While connected consumers are busy completely redefining how they engage with brands, marketers' response has been iterative -- a tweak here or there, with the latest being an emphasis on creating an eye-catching customer experience. That's a half-measure that doesn't close the gap between how people live and how companies attempt to do business with them. What's needed is an altogether systemic change to customer engagement.
An experience is something that happens to you. Engagement is something you choose and pursue. That's a real dividing line in the connected era. Customer experience is a campaign model measured in eyeballs. Customer engagement is a business model measured in growth. It involves, strengthens and connects every business discipline.
Customer engagement is akin to Formula One racing. F1 enterprises undertake massive preparation and intelligence gathering long before a race starts, so they can start in the best position possible. Then they sync interdependent teams to real-time data feeds throughout the race. They don't win because they do something magical once; they win because they start the race in a better position than competitors and tweak everything continually, consciously and in a coordinated way.
On a F1 team, more than 100 specialists process and analyze real-time data on every aspect of the car's performance. They keep adjusting and recalibrating long-term strategies. The sharing of data enables specialists to make changes by degree -- a pound of tire pressure, a turn of the suspension screw -- in sync with the whole team. They get smarter by the minute, applying in-the-now data to historical models to predict what's next -- when the car will run out of fuel, when the tires will run out of tread, when the approaching rain will hit. It all goes into planning the next corner, the next lap and the next race.
The F1 team operates with intense, fluid communication around liberated data. Not pressured, but intense -- focused on the next move to an outcome. Not just integrated, but fluid -- constantly moving and reforming the whole with a sense of past, present and future. Liberated data means it's all collected, harnessed, shared and used by everyone.
For marketing, the F1 ideal means that cross-functional collaboration is required to gather, collate, analyze and disseminate data that streams in from every customer interaction, so the right sequence of lightweight interactions can be orchestrated.
To support customer engagement, businesses need to set strategy on a deeper level of customer intelligence: who their most valuable customers are, and why they do what they do. When you know why, you can continually adapt messages, channels and cadence to do more business with customers over time -- predictably and reliably. And you have the data you need to rebalance the marketing mix -- 80% going to media campaigns won't cut it.
Marketers' standard customer data feeds aren't enough. The new model requires engagement engines that can incorporate real-time data mining and analysis. Only then can marketers convert unique insights on target segments into meaningful interactions that drive awareness, engagement, purchase and loyalty. That means companies need to integrate technology platforms, hardware, software and complex data algorithms into their marketing. Even more important, they need people with the skills to keep the engine running smoothly.