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Ernan’s Insights on Marketing Best Practices

Monday, February 20, 2017

TIAA CMO Connie Weaver Answers 4 Questions for Marketing Innovators

Connie Weaver is an expert in brand transformation, customer analytics, and digital strategy. Her approach combines the “art and science” of branding by establishing data and measurement as a key complement to on-going innovation. Currently the Chief Marketing Officer for investment giant TIAA, she has led marketing efforts for a range of Fortune 100 companies, start-ups, and non-profit organizations.
Connie recently participated in our "4 Questions for Marketing Innovators" series.
1. What is one marketing topic that is most important to you as an innovator?
Breaking down the barriers to innovation, no question. It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that it’s too difficult to innovate in a complex environment. This is the kind of shackled thinking that drives innovators crazy! Not only is this constrained confidence bad for you as a leader, it’s terrible for your organization.
Look at TIAA. Look at financial services. We are a nearly 100-year-old company in an industry loaded with many more guardrails than you’ll find elsewhere. FINRA, banking regulations, insurance compliance standards – the list goes on.
Yet we were able to innovate beyond even our own expectations throughout all phases of our transformation. We placed the customer at the center of every decision and asked, “How does our brand make the customer feel? How can we enhance that emotional connection?” We dramatically streamlined our website and online experience. Our marketing function collaborated with our legal and compliance groups to make sure our new “radically simple” language still fit within industry regulations.
And yes, there were barriers along every step. One of the keys to overcoming the pain points is to remember that you can innovate anywhere, anytime. If you make the customer a priority and passionately stand behind your mission, there is always a path. Sure, you may need to test and learn, walk before you run. We all do. But stay resolute in your efforts to be innovative and you will move the needle.
2. Why is this so important?
The results that you can drive through innovation make all of the effort worth it. Since rebranding TIAA, we have seen major improvements not only in awareness of our brand, but deeper understanding of what our brand stands for and how it can support the customer’s needs. We’ve also seen great leaps in online traffic and doubled the time visitors spend on our site.
These are major wins. And they have all occurred because of our commitment to innovate with the customer in mind. We continue to meet customers where they are in their financial journeys and provide them with the tools they need to reach major milestones. If we hadn’t decided to set off on this quest for innovation and transformation, we could possibly be falling behind our customers and what they need from us.
3. How can this improve the customer experience?
The experiences we are fostering for our customers are always top of mind for us. And that comes out of trust, loyalty and total transparency. We sat in the living rooms of customers to talk about their financial fears and trepidations. We took our focus way “off Broadway” and traveled to cities across the country to uncover major insights.
If customers feel front and center – and that you’re willing to innovate to help them and not just yourselves – then they are more likely to engage with your brand. And, we can achieve our goal of making our customers feel more confident in their financial futures.
4. How will this improve the effectiveness of marketing?
If there is true buy-in, innovation can galvanize an organization. This TIAA transformation was not about one single person being an innovator or one single idea being innovative. This has been about driving change for our customers and getting a lot of people to help us along the way.
From the beginning, we thought outside of the financial services box and stoked up partnerships internally. We worked hand-in-hand with sales, legal and compliance, finance, and strategic agencies.
And this all-in engagement is what has made me the most proud. I have led many successful brand transformations in all sorts of crisis and change, but never before have I seen this type of impact in such a short period of time. Our entire organization has rallied behind our customers. Ninety-six percent of our employees now understand the TIAA brand and what it represents. And we are excited to continue delivering innovation for 100 more years.
Bonus Question: What is your favorite activity outside of work?
I love working with nonprofit organizations to help them rebrand and become more customer-relevant. Making a difference matters to me and I’m lucky enough to serve on the boards of the national Make-A-Wish Foundation, Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, and the University of Connecticut Foundation. Let’s not forget roller coasters, skiing and hiking – as if my professional life isn’t exciting enough!
For additional Marketing Innovator stories, click here.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Don't Take It Personally, But Innovators Are Done With Personas

