The health care customer emerges amid industry upheaval

One interesting outcome of regulatory reform in health care is seeing the use of the word "customer" filter into the dialogue in the industry.

This letter is not from a health plan or provider, but clearly shows me the love as a customer.

Someday letters from health plans and providers will look more like this.

The context for that development in the United States’ health care industry is upheaval not seen in any sector of the economy since the government-mandated breakup of the monopoly Bell Telephone System in the mid-1980s.

At the same time, technology is radically transforming health care, and the precedent in communications is how the Bell System breakup coincided with the commercialization of innovations such as voice mail, mobile telephones and the internet, to name a few. So will this upheaval in health care also usher in great innovations? I think it’s quite likely – and one big question is, “Who will do the innovating?”

In times of change, the organizations that thrive are the ones that adapt, often ending up operating alongside new players that might do things that were previously unimaginable.  I imagine the same will hold true in health care as it evolves.

We’ve already seen adaptation taking place among health insurance plans in fundamentally strategic ways, and two standouts include Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina and Florida’s GuideWell Connect (GWC) - an affiliate of FloridaBlue. The most striking changes have involved the ways they engage with their customers, essentially orienting their organizational direction more toward individual members’ needs and desires and not so much as a consequence of regulatory requirements.

As a health insurance customer, I could not be more excited. As a marketer, I could not be more intrigued. Read More »

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Tell a financial story when measuring customer experience

In our fast changing, increasingly digital world, building a strong customer relationship is the lynchpin to building a great business. Digitally-savvy, hyper-connected customers are now harder to define, understand and please than ever before. Today’s enterprise must focus on the customer experience as never before--or risk being replaced or ignored.

A new report by Harvard Business Review Analytics Services, "Lessons from the Leading Edge of Customer Experience Management" spotlights how leaders in customer experience management are developing strategies, capabilities, processes, and metrics to gain competitive advantage and remain relevant.

One of the striking aspects--and there are many--of this report pertains to measuring customer experience efforts. Maximizing the customer experience ROI (52%) was cited as the top issue. Nearly half also reported that it's extremely challenging to tie customer experience investments to business outcomes. Leading-edge firms aren't immune from this issue, with a third in the same predicament.

That difference suggests that a higher incidence of tying customer experience to business outcomes sets the leading-edge firms apart. Still, a majority of leading-edge companies admit to having at least some difficulty tying their customer experience investments to business outcomes.

The traditional measure of customer experience success—customer satisfaction scores—are widely used in all companies. Yet a variety of other metrics deemed highly important by those that use them, such as customer effort and digital engagement scores aren't as prevalent.

The report showed that customer experience leaders use an array of metrics, often more effectively, to track customer experience management progress, including measures such as customer lifetime value, indirect traffic, social media sentiment, and upsell rates. Read More »

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A marketer's journey through the Big Data Archipelago

Come along with me on a journey through the Big Data Archipelago. It involves "visiting" a series of islands - an archipelago if you will - that each present a different opportunity to find value in big data.

Big data is arguably one of the most overhyped buzzwords in business today, yet we can't call it a mere "buzzword" because it's quite real. And it presents itself simultaneously as a challenge and an opportunity, so doing nothing about it is not an option for today's marketers.

We all are awash in data — big and small, structured and unstructured — and our ability to process, analyze, and manage rests in knowing the rich value of the data. To that end, I propose a structured approach to big data as a journey through an archipelago so that each marketer can tailor what they do with big data according to what makes sense for their organization.

And while ubiquitous, big data means different things to different people. So let's consider how Paul Kent, VP of Big Data at SAS talks about big data:

“That amount of data or complexity which puts you out of your comfort zone.”

Going Beyond the 3Vs

How many articles, blog posts, webcasts, or presentations on big data have you read or listened to these past few years that’s referenced Gartner’s 3Vs – volume, variety, velocity – of big data? I suspect “a lot.”

