Marketers face a tough reality: Traditional channels are under assault.
That was the stage Harley Manning set at the recent Forrester Marketing Forum. To fight back, marketing's new imperative must be engagement, said the Forrester vice president and research director.
"Marketing got marginalized as 'make it pretty people,'" he said. "How do we get back to marketing with a capital M?"
The answer is by engaging with customers more often and through multiple channels. At the forum, the topic of engagement took center stage as analysts and business leaders offered advice and examples of how to effectively create desirable interactions with consumers, given all the new marketing channels.
Brian Haven, a senior analyst at Forrester, suggests that companies identify where discovery and evaluation happen outside the marketing channels and determine the context of use. This is where integration with sales, service, and other customer-facing channels is imperative. Firms should facilitate conversations by encouraging advocates and word-of-mouth activities both with the
company and externally. Finally, reward these brand ambassadors.
A new program within Nike's Jordan brand aims to do all of these things. Emmanuel Brown, Nike's director of digital and content, discussed the brand's Jordan Breakfast Club. With Jordan Breakfast Club, consumers can sign up on the site and customize individual workout programs that they can download to their iPods. On the site, they can report their progress and their peers have the option of assessing the workouts by rating their strengths and weaknesses.
The program has resulted in 20,000 engaged influencers and an expanded 10-city summer Jordan Breakfast Club tour. "It's not hard to become part of the culture," Brown said. "It's a small nucleus of people who influence the masses. Our footwear team listens to consumers...it's like a having a focus group."
Cathy Halligan, CMO of Walmart.com, says her company is also engaging its customers in new ways. One vehicle is the retailer's online ratings and reviews. Recent research revealed that 75 percent of customers are going to its website, so Wal-Mart decided to leverage the site better as a loyalty resource. Customers who visit Walmart.com can rate products using a 1 to 5 scale. These reviews have created transparency and have given Wal-Mart valuable information about how to enhance product offerings. "We're getting better at using information to make decisions," Halligan says. "If you ask your customers a lot and then listen, you get a lot more information than one would think."
Finally, FedEx discussed its efforts to engage its B2B customers. Mark Columbo, senior vice president of digital access marketing at FedEx Services, considers satisfaction the lowest form of engagement. His goal is to go beyond just satisfaction.
Instead, the company's mission is to create customer advocates whose word-of-mouth rings loud and clear. "Intense loyalty really comes out of innovation and the customer experience," he explained.
For example, FedEx offers customized solutions aimed at how its B2B customers prefer to conduct business, rather than use standard products and processes. The company then measures customer-stated attitudes and conducts real-time, moments-of-truth surveys. As Columbo explained, "Experience is how you feel about yourself transacting with that company."