Marketing Performance Improvement (MPI) & Sharpening the Marketing Saw for Marketing Leaders, CMOs

Continuous Marketing Process Assessment & Improvement

Continuous Marketing Process Assessment & Improvement

  1. Are you as a CxO so focused on the tasks at hand that you don’t take the time to re-group and assess what is working and not working? Likewise, are you too focused to take the time to determine what in your operations is effective and what corrective action is needed on a ongoing, consistent basis?

  2. Are you “operations bound” whereby your team members are out of bandwidth due to barely keeping up with ongoing marketing, sales, communications and PR production schedules?

  3. Do you find the company getting further and further behind competitors capabilities, effectiveness, market presence as well as sales volume?

  4. Are you behind on learning the latest capabilities and advances in digital asset management, marketing & content management artificial intelligence (AI), and how block-chain can help your effectiveness?

  5. Per question #4 do you know how these advances can improve the effectiveness in your marketing, sales, PR, communications while simultaneously increasing profitable revenue while simultaneously reducing your operating costs?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, you are really in need of a Marketing Process Improvement (MPI) initiative and an infusion of a ‘Saw Sharpening” process. The benefit of implementing this continuous improvement process is that your company will increase the chance that it will evolve into the envy of the marketplace in terms of team leadership, capabilities and overall market effectiveness.

The remainder of this blog is a short primer and motivator in getting your company to consider becoming a ‘Saw Sharpening’ organization focused on improving profitability, market share and overall shareholder value improvement.

Marketing Capability Tier Evolution

Marketing Capability Tier Evolution

Complimentary to the first set of questions above:

  1. Have you mapped out how capable your company is in terms of marketing, customer management, sales, etc. such that you can accurately place your company into a capability level as shown in the above chart?

  2. Have you created an evolutionary road-map in order to mature your organization into a more capable and effective organization over time (i.e. lower expenses and increase profitable revenue) in order to leapfrog your competition and gain market share?

Can you accurately assess your competitor(s) capabilities such that you know where they are better than your company and in which specific areas?

Sharpening the Marketing Saw to Transform to attain Intelligent Marketing Enterprise (IME) (i.e. Capabilities, Efficiencies, Effectiveness)

Sharpening the Marketing Saw to Transform to attain Intelligent Marketing Enterprise (IME) (i.e. Capabilities, Efficiencies, Effectiveness)

The last set of questions are associated with answering whether you are aware of the entire landscape of capability improvement initiatives available to assist your company’s marketing, customer management, sales, PR and communications (refer to above chart). These questions are as follows:

  • Are you aware that business rules engine technology can help you automate your marketing campaign management process such that marketers do not have to be as manually involved (i.e. campaign set up, execution and post campaign results analysis)? This technology will save your company time and $$ by allowing your marketers to focus on all important marketing strategy vs. being ‘campaign jockeys’ and marketing production focused most of their time.

  • Are you aware that powerful and real-time analytic engines can help with channel mix optimization such that you are marketing to the most effective and cost efficient customer channel at all times?

  • Are you aware that leading Digital Asset Management (DAM) tools now have artificial intelligence baked right in as to help you manage, find and retrieve your digital assets across marketing, PR, sales, communications, etc. – all saving you time and enabling your content to be more compelling to your customers?

  • Associated with question #3, are you really aware of the benefits of Digital Asset Management (DAM) tools and how it can help you go to market more effectively and cost efficiently?

If you answered “no” to any of the above questions, then you are not performing adequate MPI or ‘saw sharpening’ to improve your performance longer-term. As an example of what you might be missing in not performing MPI and marketing saw sharpening, I laid out the benefits of adopting Digital Asset Management (DAM) tools which not only helps the marketing department, but also PR, communications, sales, etc. (Don’t read ahead and let me know if you were able to guess all 7 benefits of a Digital Asset Management (DAM) solution):

  1. Eliminates the cost of lost or misplaced digital assets. DAM virtually eliminates the costs associated with losing valuable digital assets due to the robust and highly organized digital asset repository (via a highly logical DAM taxonomy) which enables marketers to find and (re)use digital assets quickly.

  2. Reduces creative production development cycle times. DAM tools help users quickly create and re-purpose digital assets.

  3. Reduces the time to bring new campaigns to market. Marketers, sales, PR, communication, etc. are able to get campaign related digital out to various markets and customers at the ‘speed of need’.

  4. Eliminates duplication of work. The central asset repository that DAM provides greatly reduces the possibility of costly asset duplication.

  5. Improves collaboration and access to critical assets. DAM tools facilitate collaboration among marketers via a centralized control of digital assets.

