Initially formed out of the innovators within the Customer Relationship Management industry, Customer Experience Management is a discipline which attempts to manage all customer touchpoints, and move the customer from a state of satisfaction, to loyalty, and eventually to advocacy. In the last 5 years it has become an increasingly important aspect of marketing, as companies differentiate not just on product and service, but on the overall experience they deliver.
(SIDE NOTE: In fact, it seems every Content Management company has now rebranded as a Customer Experience company, in order to move from a dull, must-have-but-it’s-just-an-IT-cost sector to a sexy, revenue-driving-therefore-important area (READ: valuation multiples are higher in the latter).)
But this unending focus on the customer and the customer experience has one major failing; it usually ignores the pre-customer state, relying on marketing and advertising activity to drive the person into verifying themselves as a potential customer before they are treated to the delights of personalized messaging, segmented offers, and metrics-based analysis.
This un-customer belongs to networks of friends, colleagues and acquaintances, which influence them to a variety of degrees. These interactions represent non-commercial discussions which often coalesce into demand at a point in the future. If you as a company can access, analyse and actually interact in a meaningful way at this stage in the person’s journey, you are able to participate in this stage of the journey, before a customer relationship has been established.
Therefore, with my tongue placed firmly in my cheek, may I add another xCRM to the growing list (socialCRM, mobileCRM, eCRM etc etc): uCRM.
“Uncustomer relationship marketing, or uncustomer experience management, is the process of participating in a co-ordinated and relevant way with every person before they are identified as a sales prospect or actual customer. “
Exploding the Funnel
This is a portion of the sales funnel that is usually ignored. In fact it is considered “above the funnel” as there has previously been no captured customer data, and no validated intent. No data means no funnel. But in a world where every un-customer is talking, sharing, interacting publicly on social platforms, the funnel can be exploded upwards and outwards to include these people. Implicit customer data, collected as profile information and status updates and derived as preference and behavioural data, can be collected and used, far before the un-customer expresses a definitive interest in purchase.
Content as the Basis of the Relationship
At this point in the customer journey, there is little talk about needs and product solutions. There might be a signup drive around a competition, and of course, advertising plays its role. But the much more powerful angle is inbound marketing by publishing content that meets an educational, aspirational, or entertainment need of the target audience.
In 2009 we saw a shift in the balance of engagement, as the top use of time online became reading or watching content, overtaking communication via social networks or IM (Source: OPA and Silicon Valley Insider). Content attracts a new audience because there is now such a well developed (yet organic) system of social recommendation and sharing, to complement search technologies. In addition, there are now mature methods of seeding content to audiences to attract that first wave of attention. Therefore, if content is interesting and relevant to a target audience, it will be found by search AND shared copiously across many interconnected networks. This demonstrates the shift from push marketing to pull marketing.
Content not only attracts and retains an audience, but it also provides a basis for a relationship. By encouraging the audience to subscribe, or “like”, or follow, the brand-publisher is able to maintain an ongoing connection with that person. And if the content is well-tagged, every interaction with content yields very valuable preference data about the individual reader.
It’s before and after the sale
There is a conceptual leap that has been taken by companies seeking competitive advantage from the experiences that happen before they are ever interested in buying anything. B2B companies have always had a more data-driven approach to lead generation, and using the likes of Marketo and Eloqua some are making strides towards using content to service uncustomers and customers alike, in very intelligent ways. In the consumer marketing arena, there is a lag because of the huge volumes of customers, interactions, and permutations. Whilst already here in thought, it is now here in deed (technology), and with all the predictions around 2012 and customer experience, it’s certainly a space to watch.
PS: idio’s platform helps major brands build a personalized, cross-channel content experience, which attracts, engages, converts and retains their audience. For more information, to get a demo, or to come along to one of our marketing breakfasts, please fill in the form opposite.
PPS: Please, let’s never use the term “uncustomer” again.