For integration, agencies should come together, right now

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David Williams, president/CEO of Merkle
David Williams, president/CEO of Merkle

Q: What is integrated customer marketing, and why is it important?

A: Integrated customer marketing is about optimizing and maximizing customer
behavior over time through the management of targeted customer interactions across sales, marketing and service departments. Trends such as the movement toward customer-centricity, the growing demand for accountability and the digitization of media are all impacting companies' desire and ability to be more integrated. However, while it is rare for a company today to say, "I don't believe in customer centricity," many don't fully understand what it involves or believe they are able to undertake such a strategy. 

Q: So, integrated customer marketing isn't widely practiced?

A: We have some new research coming out with Forrester that looks at why the marketing industry has been talking about integrated marketing for 20 years, and yet almost 90% of VPs of marketing and CMOs say they are not good integrated marketers. This is because it's hard to understand how millions of customers behave with a brand on any given day. Making integration even more complex is the complicated way in which many companies are organized.

Q: What needs to happen for integrated customer marketing to become more widely practiced?

A: Many organizations still need to transition from a campaign-focused approach to a customer-focused approach. Instead of optimizing a single e-mail campaign, they should be looking at the next 40 campaigns and how these are influencing the value of a customer over time. Most companies have the necessary marketing database and analytics capabilities in place to do this. So, it's a matter of realigning their resources around a set
of priorities that are heavily linked vs. more being more project-oriented. The companies that are able to do this are gaining competitive advantage right now.

Q: Is it simply a matter of saying, "I'm
going to be more customer-focused?"

A: No. First, there needs to be a universal segmentation language so that all the departments within a company are talking about customers in the same way. In most companies today, the brand department discusses the customer from an attitudinal standpoint while the direct marketing department focuses on behavior. Then, 
a company needs to understand what the influence of the next dollar spent is going to have on customers over a period of time. Finally, there needs to be a universal customer value metric. Otherwise, you have the customer who buys a lot but calls to ask a lot of questions being valued one way by the marketing department and another way by the call center.

Nike, DirectTV, Geico and Dell are doing things behind the scenes to understand their customers' likes and dislikes.


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