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How to improve customer relationships with personalized messaging

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How to improve customer relationships with personalized messaging


“The first things we always want to think about in the customer journey are what the customer is doing and how they are interacting with us as a brand,” said Ben Tepfer, senior technical evangelist at Adobe, at our MarTech conference. “As marketers, we need to be thinking about what the channels look like today and what the channels are going to look like in the future.”

He added, “Customers demand experiences that are consistent and personalized across every one of these channels.”

comparison of traditional and digital customer lifecycles
Source: Ben Tepfer

The days of the traditional customer journey are long gone. Now, brands are responsible for delivering messages of value across multiple platforms, devices and channels. Without a personalization strategy in place, these companies will have a difficult time attracting and retaining customers.

“There’s a financial benefit for you as an organization when you start thinking about personalization,” he said. “It takes more effort in some cases, but it has a greater return on investment.”

Here are some effective ways marketers can leverage personalization in their customer messaging efforts.

Equip your team for great conversations

Your marketing team needs as full of a view as possible of a customer to deliver high-quality communication. Bring them into the loop by providing customer data and insights from your various platforms.

“You need a view of the customer that’s tied across sales, service, support, etc.,” Tepfer said, “Then you can personalize the journey.”

But data is just one piece of the puzzle. Conversations are a two-way street, and brands need effective technologies that create foundations for ongoing high-quality customer messaging .

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“You need the technology to be able to execute this,” he said. “You need technology that acts and listens in real-time, that follows through with customer engagements, and that lets customers drive their conversations.”



Practice active listening with customers

“We have to remember that the customer journey is the customer’s journey, not us marketers’,” Tepfer said. “And it’s not always going to be good. Sometimes something happens that’s not ideal.”

Paying attention to these discrepancies in the customer journey is vital to understanding their needs. But more than that, active listening calls for action on the brand’s side that addresses the concern.

“The most important thing is responding to them,” he said. “We need to be reactive and conversational in the way that we talk to our customers.”

Produce conversations of value

“If you’re not delivering value, then you’re not succeeding,” said Tepfer. “It’s about centralizing decisioning so that you can make great decisions about what the best experience is right now and what the best experience is going to be down the road. It means responding at the right time and on the right channels.”

“It’s important that you have a technology framework that lets you adjust in real-time because that’s how your customers are interacting,” he added.

While customer data, insights and active listening provide the foundation for personalized messaging, brands need technology solutions to prove what they have to offer is valuable. Marketers may consider using customer experience platforms to deliver these real-time communications.

“When you have all these foundational pieces together and you’re responding and delivering value, that’s when you’re able to deliver experiences at scale that are highly personalized,” Tepfer said.

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He added, “We can think about one-to-one journeys all day, but we also need to think about how we scale and bring those forward.”

Customer journey analytics: A snapshot

What it is. Customer journey analytics software lets marketers connect real-time data points from across channels, touchpoints and systems, allowing users to gain insights into the customer journey over time. This allows marketers to explore the customer journey using data.

Why it’s hot today. Businesses know they need to be customer-focused in each aspect of their marketing operations. As a first step, brands need to understand how consumers are finding them. Whether it be via search, advertisement, or word of mouth, the medium used will set the trajectory for the rest of their journey.

Meanwhile, the average person uses many devices to access the internet, and Cisco forecasts that the number of devices connected to IP networks will increase to more than three times the global population by 2023. With so many devices, people shift back and forth depending on the task at hand and their current environment. Consumers and business buyers turn to an average of nine channels to browse product inventory, look for advice, and make purchases.

Capturing their interactions post-discovery, such as communication with a call center or visit to a retail outlet, helps brands see which of their assets are helping them along their path. What’s more, brands need to know what those who convert do post-purchase–this information helps companies win repeat business and encourage customer advocacy. Customer journey analytics tools do just that.

