Richard Fouts

A member of the Gartner Blog Network

Richard Fouts
Research Vice President
2 years at Gartner
23 years IT industry

Richard Fouts guides digital marketers on best practices for evaluating and deploying emerging digital marketing techniques to ensure marketers make fully informed decisions about their marketing investments. With extensive experience in brand management and marketing communications ... Read Full Bio

The #1 Driver of Loyalty You Don’t Know About

by Richard Fouts  |  March 6, 2014  |  4 Comments

Simplicity.   The mere sound of the word is musical.

Listen to your buyers.

If there’s one thing people don’t need in a world of sensory overload, it’s complexity, a sentiment that rings loudly in a survey conducted by IBM’s Institute of Business Value. Consumers say in the study that marketers try too hard to engage with them over social media.

Moreover, they push out too much information. The result? Buyers overthink purchase decisions, which drive them into buyer’s remorse before they’ve even purchased the product. This often causes them to change their minds and abandon the path to purchase altogether.

Help buyers think less about the decision.

In another study by the Corporate Executive Board, consumers expressed, rather begged, marketers to “simplify the decision process” to the point where they think less about the decision. Sounds counter intuive right? It’s actually consistent with other research.

In one study about choice, a grocery store had two display tables of fruit juice products. One table had 12 choices (which drove more traffic) the other had four (which drove more sales).

You can read lots of stories similar to this one in a fascinating book by Dr. Robert Cialdini titled, Influence and the Power of Persuasion

Go Kentucky!

For another example, consider the State of Kentucky, lauded for its smooth healthcare rollout, also known as Kynect.

“Kentucky seems to have a smoother rollout than some other states,” said Jennifer Tolbert, director of state health reform at the Kaiser Family Foundation. When she visited various exchange websites she said, “the one I got through most easily on to get prices and comparisons was the Kynect site.”

Though Ms. Tolbert said she wasn’t certain why the Kentucky site functioned more effectively, she speculated it was likely its pared-down design. It “doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that other states tried to incorporate, like interactive features,” she said. “It’s very straightforward in allowing consumers to browse plans without first creating an account.”

The program manager for the initiative, Chris Clark commented, “We spent an enormous amount of time making it functional,” commenting further that the goal was to provide the most relevant information in under 10 seconds.

Get out of the way

Take a look at your own path to purchase; get the obstacles out of the way. According to the CEB study, brands that simplify decisions are:

decision-simplicity-cart

 

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Category: Digital Marketing Marketing Strategy Personal selling Public relations Strategic Planning     Tags:

What’s that Computer you’re not Wearing?

by Richard Fouts  |  February 10, 2014  |  2 Comments

We all have better things to do with our hands when we’re shopping, driving a car, or riding a bike than hold a device to our ear or hypnotically gaze into a screen. It’s why consumers are especially attracted to the hands-free, mobile functionality offered by wearable computing.

stare into cellphone

Wearable computing, or “wearables” is one of those emerging trends that has been slow to adopt, but will soon explode. That’s because the technical hurdles that have stalled the adoption of wearables are quickly eroding.

In fact, Gartner Predicts that by 2020, consumer data collected from wearable devices will drive 5% of sales from the Global 1000. It’s all part of Gartner thought leadership around trends that are both disruptive and constructive. Read the full report, Gartner Top Predictions 2014: Plan for a Disruptive, but Constructive Future.

Consider:

  1. By 2020, well over 150 million wearable devices will ship worldwide, led by the sports and fitness sectors.  Nike FuelBand technology (targeting general consumers), combined with the Adidas launch of miCoach (targeting professional sports), are just two illustrations of how the human body’s transmission of information will trigger commerce. Advertisers will likely use exercise data and eating habits (from devices like the Fitbit) to serve up relevant ads and offers.
  2. Then there’s health care. Our increased attention toward personal health combined with a movement on the part of providers to contain costs — will trigger products and services that promote preventive measures.
  3. Wearable technologies will also emerge in the huge disability market (such as aids for the deaf, blind, paralyzed and elderly).
  4. In manufacturing and distribution markets, wearable computers worn on the arm for hands-free operation will continue their popularity in field service and assembly lines and warehouses.

Although Google has said it won’t give advertisers access to its Glass, consumers will use it to view ad-rich social sites, Web pages and Facebook news streams.

When it comes to wearable computing, all you need is some creativity and an open mind.

