While the world cries “data, data, data”, the reality is that most of us don’t have real-time feeds on each and every point at which we interact with customers.
We might aspire to it, but it’s not there yet.
This rise of accountability in Marketing (and to a lesser extent Sales) Departments is a good thing, but also reflects the flow-on of a wider corporate culture of managerialism and risk adversity.
Understandably, these decision-makers want “as much hard evidence as possible” to inform strategy, planning and development.
But if you want to redefine the customer experience, to create new points of interaction where there simply were none, then you won’t have the data to support it.
In these situations, don’t discount the power of common sense. You are a person, and you are probably an empathic one, with the ability to understand the basics of human interaction. And you probably work with colleagues who have similar abilities!
You might not be a Creative Director or Communications Manager, but you know what you’d do if you’d just met someone, had just sold someone something, or wanted to kindle or win-back their interest. Why should it be different with a customer, or a potential one?
This is where we find a disconnect between the “massive disruption to existing business models” that the C-Suite, strategists and specialists are avidly reading, watching and talking about (you know, the ones published by Forbes, Fast Company, The Economist, TED, McKinsey, etc.), and the sheer timidity to mindfully test the water and quickly learn from the experience.
That is, leaders are not walking their talk, and thus they are not holding themselves or their sales, marketing and operational teams accountable for their organisations’ medium to long-term strategic fortunes.
SO, depending on your databases and existing customer journeys, directives to trawl and crunch the data or “go and benchmark the competitors” will likely produce a bunch of unrevealing numbers, indicators and decontextualised generalities… None of this will conclusively prove whether you should make “surprise and delight” calls, add a new customer event for high value customers, or invest in content marketing.
Let’s be clear: When a clear majority of competent individuals in the organisation independently admit to gaping flaws in a current system, there’s a strong chance that action should be taken. To then deliberately sink a wealth of time and effort into a slow-moving research, strategy, development and decision-making process to determine a direction on the bleeding obvious is just a gross waste of resources and a lost competitive advantage – hard “evidence” isn’t really there.
So it’s time to think fast and hard; to challenge yourselves with “why?”, and then take action. You could commission consumer research, subscribe to third-party data, or call in a consultant. But in my experience these will nudge you a bit further along the path of knowing what your people already knew.
At some point (whether you’ve run a development sprint, or a mind-numbing marathon), you have to start interacting in the real world, “with live ammunition”.
If you’ve got a good sense of your business objectives, what you stand for, who your customers are, and what you (can) really provide them, then why would pilot-scale authentic interactions do critical damage to your brand?
With sound strategy and planning, including testing criteria, measurement and analysis procedures, you’ll soon sense whether initiatives are of positive, negative or marginal effect. You can then act accordingly – scaling up, modifying or holding until outcomes are clearer.
For real progress, you need to put the “Action” into “Interaction”.