Consumers Power Transformational Marketing

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Better access to data is empowering consumers, who share that information over social media, often using mobile devices, as they influence behavior before, during, and after a sale. Indeed, consumers are challenging how  marketers promote products and services and how they work with consumers. Companies that embrace change and seek opportunities to grow brand trust and loyalty are at the forefront of a marketing revolution.

In the past, consumers had learned about products and services when marketers and advertisers created messages  pushed through traditional mass-media channels. Marketers controlled the messaging, and consumers’ ability to look at competitive products was limited to local markets or conversations with friends.

Today, though, consumers have instant access, mostly from sources outside a company’s sphere of control. Without hesitation, consumers make purchasing decisions based on consumer feedback posted with online merchants, shopping aggregators, and within social media.

Social media has enabled consumers to get feedback and recommendations from a diverse group of people within and outside their own personal networks. Like many other digital channels, companies have little influence on decision making. And that is disconcerting to marketers. In addition, mobile devices have created a multiplier effect across digital channels. Consumers can get feedback and price comparisons at the point of purchase, in real time, through apps, sites, or postings in social networks.

In the new world of the empowered consumer, marketers have to evolve from traditional to transformational. This means they need to move beyond mass media to personalized one-on-one conversations and customer collaboration. Transformational marketing also requires shifting from being primarily intuition-driven to a data-driven, predictive, agile approach. The push model is passé; now it’s about strategic, consistent, personalized placement of brand information that consumers can tap on their terms in their media.

Personalized dialogue is the new consumer expectation in the always-on environment. But the dialogue is not just between consumers and advertisers, but also among consumers. Transformational marketing involves curating this dialogue by having the tools to listen to what consumers say and engage them openly. But it’s difficult to execute because the conversations often occur in a public setting. Traditionally handled by PR, these conversations have become a bigger part of transformational marketers’ objectives as stewards of the brand.

How do you steward the brand? Gather data, develop insights, and react in real time. Moving beyond the intuition-driven approach, transformational marketers embrace the processes and technologies that allow tailored, specific messages and interactions with customers. With the right data and analytical tools, marketers can optimize their media mix across channels, initiate personalized campaigns, and adjust in real time.

Finally, transformational marketers are focused on anticipating and servicing clients in a customer-centric manner. This is not only enabled by tools to monitor the buzz in digital channels but also by collaborating with consumers to develop products that provide value.

As consumers adapt and drive change, marketing leadership must respond in kind to capitalize on opportunities. It is imperative that marketers listen, analyze, engage, and then evolve the interactions with their customers to deliver on their brand promise. Forward-looking CMOs have become transformational marketers by embracing the complexity and challenges of new media outlets, making marketing accountable in a data-driven way. By putting customers’ values first, marketers will be able to adapt to future changes. 

Geoffrey Hamelin is senior managing consultant at IBM Global Business Services and the CRM and Strategy & Transformation Innovation & Growth global business advisor. He can be reached at geoff.hamelin@us.ibm.com.

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