In partnership with The CMO Club, The CMO of the Week series profiles CMOs who are shaping, changing and challenging the world of modern marketing. For Drew Neisser's complete interview with CMO Award Winner Ani Matson, click here.
Marketing can sometimes feel like the endless pursuit of a sweet-spot between messaging, customer satisfaction and lasting results. Once there - should we as the CMO's be so fortunate - it becomes clear that this sweet-spot is certainly not a comfort zone', as it's our job to keep questioning, tweaking and improving. Sometimes, however, we see that the winning strategy might actually be very far from reality, and it takes a CMO with real guts to tackle this kind of challenge head on. For some real transformational inspiration, allow me to introduce you to Ani Matson, former CMO of NEA Member Benefits and winner of the Officer's Award at the CMO Club Awards. Matson helped her company revamp its relationship with customers by completely re-imagining the way that NEA reaches its audience. She shares 5 takeaway tips here.
1) Deliver a Different Pitch
Matson's former company, NEA Member Benefits, is the for-profit arm of the National Education Association, which provides services and support for public school educators and staff. While her company used to send out direct mail materials and hope for the best, Matson says focusing on the individual customers' data and needs when communicating with them is key. "It's not just about finding an audience for your product; it's about serving a defined group with the best portfolio of products, in the most relevant way," says Matson. Mass messaging, in other words, won't cut it. "The stakes are high, and if you become noise, you'll get turned off."
2) Mark a Human Roadmap
Since NEA Member Benefits offers packages like banking, insurance and retirement - products that could potentially follow the customer throughout his or her career or even life - Matson says taking a human-focused approach to marketing is also key. "You have to watch members and understand them deeply and understand their behavior, understand their needs, understand their attributes to able to offer them the right thing," she says.
Matson turned NEA Member Benefits on to the importance of the human journey, and transformed its outreach to react to these nuances. "We've scored the whole membership file, and based on those scores, we decide which offers are most appropriate to market to whom," she says. "It's beautifully analytical. They have children, they get married, they buy a car, and as they go through those stages, we have different offers for them." This re-imagining also applied to her company's content delivery. "What we're trying to do is optimize the content at the right gaps of a member's journey," Matson says. The result is a roadmap for delivering the right information to the right people at the right time - something any marketing operation can achieve.
3) Stop Pushing
Where this new tailored, time-sensitive approach worked best for NEA Member Benefits was in its interactions with new members. To hear Matson explain it: "New members were cordoned off from receiving everything that other members would receive. Instead, we designed a different experience for them, basically welcoming them to the organization, showing them what's available to them, giving some freebies to them and just inviting them to come and explore." Letting customers sift through their options on their own time and helping them feel more in control of their new relationship with the company, Matson says that they were more receptive to purchasing the products NEA Member Benefits offered. "By not pushing," she says, "we were able to get better results than the way we had done it in the past."
4) Less Is More
Not only did the right touch help NEA Member Benefits increase sales under Matson's leadership, but less of said touch helped as well. Matson found a Goldilocks number for new customer outreach, and you might be surprised to learn that it wasn't even remotely close to the previous volume of communications. "We touched them only six times last year and increased participation by 20%," she says. "In the past, we had touched their comparable cohort 50 times." Good news for everyone involved.
5) Think Past The Purchase
Looking past this initial participation is also crucial, says Matson. When I ask her to leave her fellow CMO's with one last kernel of wisdom, she delivers the following: "Get rid of funnels and think past the buying. If you don't have a good experience after you buy, you're not coming back for more." The purchase is only one part of their relationship with your company, whether it lasts many years (as it does with NEA Member Benefits customers) or less. Matson says the entire cycle should lay the blueprints for your strategy. "Look at the stages of the experience, the journey that any human being would go through when they have a need and then as they look to fulfill their need," says Matson. "I would ask the question: Why? What do they use it for? Where do they use it? And then I would start to build the experience around that."
CMO of the Week is an exclusive Social Media Today column that appears every Thursday