the prior youngest had been three years in business, and the average age closer to six years.  Thanks to the great team we have assembled at Provenir, and the support of our excellent agency partners, we have managed to become cool in just one year!

Perhaps more importantly, it is a privileged few that get to be selected to this list in the first place. The Gartner Cool Vendor report is widely regarded by those in the CRM space as the watch list for the “next big thing.” Prior vendors to be named to the list include the likes of Siri (now a standard part of the iPhone), LoyaltyLabs now part of Tibco and both BlueKai and Eloqua who are now part of Oracle.  So it seems that this report is not just indicative of star vendors, but in many cases the next big market space altogether.

Why so cool? Kimberly Collins, Gartner’s Research Vice President behind the report, has honed in on several key aspects. First and foremost she talks about Provenir being one of the first vendors with an offering centered on a real-time customer engagement hub.  Gartner seems to like our key proposition that businesses already have enough marketing systems, enough CRM, campaign management & email, web content management, and call center platforms. What businesses don’t have, is a way to get all these existing systems, data and touch points to work together as one, with the customer at the center and orchestrate true customer journeys and experiences (i.e. not just content and campaigns) around it.   Our hub provides both connectivity and agile orchestration to let brands make this transformation while using what they’ve already got – as one of our partners calls it, “Liberating Technology.”

Gartner also mentions that we provide this new capability to marketing agencies to deliver the solutions.  This is a key differentiator for Provenir.  Agencies add the creative layer on top of enabling technology, and bring their services into the mix to manage this new generation of solutions, that need to adapt as the market conditions evolve.   With Provenir, agencies can finally help their clients to orchestrate and activate the live, real-time customer experiences that they’ve always dreamed of – in a fraction of the time, cost and complexity of prior alternatives – while leaving all their clients systems intact.  Yup, pretty cool.

Provenir is changing the game for customer engagement and we are excited to be included in this highly respected shortlist of innovators by Gartner.

To read the full Press Release, please click here.

Key Takeaways from South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive 2014

Well, we’re finally back from the whirlwind that was South by Southwest 2014, where we attended the festival events most focused on “SXSW Interactive.” While the dates and sessions were broken out into segmented categories, such as interactive, film and music, every day saw an eclectic mix of visitors. From large agencies looking for product line and revenue expansion, to smaller agencies and innovation labs looking for an edge via the latest technology. All while thrown together with a generous mix of investors shopping for new companies, independent film-makers and musicians looking for their next big break.

For Provenir, the outcome couldn’t have been better, as innovation was front and center. Attendees were not seeking approaches that will “someday” be available to them, but those breakthrough technologies that are here and ready for the taking.

In fact, there was A LOT of buzz about Provenir throughout SXSW. Among other catalysts, it seems our company was cited during a popular session on Saturday titled, “The Digital Marketing Workshop,” as one of the new and innovative approaches for real-time orchestration, leading to a flurry of activity. We had a line at our booth looking to get a first hand look. A big thanks to Israel Mirsky of Annalect for the mention!

In the exhibition hall, we showcased our solution with our ProvenAir demo, under the premise that “we make real-time real,” and attendees loved it. Visitors were able to see the platform in action by tweeting that their “Provenair” flight was delayed and immediately experience a real-time journey across the devices embedded right there in our booth wall. “That was too cool!” was a common response. Our team was able to make it real, ultimately resulting in high demand and keeping us busy from festival start to finish.

What resonated most? Topping the list, the fact that what we have is “real” real-time was a common theme. Cross-channel social response was also a frequent topic of interest. But key to every conversation it seemed was Provenir’s ability to work with an organization’s EXISTING channels, systems and databases, without introducing any new infrastructure.  In the past, one would need a new WCM, new POS, new call center, with a new database. So this was viewed as completely changing things.

It was great to meet so many individuals, brands and agencies at SXSW. We look forward to another fruitful event in 2015!

For more information on how we help companies make social engagement actionable, please read more from our blog here.

