Skip to content

Rage Against the (Marketing) Machine

You ask customers for their e-mails, their phone numbers and their addresses. You ask them to provide you with feedback, take your surveys or rate your service on a scale from one to 10. You ask your customers to follow you on social media channels, “like” your content and engage with your brand online. Oh yeah, and you ask them to buy, use and love your product or service.

While customers often are willing to provide you with information about themselves and their preferences, these voluntary offerings come with a price. Your customers now expect that you will use their data to craft more relevant and personalized brand experiences.

Unfortunately, many companies don’t have the technological backbone necessary to meet these customer expectations. According to Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc., a lack of analytics tools and repressive data silos lead companies to ignore 88% of their customer data. And, in turn, 89% of customers have stopped doing business with a company after a poor customer experience. This seems unbelievable until you consider the following:

1. How many times have you been passed around a customer service call center and needed to repeat your information to multiple representatives?

2. How many times have you received an offer from a brand that had nothing to do with you or your interests?

3. How many times have you purchased an item online only to have it follow you around the Internet in some highly disconnected retargeting campaign?

These experiences are just the tip of the iceberg. Forrester notes that 71% of customers say that valuing their time is the most important thing that a company can do to provide good service. Combine this insight with the revelation that 86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience, according to Oracle’s recent Customer Experience Impact report, and you can see the potential for a groundswell of customer dissatisfaction and retaliation—what I like to call a “rage” against the marketing machine.

Customers today expect a near seamless experience across channels, and are becoming increasingly sparing and cautious with their loyalty. To avoid “customer rage,” marketers need to establish a technological backbone that allows them to listen, understand, map and then take action based on the information that your customer is offering—all in real time.


Of course, social media alone holds a wealth of information and insight about your customers. A recent Parature study found that 52% of people have praised a brand on social media and 35% have complained, but customers also are providing information on brands’ websites, and via customer service calls and purchasing activity. True omnichannel listening draws in data from all of the sources that capture relevant customer information. Listening is not an end, but a means to identifying where you need to engage and how you can provide truly exceptional service.


To fully understand your customers at an individual level, you need data that is both accurate and actionable. A recent Adobe study reports that 74% of marketers understand that capturing and applying data to inform marketing activities is the new reality. This requires cleaning, assessing and filtering your data, and then working to develop an understanding of how to connect these behaviors with your business goals.

The importance of this step cannot be overstated. It is critical to make sense of the data that you collect, and to establish methods of analysis that put your customers’ needs and activities into context. Doing so facilitates an ability to map campaigns and marketing efforts with greater accuracy, and reduces the likelihood of irrelevant or poorly targeted communications.


Once you have a comprehensive understanding of your customers’ needs, it’s time to quickly use that intelligence in the channels in which they are most active and likely to interact with your brand. Critical channels for retailers can include e-mail, social, mobile, Web, customer service and print, but the channels you use should, again, be informed by data. Where are your customers most active? How do they prefer to be communicated with? In-store employees also should be leveraged and measured as an avenue of customer engagement. The results of your marketing efforts then need to drive that data right back into the listening phase to develop more targeted and informed future campaigns.

While the vast majority of marketers may understand the need to leverage customer data, only 39% of marketers report actually using that data to shape their strategy, according to Adobe. More than half of marketers are not shaping their strategies with insights from their customers, and are, instead, relying on traditional methods that have proven ineffective time and again. It’s no wonder that there’s such a widespread feeling of rage—and a discernible backlash—against the marketing machine.

While integrating and leveraging Big Data insights might appear daunting at first, the time to start assembling teams and technology resources is now. It’s also critical that the action phase feeds back into the listening phase to ensure that iterative efforts improve and become more intelligent over time. CMOs who do not embrace and accept this new world order—focusing resources on harnessing customer data to create tailored, meaningful experiences that delight, rather than enrage, customers—likely will not be CMOs for very long.

Forrester’s Kyle McNabb and Josh Bernoff may have said it best: “A customer-obsessed enterprise focuses its strategy, its energy and its budget on processes that enhance knowledge of and engagement with customers and prioritizes these over maintaining traditional competitive barriers.”

Are you focusing on the right things?

Paul Mandeville is the chief product officer at Boston-based marketing automation firm QuickPivot Corp. Prior to QuickPivot, he served as chief operating officer of Conversen, a cross-channel marketing technology startup.