(At least it’s a start)
Earlier this month, Merkle held its 2014 CRM Executive Summit, where we had a record turnout of leaders from some of the country’s top brands across multiple industries. For the first time in the 11-year history of the event, we actually had to turn people away, because we had reached full capacity. Why was this year’s Summit in such high demand? Granted, the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay location didn’t suck. And we did have a killer lineup of guest speakers, with execs from Facebook, Google, and Twitter on the agenda. But I think the event’s draw comes down to this: brands are realizing that the disruption caused by the digital audience platforms is real, it is meaningful, and it is time for us to face it head on. My guess is that these VIPs traveled to the west coast for the two-and-a-half-day conference for one of two reasons …
- They don’t know what they don’t know; but they know enough to know they need to know something different.
- They do know what they don’t know; and they are doing everything within their power to figure out how to know it. Now.
In other words, they are responding out of either fear or opportunity. Some fear the change, because they’re in the midst of it; the disruption is real for them, and they don’t know where to go from here. Others are watching the players in their industries (or in other industries) and anticipating opportunities to jump ahead and even lead the disruption.
The digital audience platform marketplace is in what I see as the fourth phase of evolution, having moved its capabilities from targeting based on context, to more scaled, niche content, to aggregated audience data, to known relationships. The addressability potential across these platforms is accelerating like crazy and the economic benefit is almost inconceivable. You cannot sit idly by and let your competitors consume it all.
An important thing to remember is that “good” is good enough to start executing on a customer-centric business strategy. Yes, there is a lot of complexity involved in building the complete array of Platform Marketer competencies, which include identity management; audience management; consumer privacy and compliance; media and channel optimization; measurement and attribution, experience design and creation; and the tech stack. And that’s not to mention the organizational foundation required to operationalize them. And yes, all of these competencies must be cultivated in order to realize a fully functional, highly disciplined cCRM approach. But the endeavor takes immense effort and time, during which you still have to run a profitable business. At some point, you just have to get started.
I received one of the most thoughtful letters of my career last week from a high-level banking executive who had attended the Summit and also read my book, Connected CRM; Implementing a Data-Driven, Customer-Centric Business Strategy. She noted that one of her key takeaways was the notion that “good enough” is OK, and finding the right cadence for change is just as important as committing to the change itself. She said she realized that there is probably already work being done in her organization that can be assimilated into the bigger plan and that it’s OK if they don’t have all the answers at the outset. They just need to start making progress.
This is precisely what we hope to help companies accomplish with cCRM. You don’t have to wait until everything is in perfect order to begin making strides toward customer centricity. A series of small wins that happen in tandem with the build-out of your roadmap, framework, infrastructure, and Platform Marketer capabilities will go a long way toward establishing a toehold and demonstrating the potential business impact.
The bottom line is that companies should be approaching cCRM from both a bottom-up and a top-down perspective. Inevitably, you do have to rationalize the strategy at the enterprise level. But in the meantime, you can start making an impact on the business today. Start building an SEO program. Start exploring Facebook Custom Audiences. Start “responsifying” your website. Start looking into programmatic media buying. Take your best shot at moving the needle toward meaningful, measurable progress, and you’ll be surprised at where your momentum will take you.