Fascinating New Marketing Automation Technology: Whatsnexx’s Customer State Marketing

For friends of analytics and interactive marketing, it is always a delight to find new technology vendors that take a fresh look at solving the problems in the market.

So, I was fascinated to learn about Whatsnexx’ and their paradigm for marketing automation: Customer State Marketing.

You will probably say that the idea of treating customers in different situations/states with different next best actions is common to all campaign management and marketing automation solutions.

True.

But the degree to which Whatsnexx elevated “Customer State” to the central paradigm is unique, I believe. And, it is one of those mental images that immediately clicks!

So, I was curious to ask Jacques Spilka from Whatsnexx’  a few questions about Customer State Marketing and their approach to marketing automation.

Did Whatsnexx’ define the term Customer State Marketing?

Jacques: Customer State Marketing is a paradigm that we have coined, and our graphic interface and approach are patented. “State” is the key differentiator between what we do and what B2C MA solution providers offer.

Did you build Whatsnexx more for certain industries than others (e.g. B2B, B2C, etc)?

Jacques: No. Whatsnexx grew out of a need to tie various applications together without the need to create a centralized database first. One of the problems that we faced at Komunik, an email marketing service provider, was the need to build a synchronization bridge with the various databases that contained the data the client required to send 1-to-1 communications. Another problem was that whenever we wanted to do various trigger-based campaigns, we always had delays imposed by the I.T. department’s existing backlog. We set out to resolve both of these problems by designing an application that allows the marketer to define their rule set (e.g. when this happens then take these actions) without regards as to where the data resides, and without having to involve I.T. to codify the rules in the local or target application.

How does the paradigm extend to the next level of detail, e.g. a regular customer browses product X on the website but doesn’t purchase it. If company sells 20 different products will they have to build 20 states to do remarketing campaigns relevant to each abandoned product? (i assume not)

Jacques: The marketer defines the granularity of the program they are designing. We have one customer who allows their members to download various white papers. Each white paper can have up to 50 “topic” tags associated with it. Currently the marketer has defined two different scenarios as they are only interested in doing an upsell for two different topics. Ultimately they could define 50 scenarios, one for each topic tag. The scenarios work as follows: each time a member downloads a white paper (a download “event”) the scenario tests to see if the tags contain the upsell topic. If so then an upsell email is sent (i.e. the action) to the member. There is then a 7 day waiting period where no more emails for that specific topic are sent (i.e. the member is in a Wait state). After the 7 days are up the member is returned to a Solicitable state.

If I may, here is a more complete explanation:

A subject ecosystem can consist of multiple scenarios. Each scenario can address a different aspect of the marketing program (e.g. acquisition, retention, cross-sell…). A scenario can contain multiple states. A subject (e.g. a client) is always in one state in each scenario, though not necessarily the same state in every scenario. This allows the marketer to create the granularity they need to enact their marketing programs. You could view the scenario states as sub-states. In the example above, a member could be in a solicitable state in one scenario (e.g. Topic 1) and be in a wait state in another scenario (e.g. Topic 2).

How does Whatsnexx connect to customers’ transactions and other behavioral data?

Jacques: Whatsnexx receives events from other systems in the form of simple XML tickets that contain the attributes (i.e. data) required to run the scenario. For example, a newsletter sign-up form would provide Whatsnexx an XML ticket that contains an email, first name, and last name field. If a customer purchases an item then the XML ticket could contain the item number, the quantity and the transaction value. The only constraint on events is the ability to detect them.

The key to this approach is to identify all of the detectable events that the marketer wishes to respond to. They then have the relevant systems create an XML ticket whenever one of these events occurs, regardless of the subject’s current state. Whatsnexx receives the event and then implements the marketers rule set according to the subject’s current state in the ecosystem.

How does Whatsnexx connect to executing marketing messages? e.g. does it spit out targeting lists?

