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IBM: Re-imagine marketing with the customer at center

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IBM: Re-imagine marketing with customer at center
IBM: Re-imagine marketing with customer at center

Of the roughly 85% of American consumers who are online, more than 40% of those are classed as “always addressable” regular mobile users, according to numbers from Forrester Research—a statistic top-of-mind at the IBM Smarter Commerce Global Summit in Orlando on September 5, where the customer is a new unofficial member of the C-suite.

Clearly, personalization is an important part of that, says Forrester's David Cooperstein, VP and practice leader for CMO and marketing leadership—but in the age of Big Data, marketers need to go “beyond personalization to customization.”

It's a point OgilvyOne Worldwide's chairman and CEO Brian Fetherstonhaugh calls a “fundamental mind-set” for marketers.

“Customers run the show, it's their party; and we as marketers need to get invited,” Fetherstonhaugh says. “When we're acquiring data, we're not just scraping or extracting it, we should be earning it from them. It's a value exchange—just because we can do it, is not the same as, we should do it.”

IBM's focus is on building more holistic systems of customer engagement, says Yuchun Lee, VP and general manager of the Enterprise Marketing Management Group, the marketing component of IBM's Smarter Commerce initiative. To do this, Lee says, IBM plans to continue acquiring companies like DemandTec and TeaLeaf—both recent acquisitions—and put an increased focus on the transformation of the CMO role. IBM is also investing in what Lee calls “deeper” and more integrated marketing solutions, such as the IBM Marketing Center, a digital cloud-based marketing product announced at the summit.

“Marketing's universe is changing,” Lee says. “And if you have a customer-centric strategy, you have better business results.”

As anecdotal proof, Lee cited findings from a recent survey of more than 350 companies conducted by IBM: Businesses that use analytics and maintain a cross-channel engagement strategy have twice as much growth and 40% more profits as those that don't.

Marketers can no longer think about marketing as solely a promotional or selling activity, which Lee calls an old-world mentality. Marketing, he says, should be treated “as a service” by knowing the customer as an individual rather than as a mass demographic segment, by creating value at every touch, and by aligning brand philosophy with the customer experience.

“These might sound like old ideas, but they're not,” says Lee, who notes that the core issue for marketers is to create an overarching strategy that encompasses all these segments into a seamless whole. “It's not just about focus groups; it's experiential today.”

Social listening is especially important, says Lee.

“[If there is a] lack of living up to a brand promise, that will be reflected in social,” Lee says. “And it will come back and bite you in the front end of the funnel.”

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