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What the tools do. The majority of vendors offer one or more of the following capabilities to give marketers an understanding of the customer journey: data gathering from a wide variety of channels and touchpoints; analysis using artificial intelligence and machine learning, and customer journey visualization.

Many vendors also offer customer journey orchestration (CJO) capabilities, which allow users to act upon the insights and actually deliver the next step in the customer journey in real-time.

Why we care. Customers expect to have consistent experiences at each of these touchpoints. They want personalization, a trend that continues to grow. Tools like customer journey analytics software give brands the ability to gain insights from their audience and act on them.

Read Next: What is customer journey analytics and how are these tools helping marketers?

About The Author

Corey Patterson is an Editor for MarTech and Search Engine Land. With a background in SEO, content marketing, and journalism, he covers SEO and PPC to help marketers improve their campaigns.



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FLoC is off the table as Google switches to targeting by Topics

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FLoC is off the table as Google switches to targeting by Topics


Google will replace Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) with a new interest-based targeting proposal called Topics, the company announced Tuesday.

The Topics API will share a limited number of topics of interest, based on the user’s recent browsing browsing history, with participating sites without involving external servers. Users will be able to review topics assigned to their profile and remove them. There are no plans at this stage to allow them to add topics. Google says it will have a process in place to exclude potentially sensitive topics like race and sexual orientation. The final iteration of the user controls, as well as other technical aspects of how Topics works, will be determined based on the trial and feedback, Google said.

We reported in the Daily Brief last August that this change was being contemplated.

Google had no news to announce with respect to its Privacy Sandbox Timeline for deprecating third-party cookies, although it conceded it might change depending on trials and feedback.

How it will work. “With Topics, your browser determines a handful of topics, like ‘Fitness’ or ‘Travel,’ that represent your top interests for that week based on your browsing history,” Google said in the announcement.

Up to five topics are associated with the browser. Topics are stored for three weeks and the processing occurs on the device, without involving any external servers, including Google’s own servers.

Google is starting this initiative with about 300 topics “that represent an intersection of IAB’s Content Taxonomy V2 and also our own advertising taxonomy review,” said Ben Galbraith, Chrome product director, “This is a starting point; we could see this getting into the low thousands or staying in the hundreds [of topics].” 

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When a user goes to a participating website, the Topics API selects three topics (one from each of the past three weeks) to share with that site and its advertising partners. If a site does not participate in the Topics API, “Then it doesn’t provide a topic nor does it receive a topic,” Galbraith said. The site itself or its advertising partners can opt in to the Topics API.

Google has also published a technical explainer containing more details about the Topics proposal.

The difference between FLoC and Topics. One of the main distinctions between Google’s previous targeting proposal, FLoC, and the Topics API is that Topics does not group users into cohorts. As the Electronic Frontier Foundation has pointed out, fingerprinting techniques could be used to distinguish a user’s browser from the thousands of other users within the same cohort to establish a unique identifier for that browser.

Additionally, under FLoC, the browser gathers data about a user’s browsing habits in order to assign that user to a cohort, with new cohorts assigned on a weekly basis, based on their previous week’s browsing data. The Topics API determines topics to associate with the user on a weekly basis according to their browsing history, but those topics are kept for three weeks. They are shared with participating sites and advertisers rather than a FLoC cohort ID.

The difference between contextual advertising and Topics. Galbraith confirmed that, unlike traditional contextual advertising, users can be targeted by topic even on sites that have nothing to do with the topic. In other words, someone that had showed interest in camping equipment in the previous three weeks might be targeted with ads for tents on a sports website.

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“Time will tell” which browsers will adopt. Google is in the early phases of implementing the Topics API, so other browsers likely won’t have had a chance to evaluate it. But, Chrome was the only browser to adopt its predecessor (FLoC), so it’s unlikely that Firefox, Safari, Edge or other browsers will adopt Google’s proposal this time either.

“We’re sharing the explainer, which is the beginning of that process to discuss with other browsers their view on the Topics API, so time will tell,” Galbraith said.

