The future of marketing will be all about customer data

As I've mentioned in previous posts, Boston is rapidly rebranding itself as what Boston Globe columnist Scott Kirsner, and perhaps others, have dubbed as the Innovation Economy.  This week the focus was on marketing.

MITX, under the umbrella of FutureM, organized dozens of  (mostly free) events dedicated to exploring and sharing how the newest technologies and insights are changing the way that marketers think, create, engage, and measure.  It was information-packed, exhilarating, and exhausting.

This post focuses on what excited me most as a B2B marketing consultant.  Hint:  My company's tagline is "using customer knowledge to increase sales".

Get it right the first time

Speaker after speaker referred to the fact that many products fail simply because they don't address a compelling market need-something that companies could have determined prior to building and shipping the product.  Therefore, a lot of talks centered on various techniques that companies can use to gather customer information before and during the development process-and after the product ships.

Gather customer data early and often

While companies talk about being customer-centric, many treat marketing research as "one and done".  They gather customer data at the outset of a project, perhaps once or twice during the development cycle and right before the product ships, rather than doing so on an ongoing basis.  Moreover, few companies perform research after the sale to find out why they won or lost.

A lot of the speakers, on the other hand, gather customer feedback weekly, others bi-weekly, and still others monthly throughout the development process.  Many recommended getting to market quickly with what Eric Ries referred to, in the Customer Development session, with a Minimally Viable Product (MVP)-and iterating post-launch to magnify the learning.

The point they emphasized is that everything is always evolving:  the surrounding environment, enabling technologies, the competition, customers' requirements, and a company's understanding of its customers' needs.  Therefore, the development and marketing processes must be iterative,  and so must customer research.

Go where your customers are

Conventional marketing research relies on filtered information.  The sieve may be through the lens of particular functions such as Sales or Customer Service or the choice of questions for a survey or focus group.

Panelists encouraged audiences to gather feedback directly-and from multiple perspectives.  At the Customer Development session, they recommended going on site and observing customers' environments directly, watching them work, and seeing with whom they interact.  At the Product Strategy session, they also recommended involving whole teams, rather than just individuals with a particular perspective (such as design, marketing, development, etc.)

Focus on actions not words

How many times have you seen market researchers ask a prospective user which features matter most-or what they would pay for something?  As we've discussed in this blog before, users have no idea-because they don't fully grasp the circumstances under which they'll be making the decision.

Instead, panelists at the Digital Marketing session recommended focusing on actions rather than words.  That is, learn from customers clicks.  At the Product Strategy session, Katie Rae suggested putting up PPC ads to see what attracted user attention.

At the Customer Development session, speakers recommended asking for the order, even if the product was not finished yet.  That way, you know that prospects truly value what you plan to deliver.

At the Customer Engagement session, panelists encouraged participants to focus on the big picture.  In addition to finding out why people came to the site, they recommended finding out where people went when they left the site and what they did with the information they got during their visit.

Engagement fosters relationships

At one of the sessions, a panelist pointed out that it's now up to marketing to build and nurture relationships.  As we've noted elsewhere in this blog, by the time they contact a company many prospects have made their buying decision and just want to negotiate the terms of the deal.

Therefore, panelists at the Customer Engagement session noted that marketers must find out where prospects congregate and what they are discussing.  Doing so will enable marketers to engage prospects in a way that prospects find relevant.

At the Digital Marketing session, panelists said that in the future marketers will deliver less content and more utility.  They may engage prospects by facilitating conversations among them, rather than through direct participation.

They may also provide utility by helping improve users' offline experiences-even those that don't directly relate to the company's offerings.  For example, a pharmaceutical company may sponsor an exercise program and a law firm may help hospital inpatients learn from others' experiences.  When it comes to providing utility, mobile will often be the platform of choice because phones travel with their users.

Analytics are no longer optional

Another recurring theme was the importance of analytics-especially post launch.  Here, panelists focused on some of the related challenges including the rapid pace of change, integrating the various systems, making sense of all the data, and using the insights to empower communicators throughout the organization.

The marketer of the future?

At the Digital Marketing session, the panelists agreed that the marketer of the future must be a strong communicator, love technology, embrace qualitative and quantitative analysis, and adapt easily to change.

Visit these hashtags to see what others had to say #engagem #custdev2 #futuremdigital #prodstratm

Written by:

This blog

by Barbara Bix - In tough economic times, more and more clients are looking to their accountants to help them improve the bottom line. Often, the best way to do that is to start with the top line-since one can only decrease expenses so far. This blog discusses concrete actions you and your business-to-business clients can use to accelerate revenues.

More from this blog

Bloggers crew

Steve Knowles has spent 25 years in business and practice in the UK, but he also worked in the states and the years haven't dulled his way of seeing an alternative view to everyone else, and every day is a new adventure.

