There was a lot to like at Salesforce ExactTarget’s Connections 2014 user conference in Indianapolis last week. Now all they need to do is reduce the size of the name — the words Marketing Cloud need to be fitted in there too but I forget how.
First, a quick shout out to Indy, home of the big Memorial Day race. I don’t get to spend a lot of time in the middle of the country because I am so often in Boston, New York, or San Francisco and it was nice to experience the Mid-West. The city was open and clean, the people were friendly and very helpful. Good on them.
Perhaps it’s ExactTarget’s Mid-West roots but I can see a genuine concern for the customer emanating from the ExactTarget Marketing Cloud and it plays well. For a long time, I’ve been writing that capturing customer data and running random analytics against it was insufficient for modern customer relations and I’d been disappointed with what I’d seen from vendors addressing the issue.
For me, and I write about this in my forthcoming book (consider this a shameless plug), the customer relationship is a process that’s built up from many moments of truth that vendors simply have to be in and must navigate successfully to endear customers and earn the right to do it again.
Too often companies are unaware of what their moments of truth even are and consequently, and inadvertently, they disappoint customers. It’s too bad too because nobody goes into business with that mindset but the disappointment is real and it results in tepid endorsements to others AKA advocacy, which depresses sales and all manner of success in the market.
ExactTarget gets that and it was wonderful for me to be in the audience as speaker after speaker demonstrated just how ExactTarget enables them to be in their customers’ moments of truth. Testimonials came from the likes of boutique hotel operator Kimpton, apparel maker, Diesel, and a little company from Chicago named McDonalds. I believe they are in the restaurant industry.
What enables these companies and many others to be in their customers’ moments of truth is a new product announced at the conference called Journey Builder, which is just what this doctor ordered. As you might expect with that name Journey Builder enables marketers to map their customers’ moments of truth so that they can plan authentic and appropriate programs for just those moments.
Journey Builder is not a lone; it’s part of a big machine that captures customer signals, uses analytics to interpret them and to predict customer next steps so that the vendor can marshal the right responses. A complete solution uses Radian6, another Salesforce acquisition, for social listening and Buddy Media to develop and deploy the right messages at the right time. It also uses its own analytics to evaluate responses and figure out how to improve.
That was the overt and subliminal message of the event — the journey is the reward. It sounds corny but it’s true. The journey doesn’t stop and a good vendor customer relationship goes through cycle after cycle of listening, responding authentically, and evaluating the results. Lather, rinse, repeat. Simple. Success in today’s journey is what enables us to play again tomorrow.
If there was a kink in the hose it is that the moments of truth that Journey Builder maps seem to appear from nowhere. Of course, these moments are distilled from a lot of direct observation and engineered by savvy marketers into the programs alluded to. But I have a nagging fear that we’ll see a mini-hype cycle develop in which cowboy marketers assume they just “know” what customers want in their journeys and engineer very nice programs that are nonetheless wide of the mark.
In fact, understanding moments of truth is a science all by itself and that part of the process deserves to be acknowledged. But the tools and techniques required have their foundations in community and community was not really on display at this event. So some work on a fuller end-to-end approach still needs to be done and that brings me back to process. Journey Builder and its associated parts provide a nearly complete process oriented approach that sure beats a more transaction oriented legacy approach. But we need to close the loop and that means community so that the cowboys don’t get the wrong idea.
There are huge numbers of companies in the world that have not gotten this religion yet and for many it will be a big lift, but certainly do-able. This kind of attention to customers is not free. It requires technology, methodology, and trained people as well as some new thinking in the corner office. Wait a minute! People, process, and technology. Where have we heard this before?