3 Things Marketers Must Do to Complete their 2015 Plans


2015 looms large on the horizon.  For marketers, a new year means new opportunities, planning, strategizing, and a general lining of ducks in rows.  And now with so many channels for marketers to manage and the increasingly empowered customer, the landscape screams of complexity.

Earlier this year the CMO Club Summit in New York shared what marketing executives said are their biggest marketing challenges, here are a few.

  1. Delivering a positive customer experience throughout the research, discovery, and purchase journey.

  2. Creating client or customer-centric content

  3. Keeping content flow constant

  4. Measuring the effectiveness of content

  5. Managing data and identifying how to leverage it effectively

  6. Maximizing omni-channel marketing with limited talent and training resources

  7. Reinvigorating an already well-known brand

How to Overcome Modern Marketing Challenges and Become a Rock Star

Entire books can be written about each and every one of these challenges.  A career can be built on getting one of those things handled, and finding a way to make decent headway addressing all or a handful of these challenges might just make you some sort of marketing deity.  It can be done.  But how?

When you examine these challenges you see that at the heart of all of them is customer experience.  Marketing disciplines such as content marketing, CX, UX, UI, SEO, PPC, digital marketing, traditional marketing, analytics, conversion optimization, etc are all just tools that are used to build one thing;  a customer experience.  The wise marketer knows that everything they do is about optimizing the customer experience. Also, when approached from this angle the challenge seems more manageable.  The next questions are how should the marketer leverage these tools to optimize the customer experience and realize better marketing performance.  The answer is simple.

Be customer-centric, data-driven, and manage by narrative.

  • By always being customer-centric the marketer never loses focus on the customer’s preferences, needs, desires, and motivations.

  • By being data-driven the customer is truly given the final vote. Great data analysis allows marketers to predict, model, and test new customer experiences.

  • By using the power of narrative (storytelling) marketers can manage internal and external teams (and their seemingly disparate disciplines) by effectively communicating the essence of customer experiences so that they are executed more efficiently and accurately.

I said the answer was simple, but not always easy.

The Buyer Legends Process Addresses Each Challenge Head On

After years of learning to master most of these marketing disciplines, working with some of the most experienced and talented marketers on the planet, experimenting, failing, and succeeding.  Some companies saw significant improvements but weren’t able to duplicate that success repeatedly.  But the companies that embraced a process of customer centricity, data-analysis, and usage of narrative to manage execution were able repeat their success in multiple channels.  They were rock stars at execution , and continuously make significant and meaningful long term impact on marketing goals. We call this process Buyer Legends.

Let’s see how Buyer Legends can impact each of the above stated challenges.

  1. Delivering a positive customer experience throughout the research, discovery, and purchase journey. By using storytelling(narrative) combined with customer data Buyer Legends allows marketers to map out in detail each phase of the customer experience from research to post-sale.

  2. Creating client or customer-centric content. Because Buyer Legends is a customer-centric/persona-based process it keeps content focused on the customer and what they need in order to convert.

  3. Keeping content flow constant.  Buyer Legends stimulate creativity that is first and foremost focused on the needs and preferences of the customer.

  4. Measuring the effectiveness of content.  Buyer Legends are measurable and tied to data and business goals.

  5. Managing data and identifying how to leverage it effectively.  The Buyer Legend process helps to interpret and communicate data in story form making data understandable and actionable.

  6. Maximizing omni-channel marketing with limited talent and training resources.  Buyer Legends allow marketers to communicate to internal and external teams the context and goals of creative and marketing/sales collateral, making for better and faster execution, even when working with less talented team members.

  7. Reinvigorating an already well-known brand.  By giving the marketer a deeper understanding of the customer and their journey Buyer Legends will allow you to build the ideal customer experience rather than simply patching a less than ideal experience.

In 2015 your customers will be more empowered than ever, by making a commitment to build a better customer experience you can put all the complexities and challenges of the modern day marketer into proper perspective and plan for a kick booty year.  Good luck!

Interested in knowing more about the Buyer Legends process?

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Customers Don’t Care Where You Sit


Customers arrive at your business with a bigger picture than view we have from the seat at our desk.

They don’t always want us to “solve” their problem or save them money; although these may be their stated goals. Truly, not every problem is in search of a solution and cheap certainly doesn’t guarantee success.

From where we sit, inside a business,  it looks different. Yet, when we are customers we know that the intrinsic value of a brand interaction is the delight we feel from the interaction, and not merely satisfaction. Delight is defined as extreme satisfaction, it thrills us.

So the view from our desk or conference room isn’t the customer’s perspective! The customer doesn’t care what department we’re in, what channel we’re responsible for or even sadly how hard we try.

Customers simply don’t care where you sit! They only care about their experience with your brand.

Maybe your company’s perspective is different.

The Delivery Gap

Please consider the following:

When Bain & Company  surveyed 362 firms, they found that 80% believe they deliver a “superior experience” to customers. But when they asked customers, they say only 8% are really delivering.