Read the full report, Gartner Top Predictions 2014: Plan for a Disruptive, but Constructive Future, along with our other top 10 predictions for 2014.

wearable5

 

 

 

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Category: Digital Marketing Marketing Strategy     Tags: , ,

When You Should Stop Rewarding Loyal Customers

by Richard Fouts  |  February 3, 2014  |  1 Comment

If you’re a loyalty marketer, you likely know the name Hal Brierly (who invented the airline industry’s first frequent flier program, AAdvantage). At the time, Hal figured that the best way to encourage loyalty would be to recognize continued purchases. And so he designed a program that would reward customers based on the number of miles they flew.

Thirty years later, Hal says, “Airline rewards are still based on miles flown. This is a mistake.”

As you can imagine, Hal still does a lot of thinking about loyalty. In fact, he pretty much obsesses over it. And in those 30 years of pondering, thinking and analyzing the effectiveness of loyalty programs he has watched several flaws creep into loyalty program design.

First, marketers tend to define loyalty by measuring the wrong metric. For example, customers that buy lots of products from us, and stay with us the longest, are the customers that deserve rewards, right?

Not exactly. Some of the customers you’ve had the longest are costing you money. Hence, Hal says you should reward customers that are the most profitable. How you reward them is up to you, whether you choose discounts, points or free products. But reward those that make you money. Loyal customers, that aren’t terribly profitable (or are money losers) should be switched to low cost service channels, or even managed out of your portfolio.

Second, loyalty is about cadence, more than the length of time one has been a customer. Walgreens for example, rewards my purchase by offering me a $5 discount on my next purchase – if its used by the end of next week. That gets me back in the store to buy things I don’t need right away, but will need eventually.  

Third, we tend to “over reward” our top customers. If switching providers is easy – then by all means, you should reward your top customers as a way to discourage defections. But if switching is difficult, or even costly for the customer, you’re better off using your limited resources to acquire new customers versus rewarding good customers. 

Last, you can also reward customers through downsizing. For example, a 20 year member of a fitness club decides the cost can no longer be justified now that he’s turned 80. So offer him a plan where he can pay by the visit. Or some other reduced plan. Don’t let him go.

You can read more of Hal’s thoughts on loyalty here.

 

 

 

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Digital Marketing Leaders Speak Out

by Richard Fouts  |  January 17, 2014  |  6 Comments

I recently gathered insight from executives that represent the leaading providers in our Magic Quadrant for Global Digital Marketing Agencies

If there’s a common denominator among today’s modern marketers, it’s a focus on doing things faster. So it’s fitting to begin with IBM Interactive.

Businesses are using digital marketing to engage customers with real-time, personalized, and authentic customer experiences across digital and physical touchpoints.  When done right it creates more value for customers and measurable business outcomes for companies.  – Paul Papas, IBM Interactive

With so many innovations coming from digital business transformation, marketers must move beyond the promotional P to remain relevant  - a sentiment illuminated in this executive’s comment to me about re-imagining business:

Increasingly, digital marketing is becoming more about designing digital products and services to complement existing offerings. Our fastest growing initiatives are related to “business invention” and product development. – Tom Bedecarre, AKQA Chairman

Tom’s remark supports growing evidence that digital marketing leaders must go beyond selling products that are thrown over the wall. Today’s CMO is being tapped to find new sources of growth, often through a re-imagination of the business or through offerings that couldn’t have existed a few short years ago.  It’s time for marketers to step up their involvement in new, innovative product development.

And of course, marketers must continually ask themselves what people are really seeking when they buy a product or service – a type of thinking that has spurred innovations such as Lyft and Uber. Or consider ZocDocs, an innovative physician-patient service that recognizes what people really want are same-day appointments. It’s why new startups, that focus on market gaps, take advantage of brands that fall out of touch, as articulated by the CEO of Razorfish

Brands don’t have the control they used to given the significant consumer influence that rises daily. They should view digital as a secret weapon versus an area of specialization. Those who prioritize their customers over their stakeholders are the ones who will win.  -Pete Stein, CEO Razorfish

How will the customer experience play out in the future?  And how will companies be positioned to compete on the user experience?  

In the future, personal technology will increasingly become fashion, and physical spaces will be digitized into immersive experiences that you can take with you. Companies will build worlds of experiences that consumers can engage in, resulting in an amazing era of innovation that will affect all our lives.  -Alan Herrick, CEO SapientNitro

Many of these new business models will be based upon the integration of physical products with digital services.  Devices that collect data and share them through digital services will transform everyday life as well as the entire marketing industry. 

