Author: Shamir Duverseau
Shamir Duverseau

How to Modernize Your Marketing Legacy Systems: Evaluating & Adopting Your Tech Stack

Your marketing technology stack empowers your team to do great work. Generating impressive results not only becomes efficient, but enjoyable when the right tools are in place.

But for many organizations, their existing martech stack is more of a hindrance. Old-school technologies that have fallen behind get in the way, preventing great marketing talent from achieving great things.

In this article, we’ll help you make a case for modernizing your marketing legacy systems. You’ll learn about the benefits of modernization, how to sell your vision to the boardroom, the process for evaluating the right tools for your organization, and a strategy for digital adoption.

Modernizing legacy systems has become competitive table stakes

Adopting new tools and technologies for your marketing processes is about more than having shinier toys than your competition. Rather, it’s the bedrock of providing exceptional digital experiences for your customers.

This is what we mean by competitive table stakes. If your technology isn’t empowering you to delight your customer at every touch point, then it’s likely your competitors will do it for you. In fact, according to a study by PWC, 73% of consumers say a good experience is key in influencing their brand loyalties.

Because of this, modernizing the digital experience goes beyond marketing. It redefines the way your entire organization does business. Adopting the right tools help you:

  • Personalize messaging to your customers based on their interests (and how they’ve engaged with your brand)
  • Give customer success teams the power to respond to questions quickly
  • Allow salespeople to better serve their leads and prospects
  • Serve ads with messages that are relevant to the products that interest consumers
  • Deliver content that most interests specific audience segments

Furthermore, it can uncover new potential revenue streams—something many businesses were forced to discover due to the impact of COVID-19. For example, fast-thinking retail stores quickly adopted new infrastructure for curb-side pick-up, allowing customers to order online and collect their goods without having to step into the store. They worked within the parameters of a new market and reacted accordingly.

Marketing modernization is about catering the customer experience to the expectations of today. Consumers (and B2B executives alike) have high expectations of the brands they do business with. Not only does digital adoption of this scale improve efficiency across the organization, but it makes stakeholders and investors happy thanks to metrics that move up and to the right.

But the process can be clunky—depending on the complexity of your existing systems. If implemented carelessly, new technologies can wreak havoc on your day-to-day operations and actually damage customer relationships.

Integrating vs. replacing your legacy systems

To avoid any downtime in marketing activity (and customer communication), it’s worth taking stock of your existing systems and how they integrate with other platforms.

Depending on your needs, it may be worth taking a phased approach by integrating new technologies with your existing legacy systems, rather than replacing them altogether.

For example, most CRM vendors have realized that, in order to stay relevant in a competitive market, they must allow for integration into other sales, marketing, and customer service platforms.

Taking a phased approach means figuring out the lay of the land, which you can accomplish by following a careful process:

  1. Figure out which of your systems are most embedded into your day-to-day work. Your CRM is one example, but what about helpdesk software and marketing automation?
  2. Investigate their integration capabilities. Most platforms have a marketplace of integration partners you can peruse. If you’re already evaluating other martech vendors, it’s wise to see if your existing legacy systems integrate with them.
  3. Look into data export. How easy is it to export and migrate your existing data? Can it be done manually, or do you need existing vendors to do it on your behalf? The answers to these questions will determine how smooth or clunky the process could be.
  4. Maximize the output of what you’ve already got. Consider how to apply existing systems in new ways. 
  5. Decide whether you’ll replace or integrate your marketing legacy systems. Based on the answers to the steps above, make a data-driven decision fueled by research and a strategic digital roadmap. 

You may find that you’re not getting everything you can out of your existing systems. It’s worth figuring out what your existing platforms’ true capabilities are before evaluating new technologies and taking the leap.

On the other hand, be wary of obsolescence. Depending on how old your systems are, you may find that you’ve re-invested in a platform that’s no longer supported by the vendor.

The true-north decision maker is this: do what’s right for your customers. If existing systems can provide consumers with what they want, more power to you. But if not, it’s time to move on.

Getting boardroom buy-in for digital adoption

So, you’ve decided to modernize your digital experience and committed to taking the leap. Problem is, you’re not the only person who needs convincing.

Marketing legacy system modernization can be a mammoth process that requires plenty of resources, which means getting buy-in from c-suite executives and senior decision makers is crucial to making progress.

Getting stakeholders on board is an entire process in itself. Luckily, there are frameworks you can use to produce a compelling argument.

