As 2018 comes to a close, it’s a natural reaction to think about the year behind us and of course, the year ahead. This year was a year of big change for me, I started at FocusVision in May and left behind a team I had built for 8 years and an industry I had been part of for much of my career. What I’ve learned from this move has completely changed my view on all the work I had done previously to transform our Marketing to a digital-first, data-driven always-on strategy. My aha moment made me realize that with all that innovation, we completely missed a crucial first step which was to understand our customer truth. Without understanding why our customers do what they do; how they think, feel and act, we never had a cohesive brand story that connected us to our customers’ stories. (When this Aha moment hit me in the face like a ton of bricks, I published a blog: What I Learned in my first 90 days as FocusVision’s CMO.) They say admitting you have a problem is the first step to solving that problem so as FocusVision’s CMO, I’ve set out to understand what you, our customers, are trying to solve for, what challenges you are facing and how we can become part of your story. Here’s what I’ve seen and what I believe we’ll see in the coming year:
The Experience Economy
Digital transformation moved beyond a buzzword and for good reason. Our world continues to become more and more digital and the brands that are transforming digitally with their customer’s experience as its driver are the ones that are winning the hearts and minds of customers and becoming an essential part of their customer’s lives. I saw a social post lately that summed it all up:
Most brands know they have to transform and create a great customer experience. In fact, when we asked our customers what they are trying to figure out, 76% of companies with over 1000 employees and 67% of companies with under 1000 employees have put customer experience as the number one thing they are doing research around. (See the infographic for other results.) Those that don’t will eventually die.
Next year, we’ll continue to see brands try to find an easy way to figure out how to create great customer experience to survive and thrive. It’ll be those brands that start with their customer truth that will succeed. The best example of this we saw this year was Nike’s Colin Kaepernick campaign. Making that controversial move, not only gained Nike hours and hours of free airtime, endless “inches’ in coverage and passionate responses from adverse groups but it did exactly what any brand would want to do—it connected their beliefs and convictions with their CUSTOMERS beliefs and convictions. Essentially their stories converged. That’s what essential brands do.
Understanding Your Customer Truth
As Marketers, we’ve spent the past five years focused on trying to figure out how to capture, measure and interpret Big Data to understand our customers. Somehow, though, as a group, we’ve lost sight of the people behind that data. The Mad Men knew that focus groups could give them the small data they needed to make decisions. Small data is a focused method of human observation which uses bite-sized pieces of information to not only paint a comprehensive picture of an audience in-the-moment but over time can allow you to actually travel through the experience with your customer at the helm. (My blog Marketers: It takes big and small to know it all talk more about why small data will be the key to customer experience.)
SAP’s surprising $8B acquisition of survey vendor Qualtrics was the boldest move in 2018 to bring customer experience insights to their large customer base. (My blog The Qualtrics/SAP explored this more deeply.) Understanding that the Experience Economy is in full swing and brands need to adapt or die, SAP spun a survey software company into an Experience Company. Smart move. But what any brand truly trying to understand their customers will learn quickly is that surveys will still only give you numbers. Qualitative research that gives customers the freedom to express their needs and elaborate through stories are essential for marketers, that’s how to get the emotional connection of the customer truth that brings compelling insights and drives innovative designs. I think in 2019, these capabilities will be the most significant addition to the MarTech stack.
Looking Ahead to 2019: Marketers and Researchers Unite
When we took a look this year at who was kicking off research projects, we heard that Marketing is responsible for 60% of all research because it’s being done to understand your customers and create your customer experience.1 The role of Marketing leaders will continue to evolve into Chief Experience Officers. And just like the move to big data analytics where our best friends became data scientists, our new best friend will be Researchers. A few years ago, more data scientists and technical expertise made their way into Marketing as Marketing started buying more technology than all other departments and we needed to find a way to gather, read and deliver analytics around all the data we were collecting. With customer truth being the only way to truly understand and connect with our customer, the knowledge and talent only a Researcher can bring to the table will be the only way we’ll get there.
Keep in Touch
Next year, you’ll see us continue to explore the democratization of research, how it’s changing the way we collect and use data, what marketers can learn from researchers and what researchers can learn from marketers. We’ll also continue to give practical advice on using the right methodology to get to your customer truth and how to ensure you’re empowering the whole organization with those insights.
So please, follow us on LinkedIn, sign up for our blogs and keep in touch. Our new year’s resolution is to continue to put out valuable content for our followers, readers, and customers. We want our story to become part of your story. We believe if we can be valuable to you through your journey, then we’ve been successful.
Wishing everyone a relaxing break at the end of this year and hope to connect with you in the new year.