Interview with Ginger Conlon: “Today Many Marketers Talk More About A Holistic View of Customers”

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Editor’s note: The amount of data in the digitalized business world becomes a real challenge for marketers and sales representatives. Obviously, CRM enhances baseline processes and records management, but how to deal with this bird-eye-view and choose the right information for tracking. Today we present you an interview with Ginger Conlon, an editor-in-chief of Digital Marketing News, seasoned marketing strategist, and one of the Top CRM Influencers of 2012.

In this interview, Ginger shares with us her professional view on customer relationships strategy, approaches to social media and content marketing, as well as formulation of objectives for sales and marketing managers.

1. Ginger, as an experienced journalist and an editor-in-chief of Digital Marketing News, you have an extensive expertise in the content marketing. In your opinion, how can social media communication improve relationships with customers?

Some marketers use social as a way to push out promotions - and that's fine. But social is a great way to engage customers and keep a brand top of mind. For example, Ford Mustang often posts questions on Facebook; in one recent case asking about users' first Mustang. Many people replied with a sentence or two about the first one they had or one they want, and Ford responded to many of them with comments or thank-yous. Another example is online grocer Fresh Direct. I once commented on Twitter that I love when brands post content (versus promos) on Facebook and cited Fresh Direct as an example. Its social team replied not only with a "Thanks for the shout out," but also pointed out new information it had posted on Facebook, which, of course, I immediately clicked over to and read.

2. Data gathering and controlling became a hot topic recently. CRM solutions aid in customer records management and automate baseline processes. But can 360-degree view actually bring companies closer to the customers? How does it influence marketing performance?

A true 360-degree view of the customer is quite difficult to achieve, so today many marketers talk more about a holistic view of customers - which for many of these marketers means bringing together the necessary data points from various siloed systems for specific initiatives versus trying to build and manage one massive database. Having this holistic view is quite valuable because it provides marketers with customer insight that allows them to be especially relevant and targeted with their communications. It can also help to create a unique view of customers that can deliver a competitive advantage. Consider: Although a company and its competitors may some of the same information on specific customers, they'll never have all of the same information (e.g., behavioral and transactional data). This means that a company has a unique picture of its individual customers through that holistic view of its data, and that unique view is an asset that its competitors don't have--and never will have.

3. Roughly speaking, businesses can be divided into the data-driven and content-driven. Which of these approaches more effective? Can the blend of both types increase the relevancy of customer experience?

Data can help marketers determine what types of data to create for which types of customers, as well as where and when to provide that content. So, to me, a blended approach is best.

4. Social media help marketers to draw customer attention. Yet, such a multi-channel method delivers an extensive amount of raw data for analyzing. What types of metrics should be applied? Is it possible to measure the customer engagement?

The metrics that marketers choose to use should align with their goals. Engagement measures like time spent and shares are appropriate for some marketers' objectives; others are looking for more conversion-type metrics like clicks, registrations, and even purchases.

5. Content marketing can be considered as a trend of this year. Besides, it delivers more convenience to customers and increases company competitiveness. In you opinion, does the relevant and high-quality marketing serve as the identification of the brand? Can it improve the rates of customer loyalty? How?

Content marketing is powerful because it helps all along the prospect purchase funnel and throughout the customer lifecycle. Marketers can use content to attract, educate, and engage prospects and by doing so help move them through the purchase funnel, as well as to engage, educate/entertain, and retain current customers. Some companies, for example, will use overview videos to show off a product's capabilities, and then use instructional videos to help customers get the most from their purchase.

Several companies we've interviewed have found that customers and prospects who have viewed content are more likely to purchase or purchase more than those who haven't.

6. CRM creates and protects the environment of data management and business growth. However, the correct interpretation of the records influences all processes including customer relationships. What skills should marketers have for the valid translation of the gathered data?

Having basic analytic skills is becoming table stakes for marketers. It's important to know what questions to ask in the first place, and what data to use to correctly answer those questions. There are technologies that can help, and data scientists who can lend their expertise, but today marketers need at least a basic understanding of how best to move from hypothesis to conclusion.

7. Some companies have different strategies for sales and marketing departments. The twofold business goals and objectives lower the effectiveness and in-house cooperation. Ginger, could you give several tips on successful strategy planning? Are there any vital actions to take?

Marketing and sales have a longstanding reputation for not getting along. This stems from necessarily having different goals. One effective way to foster collaboration is to align some of those goals. For example, one CMO we've interviewed aligned his marketing team's variable compensation with the sales team's results. It ensured that the two teams were in agreement on such areas as what is a high-quality and sales-ready lead, how many leads does the sales team actually need in a given period of time, and what content and collateral would actually be useful to the sales team in educating and converting prospects to customers.

To sum up, we’d like to thank Ginger for this in-depth and practical interview with a constructive view on data management and analysis. Besides, these fascinating examples illustrate her opinions more vividly.

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