Last updated: Beyond buzzwords: What it really takes to engage your customers

Beyond buzzwords: What it really takes to engage your customers


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The CMO’s agenda today is complex and exciting. It’s where creative ideas meet smart analytics and technology at scale. But everyone in marketing knows that buzzwords can overtake agendas – so how do we make sure to get beyond talking points to action points?

From my point of view, ‘experience-led’, ‘transformation’, ‘personalization’ and all the other great buzzwords we hear are coming together in a new service model. What do I mean by ‘at scale’? When we did the BMW launch for their I Series electric car, it was in 111 markets in 26 languages on one day.

When I was a CMO I was overwhelmed by all the buzzwords that are out there. Now, as then, I can’t find a company, from software to analytics to truck-driving, that isn’t saying: “We need to be experience-led and think about transformation.” So how do you get past this and work out who can actually help you get there? Focus on performance. Not what technology is used or how it all works or implementation, but simply whether or not it actually moves the needle.

Empathy for the end-customer has been a big theme in the past 18 months. If engagement and personalization are two key parts of this, one way to look at them is to reverse engineer the experience.

You can play with this with your own teams using a really simple exercise: Split into pairs. One partner just has to put their arm out with their hand in a fist for a minute. The other person’s job is simply to get that hand open, by any means necessary.

It takes more than creativity to engage with customers, but you need to be willing to look at your company in new ways.

When you come back together to discuss the exercise, you’ll probably find a whole range of techniques were used. They’ll range from brute force and devious trickery to flattery and good old-fashioned bribery – and they won’t all have worked. The analogy of course is that as marketers, the goal is to be able to get your customers to do something. And when you think about all the ways you can influence that outcome, through the myriad tools at your disposal, it’s fascinating.

You might find that the most successful tactic with this exercise is simply to ask the other person to open their hand. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Or you might find someone bribes their partner, but what’s interesting there is how quickly you can end up spending money – $5, $10, $50, all just to get someone to open their hand?

Beyond buzzwords: Know your customer and your product

The moral here is that it comes down to understanding the right offer, and being able to know if it’s worth your while. The question then becomes: “What would I need to give that person to open up their hand and engage with the experience so I can get them to do what I want and what they want at the same time?”

And that’s where analytics come in. It’s understanding – especially in longer processes – how all the intertwined components of these things work that leads to digital transformation. Look at your customers at the different points in their journey. Try to really get to grips with their experience – and how the different parts of the business should be working together on their behalf.

Digital transformation can come from the smallest acorns – and can lead to hugely positive business transformation. But while you’re thinking about ways to get your customers to do things, do keep an open mind.

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