Why we care. Google is currently set to deprecate third-party cookies in Chrome sometime next year and now we have a better idea of what audience targeting options will be available. Although FLoC is now officially off the table, the remarketing solution FLEDGE is still under consideration.

Prior to the Topics API, Google ran into a number of challenges with FLoC, including lack of adoption, industry pushback and regulatory issues. The company has likely addressed some of those challenges with this new proposal, but adoption among other browsers remains unlikely, which could impact how big of a user base advertisers are able to get in front of.

Galbraith declined to make explicit comment on the alternative identifiers being developed within the adtech industry, only saying that Google believes that the days of tracking consumers are over.

Additional reporting by Kim Davis.


About The Author

George Nguyen is an editor at Third Door Media, primarily covering organic and paid search, podcasting and e-commerce. His background is in journalism and content marketing. Prior to entering the industry, he worked as a radio personality, writer, podcast host and public school teacher.

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What is CRM? A Guide for Marketers

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What is CRM? A Guide for Marketers


Customer relationship management (CRM) is the technology brands use to nurture relationships with their customers. These solutions are designed to help sales and service agents communicate with customers more effectively. And because 91% of businesses with more than 11 employees use a CRM, marketers would be wise to learn about all they have to offer.

In this piece, we’ll dive deep into CRM systems and their impact on marketing teams. We’ll cover:

Estimated reading time: 11 minutes

The benefits of CRM

At their core, CRM systems are designed to facilitate customer and sales relationships. From the most basic solutions to the most complex, CRM software stores, organizes and shares customer information to facilitate connections. They collect basic information such as customer websites, emails, phone numbers, purchase dates, social media data and much more. Some even record data in the form of lead scoring based on internal analysis systems.

CRM platforms track user activity across many online channels and seek to guide them through your sales funnel. In essence, they work to paint a picture of the customer to better understand them and, ultimately, fulfill their needs. This approach saves brand resources by focusing on potentially profitable actions, rather than adopting a hit-or-miss approach and hoping customers “bite.”

Organizations of all sizes can take advantage of CRM’s wide range of benefits, including:

  • Improved information organization.
  • Automated data entry.
  • Customer segmentation.
  • Process scaling.
  • Prospect follow-up reminders.
  • Improved reporting.

“Corporations invest in sophisticated CRM, or customer relationship management, programs to effectively oversee their relationship with their customers at every point during the buying process,” says Marc Ostrofsky, entrepreneur and bestselling author of “Get Rich Click.”

CRM platforms can save brands time and resources, yet their ability to enhance customer relationships is their greatest asset. Trust is a bigger success factor than ever in our transformed digital landscape, and brands that fail to keep their customers happy from the get-go will most likely lose out. A CRM system can help organizations combat this challenge by speeding up communication, offering insights to help anticipate needs, and orchestrating marketing activities to deliver relevant information to enhance customer journeys.

Types of CRM systems available

CRM systems are often confused with customer data platforms (CDPs) because they both store customer data, but the two are designed to meet different challenges. CDPs bring together customer data from various sources and unify it, creating shareable profiles in the process, while CRM software enhances the communication and brand relationship with customers, leveraging their data to craft more engaging communications.

At their core, CRM tools offer solutions to help support sales and service agents with customer communications. Unlike CDPs, CRM systems use their technologies to ensure each step of the customer’s experience is as frictionless as possible.

There are a variety of CRM formats available — cloud-based, on-premise, industry-specific, etc. — but there are three main function groups most solutions fall into. Each of these reflects a specific business function designed to address brands’ customer relationship needs.

Operational CRM. The main purpose of operational CRM systems is to help sales, marketing, and service teams better streamline customer interactions. These use various forms of automation to help provide customers with the best experiences. Salesforce and HubSpot are some of the most popular operational CRM tools.

Analytical CRM. Many CRM systems are designed to store vast amounts of data, but not all are effective when it comes to categorizing and drawing insights from it. Analytical CRM software can help marketers determine customer preferences and points of contact more easily through data warehousing, data mining and online analytical processing (OLAP). Zoho Analytics is a good example of an analytical CRM.

