Lemnisk hosted a Customer Data Platform (CDP) Virtual Summit for the North American region on June 29th, 2022. The CDP Summit’s aim was to make enterprise marketers understand how they could create exceptional customer experiences using CDP-led hyper-personalization and increase their digital engagement and conversions. It comprised insightful fireside chats and a panel discussion with leading industry leaders. This article focuses on the panel discussion titled: Notes from the MarTech Battlefront.
The Panelist details are as follows:
1. Jame Schoen, VP, Digital Product Marketing, Customers Bank
2. Nicole French, Managing Partner Canada, Director of Marketing, Y (BrandTech)
Here are some of the key insights from the discussion:
Notes from the MarTech Battlefront
1. Companies today are generating more data than ever. Do brands have the right tools to take full advantage of real-time data to create real-time customer profiles and deliver hyper-personalized, 1-to-1 communication that customers are coming to expect from them?
Nicole: I think there’s still a disconnect for a lot of companies out there. There is excitement around the technology, the tools, and capturing the information. But there are still the marketing teams that need to deliver on the strategy, the thoughts, and the understanding.
We’ve seen also a massive uptake in understanding our users’ persona development, understanding the customer, the user journey to feed into, what data do we actually need to collect. Because a lot of the time, we set out to collect data, but it’s mostly “collect everything“. Then what do we do with it?
A lot of companies had set out on a plan of, we know there’s one route, one scenario that we really want to capture, but now that’s set and that’s golden. What else can we actually do? How do we expand that? There’s still more that we can do, and sometimes we’re capturing too much that we’re not actually actioning. So there’s still more thought to be put into it. I’m more on the strategy side than the technology side.
James: I think that’s a great point. We as humans like to simplify complex and ambiguous things. And so when we think through the customer journey, we like to think of it as this linear half that they follow and it’s anything but that. I think it looks a lot more like those murder mysteries “whodunit” boards with strings going to pictures everywhere.
That’s what the customer journey looks like. And I think we have to be comfortable with that ambiguity and understand that we’re not going to have a perfect picture. Once you get past that, you’re like, let’s get it as good as possible so that we can make the best-informed decisions with our media spend or that customized messaging to our target audience. And that’s something we can get into a lot more but I think it’s this idea of just being a little bit more comfortable with ambiguity and getting it as good as we can.
Nicole: There are a lot of clients who want to get it right the first time. But if we can remove that thought and consider that these systems are all developed to tell us whether we did get it right or not, and just keep learning on that, iterate, and improve.
2. Marketers are like mediators between brands and their customers. We’re talking about data, we’re talking about understanding it. How do marketers help mediate that journey between the two? What is it that you’re looking for in the data? And what is it would you’d like to extract from the data that you’re not able to do right now?
James: Yes. I think that’s the million-dollar, billion-dollar question there.
It comes down to identifying patterns and trying to put together these cohesive stories or understand the customer. When I think of marketing, I think of it as, one-to-many sales. If I’m trying to sell to you, I’m going to get to know you as a person and understand what your problems are. But when we’re thinking about cohorts or many people, it’s a little bit more difficult to do that. I think understanding where they are, how they’re interacting with the resources that you have and are available for them, and just trying to pull together those patterns.
And I think what’s interesting is that I spent a lot of time on the advertising side of things. Especially at Google, we would always say that within our ecosystem, we have a really good customer journey. We understand if someone downloaded a car buying app, watched a bunch of tutorials on YouTube, and searched for this particular model of car that tells us that they’re in the market for a vehicle. But that’s pretty specific to just the Google ecosystem.
There is so much going on outside of that, and I think that’s where it gets difficult. Like tying in all those different sources of truth into this one cohesive picture.
Nicole: Yeah, there’s also a layer happening whether you’re B2B or B2C, lead generation is your objective. If it’s a communication and content strategy, these different departments need to come together with these tools. I’m still seeing that the communications team wants to just measure interaction and engagement and the marketing-sales team on lead focus. And they’re not always connecting the dots.
So it’s a matter of reconnecting. Is the content engagement leading to the lead engagement and are they passing it back and forth? So again, it’s that some of these groups are looking at it as a straight line, but they really need to advance to connect that entire experience together and the data together so that they can leverage off of each other.
3. Have financial services companies moved to a model about finding out who their customers are and how does their martech product fit within their life situation? How does data help on that journey?
James: When we think about the journey there, each company in this space is in a drastically different position. I think all of us wish we were a little bit further along than we are. The more that we understand our customers and where they’re out financially, we’re able to then help them with the right product or offering for their time of need.
For example, a bank might understand or see that a customer in their checking account, has a payment going out for a car lease every month. This has been going on for about three years. It might be time for them to refinance their vehicle. What a great opportunity for us to be there for them whether it’s like educational material, like how to think about refinancing versus paying off the loan. And then being there with a great offering to help them with that next step of the journey.
