Big data and analytics allow marketers to know their target audience better than ever. However, in a world of information overload, marketers must focus campaigns on actually helping customers accomplish their objectives, according to Gartner, Inc.
Research findings on B2C and B2B marketing, brand and corporate communications revealed during the Gartner Marketing Symposium/Xpo keynote here today, centered on one key theme: the brands best able to help customers either do something or feel something will win customer loyalty.
“Connecting with customers in a valuable, relevant manner is as old as marketing itself. But we’ve seen a shift recently in how, exactly, customers want to connect with brands,” said Brent Adamson, distinguished vice president at Gartner. “Customers find themselves lost in today’s world — sifting through overwhelming amounts of information, adjusting to rapidly changing technology, 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 that reassurance and help in making the right decision.”
Gartner research shows that 44% of customers worry they’ve missed a better option every time they make a purchase. To mitigate this feeling of uncertainty, brands 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.
“Ultimately, we need to help customers build stronger, healthier, more productive relationships between themselves and their world,” added Mr. Adamson.
The theme of helping customers echoes throughout Gartner research from every industry and across every marketing function over the last year — from personalization and content marketing, to improving the customer experience.
Personalization Efforts Must Focus on Helping Customers
Gartner research on personalization shows 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%.
“It’s a fine needle to thread between being too inaccurate and too creepy,” added Mr. Adamson. “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.”
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 and/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. “Bottom line, we get paid when we help buyers buy,” said Mr. Adamson.
Customer Experience Efforts Must Help Reassure Customers
The concept of helping customers also emerges in how brands improve the customer experience (CX). When looking at the CX investments most likely to positively impact customer loyalty and build long-term relationships — from improving service rep skills, to faster response times and website design — Gartner research finds that while customers will punish brands for underperformance, 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 Mr. Adamson. “It’s an indirect result of brands helping customers to feel differently about themselves, first, and only through that difference feel differently about the brand, second.”
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,” added Mr. Adamson.
Regardless of the investments in technology, data and analytics, marketers that don’t make helping customers an integral part of their overall strategy miss a massive opportunity to drive commercial outcomes and provide material help.
“Today is a rare magical moment for all of us in marketing, where doing the right thing for consumers, for our business and, frankly, for the world are all in 100% alignment,” said Mr. Adamson.
Gartner for Marketers clients can access relevant research and insights in the reports “Rethinking Personalization for Maximum Impact,” “Rethinking Digital Customer Engagement,” “Creating a High-Impact Customer Experience Strategy” and “Winning Preference Through the Corporate Brand.”
About the Gartner Marketing Symposium/Xpo
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About Gartner for Marketers
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