  6. Ensures brand consistency and brand integrity.Ensures marketers, sales, PR, communication, etc. have access to the most up-to-date digital assets as opposed to users being allowed to select non brand compliant assets.

  7. Improves Marketing ROI: Enables marketers, sales, PR, communication, etc to use the most effective digital assets that will produce the greatest impact and ROI.

If you answered “yes” to some of my first set of questions and “no” to many of the 2nd and 3rd set of questions and missed the some of the benefits associated with DAM tools, then you are a prime candidate to infuse an MPI or marketing (or overall) saw sharpening process into your company. Based on having helped numerous Fortune 500 companies establish this continuous improvement mindset, approach and process, I suggest the following:

  1. Honestly assess whether your team feels as though your company is as capable as it needs to be – processes not too manual, error prone, ineffective, lagging as compared to competitors, wrong approach and strategy, inefficient tactics, etc.

  2. Set time aside each week for team saw sharpening activities and to discuss initiatives you need to implement to improve capabilities and overall effectiveness.

  3. Benchmark your performance in certain areas like e-mail open and click through rates, sales $$ per campaign, campaign cycle time and/or accuracy, Google ad-words performance, etc., net promoter score(s) and constantly challenge the team to improve incrementally as well as dramatically after the implementation of new capabilities.

  4. Hire an honest, impartial outside consultant to independently assess your capabilities and benchmark these capability areas against market leaders.

  5. Leverage a consultant to help you develop an evolution roadmap over 2-5 years for your company to attain market leader status including business case with investment and capability implementation plan.

Is your organization planning on launching a new brand or optimizing an existing one? If so, give me a call or e-mail me, I can help you implement a MPI or ‘Saw Sharpening’ process that would enable you to surpass your competition and bring your organization or agency to the next level of market effectiveness and excellence.

This is just one article of 42 total I have written on Customer strategy, CRM, marketing, product management, competitive intelligence, corporate innovation, organization excellence & change management – all of which I have significant experience in delivering for Fortune 500 companies.  In fact, my blog is now followed by nearly 158,000+ world-wide and was just named one of the top 100 CRM blogs on the planet by Feedspot, alongside, Infor, Microsoft, SAS, etc. – Reference this informative site here:

The Future of Marketing and Customer Engagement – Introducing the Emerging and Rapidly Growing Practice of the Customer Defined Experience

Did you ever consider the following questions related to the future of marketing and customer engagement?:

  • What are the levels of progression of an organization’s customer engagement and marketing capabilities – from the most basic to advanced?

  • What percentage of companies fall into each customer engagement & marketing capability level?

  • What is beyond the current advanced level of customer engagement and marketing capability and the wave of the future?

  • How do you simultaneously and significantly reduce the overall cost of customer engagement and marketing delivery while also significantly increasing your overall customer engagement and marketing effectiveness?

  • What does the future look like in terms of increased customer engagement and marketing ROI?

  • What is the most effective method for creating maximized customer engagement?

If you did, then this blog is for you as it succinctly answers these questions and more.

Future Leading Practice: The Customer Defined Experience
Future Leading Practice: The Customer Defined Experience

The above chart depicts the 3 primary & existing levels of customer engagement sophistication as well as the wave of the future which is The “Customer Defined Experience”. These four (4)  levels of organizational customer engagement capability are as follows:

1) Level 1 – “Shotgun Customer Experience”, very unsophisticated, yet inexpensive. Practiced by approximately 25% of companies.

2) Level 2 – “Segmented Customer Experience”, somewhat sophisticated and moderately expensive. Practiced by a majority of companies, approximately 70%.

3) Level 3 – “1-to-1 Customer Experience”, very sophisticated & expensive, Practiced by <5% of companies.

4) Level 4 – “Customer Defined Experience  which is an emerging leading practice, only practiced by <01% of companies, but the number of companies that are moving toward this capability level is growing fast. I am predicting that this will be, by far, the most effective method in terms of both ROI and cost effectiveness.

The Customer Defined Experience, Marketing Illustration

The Customer Defined Experience Using Marketing as an Example

We will now isolate marketing as a functional example (vs. customer service, sales, etc.) to illustrate how the customer defined experience will be different than traditional marketing practices. The above chart depicts the traditional levels of marketing sophistication and the expected ROI of each level. The newest trend in marketing and customer experience is also revealed in future level called “Customer Defined Experience, Marketing”. Each level consists of the following marketing practices:

  • Level 1: Primary focus on “Shotgun” marketing (approximately 25% of companies). In this approach, companies  send the same offer to as many people as possible with the hope that some of them might take the offer being put forth. With this practice, companies send the same offer to customers and prospects, regardless of their unique interests, needs, wants, history, etc.