Collect supporting data

Opinions don’t move decisions at the boardroom level. Even if you know modernization is the right thing to do, you need to make a solid case backed by data.

Collecting the right data can help you achieve two things:

  1. Paint a picture of the current state of your industry
  2. Make an argument for business outcomes

For example, if you’re working in the real estate industry, it’s worth nothing that 79% of renters have cancelled viewings based on negative reviews on social media and review sites.

This, coupled with the fact that 60% of consumers say they’d switch to a brand that offers superior customer service, and you have a strong case for investing in new technologies that enhance the customer experience.

When pitching to investors, subscription platform Zuora used data to dial up the pain and show how changes in the Fortune 500 was causing many of them to go out of business:

They then used examples to outline the opportunity that this change presents (along with quantifiable numbers):

Your data can demonstrate risk, but it should also outline opportunities you’re about to present to them.

Conduct a brief competitive analysis

Data and facts illustrate the current state of the world you’re operating in. But decisions are still made at an emotional level in some capacity, regardless of seniority.

Showing what the competition is up to (and how they’re providing good customer experiences) truly illustrates exactly how far you’ve fallen behind. It also hits c-suite executives in the gut with FOMO.

Present competitive analysis by following this process:

  1. Select two or three of your biggest competitors. You want to take a quality-driven approach and paint a detailed picture when making your case.
  2. Walk through the buyer journey as a customer. Interact with their brand, starting from the first touchpoint (e.g. social media content, ads, etc.) all the way to making a purchase or enquiry.
  3. Take notes and capture screenshots. Collect materials that specifically outlines what they do so well.
  4. Present your findings as a customer narrative. Use your deck to show patterns in what each competitor does, as well as the specific elements that you’re missing from your customer experience.

Dive deeper into marketing collateral, messaging, and channels that show what your company is missing out on. Most importantly, use it as a way to demonstrate what you can do differently (and better).

Remember, providing a delightful customer experience is competitive table stakes. Your goal is to surpass expectations and blow customers away. Running alongside the competition is a lukewarm effort, and you’ll find yourself in the same position 18 months down the road.

Outline projected KPI improvements

You’ve made your case and demonstrated what your marketing technology should empower you to do. Now it’s time to show the boardroom what this can help the organization to achieve.

Start by collecting and benchmarking your marketing KPIs from the last 12 months. Look at acquisition metrics and conversion rates across every channel and touchpoint.

For example, let’s say you have 34 landing pages that serve different customer segments across all product lines. How does the average conversion rate compare to industry benchmarks? What are your highest and lowest performing landing pages, and how could you improve performance with the right technologies?

The same goes for email marketing. How well does your current platform allow you to segment customer segments and personalize messaging to their interests?

Once you’ve collected historical data, look for other studies that support potential increases in conversions. For example, according to this study from Experian, personalized emails deliver 6x higher transaction rates than those that aren’t personalized.

While there are several factors at play, you can use this data to extrapolate the potential increase in email ROI. It’s only a leading indicator, but one that tells a powerful story.

Bringing all three of these elements into play—data, competitive analysis, and projections—will help you make a strong case to the boardroom. Show them what they’re missing out on, and how your plan for marketing maturity will help everyone across the organization get better results.

Evaluating the right tools against new and existing processes

Once you’ve made a case, you need to find the right tools for the job. As of 2020, there were over 8,000 martech vendors in the market—a 13.6% increase from the previous year.

The sheer number of options can make finding the right provider tricky. Here are a few approaches to finding best-in-class marketing technology for your modernization efforts:

1. Start with review sites like G2 and Capterra

G2 and Capterra have already done some of the hard work for you. These review sites act as a software database segmented by category, with ratings from users who use them on a daily basis.

Furthermore, they provide filters within each category, allowing you to find potential vendors based on your early requirements:

2. Put together a requirements document

To evaluate vendors, you need something to measure them against. This one is the simplest (but perhaps most time-consuming) part of the process: creating a requirements document.

Start with a simple statement that briefly outlines what you’re aiming to achieve with your new technologies. For example, if you’re looking to adopt new email marketing automation software, this statement might be:

“Our chosen email automation platform must be able to segment customers by interests and behavior, allowing us to send targeted messaging for every campaign and trigger emails based on their behavior.”

Short, simple, and to the point. This sets the tone and keeps you in check as you go through the evaluation process. From here, you must create a list of technical and onboarding requirements. This includes specific features, as well as initial support during the first few months of implementation.