Jacques: Whatsnexx executes actions through infogates (i.e. connectors) that conform to the target system’s API. The only constraint on actions is the targets systems API. In some cases, such as sending print messages where minimum run sizes are desired, it may be preferable to accumulate the action requests in a queue that the target system picks up on a periodic basis. The same applies if the target system is behind a firewall. In that case, the action requests can be placed on an FTP server that the target system can query on a scheduled basis.

Software or cloud based?

Whatsnexx is entirely cloud-based. There are two components to Whatsnexx: Whatsnexx Studio, the design tool that you saw in the how-to videos; Whatsnexx Gateway, the execution tool that works in the cloud.

Studio is free to download and runs locally on a Windows platform. Studio can be used to brainstorm, model scenarios and define state workflows.

Gateway is available to subscribers who can publish the ecosystems they build with Studio for execution on the Microsoft Azure cloud.

 

For more videos from Whatsnexx, see their resources page.

 

Maximizing Long-term Customer Value: By Naras Eechambadi of Quaero / CSG

After three posts on insights for the considered purchases sector, it is fun now to see now how different the discussion is for customer marketing amd B2C. For that, just tune into Naras Eechambadi’s’ article which is next in our Digital Marketing One series for CMOs.

It strikes you that the discussion within B2B (lead management) is all about nurturing clients in leading up to a sale. The discussion in customer marketing is about the long term relationship across many transactions and towards increasing customer value over time.

Though both camps might consider analytics driven marketing “the central hub”.

Read Naras’ article carefully though.

I am amazed how self-evidently Naras includes the ways in which customer marketing has adapted to the 2010s in his writing.

“The first step to decide whether to increase investment in your customer marketing is to measure the value of your customer base and to understand the elements that drive the value. Value can be defined in different ways in different businesses—it could be a revenue or sales measure, a profit or contribution measure or even loyalty or advocacy.”, from Naras’ article.

Hey, Naras says, it is 2011 and no longer do we need to explain nor go on and on that advocacy via social media could influence whether a client should be considered high value to the company or not.

Naras pairs these up with other statements that he takes for granted as a seasoned customer marketer but that make just about any web analyst look like an amateur and makes web analytics software look like a toy.

“Next, segment your customers based on current value as well as potential future value.

“The best way to measure the return and to conclusively prove the effectiveness of marketing is by holding out a sample (control group) of customers […] The deviation in values over time [between test vs control group], aggregated across the entire customer base, gives you a measure of the value created by customer marketing.”

Naras is of course not just “somebody” writing about customer marketing but has deep roots in the industry. He is the General Manager of Quaero, a CSG solution. Quaero (a Unica partner of many years) delivers multi-channel marketing solutions that help companies build long-lasting customer relationships and maximize return on investment. Naras is also the author of High Performance Marketing: Bringing Method to the Madness of Marketing (Kaplan Professional Press, 25).

Check out his contribution to the article series for digital CMOs and chime in with your own comments.

Content Marketing: How to Engage with Your Target Audience – by Ardath Albee

Now that our Digital Marketing One series for CMOs reviewed the most critical know-how for a variety of channels, the focus shifts to digital marketing techniques.

You can apply these marketing techniques across digital channels.

And the first insights that I’d like to point readers to come from writer and consultant Ardath Albee on content marketing.

To paraphrase from Ardath’s article, the best content marketers have been able to:

  1. increase lead conversion rates (e.g. by 70%!!!)
  2. make it more likely that leads will respond to calls
  3. and – most impressive to me – increase average sales values!!

Yet,content marketers also have the Internet awash with bezillions of “Top 10 tricks” guides and bezillions of free webinars on every conceivable topic. So, it can be really, really hard to get good marketing returns on your content.

Ardath’s article provides golden advice to strategize on your content development in a systematic manner.

Ardath Albee Ardath‘s book, eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale was recently released by McGraw-Hill. Ardath is a B2B Marketing Strategist and the CEO of her firm, Marketing Interactions, Inc. She applies her business management and marketing experience to help companies with complex sales use eMarketing strategies to generate more and better sales opportunities.