Collaborative CRM. Clear communication is key when it comes to sharing customer data across sales, marketing, and customer service departments, which is where collaborative CRM systems thrive. These use interaction and channel management features to give relevant teams a 360-view of customers. Microsoft Dynamics 365 and SAP Customer 360 are popular collaborative CRM systems.

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Who uses CRM systems?

CRM software can be a valuable asset to all departments within your organization, which is why many brands have some form of it. 65% of salespeople used CRM tools in 2020, and it’s growing at a rapid pace — spending on CRM is expected to reach $96.5 billion by 2028, according to Grand View Research, Inc.

Enterprises and small businesses alike have found CRM software helpful in their lead management processes. But companies with the following qualities tend to get the most use out of them:

  • Businesses with sales teams.
  • Businesses with dedicated marketing teams.
  • Businesses with accounting teams.
  • Business with human resource departments.

There are also certain industries that use CRM systems more than others due to their innate compatibility.

Retail and e-commerce. While building relationships with customers is important to any enterprise, a CRM’s ability to encourage customer feedback makes it an important piece of retail marketing. It can also help them set goals and provide the product updates customers need.

Banking and financial services. With so much sensitive information involved in finances, brands need tools that can safely handle customer data. CRMs can offer banks and financial institutions custom solutions to ensure their customers’ finances are secure throughout each stage of the process.

Healthcare providers. CRM systems’ ability to synchronize and share vital health information makes them key assets for hospitals, doctors and other healthcare providers. They also assist in the process of gathering patient insights and providing better healthcare experiences.

Hotels and hospitality. The prioritization of customer service in hotels and hospitality is among the highest across industries. To keep up with the demand for good experiences, these organizations use CRM systems to improve communication with customers, ensuring satisfaction levels remain high.

Agriculture. CRM systems help agricultural workers build better relationships with suppliers, which in turn improves the purchasing process. They can also assist with logistics and transportation of equipment.

Consulting. Consulting practices rely heavily on operations, which can experience functionality issues over time. CRM systems help these companies establish consistent processes, all the while helping them keep up with increasing quantities of client work.

Insurance. Companies in the insurance sector often use CRM software to securely store customer information from multiple sources, essentially creating a comprehensive database that customers can access with ease.

It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in — CRM systems have the potential to improve interactions with customers and within your organization as a whole. At their core, they bring together people, technology and processes.


More B2B marketers are adopting account-based marketing than ever before. Find out why and explore the ABM platforms making it possible in the latest edition of this MarTech Intelligence Report.

Click here to download!


How to choose a CRM system

CRM software is designed to help growing companies manage their leads by storing the data in one accessible location. There’s no “wrong” time to adopt one (unless it conflicts with specific organizational requirements such as cost).

Many organizations forgo CRM adoption in favor of traditional customer data storage, relying on salespeople to handle the whole process or using a basic data warehouse. This can work for smaller companies such as startups, which would rather invest in other business aspects. But, at some point, these manual systems will likely fail, putting even greater strain on these companies.

Hesitancy for CRM adoption is understandable given the ever-changing marketing landscape. It’s often the case that brands can’t find adequate amounts of time to evaluate an entirely new system, much less train team members to use it.

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But there are plenty of advantages that brands should consider before brushing off the idea. If teams are aligned throughout the CRM selection, implementation and optimization tasks, there’s less chance for major disruptions.

Brands dealing with large quantities of sales data coming from multiple sources may opt for a CRM to consolidate the information. Sales analysis is vital to successful customer acquisition, and without consistent processes, teams will find it more different to make decisions, leading to poorer outcomes and wasted resources.

Brands may have too few staff members available to handle the needs of a growing customer base. Companies in these situations may find CRMs helpful in their ability to organize, manage and connect with these customers.