If this is a replacement exercise (e.g. you’re looking for a new CRM to replace your current one), make sure that data migration is hassle-free. At the very least, your new vendor should be able to assist in doing this for you.

3. Set a clear budget

How much are you willing (and able) to spend on a monthly or annual basis? This step requires more input from the boardroom, as it’s likely you’ll need their financial support beyond the quarterly budgets you’ve been allocated.

It’s far easier to make a case when you demonstrate the potential returns. So, while having a budget in mind is key, make sure you also detail any potential increases in conversions or reductions in costs (from a technical and people power perspective).

4. Schedule demos and evaluate your options

With a list of potential tools and clear expectations, it’s time to find out what each vendor is all about. The evaluation process will depend on your needs, but typically the steps are as follows:

  1. Demo request. A guided walkthrough of the tool or platform. Decent sales reps will tailor demos to your needs, focusing on the features that you’ve outlined in your requirements document.
  2. Sales materials. Decks, ebooks, technical documentation, and other sales collateral should be shared with everyone involved in the process. 
  3. Trial. Get your hands on the tool and give it a test drive. Depending on the scale of the project, this will allow you to get a feel for what you can expect when rolling out across your entire organization.
  4. Negotiate. Go over timelines, and get commitment on onboarding activity and initial support.

These steps (or a variation of them) should give you everything you need to make a decision. Get the input of everyone involved in the process—especially individual contributors, as they’ll be interacting with the tools on a daily basis.

How to roll out a marketing modernization without disruption

Speaking of individual contributors, the next step is to implement and integrate your new platforms with minimum disruption to their work.

The best way to do this is with a phased approach. Instead of uprooting existing tools, start rolling out to different areas of the business.

Prioritize each phase based on the customer journey

You can start this process by first mapping the customer journey and the relevant touchpoints across every interaction. Don’t try to do everything at once.

Instead, figure out how to replace and roll out one channel at a time. For example, you could first migrate email workflows for customer retention activity, followed by cart abandonment emails, newsletters, etc.

Prioritize which areas of the digital experience need migrating first, creating timelines that every department and stakeholder must adhere to.

Collaborate with other departments

Speaking of other departments, it’s critical you get their input on the implementation plan. For example, if your events marketing team depends on your legacy system to execute on a campaign 30 days from now, you’ll need to work to their timescales in order to avoid disruption.

Encourage them to provide input on priorities and how features are implemented. They’ll be able to present ideas on how certain features can be deployed or changed, allowing them to contribute to building a stronger customer experience across the board.

Create detailed training & documentation

The added benefit of taking a phased approach is that it makes documentation easier to manage. As you migrate various parts of the customer experience to your new platform, you can document as you go along without overwhelm.

This can then be accompanied by internal training. You can do this as live workshops, or asynchronously thanks to tools like Loom.

It all comes down to clear processes. Documentation should provide easy-to-follow steps and an order of operations that ensures copy, creative, and marketing collateral is executed without error. This is especially critical when using new tools for the first time, as you’d be surprised how easy it is to accidentally send emails with missing variables.

Nobody likes being addressed as “{{first_name}}.”

Communicate changes to existing customers

Finally, be sure to clearly communicate any changes that directly affect your customers. For example, if you’re migrating to a new ecommerce platform, customers will need to re-enter their credit card information the next time they make a purchase.

Another, more complex example involves implementing a new healthcare CRM and patient management tool. Here, it’s critical you make patients aware of the process changes to avoid confusion.

Many modern tools allow for automated communications such as text message appointment confirmations or patient portals for providing results. Inform your new and existing patients of the new protocols, what they will need to do (e.g. create a username and password for a patient portal) along with any other expectations.

It’s important to get ahead of barriers to a seamless transition to avoid grievances and ensure a smooth transition.

Key takeaways

Depending on how far your organization has fallen behind, a digital maturity strategy might be the right call. However, don’t pull the trigger until you’ve taken stock of your existing platforms.

Can your legacy marketing systems integrate with other best-of-breed tools? Are there any features with untapped potential? If the answer is yes, an integration might be the best approach.

However, if your existing platforms are preventing you from delivering a mind-blowing customer experience, it’s time to move on. The decision should always come down to what’s best for your customer.

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Author: Shamir Duverseau
Shamir Duverseau

How Mature is Your Digital Experience?