  • Level 2: Primary focus on “Segment Marketing” (approximately 70% of companies). This approach models the behavior and history of customers in order to group them into unique ‘tagged’ needs groups. They are then sent offers that appeal to that distinct segment group.

  • Level 3: Primary focus on “1-to-1 marketing” (<5% of companies). This approach combines sophisticated modeling techniques and artificial intelligence to ascertain the unique needs of each customer or micro-segments (depending on the level of marketing technology sophistication, pure 1-to-1 marketing might not be able to be achieved). Companies that use this level of sophistication are few and we can point to major credit card companies, Amazon, Google as models utilizing this type of approach.

  • Level 4: Future Emerging Practice “User Defined Marketing”. (<.01% of companies, but growing fast) Companies like Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Marriott and Southwest Airlines are headed in this direction with the increasing querying of their customers on preferences, needs, wants, likes, etc. The extension of this is to allow customers to define their own experience – how/when they would like to be marketed to, by which channel, which content/tone they prefer, etc. As evidenced by increasing numbers of customer insights groups, this is the trend of the future. Instead of expending all of the effort in modeling/AI/etc. to attain 1-to-1 marketing which attains a 80+% match, why not ask your customers what they want/prefer which will ensure a 100% match to their needs nearly 100% of the time? Research I have conducted has indicated that 72% of customers want a more interactive ‘relationship’ with the companies they do business with, including defining their own customer-company experience – across all of their company touch-points: sales, marketing, customer service, warranty claims, etc. More on this point later in this article.


Customer Defined Experience, Marketing Example

Customer Defined Experience, Marketing Example

The above chart is arranged by the levels of marketing sophistication across the top with the following categories arranged on the left for each marketing level:

  • Primary Marketing Focus – What marketing activity do organizations at this level of capability primarily focus their efforts?

  • Marketing Proactivity, Analysis Main Focus: For each level of marketing capability, how proactive is the marketing organization and what is the major focus of their marketing analysis?

  • Primary Marketing Technology Enabler: For each level of marketing capability, what are the primary technology enablers in order for them to achieve their marketing goals?

  • Main Marketing Metric: For each level of marketing capability, what are the most important marketing metrics?

  • Expected Marketing Approach ROI: For each level of marketing capability, what is the expected ROI and return on marketing for following this approach.

Level 1 Capability -Shotgun Marketing

Level 1 Capability – Shotgun Marketing

Shotgun Marketing Practices

Shotgun Marketing Practices


Let’s examine the first level of marketing capability, that being Shotgun Marketing. These organizations have the following organizational characteristics:

Primary Marketing Focus: The primary focus for these organizations is to expand their pool of those who will receive their marketing promotions so that there will be likely someone in the mix who will be interested and respond to their canned & generic offer. I heard a comment from a marketing organization I worked for whereby the general manager (overall leader) of the business actually said to me – “just widen the list and I don’t care if Mickey Mouse is on the list, as long as we have 1,000,000’s of folks to send our e-mail to.”

Marketing Proactivity, Analysis Main Focus: The main orientation and focus for organizations at this level is generally a reactive,  whereby the main focus is post campaign execution analysis and ‘seeing how we did in terms of number of responses they had to their offer(s)’.

Primary Marketing Technology Enabler: As you would expect at this level of marketing capability, technology  is generally very basic, rudimentary and inexpensive and would typically include simple and flat file (i.e. Comma Separated Value (.CSV) files) list generation using MS Access or Excel for list generation and very similar and simple spreadsheet type tools for post campaign analysis.

Main Marketing Metric: Since the focus noted above is reactive and post campaign focused, the main metric almost obsessed on by organizations at this marketing capability level is response rates (vs. true sales lead creation rates and actual conversion rates).

Bottom Line with Shotgun marketing organizations: With approach you save $$ by relying on very unsophisticated marketing personnel, processes, technology but this approach rarely produces a high marketing ROI with response rates generally in the 1-2% range due to the inherent high outbound volume. This approach also annoys customers and marketing recipients with mostly irrelevant offerings, products, services, etc., customer risking opt-outs, complaints, ignoring any/all offers by customers/prospects from the same (annoying) company, etc.

Level 2: Segment Marketing
Level 2 Capability: Segment Marketing
Segment Marketing Practices

Segment Marketing Practices

The 2nd level of marketing capability, is Segment Marketing. These organizations have the following organizational characteristics:

Primary Marketing Focus: The primary focus for these organizations is to ensure that the right marketing and sales offers are deployed against the appropriate segment group in order to ensure a marketing lift vs. shotgun marketing practices. An example of this is sending the frugal buyer segment offers for saving $$ by buying quantity of product or by sending offers for products that are discounted (i.e about to be discontinued products) vs. full price products.

