Marketing Is a Contact Sport

In the game of life, er, marketing, the goal is win-win. Marketers educate customers about possibilities; customers get something they need or want; the company coffers get filled. Technically, everyone should be happy.

But getting that win-win can be tougher than moving the ball down the length of the field in a match against the Carolina Panthers (which, according to Odds Shark, has the best defense in the NFL). Why? “The goalposts keep moving as customers’ expectations continually increase,” said Forrester VP and Principal Analyst Bill Band during the “Become a Customer Company” event in New York.

Band explained that it’s a “circular” situation: An increasing number of organizations are delivering top-notch customer experiences (whether through marketing, service, etc.), so customers begin to expect a great customer experience across the board, from other companies in other industries, not just the ones that delivered the original outstanding experience or their direct competitors. When more companies meet or exceed those higher customer expectations, customers then expect even more. For marketers it’s a constant rush down field.

So, for example, if a customer receives highly personalize communications from one brand, she’s likely to assume that other brands that have some similarity (size, industry, etc.) should be able to do the same. If not, it’s a fumble. Or perhaps, as baseball season approaches, I should say that it’s a strike against them.

But it doesn’t end there. When other companies do meet the expectations that customer now has, she’ll expect even more companies, whether or not they’re in a related field, to do the same. A while back I spoke to a marketer at a utilities company who was overseeing a revamp of the company’s website. He didn’t look at the online experience of other utilities companies for best practices; he looked at the likes of Amazon. He knew that’s what his customers would expect.

Marketers who use data to learn about customers over time and use that information to create winning experiences and interactions—ones that far outrank the competition because of the insight those marketers have acted on—will have the competitive advantage. They’ll be the ones leading in the customer satisfaction and loyalty stats instead of wallowing on the bench.

Conversely, marketers who don’t use personalization, relevancy, timeliness, and the like as a core part of their communications and interactions will end up on the losing team. Marketers who treat customers as nameless numbers on a spreadsheet will, ultimately, find themselves outmatched.

Today, marketers need to wow customers with their speed and agility; zigging with real-time targeted offers and zagging with timely responses to their feedback. Customer data is the performance enhancer in the game of marketing. Use it wisely to serve customers well and a win-win is guaranteed. Score!

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