Marketing's Digital Transformation

Todd Fenton Forsythe, SVP Digital Marketing, Dell

Todd Fenton Forsythe, SVP Digital Marketing, Dell

Over the decades the marketer Holy Grail has been to deliver real-time, predicted customer experiences. To a large extent, many brands are fulfilling the promise but significant change has occurred over the years bring us to this point. And, with that change marketing and IT must become strategic partners in planning, deployment and optimization of infrastructure and clearly understanding business outcomes.

Today, a shift in consumer behavior present yet another chasm we need to cross with our IT partners. This time, the real digital transformation begins. 

But, let’s reflect on how we got here.

As we look back in time marketers have been through many tectonic shifts as we chase improving the customer experience. 1:1 marketing, as we call it. In this evolution it’s clear that the relationship between the CMO and CIO becomes more critical as ever. 

Back in the 1980’s our view of customer largely centered around marketing interactions with the customer vs brand level engagement. Born out of that era evolved relational databases that provided marketers with access to an amazing amount of data, and we were certainly good at leveraging it to target and manage the customer lifetime value. In fact, some of the early work in those days still survive today as best practices. The methodology of yield management in the airline industry was applied to demand forecasting in marketing. Some of the leading edge brands were now forecasting the net present value of the customer (net asset value of the customer base) and ran what if scenarios to maximize value based on historical insight.

"When consumer are vetting product buying needs with peers, we need to be present in those conversation to respond and represent the brand, in a relevant/transparent way"

We were awesome, as marketers. We predicted customer behavior, we managed value, and we “pushed messaging” out into the market, targeted albeit.  Life was great.

But, we were in operating in our own bubble. Marketing data, outsourced, CRM on top, service providers to execute siloed communications by channel. All we need from IT was a data feed here or there, sometimes from your enterprise and also from hosted engagement platforms.

As I mentioned above, while managing lifetime value of the customer it became apparent to many marketers the key predictive variables that drove material increases in customer value weren’t necessarily marketing interactions, but service, support, and purchase (data) regardless of channel). We are increasingly become more focused on brand-level engagement and the experience with the customer end-to-end. Our little CRM bubble just burst. And, major shifts in the relationship between marketing and IT were just beginning.

At the time, as we chased “full-house” enterprise customer interactions it became clear that marketing needed to look beyond traditional CRM and broaden data cope to includes sales, ERP, service applications and more. 

In order for marketing to be fully effective at delivering a full customer lifecycle strategy, awareness through advocacy, the IT partnership was important. Marketing had to integrate its data with the rest of the enterprise.  What was headed one way, now it’s not header the other the other way.

We are now in the midst of a new shift in customer behavior which increase the data marketing needs to manage and manipulate by 100x, which means marketing is not the single largest producer and consumer of data in the organization.

We have all seen the research, increasingly consumers are well self-educated before engaging with a brand. And, predominantly this is social and digital data peer to peer dialog–resulting in both structured and unstructured. In order for marketing to adjust to this shift it certainly impacts our marketing mix strategy but also our data collection approach. 

When consumer are vetting product buying needs with peers, we need to be present in those conversation to respond and represent the brand, in a relevant/transparent way of course. And as was with history, we needed record of this interaction for future insight, which is all unstructured data. As consumers shift toward consuming more digital data as well, we are now seeing more and more anonymous interactions with the brand, both on your website and 3rdparty websites. The results in vast amounts of first and third party cookie pools (with profile attributes where you need to connect them to create a unified view of the person and also attach to known relationship with the customer to you can maintain the full view. Today, a bulk of your data is now “off the grid” or not sitting in your enterprise so collecting it, manipulating and leverage it for predictive marketing is vital to create relevant experiences across touchpoints.

Your segmentation schemes and targeting now extend beyond your CRM, and into the digital world and social world with 1:1 interaction with your customer. Brands are also finding us in text mining attitudinal data in social streams for advance segmentation and targeting. Leveraging the advertising technology marketing now create modular creative–small bite sized pieces of creative, offers, copy, which get assembled in real time up advertising serving to multiple touch points, web, email, digital, sales. All of which can only possible with a strong partnership with IT.

Understanding the key drivers of customer lifetime value and being transfixed on the customer experience force marketing and IT to achieve unparalleled levels of collaboration producing engineering acts of marvel to deliver 1:1 customer interactions.

For now, we once again are happy again, until our next bubble is burst. Which probably is our ability to create thousands of iteration of message/offers to support 1:1 communication on sustained basis. 

As a marketing, if you hear the term Data Lake, that’s a good thing. Especially for customer centric marketers. We are able to ingest all of this data (structure and unstructured), even ingest data on-demand (self-service) and run all of our machine learning methodologies to deliver predictive logic consistently across touch points (hence your transactional systems). Having operated with in a Data Lake for years, it’s truly a remarkable approach. My data scientists are in sync with others across the enterprise sharing insight and knowledge so we are all becoming much more customer focused.

We are truly living in the era of real-time, predicted communications delivered across channels!

I’m looking forward to the next shift in marketing, my marketing IT partner will be there along my side and are ready to evolve yet again.

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