Clients will increasingly “own” the data about their consumers, rather than relying upon third party, paid sources.  They will “earn” the data from their consumers by providing digital services that deliver tremendous value… in everything from their finances to their health/fitness to what they cook for dinner at night to where they go on vacation to what clothes they wear.   -Bob Greenberg, Founder and Chairman, R/GA

Finally, words from iCrossing, a leader which provides a beautiful summation,

The barrage of channels and devices has collapsed the concept of a marketing funnel to create consumer expectations that are always on. Being connected means winning the hearts and minds of consumers, one experience — or moment — at a time throughout the customer lifecycle. – Brian Powley, CEO iCrossing

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What is Creativity?

by Richard Fouts  |  December 19, 2013  |  Submit a Comment

When we hear the word creativity ….

… thoughts immediately go to artistry. Creative people paint. They design. They’re good with color.  Creativity is mostly associated with sound and sight; with audio and visual. Creative people reimagine, reinvent or manipulate that which is, into something more visually interesting, often more imaginative and dramatic that its predecessor. Mozart and Madonna did it with music. Picasso did it with imagery. Walt Disney did it with animation. All of these artists used sight and sound to create new representations that helped us think differently about old ideas.

When I talk to digital marketing agencies …

… and the subject of creative services comes up, the conversation immediately goes to visual design. But creativity goes far beyond what we think of as the classic artist. Many great creative people never went to art school. 

One of the most creative people I’ve ever met

… was a guy named Stuart Scott, who was exceptionally gifted in the art of project management. He taught me a creative principle that I’ll never forget – and that I still use to this day: when something seems too difficult, even impossible – deconstruct it into smaller chunks. Still too complex?  Keep deconstructing until you reach a point where you can associate each chunk with a discrete deliverable. Stuart taught me a creative approach to deconstructing complexity into manageable pieces – then reconstructing those pieces back into the larger whole.

Another extraordinarily creative individual …

I worked with years ago was a technical architect, named David Cowing. When faced with a hugely complex technology challenge, Dave would think out-of-the box to creatively apply technology in ways that were usually faster, cheaper, and of higher quality than his original idea. He used to say, “You can’t get too personally attached to an idea, no matter how creative you think it is. You have to be willing to rip it up, to throw it away and start over if it’s not living up to your own personal standard.”

Some of the best applications of creativity are things we never see.

So here’s to the unsung creative heroes: the project managers, technologists, administrative assistants, the logistics managers, the engineers that make things work; the finance managers that make spreadsheets sing. Sure, creativity is dominated by the artist, but artists live in every one of us.

As Pablo Picasso once said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”

 

 

 

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The Mother of All Marketing Metrics

by Richard Fouts  |  December 10, 2013  |  6 Comments

Jack says, “Hey, how are things in marketing?” 

Jill responds, “YOY revenue up 6%. Listen to the earnings call.”

Jack walks away, secure that marketing is having an impact on revenue. Sure it is; but revenue as the ultimate marketing metric 

  • Is a rear view metric. It analyzes what occured in the past
  • Can lead to marketing myopia (meaning, you’re so focused on today’s revenue with today’s solutions, you miss out on patterns that reveal what customers are starting to value right now … or what they will value in the future).
  • Is popular in sales-driven cultures versus market-driven cultures

 You know the story …

… the company that experienced rapid YOY growth (maybe 30%) then one year started on downward spiral and failed?  Everyone starts asking, “What happened?” and it’s a sincere, authentic question. How could SwissAir (so financially stable, it was once dubbed the “flying bank”) end up in bankruptcy court? Circuit City, Digital Equipment, Betamax … so many others from the annals of history that tell similar stories. 

Show me a failed company and I’ll show you a sales driven organization that valued revenue as the mother of all metrics. The one thing failed organizations overwhelmingly share: an obsession with analysis of the past at the expense of seeing the future.

What are indicators of future value?

It’s important to look in the rear view mirror. You need to understand past results. But make sure you analyze things that signal how customers are shifting what they value. For example:

  • Which webinars are attracting the largest audiences, and why?
  • Which pages on the web site are generating the most traffic?  
  • Are you getting more inbound inquires?  If less, connect the dots. If more, what are they asking for?  Which inbound inquires were you unable to fulfil? Which inbound inquires didn’t make it into the pipeline due to lack of an offering?
  • Which of your thought leadership efforts is generating the most conversation? In both the blogsphere and the Twitterverse?
  • How are people responding to your comments on other blogs?
  • What are your primary rivals doing to better compete?
  • What are non-traditional rivals doing to better compete?
  • What is the business press saying about your sector’s future?
  • How is Wall Street rewarding or punishing your competitors?