Moreover, vendors, analysts, and consultants alike have taken the liberty to expand this list, adding such V’s as value, veracity, variability, and viability, just to name a few. Framing the big data discussion around 3, 4, 7, or even 15 V’s can be problematic for marketers, however, because it doesn’t get them any closer to finding the hidden value in their data – only understanding why it’s so hard to find. This is where the big data archipelago can help.

The BigData Archipelago has 10 islands.

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Could marketing optimization improve your golf game?

As the best of the best golfers converge in Pinehurst, NC at the US Open Golf Tournament, it seems only natural to relate golfing to marketing optimization. I assure you this is not a stretch - please read on.

You see, everything in life is an optimization problem that must be solved. Time spent on an activity versus the quality level output from that activity - whether it’s at work, at home, or even on a hobby. For me, my golf game is one big optimization problem. You might ask – well what do you have to optimize against in this situation?

My handicap.

For those of you not familiar with golf, you are assigned a handicap based on your skill level. With this handicap the following formula is applied:

Gross Score – Handicap = Net Score

This system is used so differing skill level players can compete against each other in tournaments, etc. A very good player will have a low handicap (3) whereas as a less skilled player has a higher handicap (20). An example of how handicaps work are as follows: A good player shoots a 76-3= 73 while a less skilled player shoots a 92-20=72. The less skilled player would win the match, because their net score is lower.

The optimization side of this problem is – how much do I want to invest into lowering my handicap and what is the payoff for that investment? One thing for I must consider are the constraints – what am I limited by when attempting to lower my handicap? Wow – time, money, innate athletic skill, the goodwill of my family and coworkers for spending endless hours on the golf course, and the list goes on and on. Unfortunately – the constraints are keeping me from getting my handicap to where I would ideally like it – but that leaves room for future improvement right?

Just like my golf game, marketing for many organizations is one big optimization problem. Questions marketers may ask that are indicative of the need for optimization may include: Read More »

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What integrated marketing means today

According to The DMA, no single channel can win out anymore because today, it’s about being wherever customers are, giving them relevant messages, and making sure that each interaction is intelligently connected to the next. All that means delivering great customer experience across any and every channel: web, social, mobile, broadcast, email, in-store, outdoor and beyond.

Integrated Marketing Week in New York City.That's how the DMA positions the content for their annual Integrated Marketing Week conference, and their speakers provided example after example about how that view rings true across industries. Technology and regulation are changing many aspects of the market's dynamics, but it's customer behavior and expectations that provide some of the greatest impetus for what integrated marketing means today. What's more, data and analytics are providing the insights necessary to confidently execute on an integrated basis. Here are a few examples of how it all plays out:

Aaron Kahlow

Aaron Kahlow

Integrated marketing needs great content. Or as Didit's Kevin Lee put it, great content compounds - like a bank account, making it hugely important for integrated marketing. The compounding, of course, is a result of how easily people can share content and social media's role in creating a culture of sharing in today's market. Online Marketing Institute's Aaron Kahlow connected the dots succinctly by saying that a social media strategy is meaningless without a content strategy.

It turns out that sometimes great content comes as a result of a marketing collaboration between data scientists and creative types. The Martin Agency's Lauren Tucker and Cliff Sorah highlighted how their data-driven creative process with their client, Ryan Smedstad at Penske delivered moving results. Read More »

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Integrated marketing: listen to the voice of the customer

Integrated marketing is no longer optional - no single channel can win out any more. Marketers must deliver great customer experience through truly integrated marketing, across any and every channel: web, social, mobile, broadcast, email, in-store, outdoor and beyond. Those experiences can be tailored effectively by listening to the voice of the customer.

Integrated Marketing Week in New York City.That concept was the core idea of a session at this past week's Integrated Marketing Week conference in New York City featuring noted Voice of the Customer thought leader Ernan Roman, Ben J. Lerer, CEO and Co-Founder of Thrilllist Media and Elias Roman, CEO and Co-Founder of Songza.