In the end, your brand and customer needs are the determining factors for CRM adoption. If companies are having trouble connecting sales and marketing with their customers in engaging and sustaining ways, it could be time to streamline their efforts with a CRM.

How a CRM platform helps sales and marketing teams collaborate effectively

Many organizations are set up like silos with windows – each department performs its own tasks, isolated, with limited visibility into the other divisions. And in a world where more organizations are working virtually, this trend has only been exacerbated.

The advent of tools like Zoom, Slack, Microsoft Teams and the like has streamlined communications within teams to address this siloing. But brands need solutions that unify these departments and allow them to address customer needs seamlessly. This is where CRM comes into play.

A CRM platform can provide these teams with records and notes of conversations and interactions between departments and with customers, making it easier to sustain long-term relationships. The added transparency of these tools provides the foundation for much-needed trust between each group involved.

Many CRM tools even allow departments to work simultaneously on customer files, further preventing any discrepancies in the data. The increasingly popular cloud-based CRM solutions make this possible.

Historically, sales and marketing teams have had difficulties working together to drive the best outcomes. With a CRM, these departments can align their processes, collaborate effectively and, in turn, drive more sales.

How CRM enables personalization & personalized experiences

Customers want to feel cared for by brands, and brands show this most clearly through personalized experiences. But this is more easily said than done. Research from Forrester Consulting found that only one out of five marketing organizations was effectively personalizing content at scale. And another study from Gartner found that 63% struggle to deliver personalized experiences with digital technology.

To infuse their campaigns with the personalization consumers demand, more sales and marketing departments are turning to CRM solutions. These platforms can aggregate massive amounts of customer information, including prior conversations, preferences, questions, concerns or any other data they’ve consented to share. Brands, using a CRM, can leverage the insights gained to craft personalized customer experiences.

“Every contact we have with a customer influences whether or not they’ll come back. We have to be great every time or we’ll lose them,” says Kevin Stirtz, author of “More Loyal Customers.” Companies can ensure they don’t lose touch with customers through CRM software’s relationship-building capabilities, providing salespeople with the most pertinent customer information.

CRM platforms can also help marketing and sales teams predict the next best action for clients. After gaining a more complete understanding of customers, they can more easily guide them to personalized resources on your properties. This helps prove your value as a brand and build customer trust and loyalty.

These personalization capabilities allow CRMs to work effectively with email, social media and website communication; they support over 70% of account-based marketing (ABM) programs, according to the 2020 ABM Benchmark Survey Report.

ABM technology investment chart from survey data

A one-size-fits-all approach to customer relationships will inevitably fail. Brands need solutions like CRM platforms to communicate effectively with their customers, address their concerns in a timely manner and prove that they value their business.

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How CRM software can help brands

While CRM software is far from being an all-in-one solution, its capabilities can offer brands much-needed support for their sales, marketing and customer relationship teams. Its ability to automate simple yet mundane tasks free up team members’ time so they can focus on their primary work.

This is perhaps why so many marketers replaced their CRM systems in 2021, opting for new versions to meet their needs.

Businesses that have succeeded with CRM platforms tend to point to the following benefits:

  • Centralized customer data.
  • Improved task tracking.
  • Increased customer retention rates.
  • Automated tasks.
  • Increased sales opportunities.

However, brands shouldn’t expect automatic success with CRM software, especially if their organizational structure isn’t primed to handle it. More marketers are finding issues with many brands’ overreliance on CRM in their B2B stacks, which is why many organizations are demanding more flexible solutions — especially in a post-COVID world. But more than that, brands need to learn how to use whatever CRM system they choose effectively.

“Implementing a CRM system will do absolutely nothing for your business,” says CRM consultant Bobby Darnell. “However, the continued and effective use of it will.”

Building strong relationships between brands and customers is needed now more than ever, and the CRM systems of today seem ready to tackle the challenge. The societal upheaval brought on by the 2020 pandemic left many brands struggling to connect with audiences as they once had, which is most likely why the CRM market grew 10.9% that year and is expected to grow to $128.97 billion by 2028.