Appoint a futurist

This type of work won’t get done without an owner. Hence, I am starting to see many marketing organizations assign the role of Futurist (can be a part time role you even rotate; doesn’t have to be full time). Have this individual produce a quarterly report that connects the dots among the various items you’ve identified as indicators of the future.

Predicting the Future is Hot

One can conclude that understanding the future – is one of marketing’s hottest trends right now, based on the success of firms such as KXEN, Opera Solutions, IBM Predictive, SAS and a score of other providers that market predictive analytics. Books on predictive analytics are also flying off the shelves.

Customer Lifetime Value (CLTV)

This metric embodies both past and future. Past, in that it helps you identify what your highest value customers bought previously.  And, analyzing the buying patterns of your highest value customers provides insight into how they are changing.

For example, Harrah’s (the Las Vegas hotel/casino) compared the “take rate” of a Challenger offer given to high value customers versus a control group. The control group got the existing offer (which bundled a hotel room discount, two free dinners, and $30 in free chips). The Challenger offered no bundle; rather $60 in free chips.

Customers preferred the Challenger because it was “easiest to fulfill” even though the alternate offer was the better deal.  This insight was used to update other offers as well as construct new ones. The big bonus to marketing: the offer that was cheapest to implement turned out to be the highest generator of positive return.

Harrah experiment underscores a trend we’re seeing eveywhere. Convenience rules.

In closing

Ask marketers how they’re evaluated, and the most common response is pure and simple: Revenue. In fact, most marketers will equate revenue as the mother of all metrics.  Mind you, revenue is the lifeblood of any organization. But, be aware of its limitations.

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Category: Digital Marketing Marketing Strategy Strategic Planning     Tags: ,

Is the Customer Always Right? (psst! …it depends…)

by Richard Fouts  |  December 9, 2013  |  2 Comments

Whoever said “the customer is always right” forgot to include  … depending on his or her value.

This week I asked a client to conduct some quick-and-dirty sales analysis; she found that a whopping 8% of her customers contribute 93% of her revenue. Yet – her direct sales forces responds to every customer demand the same. After segmenting customers by value (low, medium, high) she is starting to see the downside of “egalitarian marketing.”

For example, here is how she recently approached a simple direct mail effort.  

table

Fewer people got the piece (costs were cut in half) but response rate was 500% higher than her previous campaign. What CMO doesn’t want to hear you generated 50% response versus 10%?

This approach, often called value-based marketing also has a big impact on pipeline management. For example, converting 2 out of 100 prospects (to customer) generates a measly 2% conversation rate. The smarter, value based marketer converts 2 out of 10 prospects with  a 20% conversion (at far lower cost) by being more relevant.

 Yes, Virginia .. less really is more.

 What are the attributes of your high-value customers?

You can’t practice value-based marketing if you don’t segment customers by value. It’s an important activity. But you need to get your BU or service line managers involved to help define value – and you need help from IT to align your efforts with the requisite data management requirements and practices.

Once you do this, you’ll love the synergies.  For example, one banking marketer told me his highest value customers have a portfolio of services: large cash deposits, credit cards, auto loans, perhaps a mortgage.

His first priority is to make sure these customers never leave.

Hence, the bank’s value-based marketing initiative informs its retention program.  

Value-based marketing informs smarter up-sells

Value based marketing helps you identify who is just one cross-sell away from becoming a high-value customer.

In the wireless industry, a marketer might define a medium value customer as multiple cell phones from a family plan, a data plan … and land line service.

  • Value-based marketing entices these customers with the benefits of bundled high speed Internet and TV services.
  • If a medium value customer bites, it enters our high-value strata (and the offers that goes with it, for example premium channel packages and a DVR)
  • If we get a response, the customer enters our elite platinum category. After tracking performance, we find that moving customers up the value ladder with product bundles is a particularly effective action. 

When Should You Fire a Customer?

This is an option if the customer produces negative value. Sticking with our wireless industry example, a customer might receive a heavily subsidized handset, then flood the call center, not pay their bill on time (or at all). This customer is fired (by being disconnected and turned over to collections).

Every company has these type of customers. You may not fire them, but you certainly want to migrate them to higher value status or to a lower cost channel (or let them fire themselves).