The highlights of the session were captured by Stephanie Miller, VP of Member Relations at the DMA and posted to the DMA Advance blog. I am happy to have her permission to repost an excerpt here:


Ernan Roman

Ernan Roman

A cataclysmic shift has taken over modern marketing:  We are moving from ”forcing customers to sort through piles of spray and pray stuff to find relevance to a world where personalized, relevant communications find consumers based on their opt-in preferences.”

Asking your customers what they want from you is the first step toward making that shift for your own brands, said Ernan Roman at Integrated Marketing Week.

Roman's company conducted over 10,000 hours of Voice of the Customer research for customers such as MassMutual, IBM and QVC for six requirements to emerge for how customers define "customer experience:" Read More »

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Integrated marketing: rethink what you know about big data

Integrated marketing is not a mere discipline, or an approach to marketing. It's a description of the mindset necessary for marketers to rise to the challenges of empowered customers, regulatory change and technological evolution that includes big data.

Michael Steinhart is Executive Editor at

Michael Steinhart, Executive Editor at

That was a recurring theme in this week's Integrated Marketing Week conference by the DMA in New York, where multiple speakers affirmed the need for marketers to change their mindset in order to meet our collective need to be integrated marketers.

I had the privilege to attend the event and I'm pleased to have permission to share some insights in this terrific blog post by Michael Steinhart at


Big data is surrounded by so much hype and so many v-words that marketing professionals don't trust it and don't understand how valuable it is to their efforts. That's the conclusion drawn by Forrester analyst Fatemeh Khatibloo, who writes about it in her blog and spoke about it at the Integrated Marketing Week conference in New York this week.

Fatemeh Khatibloo, Senior Analyst at Forrester, serves customer insights professionals.

Fatemeh Khatibloo, Senior Analyst at Forrester

Marketers can take some comfort in the fact that consumers are equally confused, she said. Their primary question should be "How can big data help me delight my customers?"

"Big data is not a technology, not a platform, not a project, and not an end goal," she said. "The three v's don't help define anything. Don't get Hadooped!" Instead, marketers should adopt the concept that "Big data is the practices and technologies that close the gap between the data available and a company's ability to turn it into business insight."

It's not going to be tidy or neat, she added, but the huge amounts of data available are making an "infinite" number of combinations possible.

As examples, she cited the insight electronics manufacturers could glean from knowing whether customers use rechargeable or disposable batteries, and the value in knowing whether new parents have a single baby or twins.

Read More »

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Why big data analytics is digital marketing’s best friend

Over the course of the last several years, our marketing team has been on a mission to find business value from data using analytics. In my role, I focus on demand generation via online channels, both inbound and outbound.  As our web footprint has grown, so has our data and its irrevocable bond with digital marketing. As digital marketers, big data analytics is our best friend because we receive big data - both structured and unstructured - from web activities across dozens of touchpoints. We certainly recognize the potential of the data, so it is imperative that we turn this digital data into business value.

There are a few important ways we use the big data analytics to enhance our digital marketing.

Digital Marketing and Big Data Analytics

  1. Search: We are able to collect and utilize behavior from our largest traffic source. Using  SAS solutions, we combine above median usage metrics – recency, depth, duration, high value content – with other online conversions to identify a customer acquisition opportunity or trigger alerts for our current customer marketing efforts. This is a big deal for us. I still wish we had keywords – I criticized Google for restricting them here a little while back  – but what we have is working for us.
  2. Lead Nurturing: Big data analytics is a boon for lead nurturing. Not only does it enhance what we have been doing for a while now , but it gives us capabilities we did not have before. For example: By enhancing outbound nurture emails with web behavior and topics of interest, you become more proficient with your targeting. Can you tell if I am interested in ‘digital marketing'  or ‘big data analytics' by the download of one white paper or report? We have found that by adding metadata and URL data into the equation, we can pinpoint this much better. This approach works extremely well for both customer acquisition and customer marketing campaigns.
  3. Descriptive Analytics & eCommerce: I am still new to the eCommerce space, but there is some siginificant opportunity for big data analytics here. When you really try to improve customer experience across multiple customer touchpoints, using web analytics (we use SAS Adaptive Customer Experience) provides you descriptive examples of the customer journey. For example, it would have been guesswork to identify all of the ‘steps’ in a customer’s online purchase. Instead we used data mining techniques to pull together web behavior, offline activity and data from chat/inbound inquiries to tell stories about what customers needed and wanted from this experience. This provides insights for - among other things - UI design, content requirements, offer management and conversion strategy.

