“To empower the voice of the customer and restore human connection again, CIOs and CMOs need to build an Experience Marketing framework that helps them see the modern customer landscape as it actually is and not just how they’d like it to be,” Says Travis Bickham, Vice President of Marketing, Birdeye in an exclusive interview with TalkCMO.
TCMO Bureau: In what ways can companies bridge the gap between the voice of the customer and customer experience?
Travis Bickham: To bridge the gap between the voice of the customer and customer experience, companies first need to understand the voice of the customer and then act on it. This isn’t easy to do unless you have the right technology because listening to the customer isn’t the same as understanding the customer. Too often, companies lack a comprehensive view of the customer journey because their data is disparate or siloed and they struggle to stay focused on customer sentiment over time.
Companies need to understand the voice of the customer so they can leverage it to their advantage and not make careless, company-centric decisions in a vacuum. The right technology helps companies achieve this through a continuous cycle of listening, tracking and improving. I can’t stress this approach enough because I adamantly believe “customer experience” has become a tired, outdated term. The world and marketing have both shifted, and marketers need to get with the times.
For too long, brands have missed what customers were actually saying because they were so busy talking about themselves – or their buyers as individuals. This started when brands pushed out their messages through direct mail and advertising. This was the marketing era of “me.” Then inbound marketing became trendy, and we entered the era of “you,” where brands tailored their content to prospects. Now we’re in this marketing era of “us,” where brands, prospects and buyers are all 100% intertwined.
TCMO Bureau: Why is the CIO-CMO relationship crucial to post-pandemic success? Is there a need for greater CMO-CIO collaboration for the next generation of systems to enhance the customer journey?
Travis Bickham: The relationship between the CIO and the CMO is certainly important. Instead of greater collaboration though, I would argue the two need to refine their respective approaches, particularly the tools they employ around the voice of the customer.
The business and marketing worlds were already shifting when COVID-19 hit. The pandemic simply accelerated digital transformation and online experiences. CIOs and CMOs today need technology that can help them capture customer feedback, react to it in real time and amplify those learnings so their companies can attract more customers and earn repeat business. This is Experience Marketing.
With an Experience Marketing platform, companies can leverage customer interactions to deliver the right message, on the right channel, to the right person at the right time. The result is an ecosystem based on customer happiness. Sounds simple enough, right? Except this philosophy is completely foreign to most marketers – it’s not the way they’ve been taught to think.
This is why CIOs and CMOs need to alter their approach. I believe technology has crippled marketing to the point that companies no longer understand people. Marketing needs to move from outdated technologies and assumptions to the world of context and insights that machine learning and artificial intelligence make available. The field has become so data-reliant, marketers have forgotten the basics, which is a serious problem given human-centricity and trust drive the buying process.
To empower the voice of the customer and restore human connection again, CIOs and CMOs need to build an Experience Marketing framework that helps them see the modern customer landscape as it actually is and not just how they’d like it to be. Then, technology can drive and scale what’s actually working in a company.
TCMO Bureau: Marketing and communications roles are integrating within many companies as earned, owned, paid and social media intertwine. So, what does the modern marketing entity look like? Are they independent, converged, or something new?
Travis Bickham: Marketing and communications roles aren’t the only ones integrating. Increasingly, we’re also seeing CMOs move into experience-based roles – often being remade as CXOs or chief experience officers.
The reality is, experiences drive everything today. The takeaway for the modern marketing entity is: Companies can no longer ignore the voice of the customer from a people, process and tools standpoint. How I’ve seen this take root in practice is a newfound emphasis on full lifecycle marketing, driven by CMOs and marketing leaders who are just as diligent about nurturing and retaining existing customers as they are in driving new leads. They then design and focus their teams accordingly. Even five years ago, it was rare to see customer support or customer success roll up into marketing, and yet, that’s where so much of the customer experience is actually happening.
The merging of marketing and communications roles has been well underway for years, as thought leadership and brand-building has become integral to driving prospects to your door. I think the CMO-to-CXO transition is even more profound though, as customer experience itself begins to define modern marketing success.
TCMO Bureau: Many companies implementing content marketing strategies are dealing with content shock. What role does content play in the demand generation and overall strategy?
Travis Bickham: Content remains a key engine for thought leadership, lead generation and pipeline growth but you’re right, content that we want our prospects to actually engage within 2021 needs to be highly relevant, unique, targeted, and often, catered to the shorter attention spans that we all seem to have these days.
This means that video, podcasts, simple checklists, and data-driven content and public relations need to be front and center now. This content will often lead a prospect to organically engage when white papers or other form-fill content might turn them off. Assets like these also receive the most attention on social channels. Many of Birdeye’s customers have told us much of the modern customer experience is happening on social media – particularly for multi-location local businesses.
TCMO Bureau: There have been some drastic changes in the past one year. With so much happening in email and content marketing, how can companies keep a tab on their omnichannel marketing goals?
Travis Bickham: I believe it goes back to first principles, which are to understand the voice of the customer and then act on it. What are prospects and customers saying about you in online channels – the ones you don’t fully control, such as reviews on Google and Facebook? How are you extracting insights from that data to both define and refine your marketing and operational approach?
I think it’s also essential that marketers recognize that the parameters of “omnichannel” marketing are now customer-defined. Prospects and customers prefer to talk to businesses on their preferred messaging apps or channels, especially with recent pandemic-driven shifts in behavior. Sometimes these are newer channels that a business isn’t quite staffed for or ready to support. Failing to account for the many channels customers use to communicate means a business is likely missing important feedback and customer sentiment, whether that’s Facebook Messenger, Instagram, text messages or countless others.
An Experience Marketing approach and strategy – and having the software to bring it to life – recognizes that the “us” era is here. It’s what allows brands to be present, addressable, adaptive and responsive to the context and consumer insights that are out there. Marketers and their teams just have to be willing and able to act on them.
Travis Bickham is the vice president of marketing at Birdeye. He has built new categories and dominant brands across hypergrowth and global companies, such as Tubular Labs, Concord and Tradeshift. Bickham also wrote for The Economist before starting his marketing career. He is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley where he won an NCAA championship in water polo.