We are seeing a Perfect Storm of issues brewing among businesses both large and small, and both B2C and B2B. Any one of these issues is a suitable catalyst for considering Intelligent Customer Engagement (ICE), however combined they make ICE a business priority.
So what is this Perfect Storm of business issues? The first is undoubtedly the need to be customer-centric. We are seeing more and more businesses make cultural and structural shifts towards customer-centricity all the time – British Airways and Asda being just two examples at the time this article was written. Without a doubt, becoming customer-centric has become a business priority however, as we explain in other articles, making this shift is difficult and many of the challenges businesses will face are only answered through ICE.
The next pressure point in this Perfect Storm is with regards to content marketing. Mentioned alongside the drive towards customer-centricity, this may seem like small beer. In many ways we agree, but only because the approach being taken towards content marketing is far too limited in scope and ambition despite the fact that significant seven figure sums are being spent by many companies. Our view is that content is the indelible link between a company and its customer and therefore the approach to how content is strategically created is of fundamental importance.
To understand the importance of content marketing, you need to appreciate that content is not simply articles on a website, it is everything from your ads and brochures to your call centre script and bills. As such, content is your fundamental point of customer engagement. So, content marketing should be commercial in its nature – not simply a brand engagement tactic. And to achieve this commerciality, which ICE does, content should be governed by an overarching strategy that binds together what are currently content silos within your organisation.
And this takes us on to our third Perfect Storm pressure point. As you will have read elsewhere on our Intelligence Hub, we firmly advocate the breaking down of the customer communications silos that exist within organisations. If you are going to become customer-centric and if you embrace truly strategic content marketing that spans the actual customer journey from the earliest engagement through to ongoing retention, then you should consider the breaking down of customer communications silos as a business priority. And as far as we are aware, ICE is the only approach that will enable businesses to do this.
The challenge you face is weighing up ICE as a business priority. It is a case in point that businesses can only have so many priorities at any given time. However, all businesses should always have their customers as their number one priority – after all no customers, no company. And when businesses take their eye off the customer ball, then disaster will soon appear on the horizon. In the UK market you only need to take a look at Tesco as an example of this. The common theme that runs through that company’s recent misfortunes is that fact that it stopped considering the needs and attitudes of its customers.
Yet putting the customer first is a relatively new phenomenon, as is content marketing (in its present, digitally-led guise), and the breaking down of customer communications silos is something that no business has yet done. So why should you consider the implementation of Intelligent Customer Engagement as a business priority?
The answer lies in the outcomes you will achieve. These outcomes will be explored in more depth in a future article, but in summary they are as follows:
- Provide structure to customer-centricity: becoming customer-centric is more than a change in corporate culture and ICE provides the structure and process that will enable true customer-centricity.
- Improve engagement with customers: through ICE you are able to make an institutional shift from broadcasting sales messages at your customers to engaging with them which will improve your relationship, your reputation and your ability to sell.
- Improve conversion: by mapping the true customer journey from initial engagement through to purchase, receipt of product/service and the on-going customer relationship, you will increase sales conversions and opportunity to cross-sell/up-sell to your customers as you will be more relevant.
- Greater lifetime engagement of the customer: by being more relevant to your customer and understanding them more completely (ICE analyses the content they consume – “what you read says more about you than what you say”) you are more likely to retain your customers and increase their lifetime value.
- Commercialise content: if your company is spending five, six or seven figure sums on content, then through ICE you will be able to commercialise that investment by putting in place a strategy that creates content in relation to clearly mapped commercial goals that can be analysed.
- Break down customer communications silos: all organisations have customer communications silos. For ICE you will be able to break down those silos by aligning each customer communications function (marketing communications, contact centre, digital & ecommerce, sales, billing, etc.) around the content that the customer is consuming on their journey.
- Improve response rates and campaign effectiveness: if you dream of a 2% response rate on your outbound campaigns, then ICE is for you. This is not because ICE will achieve a paltry 2% return but because it will transform your thinking and approach away from simply conversions to sale and instead on progressing the audience towards the commercial goal over time.
- Better insight and analytics: as mentioned above, what you read says more about you than what you say. Therefore, if you can see what your customers are reading and engaging with, then you will learn far more from them all the time than any survey, research or focus group could deliver at one moment in time.
- Sector leadership: to be a leader you have to act like a leader and through your audience engagement strategy that is a key component of ICE, you will be epitomising the principle of sector leadership with the associated brand halo effect that this has. In today’s world, where reputation has a tangible dollar value connected to it, goodwill is a measurable commercial benefit.
- Improve your ability to forecast: through ICE you will be able to track the progress of prospective customers towards your commercial goals and predict how long it will take them it get there.
While appreciating that ten business benefits is a long list this is mainly because the world of customer-centric business in virtually untapped. We live in a world of rapid, seismic change within marketing and customer communications. Keeping up with that change is daunting but the benefits from doing so are both many and clear to see. However, to embrace this change you are going to have to adopt new ways of doing things which can be aligned around the way things are already done, something which is fundamental to the ICE approach.