According to MIT Sloan Management Review, “digital maturity goes beyond technology … it’s about how businesses are adapting in a digital environment.” Organizations must strive to make digital core to their business—in all areas of their business—in order to succeed. As a marketing leader you have a key question to answer: Are you fundamentally adapting your customer experience to compete effectively in the digital era?

Answering this charge requires an understanding of what digital maturity looks like vis a vis the experience you are providing to customers—from awareness to conversion and beyond—as well as the ability to measure where your organization falls on the spectrum of digital development. The closer you can get to a real-time, 1:1 experience with each person, the more mature your digital experience. Why? Because the more personal the experience, the more likely someone is to take action in the short term and build lifetime value for your organization in the long term. 

To illustrate the importance of the 1:1 experience, consider this example. Smart Panda Labs worked with a real estate development company offering luxury apartment rentals in metropolitan areas including New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. As with many organizations, the homepage was one of most frequented pages on their website and featured general messages about the company and their newest properties. As we helped this brand mature their digital experiences, homepage content became more personalized. Direct visits to the site prompted location-specific content. Visitors coming to the site by way of a paid search campaign would see content related to their search query. Their behavior on the site further informed home page content, as they searched specific neighborhoods or property types. As this personalization increased, so did engagement and conversions.

Just as no child grows up overnight, no organization can become digitally mature overnight, either. The arc of digital experience growth can be summarized in four stages: Early, Developing, Maturing, and Leading.

The Early Stage

If your organization is in the early stage of digital maturation, the digital experience you are providing to consumers is not fully formed. Maybe you are still just talking about how to personalize the journey, but you have yet to put those wheels in motion. 

To progress to the next stage, you’ll need to focus on clarifying your vision, goals, and strategy and communicating that vision across the organization. What are the fundamental ways you will build awareness for your brand in the digital space? How will you get prospects to consider your products or services? What can help them make a decision and choose your brand over the competition? How can you keep them as customers? And finally, how can you transform them from loyal customers into adoring fans?

As you answer these questions, focus on how you’re building your foundation—the elements necessary to execute, measure, and learn from basic tactics. The emphasis here should be on learning, which is a critical thread that must be pulled through each stage of your organization’s growth and maturity.

The Developing Stage

In the developing stage, your organization is focused on framework—the parameters and processes that must be in place to engage in slightly more advanced digital tactics. Not only will these more robust tactics begin to drive better results, they will also begin to provide more meaningful data, and data is the gas that will fuel the personalization to which every brand aspires.

While the basics afford you the ability to gather data, a framework enables you to  gather meaningful customer data on which you can act.  

It is this kind of data that positions you to explore personalizing the experiences you are creating, if not to individuals at least to groups (audience segments).  

The Maturing Stage    

Jeff Bezos once said of Amazon: “Our success is a function of how many experiments we do per year, per month, per week, per day.” In today’s digital world, more and more companies are turning to experiments to discover how best to create or improve online experiences. A maturing stage organization is concerned about having an organizational culture that promotes experimentation, and one where learning is part of every digital tactic. 

Personalized experiences are driven by the needs and desires of your  prospects and customers. Experimentation is essential to uncovering what those needs and wants are. 

The mindset that fosters experimentation is one of trusting the process. It’s about the journey, not the destination. People’s circumstances and, therefore, preferences change constantly. Add to that the effects of the marketplace, and you quickly come to recognize that personalization is never fixed. Knowing an individual’s (or a segment’s) needs and desires requires constant testing, which can only be supported by a thriving organizational culture of experimentation. (Learn more about the importance of such a culture and how to achieve it in the Harvard Business Review article “Building a Culture of Experimentation”.)

 The Leading Stage

When you have arrived at the leading stage, you’re focused on your team. You have invested in your organization, and your team has used that investment to build you a strong foundation, a solid framework, and a pervasive culture. Now it’s time to make sure you are investing in their learning and growth.  

Remember, while data may fuel the digital experience, it is people who fuel your organization. The right team will not only enable your strategy to thrive, they will have the mindset and the skills to evolve and iterate that strategy in an ever changing world. Those iterations will necessitate changes to your foundation and framework to provide the proper support. It is your team that will lead and manage those changes. Furthermore, it is people who bring life to and maintain culture, so it will take the right people to live the culture you have built as a maturing organization.

Ultimately, the right people will bring you the greatest return on your investment.

What’s Next?

Every organization is different, varying by size, industry, and market. However, the tactics that lead to a mature digital experience are fundamentally the same. How well you execute on these tactics, across all digital experiences, is what will win you loyal customers and increase their lifetime value.