I asked Ardath recently which industries (besides B2B) benefit from content marketing. Here was her response:

All industries can find benefit from content marketing. My focus just happens to be B2B companies with complex sales that require building engagement over time with lots of education and expertise and more than one person involved in the decision. Yet, the equivalent in B2C markets would be buying a house or buying a car or even life insurance or investing for retirement or to fund your children’s college education.

An example in B2C are Baby Center’s iterative emails for new parents who need to learn a lot to raise children.

I think the difference is really in the approach and type of content selected. For example, Lego would likely do well by creating content that engages kids in what they can build, creating interactive games, contests, etc. And, I’d even bet there’s a niche out there with adults who haven’t ever given them up.

To learn more from Ardath, check out the following:

Maturity Model for Digital Marketing Strategy

It makes sense to have a maturity model as a companion to the new digital-marketing strategy framework . (See the thumbnail of the framework below.)

Digital-marketing-strategy-framework

What’s a maturity model?

Maturity models are well established today. Their purpose is to be a roadmap to marketers. You find your personal “You are Here” point on the map. Then you see what next steps you may wish to consider for further growth.

How does this model (below) relate to the framework (above)?

The framework proposed five major components for digital-marketing strategy:

  1. Setting Digital’s mission
  2. Deriving the digital strategy
  3. Deriving the interaction strategy
  4. ROI measurement and improvement
  5. Technology strategy

The job of the maturity model below is to score different levels of maturity with each of these 5 different areas.

Here is the Maturity Model

Click to expand

Maturity model for digital marketing strategy

How can we use this model?

Below are three examples of typical companies that you will find in the market place today.

1: Digital laggards

Typical laggards may look like the following spider chart when scored against the digital strategy maturity model. Usually there is no defined mission, or only a vague or basic definition for the contribution of the digital channel.

And everything goes downhill from there.

Sadly, many CPG, pharma, manufacturing, or book publishing companies find themselves in this boat. The reason is not ignorance at all. It is that these business models make it hardest to prove the contribution that their digital channel has on the business. They typically don’t sell directly, neither online nor offline.

Digital-marketing maturity model example - digital laggards

These companies will need very creative business and ROI measurement strategies to unlock their digital potential.

2: Digital leaders that lack cross-channel integration

Digital marketers can get very sophisticated within their silo without yet taking a look beyond their plates. So many web teams have grown up in isolation from the rest of marketing (or sit outside marketing alltogther) so that they slide into this one-way street.

Digital-marketing maturity model example - digital leader

Part of the reason for the online-only silos has also been that marketers have tried to avoid their IT departments at all cost. That locked them into SaaS only technologies and clicks & cookies only views of their customers.

Again, it wasn’t for ignorance. For many reasons, IT at most companies has been ill equipped to support digital marketing. So marketers that experienced this voted IT off the island and crossed to using SaaS technologies in the past 5-8 years.

3: Digital leaders including a true cross-channel view

While still the tip of the pyramid, you now increasingly enocunter digital marketers that have moved beyond the digital silo. They are typically building data warehouses that bring together customers’ online click behavior with the same customers’ offline transactions and other marketing data.

They prioritized these (not cheap) projects because they realized a true (i.e. cross-channel) view of ROI of digital strategies was necessary in order for company leadership to take the digital channel seriously. They also use this central data mart as the basis for cross-channel marketing integration, e.g. re-marketing, cross-sales, or retention marketing. 

Digital-marketing maturity model example - cross-channel leaders

Even these leaders don’t necessarily apply long term analytics yet. I am thinking of analytical methods such as Kevin Hillstrom’s Multichannel Forensics. He aims to predict longer term migrations of customers across channels or products to help companies decide where they should invest now based on that forecast.

Summary

There are many frameworks and maturity models. They each have their merrits, and their blind spots. See a few good ones below:

Take a look around and pick the models that best speak to your own business needs.

Digital-Marketing Framework (now revised and improved)

Here is a revised framework for digital marketing strategy.