In Summary

Value-based marketing requires you first understand the spectrum of lifetime value for your customer base so you can categorize them (in buckets such as high, medium, low), then manage them appropriately. I saw one marketer define this at 80 years, the hopeful length of an average life.  This doesn’t work however. A more reasonable number is three to five years, which gives you room to respond, manage and maneuver your tactics in shorter time intervals to maximize profits.

Of course, operationalizing value-based marketing is not trivial. Many of you, especially event marketers – do a good job, targeting customers that have never attended an event differently than those that always attend your events. But as an organization wide practice, value-based marketing is spotty. 

Watch Gartner for Marketing Leaders in 2014 as we do deeper dives into this topic and its operational implications.

Postscript:  I’m told Marshall Fields originated the phrase “”the customer is always right.” Others claim it was Harry Gordon Selfridge, the founder of Selfridge’s department store.   

 

 

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Category: Digital Marketing Marketing Strategy Strategic Planning     Tags: ,

Is My Toothbrush a Wearable Computer?

by Richard Fouts  |  December 3, 2013  |  5 Comments

Now that there are more non-human devices connected to the Internet than people, the Internet of Things rivals the Internet of People.  As these things transmit usage data, it opens up a goldmine of opportunity for digital marketers.

In fact, one of our recent Gartner predictions highlighted the coming revenue influence originating from wearable computing.  Though our use cases focused on devices we literally wear, like smartwatches, computer embedded in clothing, glasses or contact lenses, co-author Julie Hopkins and I also include wearables such as cars, refrigerators and toothbrushes.

It started when Julie asked me if her Buick constituted a wearable. It’s a fair question. Automobiles are indeed something we frequently – wear.  And as a wearable, Julie’s Buick monitors her behavior – while she’s wearing it – which it analyzes to provide actionable advice. It won’t be long before her Buick (which already has human-like qualities through voice-driven GPS wearables) say things like “… based on your past 90 day driving habits, I’ll need new tires in February versus the planned date of June.”  (These same driving habits might also get leaked to State Farm).

buick

Now Julie has a decision to make. Improve her driving habits and defer the cost of new tires (not to mention a potential insurance premium hike) or sustain her current driving behavior (which she says is a lot more fun) and incur the cost. To influence her decision, her Buick downloads specific guidelines it gets from the dealer to influence her decision towards cost deferral.

This scenario, where cars record driving behavior and warn us of unnecessary tire wear, is close. And it continues after we park and go upstairs (where our connected refrigerator says “based on your current eating behavior, you’re on track to lose 10 pounds by your sister’s wedding”).  

Then there’s my $50 Beam Brush, which syncs with my smartphone to record brushing time (data that can be tracked and shared with dentist and my insurance company). Yes, Beam Brush is managing an insurance company pilot to test consumer reaction to receiving incentives, such as lower rates, in exchange for data. Of course, the same data could be used to support a rate increase.

beam-brush-smart-toothbrush

The data marketers get from my sensor-equipped things also helps them plan. For example, Susan Stribling of Coca Cola told AdAge recently, “We’re able to attain a significant amount of data which allows us opportunities to leverage new product ideas. (Coca-Cola has 12,000 data collecting devices in burger joints, move theatres and college campuses which feed usage data back to Coke).

Of course, there’s that nagging issue that still lingers. Whose data is this, anyway? What do you think?

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Category: Applications Digital Marketing Marketing Strategy Strategic Planning     Tags: , ,

The Latest Innovation in High Touch Marketing is Not What You Think

by Richard Fouts  |  November 27, 2013  |  1 Comment

“High touch” was one  the many adjectives we threw in front of marketing a couple of decades ago. Unlike “touchpoints” which was rooted in multichannel marketing – high touch refers to degrees of personalization.  For example, once you’ve researched cars, you go to a dealer where a salesman steps in to help you complete the purchase. Personal realtors provide another example.

Department stores picked up on this concept with “personal shoppers” that brought high touch to buyers of high-end apparel and accessories.

Of course today, things look different. My personal shopper at Bloomingdales is a piece of software that guides me through an online store, making recommendations for the navy suit I’m considering (supported by product reviews from my peers). I even upload a photo of myself (or match myself to a similar facsimile) to see how  the latest Brooks Brothers suit would appear on me (versus the one from Calvin Klein) . While this describes a scenario that is highly convenient, I sacrifice the experience of actually feeling the fabric.  That could soon change.