Knowing where you are in this trajectory requires asking yourself some direct questions about the digital experiences you are (and aren’t) currently providing. Understanding your baseline is essential to your growth. Ready to find out? Take this quiz.

Once you decide you’re ready to evolve your digital experiences to the next stage, you’ll need a roadmap to get there. Understanding these next steps will be the subject of a future article. 

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Author: Shamir Duverseau
Shamir Duverseau

Smart Panda Labs Recognized Nationally as One of the Best Workplaces for Commuters in 2020

Orlando, FL – February 13, 2020Smart Panda Labs, a digital consultancy that leverages data and creative intelligence to drive customer lifetime value, today announced its been named one of the 2020 Best Workplaces for Commuters for offering employees exceptional commuter benefits.

Smart Panda Labs is among a select group of workplaces in the United States that have achieved the Best Workplaces for Commuters National Standard of Excellence by providing an array of commuter benefits, resulting in at least 14 percent of their employee base not driving alone to work within a 12-month period. With a workforce that’s 100% virtual, Smart Panda Labs offers employees several telecommuting benefits options, including:

  • Computers and peripherals
  • Monthly budgets to support team members as needed
  • Innovative technologies that advance collaboration such as on-demand conference calls, video conferencing, screen sharing and virtual whiteboarding

“Smart Panda Labs is one of the top employers in the nation offering high level commuter benefits to their employees,” said Julie Bond, Program Manager, Best Workplaces for Commuters. “Smart Panda Labs made the list because they put people first and support employees with technologies and resources that enable telework and compressed work weeks. Smart Panda Labs gives its employees the support they need to excel in a virtual workplace business model.”

“We take immense pride in receiving our 2020 Best Workplaces for Commuters national designation,” said Shamir Duverseau, co-founder and managing director of Smart Panda Labs. “Our support of remote and virtual workers reflects our commitment to our people and has helped us recruit top talent, experience lower turnover, and foster a highly collaborative environment. Financially, we have reduced overhead costs and reduced payroll tax contributions. I have found that the Best Workplaces for Commuters program is good for our company and good for our people.”

The Best Workplaces for Commuters program offers designated organizations access to a range of support services to assess and promote non-driving commuting of employees, including organizational assessment and implementation tool-kits, web-based tools and webinars, staff training, and information exchange.

“The companies on this list understand the importance and impact commuter benefits have on their employees and the value they bring to the environment,” said Bond. “Excellent commuter benefit programs reward these companies not just with a national designation, but buoys workplace productivity, customer loyalty and brand recognition in an increasingly competitive marketplace.”

About Smart Panda Labs 

Smart Panda Labs is a digital consulting firm that drives customer lifetime value by optimizing every digital experience along the customer journey in a variety of considered purchase industries such as higher ed, travel and hospitality, healthcare, real estate, retail, and technology. MWBE-owned and founded in 2010 by digital strategy experts from Fortune 1000 companies, Smart Panda Labs is focused on the strength of data-driven and creative intelligence to increase their clients’ new customer acquisition and improve customer retention.  Visit Smart Panda Labs. Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter 

About Best Workplaces for Commuters (http://www.bestworkplaces.org/ 

Best Workplaces for Commuters is the national authority on recognizing and assisting workplaces that provide exceptional commuter benefits to employees. More than a recognition program, the Best Workplaces for Commuters program provides support needed to create and sustain an employer-provided commuter benefit program, including online assessment tools, advisory services, case studies, tool-kits, web-based tools, webinars and training. Best Workplaces for Commuters represents over 350 workplaces with Best Workplaces for Commuters designation representing over 2,000,000 employees. The Best Workplaces for Commuters program is managed by the Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR)  at the University of South Florida with support from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). 

About Center for Urban Transportation Research (https://www.cutr.usf.edu/) 

The Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR) at the University of South Florida, established in 1988, is an internationally recognized resource for policymakers, transportation professionals and the public. CUTR provides high quality, objective expertise in the form of insightful research, in-depth policy analysis, comprehensive training and education and effective technical assistance that translates directly into benefits for CUTR’s project sponsors.  CUTR’s faculty of 49 full-time researchers and 75 students, combines academic knowledge and extensive “real world” experience in developing innovative, implementable solutions for all modes of transportation.  The multidisciplinary research faculty includes experts in economics, planning, engineering, public policy and geography.  CUTR logs nearly $20 million per year in expenditures through contracts and grants to support its research, education, training and technical assistance missions. In 2019, CUTR was competitively selected by the U.S. Department of Transportation as the university to oversee the National Institute of Congestion Reduction. 