Will Social Become the Number One Interaction Channel in Your Industry?

smAt the end of February, Gartner published a new “Vendor Guide” focused on the “Social for CRM” market, covering over 140 vendors in the space. Gartner predicts that this is a fast growing market – software purchases for Social for CRM will grow at 20% per year over the next few years – because the growth of social networks will mean that the social channel will become “the highest-volume engagement channel for many industries.”  One of the interesting dynamics behind this growth is the way mobile devices are supporting the exponential growth of access to social networks. What stands out to me is that mobile devices are not a “channel” for customer communication – these days they are 6, 7, 8, 12, 15 different channels, all through one small device that is always on and always with us. This is a game changer and is the biggest driver of the need to be marketing in real-time (see our recent blog – http://blog.provenir.com/cmo-com-hits-the-nail-on-the-head-real-time-marketing-is-the-future).

The new Gartner report drills deeper into predictions for 2014, and Gartner finds that in this immediate period, the focus for Social for CRM applications will be “on mobile and location-based services, analytical solutions and deeper integration with CRM and marketing processes.”  I see that this ties directly with another of Gartner’s big themes, the Hype Cycle; where Social has gone past the peak in its hype and is now racing towards the “trough of disillusionment” as businesses look for real applications that deliver business results. Hence, the need to connect social to operational systems and customer data so that businesses make money.  At Provenir, we have seen a recent spike in the number of client requests to use our social listening and data matching capabilities to enhance their customer database. These clients see great value in recording which customers use social networks for communication, how engaged they are with the medium, and best of all, understanding if they already talk about our brand on-line.

All of Gartner’s recommendations from this report focus businesses upon the importance of aligning their business objectives with their social systems, and identifying how to integrate the new technologies with their existing systems.  The great news for Provenir is that we are listed as one of a very small group of vendors in the brand new application area of “Contact Enrichment.” Gartner concludes that this is a somewhat “nebulous” area, but in general covers solutions that help with “consolidating contact profiles and improved account management.”  This is what we’ve been doing for the last 6-9 months with a number of clients – and so, exciting times are ahead and it’s great to get another outstanding Gartner mention that points us out as one of the pioneers in the space.

Communisis Selects Provenir to Deliver Real-Time Engagement Services

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Hot on the heels of our recent partnership announcements with leading CRM agencies Havas EHS and Extraprise, we are very pleased today to announce our latest new partnership with Communisis, a leading provider of personalized customer communication services.

As customers become more active across a number of different channels, brands know they must master multi-channel marketing in real-time if they hope to keep up. Communisis understands the significant need today for personal and timely customer engagement across all channels, and with this partnership, will integrate The Provenir Platform into Mantl, their proprietary tool that facilitates the design, production and deployment of customer communications. Our technology will enable Mantl to orchestrate real-time customer journeys across the many channels that brands and their customers use today.

It was our proven history in real-time financial decisioning the initially drew Communisis to Provenir. They then chose to partner with us due to our powerful capabilities for real-time marketing, which aligned nicely with the Communisis’ continued investment in its own digital offering. The integrated Mantl solution, now powered by our platform, will provide Communisis’ clients with new engagement capabilities, such as the ability to perform a real-time “affordability assessment” for each individual customer prior to presenting a marketing message. As is the case with all marketing efforts, the real key is individual relevance of the offer for any particular customer.

We are thrilled that Communisis chose Provenir to expand its digital offering, and look forward to a long and successful partnership. For more information on the Provenir platform, visit: http://www.provenir.com/Listening.html.

Announcing Our Partnership with Extraprise to Enable Real-time Listening, Orchestration and Engagement

Logo_smallAs more and more brands begin to realize the benefits of real-time engagement, they are looking to innovative marketing agencies to help them deliver on these increased customer expectations. This is why we’re excited to announce our partnership with Extraprise, a leading B2C and B2B database marketing and demand generation services agency.

Extraprise has chosen our Big Data Listening and Engagement Platform to power real-time listening and engagement across all channels, leveraging its own SmartSource email marketing and automation platform. Our platform’s capabilities will be delivered as part of Extraprise’s i2i Marketing Services, which enables its customers to create cross-channel, digital marketing campaigns, ensuring brands can engage in a way that fosters individual, intimate relationships with their customers.

Experiencing an increased client demand for orchestrating seamless experiences in real-time as part of their customer journey, Extraprise needed a way to meet these needs. Rather than traditional push marketing campaigns, Provenir’s platform will allow Extraprise’s i2i Marketing Services to account for the context of an individual’s needs “in the moment,” helping Extraprise exceed its customer’s expectations to ensure brands are able to engage customers on their own terms.

