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Customer relevance in an era of squirrels

Customer relevance in an era of squirrels Corey Olfert

Squirrels -- cute, fast, slightly annoying creatures from the Sciuridae family. And, if you're a dog, Sciuridae translates into one thing: distraction. With more than 280 species of squirrels across most continents, dogs are compelled -- no, hardwired -- to chase the darn things.

Humans aren't much different. We might not be distracted by the furry, nut-eating bushy-tailed varmint, but there are plenty of every-day "squirrels" that we seem compelled -- no, hardwired -- to chase.

Take email, for example. There were 74 trillion emails sent in 2015 -- 2.4 million emails a second. How about social channels? There are more than 2.3 billion active social media users, and 60 billion Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp messages are sent … each day.

These varied squirrels in our lives have contributed to a rapidly declining attention span. Over a nearly 70-year period (1945 to 2014), brands have increased the number of hours per day to send you messages by 90 percent, in the hopes of reaching you.

How do you, as a brand, even have a chance to get the attention of your customers or prospects?

One word: Relevance!

What used to be truly differentiating -- great product or service people wanted -- has in most cases become table stakes. Today, by and large, customers don't care about your product or service. What they care about is solving their problem or meeting their need.

It's time to demonstrate to your customers and prospects that you have your fingers on the pulse of the challenges facing them, and that you are uniquely able to come along side and help them through choppy waters.

Let's look at a couple of brief examples of relevance in action.

GE Digital

At GE Digital, the software arm of General Electric, we are focused on helping industrial companies navigate very challenging waters of near-zero productivity gains over the past decade. Using technology, GE has been on its own digital journey for more than five years. We're still on that journey, so we can credibly connect with our customers and talk about how we started, what we're doing to transform, and what we've learned. In addition to software, we packaged up our own playbook -- our approach to transformation -- to share with customers and prospects. In working with agency partners Group SJR for content, Media Monks for web and design, and MEC for SEO, we executed a dedicated theme-based marketing campaign in the second half of in 2016. By directly addressing a key pain point and reinforcing relevance with GE's own journey, the campaign has helped drive an estimated pipeline value of more than $170 million.

Avanade

In 2007, Apple introduced the iPhone. Three years later, the iPad. The "bring your own device," or BYOD, trend was in full swing. Consulting firms were pushing digital workplace transformation services to help business capitalize on BYOD upside. Avanade, an IT consulting firm where I worked, founded by Microsoft and Accenture, was nowhere in that discussion. With more than 20,000 employees worldwide, Avanade had seen firsthand the importance and value of a digital workplace. So partnering with our agency, Edelman, we scoped out white space in the market to capture. Working across executive, marketing, and sales, we executed a globally integrated campaign called Work Redesigned. It combined a global research study to show adoption of workplace technologies, and we reinforced the story with how Avanade was helping clients transform the workplace, as well as its own. We launched in early 2012, and within a few months we had gone from 0 percent visibility to 30 percent share of the conversation, and doubled the number of customer conversations.

Your customers are in a heap of hurt, but often too busy chasing squirrels to see it let alone address it. By following the trends -- macroeconomic, geo issues, end-user behavior, and technology breakthroughs -- you can identify not only current pain points or needs, but emerging challenges or opportunities as well. Tap into insights such as social listening, analyst discussions, and customer input to synthesize various insights. And don't forget to seek guidance from local markets. Your regional leadership teams have valuable perspectives to ensure local relevance.

Now you're armed to work as an integrated marketing organization to develop long-term audience-centric campaigns that can drive brand awareness and topical ownership on issues important to your customers. This will allow you to demonstrate both relevance and empathy … a key weapon in the war on squirrels.

Corey Olfert brings over 20 years’ experience helping B2B companies create unique voices in crowded markets. Currently he leads content strategy for GE Digital, a $5b unit of General Electric. He is responsible for developing customer-centric...

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