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Igniting Conversation: A Q&A with Epsilon President Andy Frawley

Andy_Frawley_BookCoverI should have known long ago that Andy Frawley had a book in him. The president of Epsilon, the world’s leading marketing agencies, is insightful, has broad experience and brings some interesting ideas to the table.

Frawley’s recently released book, “Igniting Customer Connections” details his own lessons learned over three decades of working with the smartest marketers, and biggest brands, in the world. He’s happy to share some of these insights with my readers. Our Q&A, covering new technologies, the power of amplification, and ROE²  follows.

Question: In your book, you refer to “atomic moments of truth.” What are they and can you provide an example?

Andrew Frawley: Atomic Moments of Truth are pivotal instances when a consumer engages with a brand and, for marketers, it’s an opportunity to create value in a brand and a relationship, or destroy value in a brand and a relationship. To make the most of these moments, which are happening 24/7/365, marketers need to focus on the customer experience in each of these moments to deliver the most compelling and relevant content in the context of that moment.

A perfect example is Walgreens. Walgreens has a great loyalty program to reward its customers. But the company takes it further than just points for purchase behavior. Walgreens’ Balance Rewards members get rewarded for taking steps toward a healthier lifestyle. By linking their Fitbit devices to their Balance Rewards programs, consumers can earn 20 points for every mile they walk or run and 20 points per daily weigh-in. This is one way Walgreens is recognizing its customers for making a positive lifestyle change and rewarding them for this behavior. It also enables Walgreens to know even more about its customers to deliver relevant content – for example, if Walgreens knows I’m a runner it can tailor offers to me and try to encourage me to purchase through its retail channels vs. a sporting goods store or a supermarket.

Q: What is the one exercise you would warn marketers against when it comes to connecting with customers?

AF: Marketers today need to rethink how they communicate with customers – the channels, the cadence and the content. Cadence is one that we often focus on with our clients. Communicating too frequently will not serve the marketer in the long run. For example, during the holiday season, many brands will email their customers daily or multiple times a day. This approach may drive traditional metrics in the form of opens and clicks and may lead to short-term sales. However, it can also lead to an increase in opt-out rates during that period.  And if you’re losing email subscribers, you’re losing long-term value and potential.

Consumers today have the power to turn off the message. Consumer empowerment cannot be underestimated. Consumers are making buying decisions all the time on their tablets (and) on their phones and they talk, tweet and blog about brands, which can make or break a brand’s reputation overnight. Brands need to communicate with their consumers where, when and how they want to be spoken to. The message must be relevant to them.

Q: Name three or four key steps to launching a good marketing process.

AF: Get data right: Not all data is good data. But with the right insights, you have the ability to capitalize on atomic moments of truth and deliver meaningful content in the appropriate context for that individual consumer.

Implement technology to automate processes: Build, buy or partner to employ technology that will allow you to be there in the moment, with the consumer, to make their experience with your brand more meaningful.

Focus on creative and strategy: It’s not simply enough to have the tools, technology and insights. You also need to connect on an emotional level and understand how the consumer feels. Creativity should not be underestimated.

Rethink measurement: Traditional measures of success don’t provide the full picture of what your consumers are doing AND how they are feeling about your brand. If you can understand both, you’ll be able to better determine marketing investment and better understand how to drive brand and business equity.

Q: You write how brilliant people can easily be swallowed up by technology and process, what measures can prevent this?

AF: In “Igniting Customer Connections,” I urge marketers to use technology to enable, not to distract. What I mean is that technology is only an enabler of change, not the change itself.

It’s important to line up the people, process, andtechnology to create an efficient, effective and fluid environment forplanning and executing marketing. People, process, technology – each of these enabling elements areimportant. But the connections between them are critical, since they areall interconnected and need to move ahead consistently and in lockstep.

It will not serve your organization well just to go out and buy softwareor services unless accompanied by a good strategy and by identifiedpeople who know how to use these new capabilities to get real results.

Q: What are three most important qualities in a good loyalty marketer?

AF: They listen to, recognize and understand their customers. Good loyalty marketers are paying attention to customer experience and engagement. They’re looking at not only what their customers do (how they interact with the brand), but also how they feel (their emotional connection to the brand).

They use this knowledge of experience and engagement, along with other customer data and insights, to understand their customers on an individual level and to create compelling recognition opportunities for them that will build not only loyalty in the present, but also in the future.

Q: And what are warning signs of a not-so-good marketer?

AF: Ineffective marketers do not listen to the customer. Instead they speak at them and do not engage in a two-way dialogue. This is likely because they lack the critical combination of insights, tools, creative and strategy to deliver relevancy. Instead they rely on a one-size-fits-all approach to customers and in today’s consumer-driven world. That will not work.

Q: Much is made about the importance of relevant communications, but how do you create it?

AF: Every customer is a unique collection of accumulated and ever-evolving values and choices. Until you look at the customer holistically, you will not be able to optimize the relationship and be truly relevant. The definition of a meaningful and relevant communication varies, but at the core it stems from knowing what the consumer wants and needs and connecting with (him or her) on an emotional level. This requires that you understand a variety of factors on the individual basis such as: how the customer feels about your brand, his or her aspirations; what he or she does (or has done) with your brand; where, when and how the customer wants to be communicated with; and more.

Q: When do you know the communication is relevant?

AF: Inthe book I talk about experience and engagement.

Experience means the emotional connection with a brand. How does it make you feel?  Will your life be easier or your self-esteem higher? Experience is at the heart of the basic drive that (inspires) consumers to try a brand, to purchase a brand and to become loyal to it.

Engagement means acting. Actions the consumer can take include buying, posting, tweeting, liking, following, referring and more. But all require that consumers do something tangible to engage them with a brand.

Communication is relevant when it ignites a connection with customers – when it engages and influences their overall brand experience. And we can prove it. In “Igniting Customer Connections” we offer a financial framework that expands upon ROI with ROE², in which we use the power of experience and engagement to produce an actual financial measure.

Q: The marketer has finally connected with that valuable customer prospect. What is the next step?

AF: Connecting is definitely step one. From there it’s about creating a meaningful experience for the customer to evoke a deep emotional response. And simultaneously driving their engagement – and that engagement is going to vary based on your brand and your goals. Yes, purchase behavior is important, but we’ve found that it can be even more important if your customers are referring the brand to their friends and families and causing an amplification effect.

Q: What is the most important tool available for maintaining that connection today?

AF: Insights are one of the most important ways to maintain a connection with a customer. Data enables marketers to make informed and strategic decisions – about how to engage, what experience to create and whether your efforts were successful.

Q: Can you provide some examples of brands that do it well?

AF: A great example is FedEx. A few years ago, Epsilon worked with FedEx to launch its loyalty program with a simple mission to persuade small- and medium-sized businesses, which typically go to competitors for their shipping needs, to switch to FedEx. Successful loyalty programs go beyond points and redemption savings by introducing an emotional connection. FedEx already had sponsorship relationships with brands like NASCAR and the NFL. We worked to entice customers to use FedEx by offering them a meaningful reward opportunity. We found that auto parts dealers were a big market since they frequently use shipping services, and not surprising, they were also big NASCAR fans. By offering an aspirational reward such as getting their company logos on NASCAR race cars, FedEx was able to ignite a connection with these customers and prospects and drive both brand and business equity.

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