The boundaries between the company and its marketplace are increasingly blurred. We are now part of a reality in which customers play a much more integrated and active part in the processes of research and development, marketing and customer service. Little about a company and its offerings will ever again be invisible to the marketplace.
Marketing departments must transform themselves into facilitating units that create a foundation for dialogue with customers. This puts tremendous pressure on an organisation’s accessibility, integrity and honesty – not only in respect of damage control and the management of critical situations – but to become a new and highly transparent source of sustainable competitive advantage.
Working with customer centric organisations around the world, we have seen that addressing these blurred boundaries and the transformation this calls for identifies three main competitive advantage imperatives to consider, depending on the industry you are in:
- Employing customer intelligence to create an understanding of the customer journey across channels
Customers expect to be recognised across channels and a key requirement for any relationship building is to understand the complete cross-channel journey. Only by gaining that level of understanding will you be able to give your customers the best overall experience throughout the lifecycle of their relationships with you. In general, customers are perfectly willing to exchange their information with a commercial organisation provided they enjoy something in return. This means better and more relevant offers, improved service and more personalised attention. Customers understand and accept the logic of exchanging information but is your organisation ready for the part it must play?
- Allowing customers to leverage your intelligence capabilities to make more informed decisions for themselves
Examples could be: telecommunications customers exploring and visualising historical call and network data to understand what plans are best suited for their individual needs; or banking customers analysing historical financial transactions to figure out trends and their preferred investment product options. If your organisation is serious about competing on long term value creation, this transparency shouldn’t be a scary. In fact, with today’s increasing hunger for digital self-service, such initiatives are more likely to create a valuable differentiating factor.
- Creating new revenue streams based on your customer and market insights
What if your customer and marketing intelligence became so rich and granular that it could actually offer value to other organisations? Could you create new revenue streams based on your customer data and your direct marketing platform? For example, telecommunications carriers around world are realising that the data and reach they have are invaluable and would be the envy of any retail marketer starting to build new business models and extend current ones. Think also of media companies and what they know about trending topics and the diffusion of information, both your own and generally. Then ask what other businesses could use that information and enjoy the reach of a publishing company; within the boundaries of appropriate privacy, of course.
There are very many ways to take advantage of new opportunities in customer and marketing intelligence to break down the boundaries, increase transparency, ensure improved customer experiences and exploit potential new revenue streams for competitive edge. And I haven’t even touched on the value of greater transparency for when things go wrong and organisations need flexibility and the ability to implement actions for fast recovery. That’s a whole additional angle to the marketing intelligence story.