As Extraprise has a track record for delivering high-quality services to its clients, we are pleased they have chosen Provenir to help enable this shift to individual engagement instead of traditional campaign-based approaches. We look forward to helping Extraprise deliver on its client’s real-time engagement needs. For more information on the Provenir platform, visit: http://www.provenir.com/listening/.

CMO.com Hits the Nail on the Head: Real-Time Marketing is the Future

Social Media Rubik's CubeRecently, I read Samuel Greengard’s article in CMO.com, Real-Time Marketing: The Reality Ahead, and found myself nodding along in agreement throughout the piece. Greengard does a nice job of highlighting the tremendous opportunities still to come from real-time marketing, and also the challenges that many companies face as we quickly approach this next phase in customer engagement.

Of these challenges, many are rooted in the lack of clear guidelines and/or best practices for this new world. Brands know they should be listening to and engaging with customers in real-time, over numerous platforms, channels and technologies, and lots of real-time interactions may now be possible, but who knows how best to achieve real results? The CMO.com article suggests the answer is “trial and error.” While in part I agree, we also see brands turning to their long-time strategic partners in the marketing agencies – they have the right mix of creative ideas and marketing content, and the most forward thinking ones now also have the technology and data delivery capability to support their clients move to real-time customer engagement. Really, if not the creative experts from the digital agency arena, who else?

To deliver the next generation of customer engagement, where new channels are being used to guide interactions that delight customers, there has never been a greater need for flexible platforms that allow such interaction plans to be put in place quickly and then updated interactively in the rapid “test and learn” mode, similar to that which Greengard describes. We see some of our agency partners developing these platforms already, such as Havas EHS with their FULCRM solution, which can quickly implement and adapt new rules for customer engagement. For example, a company may not want to listen for social mentions of their brand at all. Instead, they may want to change what they listen for on Twitter on a regular basis – for example, listening for a consumer’s solicitation of advice on a specific product being marketed that week, so they can be ready and waiting to offer tips and consumer reviews, thus building a lasting relationship without pushing a promotion.

As the number of engagement channels increases, so will the importance of selective listening. Later in Greengard’s article, he explains one company’s use of a command center to monitor more than 75 dashboards that scan social media channels for mentions. I couldn’t help but imagine the company’s marketing team taking turns staying up all night monitoring each of these dashboards for the right opportunity to interact with consumers. Silly, I know, but it’s this image that reiterates the value of intelligent automation in customer engagement and listening platforms. With advanced solutions, like Provenir’s, companies can orchestrate and automate digital interactions via logical workflows, thus allowing a brand to engage in real-time while the marketing team gets some sleep.

Another point that really hit home for me was about the value of interaction with a customer at the point of sale (POS). In a recent Provenir blog post, The Beer Necessities of Customer Engagement, I discuss what it means for a brand to remain alongside a customer throughout the entire path to purchase and then reward them for their loyalty, while making an upsell and unlocking promotions at the time of purchase once a certain threshold is reached. The CMO.com article makes it sound like this is some future possibility – some of Provenir’s customers are delivering exactly this POS interaction today.

The real-time marketing landscape is a big one. As it continues to evolve, brands will have no choice but to adapt their strategies to meet the ever-changing demands of consumers. To achieve this, it will be important for companies to implement solutions that allow for flexibility so that regardless of what the channel du jour is, they will remain relevant.

Individually Actionable Social Engagement in the Age of the Customer

social media world mapBrands can struggle in understanding the circumstances where they are expected by customers to be listening – and when they’re not. Even more challenging, is understanding when it is appropriate to reply. To address these challenges, we summed up our findings with the creation of the Golden Guidelines for Actionable Social Engagement and recently presented a webinar on DMA UK on the topic.

The webinar was a huge success and included an interactive poll to get us started. The findings were quite telling. Increasingly, consumers feel empowered to engage with brands via a multitude of channels, with 97 percent of our webinar participants confirming that it is, in fact, the age of the customer. While brands recognize this, many are not taking full advantage of opportunities to connect with their consumers. When live polling our webinar participants, we found that more companies were more likely to respond to negative messages than positive ones, but even so, approximately, 8 percent were not taking any action at all.

So, how do companies not only take action, but also build a consistent approach to customer engagement?

