David Elliott, SVP, marketing at hardware retail specialist True Value, is an experienced business leader. His awareness of myriad industries leads him to a straightforward conclusion: the customer must be the business priority in a digital age.
“A successful marketing strategy is one which delivers on the objectives that are sought,” he says. “I say that the reason marketing exists is to make a profitable customer – and there is no other reason for marketing really, just as the reason for having a brand is to make more money from having the brand than not having it.”
Elliott – who joined True Value in April 2017 having previously worked for major firms such as Mitre 10 (New Zealand) Limited, Compass Group and Chevron – believes a successful marketing strategy helps a company generate profitable returns from customer interactions. The good news is that analytics can help firms, like True Value, to measure the effectiveness of their strategy, says Elliott.
“That’s getting easier and easier to measure as we become more involved in digital advertising and marketing, because we are able to really relate that information back to individual customers that we’ve targeted in their behaviors. That kind of attribution really proves that the strategy is successful,” he says.
Creating a personalized response
Elliott says digital marketing is a key area for True Value. “In fact, all our marketing pretty much is now digital,” he stresses. “It’s all geo-targeted and it’s all based on our customer database. We’ve got so much information that we’re able to act in a way which is relevant and personalized to customers.”
That personalization can vary depending on a range of factors, says Elliott, whether that’s related to the weather and the part of the country where a customer lives, or whether it’s their life stage or the activity that they are undertaking. Analytics provides the means to tailor these offers to clients successfully both now and going forward.
“Certainly, as a business, developing our business intelligence and our analytics capability is key to how we’re going to go about marketing in the future,” says Elliott. “So, within our marketing structure, we have a business intelligence (BI) function for the business and we’ve also got an analytics team.”
The benefits of this BI-focused approach for True Value are clear, adds Elliott. “That’s a pretty powerful capability to begin with – to be able to determine insights, so that all our marketing can be insights-driven, rather than anything else.”
Emerging technologies will play an increasingly important role, too. Elliott points to artificial intelligence (AI) and says the technology is already helping his firm create tailored offers for customers.
“We use AI to detect the different variables, the different products, the different journeys and searches that customers are going on,” he says. “We turn that into a delivery of a relevant offer which really results in higher customer satisfaction, more sales and a higher degree of brand advocacy.”
Taking a proactive stance
Elliott’s focus on advocacy is something that will be familiar to other marketing leaders. The dynamic pace of change in the digital age creates new and fast-evolving challenges for marketers. Elliott is more aware of these complexities than most – and he says the rise of new customer expectations will continue to redefine what successful marketing looks like.
“I think the key challenges to delivering great customer experiences today brings us right back to the beginning, and the question around how marketing delivers on the objectives of the organization,” says Elliott. “The aim is to deliver on what people are buying into and what people are expecting when they engage with your company and brand.”
He says media hype around digitally enabled change is significant; stories about the invasiveness of digital penetration and of people’s information are common.
New rules, such as the recently enacted General Data Protection Regulation, create fresh compliance challenges for marketing departments. Marketing leaders must be wary of innovation for innovation’s sake, but remain proactive when it comes to dealing with customer concerns.
“We’re hearing a lot about personalization and we’re hearing a lot about relevance,” says Elliott. “The key to this is really understanding all those things and conducting yourself in a way that people are OK with, particularly in terms of what they have given you permission to do. You must work in a way that’s helpful to them and which, therefore, converts into a commercial transaction [that] is virtuous for both parties.”
True Value proactively engages with a significant proportion of its customer base through various technological channels, including social media, the web and via its AI programs. Elliott says these technologies help the firm to detect triggers, such as weather conditions or socio-economic factors that affect customers’ propensity to engage.
“We’re responding to that with an offer for customers which they see has been worthwhile. Our engagement rates are really high on social media. We get a lot of traffic from our social media activity through to our website and into the funnel,” says Elliott, who stresses – once again – how analytics plays a key role in the measurement of marketing effectiveness.
“We can attribute and track that activity all the way through, so that we can see that it’s successful for us and it’s working for our customers as well.”