SAS Global Forum Executive Conference: Marketing Success in a World of Empowered Consumers


Panelists (left to right):


  • Deb Orton, SAS, Moderator
  • Brad Fiery, Vice President, Database Marketing and Analytics, The Lacek Group
  • Heather Valteris, Vice President Database Marketing Center of Excellence, GE Capital – Retail Customer Finance
  • Theresa Kushner, Director, Integrated Customer Intelligence, Cisco Systems
  • Jim Foreman, Director of Circulation and Analytics, Staples, Inc.

It’s no secret to any marketer that we are seeing dramatic changes in the ways we approach and segment our audiences. We’ve never been able to gather more data about consumers, but we’re still faced with the challenge of how to use it. And consumers expect more and more from brand interactions. They want what they want when and how they want it.

In this panel at the SAS Global Forum Executive Conference, Deb Orton from SAS led a discussion of four seasoned marketing leaders in the brave new world of marketing, attempting to uncover the path to marketing success in a world of empowered consumers.

Deb began by asking the panelists what they’re seeing as the most dramatic changes in marketing. According to Heather, the consumer mindset is completely changing.

“Ten years ago our customers were telling us they were overloaded. Now, a lot of that noise is getting organized, in blogs and wikis and virtual communities.” Those communities have leverage and influence, she added.

“It’s not just the technology that’s changing, it’s the consumer mindset. As a marketer, how do you move to a customer engagement model? If you’re truly a customer-centric organization, that shouldn’t scare you, but not a lot of us are there yet.”

Heather also pointed to mobile as a key growth area. Mobile phones are already an e-commerce tool in Asia, for instance, and we’ll see that soon in North America as well, for shopping, for making payments, and as a way to distribute coupons and bar codes. Companies need to address how they will market to those channels.

Theresa emphasized the value of data, and real-time, thoughtful analytics. Data must be available to marketers 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Battling data segmentation is a challenge, according to Brad. “Managing the complexity and scale can be daunting,” he said. “We’re moving toward real-time, point-of-behavior, interactive marketing.”

To differentiate yourself from your competitors, you need to add value and engage customers in the way they want to be engaged, and doing that properly requires an unprecedented level of creativity.

Customer expectations are becoming more sophisticated, Jim added. “Now you need a targeted message that relates specifically to them,” he said. “If you don’t have the infrastructure and support, you’ll pay the price.” You can amass huge amounts of data on your customers, but how does the personal message scale?

“Where we’ve gotten the most bang for the buck,” Jim said, “is layering other aspects on top.” Examine a customer’s buying pattern and see how it’s different from other customers.

You may have two customers who spend $5,000 a year in your store, but one might come into the store regularly and spend $500, and one might come in twice a year and spend $2,500. Those two customers may have an equal value to your company, but your message to each would be significantly different.

“It’s all about intelligent segmentation,” he concluded.

The panel also addressed the differences between B2B marketing and B2C marketing and found that there are obviously differences, but powerful similarities as well.

Jim pointed out the need to understand the people you are trying to market to, and use all the data at your disposal, combined with whatever behavioral and psychographic layers you can apply.

As to the differences between B2B and B2C marketing, he said, “The tenets are basically the same.”

Cisco is exploring the issue through social media, and looking at the places where business people are making decisions. The social media principles that make your message attractive and memorable for consumer audiences apply to business audiences as well.

In considering the B2B vs. B2C question, keep in mind that “every decision maker is a C in some shape or form,” Jim suggested. If a person has a particular bias or belief, they will have that both at home and at work.

But people act differently when they’re spending their own money versus the company’s money, he suggests. If you’re a one-person company, you’ll have a different set of wants and needs from an office supply company than a vice president with a large budget.

Deb added that the complexity of the decision and how many people are involved in the decision is a factor as well.

“As we come out of the recession we see more and more people involved in a buying decision,” she said. Having more internal stakeholders makes it even more valuable to engage multiple people at different levels of an organization.

Consumers not only want to be engaged and entertained, they also expect instant response to their questions and concerns. The always-on nature of the online world will only continue to increase that expectation. Customer analytics can help, suggested Brad.

When a customer calls an 800 number, he or she expects the rep on the phone to know that she’s submitted a request through the Web site. If she gets transferred to another rep, she expects that rep to have the history of her interaction.

“Consumers expect a relationship today,” he said.

Customer analytics helps you build scorecards for your customers, Brad said, that help you understand, for instance, their likelihood to travel, or to join a loyalty program.

“We’re looking at using SAS to take those scorecards and optimize those experiences for all the customers and make a seamless and instant interaction with the customer to drive more transactions.”

The need for customer analytics is fluid, Heather added.

“We think of segmentation as static, but we need to think about where customers are going, because we need to get there first,” she said.

“Modeling in terms of behavior is critical. It’s really tough to get your data and your technology lined up. You’ve got to automate it and put rules in place.”

Centers of excellence, like the one Heather leads for GE Capital, can play an important role in driving these innovations and sharing the knowledge across organizations.

“Every day we need to make a business case to our internal customers about why they should invest in us,” Heather said. “It’s dangerous to have the attitude that you know best and the rest of the organization has to listen to you.”

Know what can be centralized and what can’t, advises Brad. “The key is to centralize what you can for cost advantages and de-centralize what’s critical for strategic advantage.”

Even if you don’t centralize, you can still coordinate, according to Theresa. “Understand where the pockets of analytics are in your company,” she advised. “We have to build an organic organization and a community of analysts.”


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1 Comment

  1. Customer Aquisition Programs on

    I think analytics are becoming really, really important lately, even for small businesses, as the landscape changes. I've seen a lot of people who see marketing and advertising as in investment, and then sit back and automatically assume they're earning back.

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