Marketing Proactivity, Analysis Main Focus: The main orientation and focus for organizations at this level is generally what I call a ‘retrospective plus’ organization whereby the main focus is post campaign execution analysis and determining the quantitative results (response metrics, plus  perhaps ROI metrics) PLUS the main root cause analysis as to why the campaign yielded in these quantitative results.

Primary Marketing Technology Enabler: At this level of marketing capability, technology in use is fairly sophisticated such as using SAS for building segment models and customer deciles and tools for campaign execution like and post campaign analysis tools like Adobe and Tableau.

Main Marketing Metric: Since the focus noted above is quasi-reactive and post campaign, the main metric  obsessed on by organizations is overall campaign and segment level response rates as well as ROI if the organization has built a direct response attribution model for campaigns (matching campaign responses to actual customer purchases).

Bottom Line with Segment marketing organizations: By utilizing this approach you spend more $$ by relying on somewhat sophisticated marketing personnel, processes and technology.  This  approach also produces a higher marketing ROI than basic shotgun marketing with response rates generally greater than the 3% range. This approach also ensures segments and marketing recipients within those segments are receiving mostly relevant offerings, products, services, etc. in respect to their needs, wants, preferences, etc.

Level 3 Capability: 1-to-1 Marketing
Level 3 Capability: 1-to-1 Marketing

1-to-1 Marketing Practices

The 3rd level of marketing capability is 1-to-1 Marketing. These organizations have the following organizational characteristics:

Primary Marketing Focus: This strategy strives to ensure that the right marketing and sales offers are deployed against the appropriate individual customer (vs. segment groups)  in order to ensure additional marketing lift vs. segment marketing practices. An example of this is recommending a product that uniquely suits and individual customer’s needs when they are your website for another reason (customer service, billing, warranty claim, etc.).

Marketing Proactivity, Analysis Main Focus: The label is place on organizations at this capability level is generally what I call a ‘proactive predictive’ organization whereby they are recommending items to customers in real-time based on their specific needs profile. The analysis focus of this type of organization is real-time algorithmic learning by analyzing the effect of the real-time offers and then adapting algorithms to further refine the offer (e.g. slightly different product, slightly different price, better warranty coverage, etc.)

Primary Marketing Technology Enabler:  The technology in use for 1-to-1 marketing is very sophisticated and correspondingly expensive.  The goal is to use artificial intelligence for building individual customer profiles based on observed customer behavior.  Automated response engines are then used for real-time customer interactions and offer generation as well as ‘adaptive learning’ algorithms based on offer acceptance/rejection.

Main Marketing Metric: Since the focus noted in 1-to-1 marketing is proactive and real-time, the main metric is customer longitudinal behavior and associated key metrics like lifetime value, loyalty rates, etc.

Bottom Line with 1-to-1 marketing organizations: With this approach you spend a great deal more $$ up-front by relying on very sophisticated artificial intelligence with automated customer analytics and offer engine technology.  This approach does produce a much higher marketing ROI than segment marketing with response rates conservatively greater than the 8-10+% range.  This approach also ensures customers and marketing recipients are receiving extremely relevant offerings, products, services, etc. in respect to their needs, wants, preferences, etc.

Level 4 Capability: Customer Defined Marketing

Level 4 Capability: Customer Defined Marketing

Customer Defined Marketing Practices

Customer Defined Marketing Practices

The 4th level of marketing capability is The Customer Defined Marketing (& Experience). These organizations have the following organizational characteristics:

Primary Marketing Focus: The primary focus here is to ensure, for those customers who are willing to co-define their own experience with your company and brands, that there is an opt-in conduit whereby customers can self-define what type of marketing and customer experience they will have across all touch-points. Examples of this is allowing customers to define, through their own personalized ‘preference portals’, customer experience parameters such as the following:

1) Their tolerable periodicity of how often they want to be marketed to;

2) Selecting the channels they prefer for marketing, customer service, product recalls, etc. ;

3) Preferred time of day, week that they would like to receive marketing, communications;

4) When it is warranted to override their current opt-out settings (i.e. critical product defects notifications).

5) The specific types of content customers are interested in subscribing to;

6) The types of offers customers would like to receive – closeouts, higher end products, types of products/services, etc.;

7) …Many more customer defined parameters.

By enabling these customer-defined preferences above, you are approaching 100% in terms of ensuring the customer receives the right offer, by the right channel, at the right time, etc.