The solutions offered by these systems have the potential to help brands effectively connect with customers no matter where they enter the sales cycle. To attract and retain them, marketing and sales teams should consider exploring the capabilities of a CRM.


Snapshot: Marketing automation

For today’s marketers, automation platforms are often the center of the marketing stack. They aren’t shiny new technologies, but rather dependable stalwarts that marketers can rely upon to help them stand out in a crowded inbox and on the web amidst a deluge of content.

HubSpot noted late last year that marketing email volume had increased by as much as 52% compared to pre-COVID levels. And, thankfully, response rates have also risen to between 10% and 20% over their benchmark.

To help marketers win the attention battle, marketing automation vendors have expanded from dependence on static email campaigns to offering dynamic content deployment for email, landing pages, mobile and social. They’ve also incorporated features that rely on machine learning and artificial intelligence for functions such as lead scoring, in addition to investing in the user interface and scalability.

The growing popularity of account-based marketing has also been a force influencing vendors’ roadmaps, as marketers seek to serve the buying group in a holistic manner — speaking to all of its members and their different priorities. And, ideally, these tools let marketers send buyer information through their tight integrations with CRMs, giving the sales team a leg up when it comes to closing the deal. Learn more here.


About The Author

Corey Patterson is an Editor for MarTech and Search Engine Land. With a background in SEO, content marketing, and journalism, he covers SEO and PPC to help marketers improve their campaigns.



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Is the pandemic stock bubble bursting?

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Is the pandemic stock bubble bursting?


MarTech’s daily brief features daily insights, news, tips, and essential bits of wisdom for today’s digital marketer. If you would like to read this before the rest of the internet does, sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox daily.

Good morning, Marketers, and is the pandemic stock bubble bursting?

It’s common knowledge that, while some sectors of the economy struggled mightily during the COVID-related lockdowns of 2020 and 2021, any business that provided support for stay-at-home consumers and remote workers struggled too — but the struggle was to keep up with demand. Despite reports that Omicron has yet to plateau nationwide, it’s possible that degrees of returns to normality are making the stocks of those companies less appealing.

Netflix shares have taken a pounding after it narrowly missed its Q4 2021 goal for added subscribers and announced a way lower forecast for Q1 2022 (dropping from 8.5 to 2.5 million). Increased competition in the space? Sure. People spending less time at home? Perhaps.

I took a look at a couple of stocks that are part of many marketers’ ways of life. ON24, the B2B webinar platform that made its debut on the market last year has drifted steadily around $16 to $20 over the last few months, but has shown a large decline since the heady days following the IPO. And Zoom? The poster boy for COVID success? A drop in value of over 70% from its 2020 peak. A rational market correction? Perhaps. Or perhaps it means we’re opening up again, in investors’ perceptions at least.

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Kim Davis

Editorial Director

Shorts

Quote of the day.  “If LinkedIn ever creates a metaverse I hope it’s called LinkedIn Park.”  Conall Laverty, founder and CEO, Wia


About The Author

Kim Davis is the Editorial Director of MarTech. Born in London, but a New Yorker for over two decades, Kim started covering enterprise software ten years ago. His experience encompasses SaaS for the enterprise, digital- ad data-driven urban planning, and applications of SaaS, digital technology, and data in the marketing space. He first wrote about marketing technology as editor of Haymarket’s The Hub, a dedicated marketing tech website, which subsequently became a channel on the established direct marketing brand DMN. Kim joined DMN proper in 2016, as a senior editor, becoming Executive Editor, then Editor-in-Chief a position he held until January 2020. Prior to working in tech journalism, Kim was Associate Editor at a New York Times hyper-local news site, The Local: East Village, and has previously worked as an editor of an academic publication, and as a music journalist. He has written hundreds of New York restaurant reviews for a personal blog, and has been an occasional guest contributor to Eater.





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