Digital-marketing-strategy-framework

 

Why the revision?

This fixes a number of shortcomings in the first version that I had proposed 10 days ago.

  • For example, David Raab and Laura Patterson, members of the Founders Council of DigitalMarketingOne, caught a critical flaw in the earlier version. Namely, my placement of channels (e.g. Search, display, etc.) in the framework diagram was flawed. I placed them in specific locations of the customer lifecycle whereas they can play a role in many stages of the lifecycle.
  • Additionally, I was in round table discussions at the eConsultancy peer summit in NYC, and it was a good reminder that many companies still haven’t made explicit what mission their digital channel has, i.e. how it should be contributing to the business.

Elements of the new strategic framework for digital marketing

Informed by overall marketing strategy

First of all, before CMOs think about using this framework they still ought to start with a higher level framework such as Doug Goldstein’s briliant work at MindOfMarketing.net. That global strategy needs to be in place so that the CMO can now drill-down to define the contribution of digital within the bigger setting.

Define Digital’s mission

Job one is to define how digital is to contribute to the business and to the customer life cycle across multiple channels.

Select your overall digital strategy

Based on your digital mission your CMO can now derive the overall approach in terms of presences that you should prioritize (e.g. mobile, Facebook, website, etc.) and their related “site types” or business models, i.e.

  1. eCommerce,
  2. lead gen,
  3. customer service,
  4. content/publishing,
  5. or brand marketing.

Based on these decisions you can then derive the top five KPIs and targets that you should work towards. You can also form an initial opinion on the ad channels that suggest themselves for the audience that you wish to reach.

Interactivity

As pointed out in the last post, interactivity is what digital is really good at. So the new framework retains the prominent role for interactive marketing across the customer lifecycle. I removed the reference to channels (e.g. search, etc.) however since each channel can play a role in multiple lifecycle stages.

ROI measurement and optimization

The other strengths of digital are measurability and testing. This needs to be put to use towards continuous improvement. Using the insights marketers change their investments in the familiar cycle of continuous optimization.

Unlike the original web analytics cycle of continuous improvement however, the emphasis here is that the continuous improvement applies not just to web pages and advertising. But you want to apply it to your entire digital and interaction strategy.

Technology strategy and selection

Finally, your use of digital marketing technology should of course be determined by the digital and interactive marketing strategies that you are going after.

In Search of a Strategic Framework for Digital Marketing

At the new DigitalMarketingOne, our Founders Council is seeking to design and explore a strategic framework for digital marketing.  

Marketing does so many things though and does them so differently at different companies. How do we put all that into a framework that makes sense to CMOs – our target audience?

Luckily, many clever people have thought about that before.

Starting from a Strategic Framework for Marketing in General

The Strategic Marketing Framework presented on MindofMarketing.net (see below) was one of many frameworks that seemed especially appropriate for a CMO audience. It should serve as a great starting point.

Mind of Marketing's Strategic marketing framework

Strategic marketing framework, MindOfMarketing.net

It’s just beautiful how this framework:

  1. Emphasizes that the job of Marketing is much more than just to be the “Hey, make this pretty and send us the leads!” department.
  2. Is also easy on the eye

Evolving this Marketing Framework for Digital

There are a number of things, however, that are so strategic to digital marketing that they should be better emphasized in our framework. Namely:

1. Interactivity

While digital can’t beat traditional advertising media on reach, its unique strength is interactivity.  So, let’s expand the traditional marketing mix’s classic 4 Ps: Product, price, placement, and promotion. Namely, let’s drill open promotion to show just how much is possible within that one P in digital. Let’s add the Ps that are so key to digital marketing: persuasion, permission, personalization, multiple web presences, net-promoters, etc.

2. Ad channels

Rumors of the death of advertising in the digital age are greatly exaggerated: ads are everywhere on the net.  But there is an immense amount of unique know-how within each of the digital ad channels. We should call out the most important channels in the framework to do that justice.

