Gartner Keynote: Why Your Marketing Strategy Must Prioritize Help

April 29, 2019
Contributor: Kelly Blum

At Gartner Marketing Symposium/Xpo 2019, experts explore how B2B and B2C marketing leaders can drive commercial outcomes by helping customers.

Today’s world of information overload has drastically altered customer behaviors and how they want to connect with brands. Gone are the days where marketers can rely on their product, service or even brand to attract and retain customers.

At Gartner Marketing Symposium/XpoTM in San Diego, opening keynote speaker Brent Adamson, Distinguished VP, Gartner for Marketers, focused on a key theme that is redefining marketing today: The brands best able to help customers either do something or feel something will win customer loyalty.

“Customers find themselves lost in today’s world — sifting through overwhelming amounts of information, adjusting to rapidly changing technology and struggling with relentless economic fragility, among other polarizing issues. It’s no wonder customers are overwhelmed and worried about the decisions they are making. Because of this, they are now looking to brands for reassurance and help in making the right decision,” said Brent Adamson.

Brent Adamson speaking on today's buying reality

Brent Adamson, Principal Executive Advisor at Gartner, discusses the reality of buyer sentiment at Gartner Marketing Symposium Xpo 2019. 

In fact, 44% of customers report they feel uncertain about their purchase decisions, worrying they’ve missed a better option every time they make a purchase. To mitigate this feeling of uncertainty, marketing leaders must focus on building stronger relationships between customers and their brand by helping customers understand their options, make a purchase, give them confidence and reassure their decision.

Marketers who make “helping customers” a top priority that echoes throughout their marketing strategies — from personalization and content marketing, to customer experience and brand value — will be better positioned to differentiate themselves from competitors.

Personalization efforts must focus on helping customers

Gartner research on personalization shows that more than half of customers report they will unsubscribe from a company’s communications and 38% will stop doing business with a company if they find personalization efforts to be “creepy.”

On the other hand, that same research reveals that messaging designed to provide valuable assistance or support, while using as few data dimensions as possible, delivers the greatest commercial benefit. In fact, messages focused on helping the customer accomplish something increases the predicted impact of the commercial benefit index (e.g., brand intent, purchase, repurchase and increased cart size) by nearly 20%.

“At the end of the day, consumers don’t just want you to show them that you know them, they want you to help them get something done,” added Adamson. “Proving you know the customer in the absence of helping them, can do immense damage.”

Read more3 Personalization Principles for Marketers

Brent Adamson speaks on marketing personalization and how it is imperative to prove you can help your customer not just prove you know your customer.

Brands that help customers have a 16% higher commercial benefit according to Brent Adamson of Gartner.

B2B content marketing must help customers buy

Similarly, B2B buyers today will also reward suppliers who make the purchase process easier. Gartner research shows that customers who receive helpful information that eases the purchase process are three times as likely to buy the bigger, more expensive option, with less regret.

B2B marketers must rethink their content marketing strategies to focus on “buyer enablement” — the provision of information or tools to customers that support the completion of specific buying jobs throughout the purchase process. This content must help to guide customers through critical buying tasks, geared toward overcoming challenges they encounter throughout the buying process.

For example, WebMD has created a body of “buyer enablement” content in the form of an easy-to-use Wellness Program Buying Guide that customers can utilize to help them make an informed decision, or that sales reps can use to guide customers to the right decision for their situation. The guide is specifically designed to help customers figure out which questions they should be asking in the first place and then identify the specific issues they might have inadvertently overlooked.

“WebMD has figured out how to take customers by the hand and lead them in a very thoughtful and helpful way through the maze of an otherwise confusing and complex purchase,” said Adamson.

Customer experience efforts must help reassure customers

The concept of helping customers also emerges in how brands improve the customer experience (CX). Gartner research shows that while customers will punish brands for underperforming in customer service, they are highly unlikely to reward brands for exceptional performance. Instead, when customers feel a sense of self-affirmation, they are more likely to reward the brand that generated that feeling.

“Suppliers and brands win the battle for long-term customer loyalty not so much by changing the way customers perceive their company, but by materially impacting the way that customers perceive themselves,” explained Adamson.

Take, for example, the online designer dress rental service, Rent the Runway. At the end of a customer’s subscription year, Rent the Runway sends an email summarizing the customer’s activity on the platform across the year. The message is designed to provide helpful information about the customer — highlighting their “style persona,” defining their preferences and trends, and revealing what they would have spent if they actually purchased all of the dresses they rented instead. The simple but effective email helps to affirm the customer’s choices, providing strong, credible evidence that they made the right ones.

Read more: Marketing's Role in Buyer Enablement

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Brand initiatives must help customers feel good

Lastly, when looking at the potential value of a brand connection, Gartner research reveals that the common approach of “shared values” has little impact on brand connection for customers. Instead, irrespective of what a brand believes, customers are three times more likely to feel a strong brand connection when they perceive that brand to deliver a range of personal benefits — how a brand helps them achieve their goals, present themselves to others or feel about themselves.

“Strong brand connections are less about whether or not the brand presents itself in a way that is consistent with customer values, and far more about whether or not the brand helps customers present themselves in a way that’s consistent with their own values,” noted Adamson.

Regardless of the investments in technology, data and analytics, marketers who don’t make helping customers an integral part of their overall strategy miss a massive opportunity to drive commercial outcomes and provide material help.

“Help doesn’t come in a lake of data. It comes from understanding it. It comes from empathy,” added Adamson. “Ultimately, we need to help customers build stronger, healthier, more productive relationships between themselves and their world.”

Brent Adamson speaks on marketing personalization specifically tailored help, buyer enablement, self affirmation and personal benefits

Brent Adamson summarized the four key themes of the opening keynote at Gartner Marketing Marketing Symposium Xpo 2019. 

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