This “delivery gap” doesn’t exist because businesses fail to recognize the importance of their customers. More than 95% of surveyed management teams say they’re customer focused.

Bain found two reasons for the gap.

  1. Paradoxically, many growth strategies damage customer loyalty. For example, efforts to pursue new customers can distract from serving the core.

  2. Building relationships with customers is difficult. Understanding what customers really want and keeping our promises while maintaining a dialogue to evolve with customers’ changing needs is challenging.

Bain says the 8% do something differently:

We call them the “Three D’s”: They design the right propositions for the right customers. They deliver those propositions at the lowest system cost. And they develop the institutional capabilities to do it again and again. Each of these Three D’s reinforces the others. Together, they ensure the company is continually led by the voices of its customers.

What We Have Here Is a Failure To Communicate

Buyer Legends Can Help Close The Delivery Gap

We’ve developed a simple-to-learn business process that can help you see your customer’s perspective from where you sit; we call it Buyer Legends.

Buyer Legends are not the stories you tell your customers; that’s just promotion. Buyer Legends are stories told from the point of view of your customers; because your brand isn’t what you say it is but what your customers say about it. Buyer Legends are designed to create and improve the interactions customers have with your brand; and that’s the rest of the marketing mix.

Buyer Legends combine the emotional power of storytelling with hard data to open new opportunities, spot gaps and optimize your sales and marketing.  You can use them to communicate your brand’s intent and describe the responsibility of each critical touchpoint within every level of an organization — from the boardroom to the stockroom.

Many have found (in the month since publication there over 60 reviews on Amazon and we’ve linked to many others from this blog)  and we hope that you too will find that Buyer Legends improve execution, communications, testing, and provide a big boost to the bottom line.

Please feel free to get “Buyer Legends: The Executive Storyteller’s Guide”, it should take less than an hour to read, 90 minutes to implement and then you’ll be able start closing the delivery gap immediately.

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Confused About What Comes First, the Customer or the Customer Data?

Data-Driven Poster Child Tesco Loses Its Halo

Teswhich came firstco had been recognized as a data-driven company that wowed investors. Now not so much, with its market value at an 11 year low. Investors are understandably disappointed. Should that give us pause about the value of customer data? Harvard Business Review might be making that case but we aren’t so sure. Tesco simply didn’t use data to support the customer experience. It seems to have used data to support the decisions it was already determined to make.

Tesco, Britain’s largest supermarket chain, got that way by pioneering the use of data specifically by mining data from their customer loyalty cards. Michael Schrage at Harvard Business Review writes:

With the notable exception of, say, an Amazon, no global store chain was thought to have demonstrably keener data-driven insight into customer loyalty and behavior.

Observers and those in the UK may already know that Tesco is on a downward spiral with it’s market value plummeting to an 11 year low.  A big part of the problem seems to be a major gaffe the company made in estimating it’s profits.  But there are other problems. Schrage continues

But the harsh numbers suggest that all this data, all this analytics, all the assiduous segmentation, customization and promotion have done little for Tesco’s domestic competitiveness since Leahy’s celebrated departure. As the Telegraph story further observed, “…judging by correspondence from Telegraph readers and disillusioned shoppers, one of the reasons that consumers are turning to [discounters] Aldi and Lidl is that they feel they are simple and free of gimmicks. Shoppers are questioning whether loyalty cards, such as Clubcard, are more helpful to the supermarket than they are to the shopper.”

Making The Anti-Data Case

That makes sense.  But then Schrage begins to speculate.

How damning; how daunting; how disturbing for any and every serious data-driven enterprise and marketer.  If true, Tesco’s decline present a clear and unambiguous warning that even rich and data-rich loyalty programs and analytics capabilities can’t stave off the competitive advantage of slightly lower prices and a simpler shopping experience. Better insights, loyalty and promotion may not be worthless, but they are demonstrably worth less in this retail environment.

A harsher alternative interpretation is that, despite its depth of data and experience, today’s Tesco simply lacks the innovation and insight chops to craft promotions, campaigns and offers that allow it to even preserve share, let alone grow it. What an indictment of Tesco’s people, processes and customer programs that would be. In less than a decade, the driver and determinant of Tesco’s success has devolved into an analytic albatross. Knowledge goes from power to impotence.

Schrage seems to want to give data driven business practices a blanket indictment.  But what if the actual problem wasn’t Tescos inability to innovate or create new promotions?  What if the problem wasn’t the fact that Tesco is a data-driven company? What if data-driven marketing isn’t doomed?

Data vs. The Value Of Correct Data Analysis & Execution

Assuming that data really does drive Tesco’s marketing, it is our guess that they made one or both of the following errors.

First, they may have been driven by the wrong data and were working to increase the wrong metrics.  Many companies use only the data that supports their current intuition. Bryan Eisenberg explains  how Amazon’s four pillars of success  revolve around data. If you read it  you will learn how Amazon avoids this pitfall.

