Imagine a World Where Opportunity Knocks and Your Door is Open

By John Butler —

Marketing has long yearned for a step change from being limited to a sales support function such as generating leads for sales and providing distilled research as analytics to improve reach and drive customer engagement.

And rightly so. Marketing yearns to serve the role it was designed for – and that is to be the pivotal strategic guide for the organization. Other departments can improve the bottom line by ensuring revenue exceeds cost, but it is Marketing’s purpose to increase profitability by focusing the organization – including sales – on the most profitable prospects and retaining the most profitable customers. Marketing knows that the only real boss is a paying customer.

So, how can Marketing focus an organization when it is anchored by its legacy role? How can Marketing focus an organization when it is drowning in so many new digital channels – channels that change over time like Myspace to Facebook? It’s juggling Internet ads, email campaigns, more and more mobile apps, and an explosion in social media, all the while weaning off traditional media – which is really about weaning off the model of broadcast approaches in favor of more direct methods simply because digital is more direct than print or airwaves. It was a CMO that told me candidly, at best it’s “spray and pray.”

But again, how can Marketing focus an organization in the Age of the Customer – where customer feedback is more telling than a compelling campaign? How can Marketing focus an organization when the Internet of Things is driving Big Data – giving everyone either data indigestion or slick doughnut charts about aggregate groups far, far away from 1:1 customer intimacy. How many organizations do you know that hope to gain more customer intimacy by hiring a data scientist?

How can Marketing focus an organization when the tools available from the major enterprise software companies are a patchwork quilt of acquisitions by its vendors – a confusing collections of tools – neatly connected in architectural slides and designed to automate a current state, that is, apps that help do everything faster and cheaper but without clear sight of effectiveness.

Imagine a world where Marketing could automatically reach, engage, acquire and retain buyers. Imagine a world where Marketing was directly linked – directly connected – to customers and their needs and wants. Imagine a world where Marketing could focus an organization on acquiring the most profitable prospects and retaining the most profitable customers.

In a world of shiny objects, it is easy to be seduced by the promise of the future. Drones ready to deliver packages that contain items that Amazon anticipates you’ll purchase – a statistical gamble that may well be financially worth the cost, time will tell. Cloud apps that let you run your business on your phone with a swipe of the finger. Marketing Automation that connects everything in the enterprise, ahem, to give you the 360 degree, single view of the customer so that you can cross-sell, upsell and survey – better, faster and cheaper.

Thanks to Apple individuals can now pay with a phone, but imagine a world where active buyers could use their smartphones to handshake with company systems to obtain the best deals and through seamless interactions over time become loyal advocates because the organization is systemically attuned to their needs and wants. Imagine a world where active buyers – “smart-enabled” buyers – were more than just a voice, as in Voice of the Customer, but were actually helping Marketing steer the organization, focusing it on acquiring the most profitable prospects and retaining the most profitable customers.

In that new world – where Marketing is strategically positioned and leveraged – new tools and models are required, some yet to be invented. The good news is that the foundation has been laid and the visionaries have shown the way (just search YouTube for Doc Searls or Drummond Reed or read Customer’s New Voice by John McKean). Smartphones have given individuals the equivalent computing power of an employee using a CRM system. The rapid adoption of Public and Private Clouds has given rise to the Personal Cloud – a structured and secure lockbox of personal information. And we all know about the data breaches suffered by retailers and celebrities so, there are engineers hard at work at securing the network – our beloved Internet needs a security patch (see XDI).

So, the individual has the computing power, the data and the secure connection. What can they do with it? Where is their equivalent of CRM? Why do individuals have to be hassled by unsolicited emails, spooky ads in web pages simply derived from their ad hoc browser history, unwanted advertising interruptions to their online experiences, freemium trial apps loaded with annoying ads that eventually require some attention and evaluation before deciding to purchase the premium, ad-free app? You get the idea, after all, we are all living it and can all cite bountiful examples.

Imagine a way to leverage that data and power in the hands of 2 billion smartphone and tablet users in a win-win scenario – a win for the organization and a win for the individual. Imagine an individual dashboard that provided summaries of buying history with drill down to the receipts, warranties and terms and conditions – you can almost hear the savings in customer support costs.

Now, imagine that dashboard also showed activity conducted automatically based on an individual’s intent to purchase that identified the best deals on insurance, cars, homes, etc. Imagine the individual – through their intent cast – gaining sight of the optimal deal with a supplier that they didn’t even know existed and then selecting that supplier based on a respected connection and a trust contract. Customers need a home or car but what they really want is: Save me money, give me more precious time back, avoid hassles and exceed my expectations when using or maintaining your product or service.

That world is unfolding rapidly. Through Personal Cloud, customers are gaining VRM power. VRM or vendor relationship management gives individuals the equivalent power of an enterprise CRM user. Organizations that enable customer VRM connections to their CRM system through trusted handshake protocols (APIs) are able to compete in a way that the hamster in the social media wheel could never achieve no matter how fast they can make that wheel spin.

We’re not talking science fiction. Not at all. In fact, we’re offering to walk you through real-world examples and help you envision ways to leapfrog the competition using your existing instance of Salesforce.com or other Marketing Cloud to connect directly to Personal Clouds – directly to active buyers ready to spend money. If you want to understand the implications of this new personal data eco-system or you want to know how much it will cost to assess the ROI, we have the tools, experience, expertise and thought leaders to show you and help you lead the way in your organization. Beyond that, we can build prototypes of your CRM connecting to Personal Cloud apps or devices – and transfer that know-how to within your organization.

