Marketers inherently understand the importance of customer loyalty and engagement and are usually more than willing to invest in technology that will enhance customer interactions.
But marketers rarely have full control over big-ticket purchasing. And that means needing to build business cases that stack up in the eyes of their c-level peers.
A recent study by Maru Blue on Technology Proficiency for ThoughtWorks found Australian CEOs were more technophobic than their international counterparts across the 12 countries investigated. Only 54 per cent of Australian bosses saying they kept fully up to date with the latest technology trends, compared to 65 per cent globally.
For marketers, 63 per cent of technology proficient companies reported they discussed technology issues relating to customer experience, product and design at least once a month. However, of those companies that reported they were struggling with technology, only 22 per cent reported holding these conversations on a monthly basis.
This suggested a possible correlation between technology proficiency and having a strong understanding of the importance of investing in marketing-related technology.
The report also found companies positioned to thrive in the future placed technology at the core of the business by looking at how platform technology, smarter use of data and more user-friendly customer experience could improve different aspects of their operations.
As the CEO of non-bank lender Bluestone Mortgages, Cambell Smyth has built his company on the principle that investing in customer-facing technology is critical to Bluestone’s future. And he has advice for marketers who might be struggling to make the same argument.
When making the case for investment in customer-facing systems, Smyth says it is important to bring other stakeholders along on that journey from an early stage, especially when the metrics that investments will ultimately measure, such as NPS and CSAT, may not be ones that other executives are familiar with. He describes the process as putting things on the runway early.
“You don’t want to come in to discuss these things for the first time and expect that you are going to get a material decision,” Smyth tells CMO. “What a board or shareholder wants to see is a track record and have confidence in your ability to do things. And as you build the results, there is a greater propensity for that trust to be there.”
Critical to this process is the ability to clearly articulate the nexus between what you are asking for and how it impacts revenue.
“The further from the action you are, the harder that is to buy,” Smyth says. “So you have to take those people on the journey.”
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According to ThoughtWorks’ A/NZ managing director, Kristan Vingrys, while it’s vital to show how the leading indicators you are seeking to influence connect to the organisation’s end goals, marketers should start by working with the data they have.
“It may not be as accurate as you want it to be, but it is accurate enough to show a trend,” Vingrys says. “Use what you’ve got, and then as you go you can refine your data and analytics, rather than letting it be the impediment to getting started.”
But Smyth warns no matter how adept a marketer might be, sometimes the case simply can’t be made, and there might be several reasons why.
“One is that your case wasn’t good enough, or two is that your stakeholder just doesn’t buy it as a concept,” he says. “And if it’s the latter, that is when you have to ask yourself if you are at the right place.
“Businesses will fail because of this. This is going to become more and more prevalent where businesses are just stuck in yesterday’s tech.”
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At Bluestone, Smyth’s team has matured to the point where customer-facing improvements are now continuous. This company continually measures both Net Promoter Score (NPS) through its broker community, as well as CSAT for understanding the direct experience of customers, and also conducts more extensive surveys.
This information proved critical in the redevelopment of Bluestone’s platform by ThoughtWorks, including the development of a new internet banking platform, to ensure it would meet the expectations of customers. Smyth says the process of stakeholder engagement also extends to Bluestone’s entire staff of 270.
“If you are serious about it, you put it at the front of your business,” Smyth says. “You talk about it a lot. You elevate it. You engage everybody in it. You don’t let them feel like they are just being told – you make them part of the process.”
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