Beyond the Brand: Your Digital Customer Relationship

In the past few weeks, I came across two interesting pieces from Forrester: “Brand Relationship Is Dead—Long Live The Digital Customer Relationship” and “CMOs Must Connect the Dots of the Online Brand”. Both are worth reading in their entirety when you have the time, but here are a few thoughts on the implications for CMOs and others in the marketing food chain.

In marketing (and elsewhere) we’re fortunate to have a dazzling array of digital tools at our disposal, from social media and mobile apps to websites and microsites. As James McQuivey, author of the former post warns, the rise of these digital tools comes with a collateral impact: “The very idea of brand relationship is going to become irrelevant thanks to digital disruption,” he writes. In essence, the number and quality of digital connections you’re making with your customers is essential to the brand experience.

Moreover, as Mary Beth Kemp, the author of the connect-the-dots whitepaper points out, they’re often implemented in a piecemeal fashion, which results in “three potential mishaps: 1) inconsistent brand experiences; 2) poorly invested resources; and 3) the limited strategic impact of digital on the overall business.”

In my opinion, that’s because it’s easy to focus on the tool, particularly the newest one with the biggest buzz. (Think about it: Not too long ago, MySpace, currently residing in the “Where are they now?” file, was the hottest property in social media!) There is, however, no such thing as a silver bullet—and the wrong digital tool, badly implemented, is simply a waste of your organization’s time and money. If you don’t account for the human element (i.e., what customers and prospects are seeking from you, and what they’re willing to give you in return), the technology simply doesn’t matter.

This, to me, is why everything in your digital marketing rotation needs to be incorporated into an overall, integrated plan. It’s also why microsites can play such an important role in what McQuivey calls the ultimate digital customer relationship. They are an excellent way to guide the decisions that your customer is making about your goods and services, whether through individual promotions, events and launches, or as a way to consolidate your social media campaigns.

Thinking about it in terms of the popular concept of the B2B “customer’s journey,” a single-theme microsite can build a competitive advantage through analytics, marketing automation, website personalization, community building, and more. By gathering data, identifying pain points or motivations, and providing immersive, appropriate content, you can facilitate the customer’s buying process, offering targeted, early- to late-stage calls to action.

Is your organization an early adopter of new digital tools, or do you take a wait-and-see approach? Currently, what’s the strongest contributor to your digital customer relationships?

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