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Adapting Partner Marketing to the Experience Economy

Marketers in particular have the unique opportunity to lead in delivering the most optimal overall experience for customers.

We’ve all experienced it — the store employees that ignore your presence, or the irrelevant online ‘targeted’ product recommendations. Both are foolish mistakes that end up causing customers to abandon brands. Just like poor targeting, a lack of accessible information across your brand’s channels can cause customers to quit you and turn to more resourceful, customer-empowering competitors.

Marketing is changing, and one mishap when marketing to a customer, whether in-person or virtually, can lead to them walking away for good. According to a recent survey, “The Experience Movement: Research Report,” conducted by Eventbrite, Ipsos and Crowd DNA, Americans believe that real-life connections and the resulting expansion of perspectives are key to promoting positive change in the future. No wonder three out of four millennials prefer experiences over things. 

This is all caused by the post-digital world we live in. In the experience economy, customers bond with brands that provide them emotional connections. As marketers, we must re-map the customer journey, continuously learn about our customers, and use the data we have at hand to best personalize our engagements and remain relevant at every touch point.

In my experience leading Cisco’s global partner marketing organization and working with our more than 60,000 partners, there are three key strategies I feel organizations must embrace to take advantage of the experience economy.

Adopting an Omnichannel Strategy

Multi-touch attribution is critical in today’s experience economy. Equally as important is the role of data-driven storytelling, which is now an essential skill for all marketers. The channels with which we reach customers have multiplied, which is both an opportunity and a challenge. Managing the channels effectively requires us to ensure customers are happy at every touch point, without compromising brand identity.

successful omnichannel campaign moves customers seamlessly across online and offline channels from initial contact, to purchase and beyond. On the digital front, content needs to be relevant for every user and each engagement channel they touch. This includes the company’s social media channels, website, blogs and mobile apps. The content also needs to align with messaging used during events, whether at large conferences or individual consultations, to establish seamless conversation throughout the customers journey. The true value a customer achieves with a brand is not after initial point of sale, but rather the orchesttration across their whole experience. As marketers, we must be engaging across the entire customer life cyle to ensure a consistent experience throughout.

To start, identify channels with the highest engagement rates to focus on and optimize. By highlighting key channels or touch points, marketing and sales teams can identify where an "engagement" went right or wrong. It’s important to establish a foundation, whether you start small with manually analyzing, or invest in data management as part of your tech stack. Combining data from different channels into a single database for easy analyzing is key to understanding your customers and their needs.

Leveraging Insights, Not Instincts

Remember that behind each data point is a real human with emotions. The challenge in the post-digital world is creating a single pane of glass across all customers’ personal data to create one view. The data is extracted from various sources and applied uniquely across different channels, so combining it to get the big picture is invaluable.

Data will teach you about your prospects’ emotions and engagement behaviors, it will fuel your marketing engine, and lastly, it will ensure the right content is delivered to the right platform — ensuring a consistent and positive customer journey.

Here at Cisco we are constantly indexing and and leveraging specific insights to learn more about our partners’ key "careabouts" and where they are in their engagement journey. From there, we have the context to sketch out that persona, predict their needs, and craft the right message which speaks to that specific customer in a more human and personable fashion.

While new marketing and automation technology will help aggregate audience segments across multiple channels, human emotions will be the glue that connect the insights together. Together, insights and the human conscience will enable better-informed decisions, including compelling and customized content, and the knowledge to when – not just how – to target customers.

Bringing In the Team

Last year, Salesforce released its fourth annual State of Marketing Research report. It found that 75 percent of consumers expect a consistent experience across multiple channels (web, mobile, in-person, social). It also found that 73 percent will likely switch brands if they don’t get this experience. Another 89 percent expect vendors to understand and anticipate their business needs. When customers interact with brands, they don’t see the different channels that marketers do; they see one personality.

In today’s digital era, everyone is a marketer – regardless of role or function – as stewards of a company’s brand. It can be an accountant from the billing center sending out communications to renew contracts, an engineer who writes a blog around a new technology, or a call-center agent utilizing click-to-chat. These are all moments that matter for customers, and it’s the sum of all of these experiences that make up that overall customer experience. And so, your business teams must turn up as one — one face, one style, one message. And they must do so consistently.

Given their proximity to customers, sales teams can offer fresh perspectives and insights that provide marketing teams with a bigger picture of their targets’ engagement behaviors. Integration won’t happen overnight, but sharing insights and setting goals among teams is a great way to start.

Marketers in particular have the unique opportunity to lead in delivering the most optimal overall experience for customers. In the vein of tearing down silos, invite your engineering or product-team representatives to join marketing planning or content development meetings. They, too, can provide perspective on what key audiences like engineers, developers and IT professionals will be most interested in, and you’ll be surprised by the fresh thinking they bring to the table.

One company that showcases this notion of consistent, personalized, data-driven customer experience throughout the life cycle is Peloton, a maker of indoor bikes. I bought my own Peloton bike a couple months back and I didn’t fully realize the value of it until I had it for almost two months. Here’s how Peloton created a personalized, customer life-cycle experience that earned my brand loyalty:

  • Weekly emails that highlighted classes, instructors and times based on the data from my specific bike that were customized for me.
  • A robust online community where riders, instructors and brand ambassadors can ask and answer questions around the bike, give fitness inspiration, connect with other riders, and be given first access to new products. At CES this year, Peloton announced a new treadmill version, but Peloton pre-announced the new treadmill to the community before CES with an opportunity it buy it at a discounted price.
  • Live, physical classes in various cities where users are able to combine the digital with the actual physical experience of being in class.
  • Majority of Peloton customer referrals come from the community and their friends, with a Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 91 out of 100.

I didn’t just buy a Peloton bike; I bought an experience that has created a true human connection that evokes emotion and creates a lasting memory.

Even as a technology business, staying relevant and orchestrating an experience across customer’s life cycle is critical. By aligning cross-function goals, adopting an omnichannel strategy and becoming more data-driven, teams can more effectively accelerate the sales cycle and deepen customer relationships — all to better equip themselves for what’s next in marketing in a post-digital world.

What are your businesses doing to own this new experience economy for our customers? Comment below or to tweet me at @michchiantera. I’d love to hear more about some of the awesome things you are doing.

Cisco's vice president of global partner marketing, Michelle Chiantera, knows a thing or two about creating a successful partner ecosystem. Leading a team of marketers that align with sales to accelerate and empower 62,000 partners, Michelle and her team seek to drive partner profitability, provide relevant enablement and encourage innovation. To help partners along their journey in the post-digital world, where customer engagement demands personalization, Michelle believes in the importance of shifting mindsets to not only incorporate the digital aspect, but to keep the human touch to achieve the greatest customer success.

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