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October 31, 2017
PURE: The Formula for Customer Engagement
 
Genuine consumer engagement is the Holy Grail for marketers. We are continually groping for the secret formula -- beyond gimmicks, coupons, points and promotions -- for using content to build bonds between brands and consumers that ensure repeat business, referrals, loyalty and advocacy.
 
Allow me to suggest that the not-so-secret formula is right in front of our noses, though not so easy to implement. It can be expressed as an acronym --- PURE --- meaning brand interactions and messaging must be personal, useful, relevant and easy.
 
Personal is much more than a salutation. It’s the ability to create a robust profile of a customer or prospect by drawing on psycho-demographic, behavioral, device and purchase data. Personalization is a clarion call to deliver on marketing’s prime directive: know thy customer!
 
Getting personal requires a commitment of resources and time in terms of strategy, data and technology to map the customer journey, understand basic segments and drill down to individual patterns of need, consumption and media, device or channel use. It’s a big ask. In a recent CMO Council survey, just 23% of responding marketers had a comprehensive view of customer data within their own organization.
 
Consumers understand that they leave a trail of data. In survey after survey, they are regularly willing to trade data for information, deals and discounts. Essentially, they are imploring brands to “know me and communicate with me about the things I like, care about, buy or need. Cue me about ideas, events and offers that you know will delight me at the times and in the channels that you know I use and frequent.”  
 
While easier said than done, considerable personalization can be done with skillful data sorting and filtering or by using basic site, DSP or social or app analytics. Even better targeting happens by creating look-a-like and predictive models. Acxiom-Live Ramp have introduced IdentityLink ID, a master ID to recognize and track consumers across time, space and channels which enables brands to connect and analyze disparate data sets.  And pretty effective identity management and real-time personalization can be had using machine learning and artificial intelligence. Brands at any level of investment or martech sophistication can get more personal.
 
Useful is in the eye of the beholder. And while some brands believe that their every utterance is magical, most consumers don’t. Understanding the perspective of customers and prospects in terms of content, timing and channels makes an interaction useful and engaging or off-putting and annoying. Texting a busy Mom at 7:30 am is distracting her from critical tasks and diverting her energy. Emailing her an offer from her favorite store with a mobile-redeemable coupon is practical, functional, aligned with her device preference and comment-worthy.
 
The utility litmus test is four-fold. Is the message practical and functional? Is it related to a known or inferred lifestyle or a workflow? Is it delivered at the right time in the right channel on the right device in the right tone and manner? Can the recipient do something about it, react or respond? Messages that meet these criteria will resonate louder, deeper and faster.
 
Relevance is relative to what is known about a person or a segment. Sending a bald guy a shampoo coupon isn’t relevant. Offering a city dwelling non-car owner auto insurance is a waste of time. Offering a gamer a test-drive is a valuable incentive.
 
Genuine engagement is about connecting to a need in a timely manner. Online services that offer paper goods on monthly replenishment cycles are good examples of relevance. Blue Apron’s offering of ready-to-cook meals for busy people, which eliminates shopping, simplifies cooking, manages nutritional concerns and reduces prep time, qualifies as relevant for many.
 
On the surface relevance is a simple sort. But to be truly relevant, brands need to understand the customer journey behind an initial purchase, the experience with the product or service, competing contenders and the likelihood of a repeat or continuity purchase. Pay attention to patterns of customer interactions. Where do they come from? Where do they go afterward? What do they think, feel or do when interacting with your brand? These are the key determinants of relevance.
 
Easy. We live in an ADD society where everyone is bombarded daily from every angle with commercial messages and calls to action. And where immediate gratification is the operative goal. We yearn to have others Do It For Me (DiFM) and we skeptically ask every potential seller; What’s in it For Me (WiiFM)?
 
Friction is the enemy of relationships. Anything that creates even a momentary stumbling block prompts the abandonment of interest, attention or action. Consumers need to be directed, reassured and accelerated.
 
We all want to stroll down the primrose path dismissing anyone or anything that gets in the way. The implication is that the customer experience must be clear, smooth, intuitive, sequential, logical and require very little effort. If it takes more than two clicks, you’re on the edge of extinction.
 
No one will fill out a complex form on a smartphone. Everyone will abandon a slow, confusing or kluge-y checkout page. Pre-think and idiot-proof your communications in every channel. Font size must accommodate an aging population. Buttons must work with fat fingers. Telegraph the big ideas. Show it before you say it. Aim to make interacting with your brand as easy and simple as Amazon’s one-click, which is now off patent and available.
 
PURE is a pathway and an aspiration. We know what we have to do to create genuine engagement and sustaining loyalty. Getting there is a matter of strategic, financial and technical investment. 
 

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Danny Flamberg, EVP Managing Director of Digital Strategy and CRM at Publicis based in New York, has been building brands and building businesses for more than 30 years.Prior to joining Publicis, he led a successful global consulting group called Booster Rocket, as Managing Partner. Before becoming a consultant, he was Vice President of Global Marketing at SAP, SVP and Managing Director at Digitas in New York and Europe and President of Relationship Marketing at Amiratti Puris Lintas and Lowe Worldwide.
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