3. ROI measurement and optimization

Digital media are fantastically measurable. Optimization within a channel can sometimes even be automated. That creates the illusion that it should be almost automatic to measure overall ROI / returns across digital and allocate your investments appropriately. Not so easy! Therefore let’s add ROI measurement and optimization to the framework explicitly.

The Resulting Strategic Marketing Framework for Digital

Below is the resulting strategic marketing framework with the modifications for Digital.


Click to expand

What do you think?

Does this framework do a good enough job to encapsulate all that goes into measuring and increasing ROI (with marketing initiatives and customer relationships) in digital?

Once we have the framework down, we can proceed to the next step and explore the details with the help of DigitalMarketingOne’ers from all corners of Digital.

….

Credits

A number of folks deserve credit for their inspiring works that went into this framework. Namely:

  • MindofMarketing.net, provided the Strategic Marketing Framework starting point
  • The idea of the extended Ps for the marketing mix came from Unica’s Yuchun Lee in his keynote at the 2008 Unica customer conference, MIS
  • Jim Sterne, eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit, coined the “windows into the hearts & minds of the market place”
  • The Eisenberg brothers while at Future Now Inc. developed Persuasion Architecture
  • I credit Digitas for the idea of the hour glass shaped funnel since I saw it on a slide of theirs

In a world of credit cards, what’s the point of retailers’ savings cards anymore?

When talking about retailers’ savings / discount cards, the first thing the analytics industry used to point out was the benefit for customer identification. The card helped tie transactions to known customers or households and facilitated the range of well known customer analytics such as:

  1. Market basket analysis across transactions
  2. Shopping preferences segmented by any demographic information that was supplied when signing up for the card
  3. Loyalty analysis in terms of RFM and latency
  4. Response analysis to preceding marketing contacts
  5. Marketing targeting analysis based on past purchases

And so Wikipedia still says: “The store — one might expect — uses aggregate data internally (and sometimes externally) as part of its marketing research. These cards can be used to determine, for example, a given customer’s favorite brand of beer, or whether she is a vegetarian.”

[Read more →]

Soup to Nuts Marketing Optimization – In the Coming Big League

Exciting times! The consolidation in the marketing technology industry is producing a big league of solutions providers.

Dreaming ahead into the future, what can companies hope to achieve with this new breed of marketing software and services providers?

The end-to-end conversion optimization vision that still seemed far reaching to me back in February, looks much more limited now given the new outlook today.

Disclaimer: The following perspective reflects only my personal dreams and shouldn’t be taken to represent the positions, strategies or opinions of my employer.

Digital Enterprise Marketing++

It isn’t possible to do the coming future justice by calling it next generation analytics, campaign management, or marketing automation. The step up in caliber requires also a step up in language.

Might the following become every day terms in enterprise marketing technology in 2011 and beyond?

Soup to Nuts Marketing Optimization

[Read more →]

To Test or to Target? Where to Start for Best ROI?

The previous post had concrete recommendations for proving the ROI of behavioral targeting. Several smart reader comments brought together a pretty clear picture.

However, when I was meeting with a number of experienced online bankers in Europe recently, the question that I received was more difficult to answer than just proving the ROI of targeting.

Namely, the question was whether one can expect greater ROI from testing or targeting? Whichever promises greater ROI, shouldn’t that be where you may want to start?

[Read more →]

Building the Business Case for Behavioral Targeting

It is often said that building (or proving) the business case for (site-side) behavioral targeting has been a lot harder than justifying an investment in more straightforward site optimization techniques such as A/B testing.

As a result, you can read independent industry analyst reports observing that some applications that can do testing and targeting (hint, hint) are a lot more frequently used for just testing rather than targeting today.

You can even hear from some of the best known and experienced consultants in the online optimization industry that they don’t feel convinced by the business case for (site-side) behavioral targeting because they feel it is less clear cut vs. testing.

confused

This doesn’t need to stay this way.

The problem is that we have been asking the wrong question.

[Read more →]