To answer this, we’ve outlined a few key points from the webinar:

    1. Listen – We know, we say this constantly, but listening to indirect messages as much as messages directly referencing the brand helps brands exceed engagement expectations. Brands must be equipped to take in and filter the noise in order to isolate opportunities.
    2. Respect boundaries – While listening to indirect mentions is incredibly important, brands must understand when it is appropriate and inappropriate to respond, bearing in mind the public versus private perceptions associated with various outlets. Brands must gauge the perception as well as the customer’s comment to devise the best course of action without seeming creepy.
    3. Build trust – Brands are used to pushing messages out to consumers, but today’s customers require a softer sale. By offering guidance rather than pushing products, brands are able to build trust with customers over time, creating long-lasting relationships.
    4. Remember – As much as you listen, you must also remember. Remembering past interactions with customers across channels provides the context to shape relevant interactions. Replying to a longtime customer as if it is their first interaction with the brand could hurt a relationship years in the making.

While keeping these elements in mind is critical, applying them may be easier said than done. To begin the process, brands must take inventory of their current systems, map the journeys they would like their customers to take with the brand, prioritize their strategies, assess any gaps in their system, and then implement and refine plans as necessary.

We’ve merely touched on the topic discussed during the webinar, so invite you to listen to the webinar in full and read our whitepaper on the topic for greater detail. We will also be hosting a second webinar, The New Look of Loyalty: Digital, Social, Mobile, Real-time, on Wednesday, February 26th at 10am ET, and hope you can join us to learn more customer loyalty program best practices.

Stretching a $4M Super Bowl Ad Investment All Year Long

Fantasy Football

We’re gearing up for the Super Bowl this weekend, and despite the fact that our beloved Patriots aren’t playing, we’re still excited for the showdown. For many brands and consumers alike, Sunday is really about the commercials. More than 100 million viewers are expected to tune into Fox, and with that size audience, a 30-second ad this year is reportedly going for $4 million – not a small price tag for a single moment in the sun!

With that kind of investment, how can brands make sure they not only get the best bang for their buck, but leverage the investment for more than just a night? Smart companies this year will get more than just eyeballs on the TV screen; they’ll capitalize on their Super Bowl ads by listening to how their customers react in the moment across every channel, and respond accordingly in a way that that customer wants. After all, the Super Bowl is a perfect example of today’s constantly-connected customer. Consumers across the country will be gathered together watching live, and posting social updates about their favorite (and non-favorite) commercials.

Oreo posted a brilliant Tweet that stole the show during last year’s Super Bowl. Regarding the freak power outage, Oreo tweeted, “Power out? No problem. You can still dunk in the dark”. This would be retweeted more than 10,000 times in just one hour. More recently, during the Grammy awards, Arby’s Tweet regarding live performer Pharrell Williams’ 10 gallon cowboy hat won out when they tweeted, “Hey @Pharrell, can we have our hat back? #GRAMMYs” (referring, of course, to the food chain’s logo).

But to really steal the show, and really win hearts in a way that endures beyond “the moment”, marketers should instead take advantage of these moments by interacting with each customer individually (based on the customer’s entire life cycle) and immediately in real time, on whatever channel that person prefers. This begins with tapping into a new level of individual understanding.

That is exactly what we enable here at Provenir. Take a car ad for example. The luxury brands will be paying top dollar to showcase their cars on Sunday. While the impressions gained from Super Bowl commercials are certainly impressive, a brand needs to stretch that to really see the benefit. When a customer Tweets about loving a particular car ad, that company has the opportunity to understand exactly who that individual customer is – say someone who has a long, loyal history with the brand – and tailor the response exactly to that person. It is that context, understanding and personal touch that helps the brand cultivate a truly successful relationship with its customer and stretch their marketing dollar.

The Super Bowl is perhaps the only day of the year where customers are genuinely excited to watch TV commercials, so it’s advantageous for brands to play into this. However, making connections with your customers never stops. Sure, having one of the most popular ads during the big game is something to shoot for, but it’s the touch points in between the clever ads that build a long-lasting relationship. Listening to customers and understanding them on an individual level is just as critical as spending $4 million dollars for the wittiest ad.

We are looking forward to the game and ads on Sunday, but even more so, helping brands to create and sustain meaningful customer relationships all year round.