Applause CMO: Digital tech continues to change how customers are acquired and kept happy
For Charlie Ungashick, the shift in recent years has changed the direction and lifespan of his marketing efforts.
Before digital, the marketer’s role was pretty clean-cut: Tell people about the product and get them to buy it.
Post-purchase, maybe a marketer would get a warranty card, Applause CMO Charlie Ungashick told me. His company offers customer experience testing for software products.
Now, he said, “as physical products are becoming digital, there’s a new relationship with the buyer,” whether B2B or B2C. Marketers, along with customer service, are providing a continuing stream of content and communication with the customer and have the added responsibility of keeping in touch.
But it’s not just when there’s some constantly updated software component in the product, like a printer that reports back to the manufacturer your need for new ink cartridges or a smartphone that receives updates and notifications. More and more, all kinds of products are getting wrapped in a digital framework of continuing offers, service, updates, warranties, tips and other benefits: a girl’s doll that has a website-based community of users, for example, or a lawnmower that has an online maintenance manual.
Ungashick said the shift began in earnest about five years ago. Marketers of all kinds of products and services, he said, now need to make sure the product experience is great for many reasons, not the least of which is that buyers will let many other buyers know if it is — or isn’t.
There’s also a need to set up a continuous relationship with the buyer without becoming intrusive, including ways to communicate the desirability of new products or product updates.
The particulars, Ungashick said, obviously depend on the industry. But, generally speaking, the new reality is that the product maker now often bypasses the retail channel once the sale is made.
He gave the example of an Ecobee3 intelligent thermostat he recently bought at Best Buy for his home. “Now, the continuing relationship is with Ecobee,” he said, not with Best Buy.
Now, more outbound
A restaurant chain like Shake Shack, he said, can now establish a direct relationship through an app that allows orders to be placed in advance.
Sometimes, of course, the retail channel becomes the keeper of the relationship, or at least co-keeper, like when you get a new iPhone from Verizon Wireless.
In B2B, the coming of software-as-a-service has meant that software providers usually maintain the entire relationship via the cloud, instead of a reseller keeping the business happy with post-sale updates and service.
While the continuing post-sale relationship may be the biggest long-term change that marketers must now address, Ungashick also points to another digital marketing transition that his company experienced a couple of years ago.
It had been mostly focused on inbound marketing through the distribution of infographics, videos and white papers that brought potential buyers to Applause.
Applause still does inbound — as well as physical marketing — he said, but several new capabilities now propel it toward outbound.
These include the ready availability of predictive lead scoring so that accounts can be better targeted; better revenue attribution through tools like Full Circle Insights; and account-based marketing via a platform like Engagio. And advertising can be more accurately directed, such as engaging only Chief Digital Officers through LinkedIn.
Whether through the directional shift in his company’s marketing efforts or in the longer relationships with post-sale customers, Applause’s experience offers examples of how digital capabilities are making marketers take a more active role in finding and keeping customers.