Marketing Proactivity, Analysis Main Focus: The main orientation and focus for organizations at this level of (future) capability is generally what I call a ‘proactive, holistic, continuous’ organization whereby the company is continuously seeking to deliver the desired customer experience with the goal from each customer is rating the company as being rated as extremely open, engaging, encouraging proactive listening, is a good and reliable brand partner, drives high levels of customer satisfaction, etc.

Primary Marketing Technology Enablers: With this level of marketing capability, the technology is not as sophisticated (or expensive) as in 1-to-1 marketing, but requires a paradigm shift back to aligning with the basic premise that the customer is always right and enabling customers to self-define their preferred marketing and overall customer experience through preference portals (enabling the self-defined experience) and through business process rule workflow engines like Pega Systems to deliver the customer defined experience.

Main Marketing Metric: Since the organizational orientation as noted above is proactive and continuous, the main metric almost obsessed on by organizations at this marketing capability level will be ongoing levels of customer engagement, satisfaction and loyalty.

Bottom Line with Customer Defined Marketing (& Experience) organizations: With this approach you spend less $$ by relying on sophisticated marketing personnel, processes, and technology.  The strategy  is expected to produce a much higher marketing ROI than all other marketing capability levels by enabling the customer defined experience and inherently having 100% accuracy rate (customer defined needs/preference = delivered customer marketing/experience).  This approach also ensures customers and marketing recipients are receiving TOTALLY (self-defined)  relevant and preferred offerings, products, services, and communications.

In implementing this solution, companies will have to take into account the following considerations:

1) Not all customers will want to opt into defining their own experience. By using lucrative opt-in incentives companies have been able to achieve nearly 70% participation rates by customers. The remaining customers can be managed by simultaneously utilizing any of the two previous capability levels of segment marketing and/or 1-to-1 side-by-side with customer defined marketing.

2) Delivering a unique customer experience, once defined, will be difficult. By utilizing automated work-flow and business rules engines in conjunction with marketing automation and service automation tools, pathways (e.g. customer use cases) can be set up to automatically deliver the desired customer experience for sets of customers with the same defined preferences.

3) The customer really doesn’t know what they want. I constantly hear  from business leaders and CxOs that the customer doesn’t really know what they want/need so why waste the time and expense to ask them. These are the same executives who are shocked when I provide customer insights or focus group feedback that consistently and totally contradicts their own perception of how the customer perceives their company and brand(s). I applaud the business leader brave enough to ask for these insights since the majority of business leader tout their great pulse on their customer base to internal stakeholders without ever validating these claims with actual customers. In addition, customers today are extremely savvy, sophisticated and aware and want to be in control of their own company/brand experience.

4) Customer won’t really spend the time to tell us what they need/want. A customer insights group I helped developed has 5,000 current members who are required to volunteer several hours a week providing a Tier 1 US bank with feedback on different pre-market launch products, services and approaches. There are another several thousand on a waiting list waiting to join this insights group to volunteer several hours a week to provide company/brand insights. Additionally, the loyalty level of this insights group toward the bank is 57% higher than non-members with members providing verbatim feedback on their participation in the insights group as follows:

1) “Finally a bank that listens to its customers”

2) “We consider bank {xyz} to be a great brand partner”

3) “{xyz} bank totally breaks the paradigm of most ivory tower banks just throwing products at you to buy, they actually care about our opinions and listen to us”

4) “They actually give us feedback on how our suggestions are shaping their future products and services – WOW!”

Therefore, the bottom line is that customers today are very eager to become a brand-partner provided you ask them, allow their direct company-brand participation.

Expected Marketing ROI Per Capability Level
Expected Marketing ROI Per Capability Level

The above graphic points to the fact that, with every increase in marketing sophistication and accuracy in providing your customers and prospects what they need/prefer, the increase in ROI also rises dramatically. The holy grail of this is the practice of Customer Defined Marketing and the abandonment of the expense and exercise of hypothesis building and refinement (iteratively guessing at what your customers want/need) and simply providing a conduit in order that your customers tell you precisely what they want/need/prefer. My research has shown that over 70% of a typical sophisticated customer base is more than willing to tell you what they want/need from your company.

Join the ranks of market leader like Wells Fargo, Marriott, Southwest Airlines, Ritz-Carlton, Bank of America and many more joining the customer defined experience future who query their customers on their wants, needs, preferences, likes/dislikes, etc.

Therefore, instead of your company spending a great deal of $$ on ever more sophisticated hypothesis building (intelligent guessing) what your customers want and prefer, just simply ask them and join the ranks of these market leaders that are participating in the emerging practice of the future – the customer defined experience.

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