Article by Ernan Roman
Featured on CMO.com
“The reason personas failed to achieve true personalization is that they were too simplistic to reflect the unique attributes that differentiate individual customers and prospects from the mass of other similar customers and prospects. And that is the essence of true personalization.”
These sentiments belong to TIAA CMO Connie Weaver. Indeed, over the past 12 months, we’ve seen a surge in the number of companies disappointed by the lack of a significant increase in response and engagement from their traditional persona-based segmentation. Whereas personas were once a good starting point to identify “buckets” of customers, the limitations of persona-based marketing have become apparent as the consumer decision-making journey veered from its predictable linear path and increased in complexity.
“Customer expectations for personalization have changed with astonishing velocity in the past year and will continue to transform rapidly,” said Paul Andrukonis, director of channel engagement and personalization at Citi Global Cards. “To keep pace in today’s highly personalized marketplace, it’s essential to empower customers with the ability to shape their individual marketing and service experience with your brand.”
Persona Research Findings
A consistent finding has emerged from thousands of hours of B2B and B2C Voice of Customer (VoC) research our firm has conducted for brands such as Microsoft, MassMutual, Gilt, and QVC: “It is essential for marketers to establish ‘human partnerships and relationships’ post-sale. Consumer relationships require authentic and relevant communications and interactions.”
Additional thoughts from our research regarding the impact of personas gone wrong include:
  • “When I receive generic emails, it is obvious that you do not care enough to understand my individual needs. Instead, you are trying distill my complex needs into simple generalities to make your email blast easier for you ... and useless to me!”
  • “You marketers don’t seem to understand that personalized engagement post-sale is valuable for the customer and ... it forges strong ties with your company that serve as a ‘grace account’ upon which to draw when there is the almost-certain problem or outreach from competition.”
A Fortune CMO summed up the damage caused by traditional personas this way: “We are using new CRM technology to automate old bad behaviors ... not guided by how customers define improved CX and personalization ... so the result is irritating and brand-damaging spray and pray.”
Going Forward: Human Data-Driven Personalization
Traditional personas based on implicit data (web browsing behavior, data mined from social media, and purchased-based behaviors) do not provide the necessary depth of information to drive relevant communications and offers. As a result, today’s personas are not generating the expected increases in response. Marketers must now make a profound shift toward “human data,” which is based on explicit, self-profiled, opt-in preference data. Human data personalization is unique in that it lends itself to segmentation based on self-described personality types, attitudes, and life stages.
“We are shifting focus from products we want to sell to truly understanding the financial needs and uncertainties of our individual customers and how they ‘feel’ about these complex issues,” TIAA’s Weaver said. “This is a profound shift and will impact every aspect of our personalization, CX, and problem-solving for each individual customer.”
Added Citi’s Andrukonis: “You will not transform your key metrics, such as conversion rates, engagement, ROI, or anything else, until your customers see their voice reflected in where, when, and how you sell your products. Moreover, by letting customers make you smarter about how, and how frequently, you market your products, you create more opportunities to heighten engagement with your brand.”
Another brand leader, GameStop, is initiating new strategies to gain deeper insights about who its customers are in order to develop more authentic and effective human data-based personalization and CX strategies.
“We recently analyzed the personas we had been using and found that the customer had changed dramatically,” said Darin Smith, senior director of PowerUp Rewards at GameStop. “We are now rethinking the real-world, human differences, versus just transactional differences, among our individual customers and formulating a plan to engage with them as individual gamers versus superficial aggregates of different gamer personas.”
Another exciting innovator is luxury design brand Shinola. “Traditional personas tell you very little because they are based on simplistic models and transactions,” said CMO Bridget Russo. “They cannot help understand why customers bought, what motivated them to buy, etc. Cookie-cutter persona-based marketing will not work for today’s savvy buyers.”
Dennis Kopitz, Shinola’s director of ecommerce, added: “To achieve and scale true personalization, we need to obtain deep human insights regarding who buys which category of our products, why they buy, what their needs and expectations are, and what they want next from us. This will take us to a far deeper level of understanding than traditional personas.”
Persona Takeaways
How can you evolve to the next level of personalization and achieve “human data-based partnerships and relationships” with customers? Here are three considerations:
  • Traditional segmentation based on modeled “generic” personas does not differentiate individual consumer interests, lifestyles, and connection with the brand/product. Rather, it limits the ability to demonstrate why a consumer should purchase from it versus competitors.
  • Human data, based on explicit, self-profiled, opt-in preference information, drives deeper levels of understanding and is therefore the key to developing more significant relationships.
  • Poorly executed personalization is viewed as irritating by consumers and not only wastes of marketer’s time and resources, it damages brands.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Think Experiences — Not Channels — to Connect with Customers

