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Using Digital Marketing to Foster Customer Collaboration

Lynette Rambo | November 17, 2015 

In IBM’s 2015 Global C-Suite Study, more than 5,200 executives (tagged “CxOs” in the report) were surveyed regarding the impact of today’s competitive landscape. When asked what makes top executives cringe, one respondent replied, “The ‘Uber syndrome’ – where a competitor with a completely different business model enters your industry and flattens you.”

“Collaborative brands … know that their customer interaction is never static and that they can constantly work alongside their supporters to improve their performance.”

– Raymond King, CEO of Top Level Design

Digital communications and the “Internet of Things (IoT)” have basically erased the boundaries for competition. The Study identified three key initiatives for which businesses need to be ready. This blog post focusses on the first – “Prepare for Digital Invaders.”

The results of the survey indicate that most CxOs anticipate having to change the way in which their organizations engage with customers. This equates to focusing primarily on creating digital, individualized experiences. As the CEO of a British utility noted, “We now have the tools to understand 90 percent of our customers, but we need to get to segment-of-one understanding.”


Redrawing the Rules of Engagement

CxOs believe cloud computing, mobile solutions and the IoT will predominate in the next five years. This means marketers need to continue to explore new ways of connecting with customers on a personal level.

In “Customers Don’t Want Ads, They Want a Conversation,” Brandon Evans makes the point that marketing should focus on creating a dialogue between buyers and sellers.  In the recent past (and to some extent, currently), having conversations with customers and really listening have been foreign to traditional marketing, which has focused more on pushing products and brands. Developing a relationship with consumers that includes two-way dialogue means ensuring an organization has well-trained and indoctrinated employees to create, monitor, and respond to the conversations.

Technology, automation and the digital social infrastructure that exists today can help companies manage an ongoing dialogue with customers. But, we believe it extends beyond dialogue into the realm of creating individualized experiences and fostering an atmosphere of collaboration with the customer.

Going Beyond the Call Center and Chat Window

While customer call centers are still important (after all, it’s nice to speak with a live person sometimes), many consumers now bypass long hold times for online help through chat and social media. According to Techopedia, “Customer collaboration combines contact center technology and processes with active, effective engagement between customers and company staff – largely through social media, which is a major component of business-customer collaboration.”

Just using social media for customer feedback isn’t enough, however. True customer collaboration means your customers actually have a say and that you’ve listened and used their feedback in decision making. In her article, “How Collaboration Can Turn Customers into Brand Promoters,” Nicole Fallen of Business News Daily iterates that consumers have more power than ever to share information (good or bad) about a brand. Raymond King, CEO of Top Level Design, the company who created the .wiki domain, says, “Wiki culture is based upon the idea of radical trust, where I trust you to edit my content in a productive way. That’s how a group resource is honed over time, and we never say that it is “perfect” or “done.” Collaborative brands get this. They know that their customer interaction is never static and that they can constantly work alongside their supporters to improve their performance.”

While being engaged and responsive through social channels is important, actually using the customer feedback to its full advantage is critical to successful collaboration AND outshining the competition.

Turning to third-party agencies

Creating an environment where consumers feel they have a say in your business, products and services and how you can best serve their needs requires a 360 degree view of your customers. This is a huge undertaking, and has brought about a new generation of “agency” which focusses on marketing to the consumer holistically.

Today’s consumer demands a cross-channel approach, which means companies need to be prepared to communicate via multiple social media outlets, websites, blogs, emails, and more. And, data can’t be flat. It’s not enough to know just the basics about customers. Now, real-time analytics and predictive intelligence is a must for the company that wants to stay ahead of the competition and provide customers with information, products and services they may not even realize they need, yet.

Even mega companies can be hard pressed to find enough employees with the marketing and technical knowledge and skills to pull it all off. The new generation of agency understands the best tools and methods and how to harness them to embrace the customer journey.

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Lynette Rambo | Marketing Consultant

Lynette Rambo is a Salesforce Certified Marketing Cloud Consultant, Administrator, Email Specialist, and Trainer. She has worked in marketing and communications for more than 20 years and with Salesforce Marketing Cloud since 2012. As a Marketing Consultant and Trainer for ListEngage, Lynette helps clients learn Marketing Cloud functionality, email marketing best practices, and effective campaign management. She also works with the Salesforce CRM and connecting Sales and Marketing initiatives. You can contact Lynette at