43104

Joel M. Ungar, CPA is a lifelong resident of the Detroit area and a graduate of The University of Michigan. He is a principal with Silberstein Ungar, PLLC, a Top 15 auditor of SEC public reporting companies.

75544

Allan Boress, CPA, with over 25 years as a practitioner and consultant to the accounting profession. Mr. Boress is the author of 12 published books in 6 different languages, including a best-seller, The "I-Hate-Selling" Book.

48055

Larry Perry, CPA, CPA Firm Support Services, LLC, is the author of accounting and auditing manuals, author and presenter of live staff training seminars, and author of webcast and self-study CPE programs. He blogs about small audits, reviews, and compilations.

88496
Sandra Wiley, COO and Shareholder, is ranked by Accounting Today as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Accounting as a result of her prominent role as an industry expert on HR and training as well as influence as a management and planning consultant. She is also a founding member of The CPA Consultant's Alliance. Sandra is a certified Kolbe™ trainer who advises firms on building balanced teams, managing employee conflict and hiring staff.
20260

Maria Calabrese, CIR, Human Resources manager for Fazio, Mannuzza, Roche, Tankel, LaPilusa, LLC in Cranford, New Jersey, Maria's topics revolve around the world of: Mentoring, Performance management, and The "Y Generation," a.k.a. "The whY generation".

55244

William Brighenti is a CPA, Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, and Certified [Business] Valuation Analyst, operating an accounting, tax, and QuickBooks consulting firm in Hartford, Connecticut, Accountants CPA Hartford.

80196

Ken Garen, CPA, is the co-founder and President of Universal Business Computing Company (www.ubcc.com), a software development firm of high-volume, high-productivity accounting and payroll technology.

24769

Eva Rosenberg, MBA, EA, is the publisher of TaxMama.com, and author of the weekly syndicated Ask TaxMama column. She provides answers to tax questions from taxpayers and tax professionals worldwide.

63725

Amy Vetter, CPA, CITP is the CPA Programs Leader for Intacct Corporation responsible for leading the CPA/BPO Partners nationally.

34210
Brian Strahle is the owner of LEVERAGE SALT, LLC where he provides state and local tax technical services to accounting firms, law firms and tax research organizations across the United States. He also writes a weekly column in Tax Analysts State tax Notes entitled, "The SALT Effect." For more info, visit his website: www.leveragestateandlocaltax.com
102227
Scott H. Cytron, ABC, is president of Cytron and Company, known for helping companies and organizations improve their bottom line through a hybrid of strategic public relations, communications, marketing programs and top-notch client service. An accredited consultant, Scott works with companies, organizations and individuals in professional services (accounting, finance, medical, legal, engineering), high-tech and B2B/B2C product/service sales.
25587

Rita Keller is a nationally known CPA firm management consultant, speaker, author, mentor and blogger. She has over 30 years hands-on experience in CPA firm management, marketing, technology and administrative operations.

52170
Stacy Kildal is the mom of two fantastic kids, an Advanced Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, Certified Enterprise Solutions ProAdvisor, Sleeter Group Certified Consultant, a nationally recognized member of the Intuit Trainer and Writer Network, and co-host of RadioFree QuickBooks.
27474
Michael Alter's blog specializes in providing practical advice to those who seek greater profitability and practice management tactics that enhance deeper client relationships.
31767

Sally Glick, CMO, Principal, Marketer of the Year in 2003 and AAM Hall of Famer in 2007, leads a lively discussion of the constantly expanding roles of marketing and the professional marketers that drive this initiative in accounting firms of all sizes.

99953

The IMA Young Professionals Blog features the insights of IMA’s Young Professionals Committee. Committee members share advice and experiences on careers, continuing education, work/life balance, and other issues affecting young accounting and finance professionals.

32941

FEI Financial Reporting Blog provides highlights from SEC, PCAOB, FASB, IASB, and other regulatory news, including reporting under Sarbanes-Oxley Sect 404. It is written by Edith Orenstein, Director of Technical Policy Analysis at FEI.

110871

Sue Anderson has 30 years of experience in continuing education for accountants. Currently she is the program director for online CPE provider CPE Link.

60620

Jim Fahey is COO of Apple Growth Partners, a regional CPA firm in Ohio. His focus is on the effective and efficient use of technology within the firm by all team members.

38915
Caleb Newquist is the Editor-in-Chief of Sift Media US, overseeing content for both AccountingWEB and Going Concern.
66090

Leita Hart-Fanta, CPA, CGFM, and CGAP is the author of "The Yellow Book Interpreted" and owner of Yellowbook-CPE.com a website devoted to training for governmental auditors.

92092

AccountingWEB is more than just a U.S. team of journalists and financial and technology experts - we have an international side, too! Members of our British team who publish AccountingWEB.co.uk share their ideas, insights, and perspectives from across the pond.

53134