Article by Ernan Roman
Featured on CustomerThink.com
“You can’t have your channels competing against one another … The goal is to get your organization as a whole to work toward overall revenue optimization, regardless of channel,” says John Romney, global practice lead of Omnichannel at NTT DATA.
Marketers are talking “omnichannel” but are still stuck in fragmented silos with competing goals, metrics and compensation. Meanwhile, customers have increased their expectations of a buying journey with one integrated, cross-channel experience. For 2017, it will be life threatening if marketers do not embrace and deliver simultaneous all-channel customer engagement.
According to the “Driving Shopper Engagement through Digital Technology” study by Synchrony Financial, “Over half the population has researched a product, checked in at a retailer, tracked rewards points, or checked out while using a smartphone in the last three months alone.” Other key points of this study;
  • Shoppers expect the digital experience to not only be present, but also proactive and seamless.
  • No longer just a tool for younger generations, the growth in smartphones has extended to everyone…. [There is] a dramatic rise in digital shopping, with almost 70% of the U.S. taking part in this now mainstream activity.
Additionally, in the 2016 POS/Customer Engagement Survey, it was noted, “85% of respondents indicated that unified commerce is their top priority.” The report goes on to state, “As retailers navigate among this ‘new’ retail environment, they realize the need to not only allow, but also encourage, the transcending of channels and personalization of the customer’s shopping experience…”
Apparel brand Perry Ellis put information from this POS/Customer Engagement study into action via a cloud-based technology solution, to create a “connected store” that uses digital tools within what it calls “a retail hub.” “Our goal was to create a highly designed shop with functionality and a focus on technology incorporation,” says Jennifer Stone Williams, vice president of retail services for Perry Ellis. The high tech retail space enables shoppers to discover the brand, have a personal moment, and engage with interactive, floating mirrors embedded with proximity sensors that offer product recommendations and styling suggestions.
Additionally, the company utilized iPads to free up sales associates to engage with consumers. “These mobile devices allowed the store associate to engage the customer anywhere in the store and throughout the transaction… [It} empower[s] the store associate to provide a much higher level of service to the customer and a more consultative sale,” says Mark Colbert, director of retail systems at Perry Ellis International. Via the iPad, sales associates can help shoppers access product and price information, ratings and reviews, check inventory and fulfill out-of-stock orders by accessing cross-store and cross-channel data to locate and ship an item to the customer’s door or sent as a gift.
Takeaways:
1. Shoppers do not segment their journey into separate channels, they look at their experience as a united all-inclusive venture. Therefore, marketers need to realign procedures to deliver a new type of engagement that delivers simultaneous all channel integration.
2. Rather than fighting the concept of “showrooming” (in which shoppers use mobile devices in store to gain product details and competitive information,) marketers need to embrace this shopper practice and develop sales associate training and procedures that provide opportunities for actionable shopper help.
3. Use of mobile technology is no longer a Millennial pursuit. Shoppers of all ages are now heavily engaged with mobile. In the “Driving Shopper Engagement through Digital Technology” study by Synchrony Financial it was noted, “The data shows that all retailers, no matter which generation they are targeting, need to embrace the growth of digital technology and its role in shoppers’ everyday lives.”
Providing a simultaneous all channel shopping experience is now mandatory to remain competitive and relevant. Marketers must keep developing new ways to innovate and deliver simultaneous all-channel customer engagement.