Build An Interactive Customer Experience

Organizations that can create unforgettable customer experiences -- those that provide an interactive dialogue between a prospect or a customer and the organization, regardless of channel -- will be best positioned for long-term success. Marketers must be able to reinforce messaging across inbound and outbound marketing channels seamlessly to create personalized, unique customer interactions that influence purchase decisions and result in sales.

However, terms like relevance, personalization and timeliness have practically become clichés for describing optimal customer experiences. Few marketers would argue the importance of resonating with prospects. But the fact is, only 28% of companies engage in deep personalization based on past purchase history, according to a September 2009 Aberdeen report, "Data Driven Marketing."

Making the Transition from Monologue to Dialogue

Unfortunately, there is nothing memorable about generic mass marketing messages. The same Aberdeen report states that organizations that embrace personalization and segmentation are realizing two to three times higher conversion rates versus mass marketing techniques.



A two-way dialogue ensures more direct interaction, conversation and reaction. Prospects are conversing with your organization across inbound (call-centers, a point-of-service, or the web) and outbound channels in much the same way. Every time customers reach out through an inbound channel there is an opportunity to market to them, but it's critical to provide consistent messaging across the entire customer experience. Therefore, the information they consume at different times in the buying cycle must be relevant and personalized to keep them engaged in the conversation.

In recent years, the term "dialogue marketing" has been coined to describe ongoing outbound engagement between an opt-in customer and a company; usually this "dialogue" happens across email and the web through event triggers, drip-campaigns, and offer optimization platforms. Many times when companies claim their campaigns are targeted or personalized, they are in fact referring only to outbound campaigns generated offline. Few companies are actually able to handle real-time inbound dialogues in a way that ensures offers are both personalized and consistent with outbound activities.

Measurable Benefits from Integrating Inbound and Outbound Marketing

Marketers must be able to fuse inbound and outbound interactions to create a back and forth dialogue between customers and prospects, in much the same way two people converse. For this reason the foundational component to delivering a true two-way communication is a centralized customer database. Many companies manage inbound and outbound data separately and therefore fail to interact with the target audience in a compelling conversation that increases conversion, sales, and marketing effectiveness.

By leveraging cross-channel customer data for inbound communications, organizations open new opportunities for sales and improved customer relationships that often cannot be accomplished through outbound communications alone.

A centralized customer database can provide call-center agents with real-time access to view outbound promotional campaigns, website activity, purchase history and demographic information about customers. In services businesses, like telecommunications, with thousands of inbound calls to the contact-center each year, this information is used to tailor offers and reinforce promotional programs across channels in real-time. Agents can identify exactly which promotions the customer recently received, or accepted in the past, and the system automatically prioritizes the most appropriate offers to present.

Unified Engagement: Automating Inbound and Outbound Communications

Many organizations struggle to connect inbound and outbound data because they have historically adopted multiple technologies to support and automate marketing. These disparate technologies house decentralized data, redundant licenses and capabilities, and generally make data integration for a two-way cross-channel communication complex and manual.

To address these issues, a new breed of marketing automation technology has emerged to offer a single platform for cross-channel campaign management. Quite a few vendors provide a comprehensive marketing automation solution, so the final decision should come down to overall costs and feature functionality.

The right marketing automation technology should be able to provide a single cross-channel customer view to unify inbound and outbound campaigns. It should also be able to integrate seamlessly with your CRM system to ensure data flow to and from CRM, marketing automation and other critical in house systems.

Marketers should be able to evaluate a database of hundreds of current offer possibilities and select and present relevant offers in "real-time" during inbound customer interaction, regardless of channel. While technology may never actually replace the experience of a two-way dialogue between individuals, it can serve to reinforce inbound and outbound marketing messages to help marketers take control of the customer experience.

When properly executed, targeted inbound marketing offers can grow cross-selling and up-selling revenue, drive customer loyalty and provide a measurable competitive advantage. Industry leading organizations are already proving the value of centralizing cross-channel data and making it actionable in inbound channels. The sooner marketers embrace the opportunity to reinforce marketing messages across channels, the sooner these organizations will create memorable customer experiences that result in sales.

1 comment about "Build An Interactive Customer Experience ".
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  1. Eric Goldman from Gossamar Inc, June 4, 2010 at 6:26 p.m.

    This is a great article and provides a good incentive to explore the concepts of Inbound Marketing and Marketing Automation, or as I call it, Inbound Marketing Automation.
    I'd like to add a few ideas to the mix, if I may. The first is that the tools, wonderful as they are - all those marketing automation and search optimization gadgets - will not produce worthy results if you don't focus on the Process of using them. I don't just mean learning how to use them, although that's important. Knowing when and where and in what order is just as important - what we could call the Process of Inbound Marketing - and unless you design this carefully to suit your own company and your own people, you will not derive the conversion gains of which you speak.
    It helps to view the Process as consisting of 4 sub-processes. It starts when you:
    1) Attract more visitors to the website through Search Engine Optimization, Social Media Marketing, and Pay Per Click advertising. Then you…
    2) Engage those visitors' attention with industry leading content (website copy, white papers, videos, podcasts). As you stated above, this content must be matched to the prospect's buying cycle to ensure you can nurture them around the cycle (see below). And then, when you gain their trust via this content and you persuade them to register, you…
    3) Convert these visitors into Prospects. You can now qualify these visitors by grading their profiles and using their digital footprints to rack up a score and hence "know" their quality. And then, nurture them from cold leads to hot prospects with multi-touch drip email campaigns. emails which send just the "right" piece of information to the prospect to help move him or her to the next stage of their buying cycle.
    4) Automatically feed these hot sales ready prospects directly into your CRM and automatically notify the assigned sales rep (based on product or territory or whatever…).
    Our website contains a Resource Library of white papers, tools, videos and an extensive glossary, all covering Inbound Marketing Automation in more detail.

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