There are countless examples like that right where that data exists somewhere within the organization. If we can get things straight, we can serve up a better experience for that.
Nicole: And I’m seeing that data being collected, the personas coming out of those financials that are well-developed based on the data that they’ve connected. But I’m still seeing the delivery being kind of generic.
And we’re not able to connect the dots quite yet with the technical tools that are there. Say for example we know this person based on the data we collected and wants to look at new cars. So we’re going to publish articles and push content out. But they’ve yet to make sure that content reaches that specific person. And that’s where we need that technology to come a little bit closer together for a lot of these organizations and serve it up appropriately and personalized.
4. Where do you think a tool like a Customer Data Platform comes into play?
Nicole: Think about all these banks and think about the data that they have and are crunching through. If a customer has asked to extend their line of credit, the bank has that information. That’s not something that they have gone and researched. The information is already there. But what the bank is doing is a general release of content to them.
But with something like a CDP in the middle, we can say, no, this group of people are the people that have asked for a line of credit. We are going to just push the content to those people because we have a whole other group of people that are not paying their credit card bills right now. They’re struggling completely with high inflation. So we don’t want to send them that content.
We want to leverage a different set of content and help them with their credit and figure out a plan that they can tackle and have that information. You need that piece in the middle so that you can execute properly by hitting the right people with the right information.
James: And I would add that you need that piece now more than ever. Like when our customers are just humans in general and are in so many more places digitally than they were a decade ago. In the past when we thought about social as a channel, it was Facebook, maybe Instagram, maybe a little bit of YouTube.
Now, an average user in the United States has 8.4 social accounts. They are in a lot of different places. That’s hard for us to keep track of and manage. And so I think a solution that will help with that is just going to be increasingly important.
5. How do you wrap your hands around your systems and the expanding audience into multiple channels and touchpoints?
James: It’s getting increasingly difficult for small businesses. My parents own a small business and with the budgets that they’re dealing with, it’s hard. You’re having to kind of expand and shift from performance marketing to brand building.
You need to think about how you’re building awareness and intent, and affinity for your brand across all of these different channels and measure the uplift in sales from the channels collectively. That requires a big shift. But if you do have a CDP or something that’s helping you tie all that together, it’s a lot easier to swallow and move forward with that.
Nicole: Based on the data, you’re going to realize if you do that persona study, collect the data, you know who all are on these different channels. And you don’t have to run the same efforts across all of those social channels.
We need to figure out exactly who’s using what, what for, and then direct it. You might find that there are a couple of channels that just don’t hit your priority personas. So, we don’t have to push our paid efforts to them and maybe just keep them alive somewhat. But unless you capture that data, do that study, and put a plan in action, you’re going to end up maybe stretching too far and trying to do everything, which isn’t the solution anymore.
6. How do you balance a customer-centric approach? How does data play into it when you’re managing a line of business or products and still trying to focus your hundred percent on the customer’s need?
James: For Customers Bank, we offer products, everything from the consumer’s credit card or checking account all the way up to large complex commercial financing options. The kind of approach that we’ve taken is when a user lands on our website, it’s understanding who they are.
It’s like we’ve broken down the navigation into an individual, small business, or commercial. And then from there understand what they’re looking for. Hence, we’re able to map out and start segmenting our users based on who they are first. And that’s the foundation. It’s instead of talking about the products, let’s find out who our customers are. So that we can then serve them the correct information.
Nicole: We can only assume that backend research has been done as we know exactly which products these people are likely to need or want. Or our experience says we’re not going to sell that to this type of person. It’s matching those backend business objectives and it has to come from both the business and the user. That’s how we usually study the business objectives and needs and then we create that pairing of understanding of where they cross paths, and that’s where we then launch into that strategy of how we connect right at those specific points.
7. Marketers need a scalable, reusable approach across multiple business segments to capture segments and target customers that are interacting in multiple touchpoints. However, they have segregated data sources and multiple technology platforms that don’t communicate with one another and have limited resources. Does that sound like a familiar ecosystem that you experience?
Nicole: Yeah, I was just going to say it’s still like that and there’s a phenomenal amount of manual work going into that of people just working through the data. I’m seeing individual campaigns that are still happening. I know there’s a time and place for individual campaigns, but many companies have moved to that always-on, following user needs, making sure we’re always answering. I think until you can get that full solution in place, that always-on tactic is still a struggle for so many companies.
8. Why aren’t more companies adopting a CDP right away? Why is it taking time?
James: I think previously we heard probably the key point, in my opinion, is when you look at the size of organizations who are pursuing this and what those organizations look like. There are already a lot of existing silos. There are so many stakeholders involved. And so it’s just a heavy lift to get everyone not only involved and get their input but get their buy-in and actually to use it and integrate it across these, these organizations.
