The premise of effective selling is simple – find out what people need and deliver a product or service that meets that need at the opportune moment.

Peter Drucker, seen by many marketers as the forefather of business consulting, famously said: “The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the offered product or service will sell itself.”

While the basic premise of selling may be simple, the realities of today’s market have made things more complicated. Customers are no longer a single touchpoint. They interact with brands online, via mobile, through email, in person, on social media, and over the phone. Some prefer to communicate through apps, others through loyalty programs, and others base their decisions on word-of-mouth.

There is so much noise to cut through in this endless web of channels and platforms that brands are struggling to land their message with the right people at the right time. To complicate matters even further, they need to find a way of doing this at scale and deliver experiences that feel personalised to large groups of people with different needs and preferences.

Digital marketing has come a long way, but its relevance is up for debate. For instance, an average person is served over 1,700 banner ads per month but only half of them are ever viewed. The conclusion to draw here is that while companies are spending more than ever on digital advertising much of this money is going to waste.

The missing piece, going back to Drucker, is customer intelligence. Brands need to elevate their level of customer understanding to better serve their audience across every touchpoint and channel they use. This is the key to delivering true personalisation at scale.

The question then arises of how to build loyalty with customers you never see, or engage a time-strapped audience that views digital platforms as a path to convenience above all else? There are so many degrees of separation between brands and online customers that it can feel impossible to get your message in front of the right people, much less motivate them to engage with it.

In many companies, marketers and IT teams have joined forces to run advanced customer analytics programs, collecting data and creating audience profiles to help them target people more accurately. But these profiles are still limited in most cases, created in isolation from data outside the marketing department and independently of the content that all this data will ultimately inform.

To add to this, when a new channel comes along brands tend to panic and invest in technology that is specifically designed to serve that channel, even if it does not with the rest of their systems. This only creates more siloed data streams, each painting its own partial picture of customers and leading to unidimensional decision-making. 

An incomplete customer profile will inevitably provide an incomplete understanding of your audience. That is why brands are now bridging the divide between their customer analytics and unifying all their data onto a single platform. A centralised view ensures that every department works off a common definition of each customer, their activity, and their changing preferences, giving them the insight and context they need to be more targeted and deliver experiences that hit the mark.

Corporate audiences are just as eager for personalised experiences. The major difference is in a B2B environment is that brands need to look at a broader customer base made up of both end-users and procurement managers. This makes marketing even more nuanced because companies need to target and communicate with different audiences who have different needs and speak different languages.

Dell is a good case in point for this, as it wanted to deliver an experience for its B2B customers that went beyond just products. Instead of looking at experiences at each stage of the journey, it wanted to see the customer journey end-to-end and to have a single view of its customers. It was able to integrate all its channels (including email and social) via a single experience platform, where data could be aggregated, analysed, and segmented to create experiences across all channels in a coordinated way.

RS Components, the world’s largest electronics distributor, sells half-a-million electrical and electronic components, tools, and testing equipment to customers in 32 countries. The company realised it was time for change if it wanted to maintain its relationship with a large and varied audience, so it took on a more advanced approach to data and customer analytics.

Today, RS Components works with a specialised workspace where users can drag and drop data from throughout the customer journey and easily analyse points of interest. Stakeholders get an in-depth view of each customer across channels, putting them in a position to quickly test and adapt campaigns to the preferences of any audience group.

From the retail industry to financial services, customer intelligence is evolving and giving way to deeper levels of understanding. The aim for brands is still to know their audience so well their products and services sell themselves, but as brands like Dell and RS Components are proving, this requires a more analytical approach in today’s digital world. 

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