Contact John Butler, U.S. lead for Information Answers that connects VRM personal clouds to CRM as a Salesforce.com consulting partner and Respect Network integration partner.

Why Personal Clouds and Midata are Good for Business

I’ve long been an advocate of Craig Burton’s thesis that ‘VRM’ and the inevitable shift towards ‘personal clouds’ will be good for the organisations. His excellent overview here includes some real gems, not least ‘Baking core competency in an API-set is an economic imperative’.

And i’ve also noted the slow pace of the UK.gov Midata programme aimed at helping individuals gain access to the data held on them by their suppliers in a form that they can re-use. It is clear that the majority of organisations are not exactly rushing to deliver on that, one assumes because they perceive much more threat than opportunity in doing so. I don’t see that changing in the immediate future, and note that many are now focused on how they can deliver Midata, still within their own context. The back-stop legislation being proposed is unlikely to change that stance. Similar initiatives elsewhere will probably run on similar lines, although USA probably has a strong approach in working with semi-public sector data managers whose hand can be more pro-actively forced.

Given that, i’ve tried to set out below a view on why taking a more pro-active stance on Midata would be a good thing for organisations, and merging that with some thoughts on how this will enable that focus on core competencies, and what that will look like in practical deployment terms.

I’ll do so using visualisations of a ‘CRM’ data record; how that is supposed to look, how it usually does look in practice, and what it will look like as the above scenarios deliver in the mid term.

The first visual below shows a theoretical view of what a customer record would look like in the data warehouse sitting behind the customer management systems of pretty much any large business to consumer organisation – from bank, to retail, to utility, to public sector and health provider. Having this in place allows the organisation to run all of the customer management processes they want, to a high standard. The main building blocks of the record are The Customer, The Product/ Service, The Outlet (sales channel), The Relationship between Customer and Product, The Offer (being made to the customer/ potential customer), and The Customer-Organisation Interaction(s). Each sector will have minor (10%) nuances around the detail, and differing terminology in places, but the big building blocks remain the same.

Target State

However, there’s a problem……

The second visual (built up from many deep dive assessments) is more illustrative of the reality, the colours being driven, in traffic light style, by data quality, which includes whether it exists in the system at all, along with other classic data quality metrics such as recency/ source of update, completeness, compliance etc.

To avoid too much time analysing the detail – the short version is that many organisations are running their customer management processes on very poor quality fuel.

Actual State

So what’s going to happen to change that; because the above has been the case for the last 20 years?

The short answer is Personal Clouds (aka Personal Data Services). These will enable the individual to take on a significant chunk of the data management task, and be happy to do so because they will benefit hugely from doing so. Many people will only be vaguely aware that they even have such a thing; the personal cloud(s) will be just a small component of a wider proposition, like a SIM card is to a phone. The recently launched Cheap Energy Club is a good example of the above – a mini personal cloud buried within a much more compelling customer and supplier proposition.

The third visual below is a stab at how the customer record, as we know it now, will change over time. What i’m suggesting is that the significant majority of the customer record will actually be managed by the customer. And that this customer managed portion will itself sub-divide into My Data* (volunteered personal information brought together in a personal cloud by the individual), and Our Data** (co-created/ co-owned data currently managed by the organisation and, over time increasingly made available to the individual).

* For more on this provenance based categorisation of the data around in individual see this post from a few years back covering My Data, Your Data, Our Data, Their Data and Everybody’s Data.

** Confusingly what i’m calling Our Data, UK.gov calls ‘Midata‘. My Data and Midata should not be confused; the former I don’t need to retrieve from somewhere, it’s mine in the first place..

Firstly, there will be huge chunks of cost taken out of current customer information management activity. Many organisations spend tens or hundreds of millions of pounds per year managing customer information.

Secondly, data (fuel) quality will be much improved, enabling the option to run much more efficient and effective customer management processes – across all aspects of the customer lifecycle. To bring this to life, this becomes the mythical ‘360 degree view of the customer’; i.e. the customer has data from across their supply base, not just the single organisational silo view that is the current fuel.

Thirdly – look at what’s left for the organisation to manage…, the data about their products/ services, their outlets (channels), their product/ service offers, and their marketing campaigns. i.e. their core competencies. That’s a scary but ultimately winning proposition for organisations – ‘give up control of something that you value highly but has a high degree of toxicity (customer data), in order to focus much more on that which you do best’.

To round that off, and return to the core point from Craig, we have a fourth visual. The API’s….Each of those three buckets of data thrive on being connected to each other in secure ways, much more so than they do when they are combined. And thrive further still when ‘apps’ and utilities can be pointed at then, or used to bridge them.

Evolution
If these API’s are designed and deployed well, then the personal data eco-system thrives, and the individual genuinely becomes the point of integration and origination for data about them. In turn, this architecture is also the only really viable one for ‘The Internet of My Things’, which will further turbo-charge the individual and their personal data capabilities.

There’s much more to write on this, including which ‘apps’ are on their way, and how organisations can enable their processes in this way. I’ll save that for another day.

 

 

The First Large Scale CRM Plus VRM Business?

Nice to see Cheap Energy Club from MoneySavingExpert make it out the door, having worked on that for a big chunk of last year.

At first glance it might look like another comparison site, but there’s lots more under the hood – data built on the individual side, automated checking, mi-data ready, and a few more interesting bells and whistles….

Will this be the first service built somewhere between CRM and VRM to run at large scale? It certainly has the possibility to do so; I saved £135 per year on my switch, and others much more. And MoneySavingExpert have a big subscriber base of people who trust their advice.

No doubt this will be a story to follow up on….