Second, they may have gotten so buried in data analysis that they lost sight of the simple fact that all that data always tells a story about people.  Data simply measure the actions people take based on their feelings, motivations and situations. May I recommend that you check out, on IBM’s SmarterCommerce blog,  Bryan’s demonstration  of how using Buyer Legends avoids this pitfall this by turning data into story and then story into action.

Does your company use data to support the customer experience or does it use data to support decisions it’s already determined to make?

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Retail Legends: Amazon’s Trojan Horses And Their Customers’ Story


Back in June Amazon released its first smartphone and we wrote this 

While it may be true that Amazon is attempting to become a profitable consumer electronics manufacturer with a new smartphone venture, make no mistake that what matters most to Amazon is its ability to leverage those devices to improve the customer experience by reducing friction, and creating more buying/selling opportunities.

Turns out it was an epic flop and now Amazon is sitting on $170 million in unsold phones.  But if you think that is going to deter Amazon, you would be wrong.  

Blair Hanley Frank at Geekwire writes

Jorrit Van der Meulen, the head of Amazon’s device division in Europe, told The Guardian in an interview that the company is “undeterred” by the Fire’s poor consumer reception, and is taking feedback from the device’s introduction under consideration for future forays into the same space.  “We certainly read everything that’s written from customers to journalists and take note, so might the second step be slightly different than our first step, sure. I suspect that it will be,” he said.

With their goal of being the most customer centric company in the world, Amazon most certainly will release an improved Fire phone that will sell better.  But keep in mind, Amazon’s eye is on a bigger prize than just selling more phones, they want to sell more of everything.  Fire phone is likely only one piece of a comprehensive strategy that Amazon is hatching to create their own shopping ecosystem in the story of our daily lives. 

So almost on cue, Amazon introduces the Echo.

Echo is a tube shaped cloud device that recognizes your voice, answers questions and basically acts like an always-on Siri on steroids.  At a glance it looks like it has the potential to be a supremely useful device to have in the home.  

Of course, we think the Echo is Trojan horse, and Greg Kumparak of TechCrunch agrees.

Amazon is in the business of selling you things — and that is why Echo exists.

For now, Echo’s shopping-centric functionality is limited to helping you add things to your shopping list.

Need some pickles? Cool. Just say “Alexa, add pickles to my shopping list.” (Note: Echo listens for the word “Alexa” by default. You can pick a different name, it seems.) It won’t order them for you yet. It’ll just add them to a list for you to look at later.

But if Echo sees any sort of success, just watch how fast that will change.

You’ll be able to say “Alexa, order me a copy of Kung Fu Panda 2,” and it’ll be done.

“Alexa, order me some dope-ass high thread count egyptian cotton sheets.” Bam. Done. Sheets are on the way.

One-click purchase becomes no-click purchase. Your entire house (or at least, anything within earshot of Alexa) becomes the impulse-buy candy shelf from the grocery store’s checkout lane.

While other online retailers scramble to optimize their shopping carts, Amazon continues to do that too. Amazon is also innovating methods to take their shopping cart offline and embed it seamlessly in our day-to-day lives.  

So while Amazon weaves themselves into the fabric of their customers’ life stories, will other retailers be able to keep up?

Probably not without working just as hard as Amazon does to understand its customer.

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Your Pricing Tells a Story, is it the Story Your Customers Want to Hear?


Bernadette Jiwa over at The Story of Telling writes.

“Price, like design, location or quality is part of your brand story—one you are asking customers to believe in. You get to choose the story you want to tell and who you want to tell it to. It pays to understand what story the people you choose to serve want to believe.”

Jiwa explains how Ron Johnson, the retail guru behind the first iterations of the hyper successful Apple Store, took the CEO helm at J.C. Penney and sought to save the struggling retailer by creating a better shopping experience. One of his first orders of business was to change the stores longtime discount pricing strategy. Things didn’t turn out that well.

“This change in the story that J.C. Penney’s core customers believed about price (one that the company had trained them to believe) stopped loyal customers coming and ultimately led to a 37% drop in the company’s market value. The financial results also lost Johnson his position as CEO after only 17 months.”

Ouch. Wanting to tell a new brand story is a noble business goal, just make sure you know how your customers will interpret it. Start by having a comprehensive understanding of how they understand your current brand story. Buyer Legends should help.

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2015 Planning: The Must Have Strategy Doc Most Marketers Are Missing [Published on LinkedIn]

brandsMarketers are busy getting their plans together for 2015. If the study, that came out of the CMO Club Summit in New York last March, is any indication of what marketers are considering as challenges to their business campaigns, then they need to add a new strategy document to their 2015 planning.

A few of the key challenges they listed were:

  1. Delivering a positive customer experience throughout the research, discovery, and purchase journey.
  2. Creating client or customer-centric content
  3. Keeping content flow constant
  4. Measuring the effectiveness of content
  5. Managing data and identifying how to leverage it effectively
  6. Maximizing omni-channel marketing with limited talent and training resources
  7. Reinvigorated an already well-known brand


Please continue reading the full post on LinkedIn.

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