Nicole: I agree hundred percent. And then who owns it? Organizations are siloed. Who owns the actual implementation, and who owns the end results? Marketing wants a piece out of it, but IT needs to be involved in getting it. Product has so much knowledge that it needs to be part of the setup. So they all have their own budgets. Are they going to share the budget? There are a whole lot of challenges and hurdles to kind of get over and I think education is huge in organizations like that to bring them together.
9. Do you think the “crawl, walk, run” approach makes it more palatable for organizations to look at, rather than saying, “Hey, I want to solve all your problems.”?
Nicole: It’s just a cost balance. How much does it cost to get that smaller initial lift or benefit? Who’s going to carry it from a budget standpoint? I think you’re always involving multiple divisions, even with the “crawl” approach.
You still need a little bit of buy-in from more partners within or stakeholders within the organization. I think it’ll work and I think it is the only way actually to kick off because in truth, even implementing the system, developing the strategies, and setting the KPIs and the depth, it has to be staged. I think an all-in approach is always gonna be difficult to execute. It’ll get very messy very quickly.
James: I think that’s the only way and it’s finding some quick wins with those that involve a story. Like as you can start talking to other organizations or other functions within your organization, say, “Hey, look at this example of how we use this.” Here’s some data behind it that, that gets the wheels spinning. They’re like “Oh, wow. I wonder if this would work for me.” And then they’ll get a bit more excited too.
10. Is marketing viewed as a revenue generator or is it an expense center?
James: It depends on who you ask. Having worked in the agency space and at Google, the pattern that I saw probably is the larger the organization, the more likely they were to see it as an investment towards the future with a return. And then this is generally the midsize group that saw it more as an expense, and then the really small businesses hoped it would be a money machine like, “I’m gonna put $2 in and get $5 back. If I don’t, then I’m not spending any money here.”
Nicole: I would say probably the same observations, but not as exact. Even though some of the large enterprises are still not necessarily leveraging marketing for what it truly is today and how much knowledge, data and strategy can lead to sales and revenue. But there are some medium companies, that have switched everything around. IT takes direction from marketing, sales takes direction from marketing, a very different approach. So it’s all over the map that I’m seeing.
11. In that changing environment, is data critical to marketing with respect to what role they play and what role data plays in deciding how to move forward and how to message?
Nicole: A hundred percent. If you hold the data, you hold the power. That’s what we say.
James: NASA in the 1960s, when they were developing this space program, they had a big plaque on the wall at the entrance that said, “In God, we trust all others, bring data.” At Google, everything that we did was very data-centric.
It was like you have to be able to quantify the impact of things. But I will say when trying to get decision-makers or key stakeholders to make a decision, there needs to be an element of story and emotion in there. Like the saying, “People buy with emotion and then justify with logic.” Hence, I think you got to get them to believe and understand the vision and story of what can happen. But then back it up with data so that people feel good about that decision and understand what’s happening.
12. Are you seeing a shift in the way that marketers are thinking about how they need to approach the rest of 2022, going into 2023 or is it the plan we started the year with is pretty good and we’re going to continue to go down that road?
Nicole: I’m not seeing things slow, not in the digital space. Clients are still committed, they are still moving down their roadmap. Maybe we’re not there yet to see the impact at the business level or if they’re going to pull back or expand timelines or put things on hold.
James: I would say that the conversations that I’ve been hearing kind of across the board are “we see something coming around the corner. And so brace for impact.” It’s almost like keep going but also have a plan B if we need to tighten things up with budgets.
13. Besides every company needing a CDP, what are some of the things you see happening in the next 12 months?
James: I really have my eye on the privacy impacts on marketing with the deprecation of third-party cookies. And I think with a greater focus on protecting an individual’s privacy, we’ve kind of been in the golden age of marketing with hyper-targeted messaging.
This has led to a great return on ad spend in a lot of areas. I think we’re going to start to see things go back to more traditional marketing. Like, “Hey, what is our audience? Where are they at?” I think the people who are able to have a large enough budget can measure the lift in sales rather than the individual sale that came from that user are going to be okay.
Nicole: I agree with James. I‘m also seeing the need to validate data through real people, workshops, real customers being involved in workshops and continually running through user journey scenario mapping to improve marketing-led and data-led product improvement.
I’m still seeing high demand for “Are we doing it right?” Even though the data says this and we’re getting more leads. We still want that real hard data like, what are the users saying if we want to run a workshop or a focus group. So there’s still that validation even on top of the data that’s being collected.
By Bijoy K.B | Associate Director – Marketing at Lemnisk