I tried to visualize it here, but it doesn’t do true justice to the rigor that went into the customer journey exercise.

The customer journey with potential data points

The customer journey with potential data points

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“Hang on a sec, TV. I’m talking to Twitter.”


Jolted out of a deep sleep, I intuitively sat straight up in bed. What had just happened? It felt like the house had just jumped. But wait: Houses don’t jump. Still groggy, I squinted at the clock across the room to check out the time. It was 6:25 A.M. I looked towards the window and I could see the early morning sun starting to crack through the drawn curtains.

Still not sure what was going on, I got out of bed to go grab my iPad, which was charging in the kitchen. As I walked across the house (which seemed to be fully intact even after “jumping”), I began to wonder if I had just experienced an earthquake. If this was an earthquake, it was different than anything I had experienced before. As a native Californian, I’ve been through my fair share of “shakers” and a few “rollers,” but I’ve never experienced a “jumper” before.

I grabbed my iPad, walked back to the bedroom, and got myself situated comfortably on the bed again. I opened my iPad, tapped the Twitter app icon, and typed “earthquake” into the search field to see if anyone else was tweeting about earthquakes.

Twitter did not disappoint. The search results came streaming back: It was an earthquake. I watched as the new tweets came flooding in – not only from folks in the L.A. area, but from around the world. I felt oddly comforted by the fact that I wasn’t alone on this abrupt start to St. Patrick’s Day.

After about 15 minutes, I turned on the TV to see what ABC News was reporting. They confirmed that we had just experienced a 4.4-magnitude earthquake. No damage had yet been reported (good!), but I learned that the epicenter was only a few miles from home (really?!). I then tweeted:

Fast forward to April 15th. I am at the Long Island Digital Summit getting ready to deliver my big data keynote. Read More »

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Exploit chaos to compete effectively

We live in a world where chaos is increasingly the norm. And human nature when faced with chaos normally triggers a protective reaction - it could be a retreat, "circling the wagons," or other moves to preserve and protect. It's understandable, but in the world of business that reaction may also translate into missed opportunities. That is one premise that "Trend Hunter" Jeremy Gutsche and author of "Exploiting Chaos" holds near and dear.

Jeremy Gutsche, the "TrendHunter" thinks we should awaken our innner "hunter instincts."Gutsche posits that almost all innovation happens by making connections between fields that people did not previously recognize, and with the descriptions he offers, it really makes sense. I really get his point, but few business situations are simple to the point that you can attribute success to a connection made. What's meaningful is to consider examples of opportunities missed because the right people either were unable to imagine the connection(s) or were too vested in the status quo to change with the times.

Examples he cites include Smith-Corona typewriters, Blockbuster home movies, and Encyclopedia Brittanica.  And then along came word processing, online video streaming and Wikipedia. in the case of Smith-Corona, they were one of the first to develop innovative text tools such as "spellcheck," but decided instead to focus on being the best typewriter company in the world. But who do you know that still uses a typewriter?

His point is that patterns surround us - they're everywhere, and the challenge is first to detect the patterns and then to discern the ones that either hold the gold key or that will pull the rug out from under you. It's just that simple -right? If that were only so. Read More »

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