The latest extension to high touch marketing could come, quite literally, to a touchscreen near you. The technology, known as  “tactile rendering of 3D features” brings small, electronic pulses that trick your fingers into perceiving bumps and texture.

Granted, there are other reasons to get in my car and drive to the store, but this invention provides one more reason to shop from my desk (and avoid traffic, crowded parking lots and lines). 

Score another point for the digital experience.

Tactile rendering for flat screens is being developed by the same company featured in Welcome to the Experience Economy  namely, Disney. In their landmark book, authors  J. Pine and J. Filmore compare economic evolution to a baking a cake. 

First, mothers made cakes from scratch, later opting to save time by buying a “cake in a box’ (where they added water and an egg before baking).  Next, they procured custom cakes, made to their specifications from high touch bakers (happily trading their time for the $25-40 price tag). In the final stretch of economic evolution, the authors note working mothers are quite willing to write an even bigger check, by outsourcing the whole birthday party. 

The authors’ thesis: as per capital income rises, economies evolve from commodity and product based economies to service-based economies – ultimately ending in economies where providers compete on staged experiences. What the authors didn’t foresee was an economy that conquers time and space. If we extend their scenario one more step, we might illustrate the global party, where people from other countries experience the event from their computers, avoiding the cost of an airline ticket. In the virtual world, opportunities for cost avoidance introduce a knee in the cost curve – and the price tag of the total experience starts to fall. 

Creative minds in emerging technology continue to focus on how real world experiences can be replicated online – at less cost than those provided in the physical world. It’s already convinced many people to watch movies at home versus physical movie theatres. In this latest twist, couch potatoes have yet another reason to stay home.

While emerging technology promotes one type of high touch – will it continue to dilute high touch social interactions?

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Why Marketers Omit the Most Important Part of Their Story

by Richard Fouts  |  November 22, 2013  |  3 Comments

Have you ever known anyone who triumphed over extraordinary circumstances? Sure, we all have.

  • Seven years ago, doctors told my youngest sister she had four months to live. She proved them wrong by fighting back hard – and today she’s back on the stage, pursuing her theatre career with a vengeance (doing four shows per year).
  • In Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance, Lou Gerstner recalls a time when his company was hemoraging cash, so dramatically that bankruptcy was imminent (his turnaround plan brought IBM back, even breaking its pervious performance records).
  • When a couple of 18-year-olds (Sean Parker and Shawn Fanning) launched a publically available mp3 file sharing platform, it was shut down by court order (but re-emerged to re-define an entire industry).

As marketers your stories may be as dramatic as this, but you have some good ones. Stories of customers who conquered the impact of a tough situation – with solutions that you provided. Yes, you were the shining knight on the white horse. Perhaps you helped save a business, or brought a product back from the dead, or maybe you impacted a  decision that sent a campaign into the stratosphere.

Whether a story features an aspiring actor, the CEO of a global corporation or a kid in a dorm room, overcoming impact creates story drama. And as ordinary humans, we tend to remember those stories.

But as marketers, we tend to omit the impact part of our tales. That’s unfortunate, because without impact, there’s no urgency to act. Without impact, there’s no business case.

If the impact part of the story is this critical, why is it so often omitted?  Because it’s hard work. Stories of how your solution mitigated (or exploited) quantifiable impact takes some effort. But it’s worth the dig. If you can cite real impact, you’ll join the pool of memorable stories, versus those that are forgotten as soon as they are told.

Your story doesn’t have to have a mind-blowing, game-changing impact. One of my favorites is from the Ford Motor Company – with stories of shoppers whose full hands impact their ability to open the darn trunk …

When shoppers approach their vehicle, they have their hands full, which is why the trunk of the Ford Focus opens with a simple wave of the foot — beneath the rear bumper.

Or this one from my older brother, who has stopped blaming his children for an impact that caused him to sacrifice his favorite toy…

My sportscar became impractical after we had the twins and I dreaded giving it up, but now that I have my Mercedes SUV I wonder why I waited so long to buy it.

Or this one from a provider of perishable goods:

My bakers collectively throw out a ton of food each day, because they can’t anticipate buyer behavior. Now, with predictive analytics they know what to sell – and when - which has increased profits in our European stores by 20%.

Hopefully you’re observing a pattern in these stories, where negative impact – is crushed  by the marketer’s solution.  So before you launch into your product story, take a step back and consider your buyer’s situation – and the impact it is creating on things such as productivity, time-to-market, employee morale, or the bottom line.

The higher the impact, the better the business case.  The better the business case, the higher the urgency to act.

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