What Marketers Can Learn from Today's Empowered Customer

Mike O'Connell

Fifteen years ago, customer experience analyst Moira Dorsey contributed to her first piece of research at Forrester Research – a report called “Empowered Consumers.” The upshot of the report was that a host of new technologies and delivery vehicles – everything from mobile to the internet to embedded systems – would change customer behavior and force marketers to enact new strategies to reach customers on their terms.

It took a while – but those changes are here. And marketers are looking for answers about how to navigate this new environment.

“What’s fascinating to me is that so many things we talked about then … all of technologies and the adoption of those technologies have hit a tipping point – now, 15 years after the report,” Dorsey, VP of Customer Experience Professionals at Forrester, told a roomful of marketing professionals at a panel event hosted by PAN Communications last night. “And that has a lot of implications for us.”

Dorsey’s remark kicked off a spirited, anecdote-filled, 75-minute discussion that explored ways several top-level marketers try to reach the new savvier, smarter customer. The panel event, called “The Rise of the Empowered Customer,” offered tips about how to understand customers, manage the challenges of marketing and ecosystems, and measuring success in organizations.

The panel, held in PAN’s 8th-floor space overlooking Boston Harbor, featured a diverse group of panelists that illustrated the variety of skill sets today’s marketers have and the strategies marketers are deploying today.

Tim Minahan, CMO of SAP Cloud, presented an example of a marketer taking a legacy business, moving it to the cloud and changing its entire business model. “Traditionally, SAP, like many companies sold products,” he said. “Now we’re really selling outcomes.” This, he said, has forced SAP to focus more on customer experience to ensure that the customer gets the value he needs – “or he’s not going to renew.”

Sean Ford, CMO at cloud connectivity leader LogMeIn, faces the challenge of serving groups of consumers who want basic functionality but are not willing to compromise on reliability. LogMeIn’s freemium model, he added, puts pressure on the company to capture every nuance of every customer interaction to improve awareness and drive the customer toward a purchase. “My job is to align that story and that relevance across each of our segments and ensure that we are responding as appropriately as we can to the vast amount of data we’re collecting across each customer segment,” he said.DSC_0098

Nancy Go, VP of Brand Marketing at online furniture company Wayfair, offered the point of view of a B-to-C provider that has to engage more directly with consumers. She said she felt customer experience at her company operates pretty separately from marketing. “A lot of it is actually backwards – where it’s like ‘Let’s not market yet. Let’s actually work the customer experience first.’ If the experience is good enough and interesting enough, when we turn on the marketing, it can monetize better,” she said.

Mark Erwich, VP of Marketing at healthcare technology provider Imprivata, said his company focuses intently on customer experience because his industry relies so heavily on peer recommendations. While customer experience and marketing operate in different groups, Erwich added that customer experience “belongs to everyone. If we don’t make our customers successful in the implementation, we lose them. And we not only lose them – we lose the additional sales” or a long list of referrals.

PAN Executive Vice President Mark Nardone welcomed the crowd with an overview of trends that are shaping the customer engagement space, and Forrester’s Dorsey drove the discussion with queries and perspectives from her “Empowered Consumers” research, dating back to 1999.

“A colleague of mine was famous for saying ‘If you do great research, the hard part is not making great predictions,’” Dorsey said. “‘It’s getting the timing right.’”

Watch for a video on the Rise of the Empowered Customer event coming soon!

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Topics: Customer Experience, Thought Leadership

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