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Author: Shamir Duverseau
Shamir Duverseau

Smart Panda Labs Announces Certification as a Salesforce Consulting Partner

Orlando, FL – January 28, 2020  — Smart Panda Labs, a digital consultancy that leverages data and creative intelligence to drive customer lifetime value, today announced its certification as a Salesforce Consulting Partner.  As a Salesforce Consulting Partner, Smart Panda Labs enriches its service offerings to support clients with existing Salesforce applications or to lead successful implementations of world-class, cloud-based solutions.

”We partner with technology leaders who will enable us to further optimize the customer journey and building customer relationships is an integral part of that journey,” said Shamir Duverseau, co-founder and managing director of Smart Panda Labs.  “Salesforce offers a premier set of solutions that bring together processes, technology and people to improve customer acquisition and increase customer retention – all on a single integrated platform. As a Salesforce partner, we can now capitalize on the power of the Salesforce ecosystem to help our clients generate more prospects and increase revenue through a personalized customer experience.”

 

Salesforce Offerings

“We’re delighted to have Smart Panda Labs join the community of Salesforce Consulting Partners who are vital to enabling unparalleled customer success in every industry and every market around the world,” noted Tyler Prince, EVP of Industries & Partners at Salesforce.

The Smart Panda Labs team of data analytics and business intelligence experts use CRM to help their clients to build and manage customer relationships and all associated data and information as well as acquisition, content marketing, automation, and predictive intelligence.  Salesforce certification strengthens these capabilities with Salesforce-authorized services for:

  • Discovery assessment to evaluate an existing Salesforce Marketing Cloud implementation or gather requirements for a new one.
  • Strategic planning to ensure key business processes are addressed.
  • Implementation designed to integrate Salesforce with existing applications and accelerate the time to value.
  • Customized management solutions for continuous optimization of new customer acquisition and customer retention strategies and tactics.

“The ability to deliver these services to our clients is mutually beneficial,” said Duverseau. “These services drive client success and Salesforce certification is strategic to our growth in the coming months.”

About Smart Panda Labs 

Smart Panda Labs is a digital consulting firm that drives customer lifetime value by optimizing every digital experience along the customer journey in a variety of considered purchase industries such as higher ed, travel and hospitality, healthcare, real estate, retail, and technologyMWBE-owned and founded in 2010 by digital strategy experts from Fortune 1000 companies, Smart Panda Labs is focused on the strength of data-driven and creative intelligence to increase their clients’ new customer acquisition and improve customer retention Visit Smart Panda Labs. Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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Author: Shamir Duverseau
Shamir Duverseau

Humanize Data with Creative Intelligence

We hear a lot about data science these days, and well we should. It’s clear data is the new oil and the ability to gather accurate data can yield brands a great deal of power. That power can be used to fuel the Customer journey from awareness to purchase to loyalty and evangelism.

But something else has also become clear, or at least it should be. It’s not all science. It’s also an art. Science, in this context, can be defined as the systematic study of behavior through observation and experimentation. Then there’s art. Art is the expression and application of human creative skill.  And in that definition lies the key. Art is human.

Science, in a sense, removes the human part of the equation as it to move one closer to objectivity, and there’s no doubt that’s important. But it’s critical not to forget that no matter how much data we have, it’s data about people. People who are, more often than not,  subjective creatures with feelings and inclinations and needs that are hard, if not impossible, to quantify.

So, if you’re in the business of dealing with people – and if you’re in business then this means you – there is both an art and a science to this. And in that overlap, there needs to be a fine balance, a creative intelligence, that starts with the science of data but only uses it as a foundation to make things more human.

Now if this is key for any Customer experience, it becomes more key as the interaction and the decision becomes more human, as the purchase becomes more considered. Wikipedia defines a considered purchase as, “a complex buying decision with a high degree of financial and/or emotional risk and reward.”  Emotion, risk, reward. Talk about human concepts that are hard to define in aggregate, nevermind for the ever diverse individual.

Industry studies tell us that 90% of decisions are based on emotions. Personally, I think that is far closer to 100%.  We make decisions every day based on emotion and justify them later. All these decisions require some degree of creative intelligence, of both art and science. And they involve some risk, some potential for loss. However, while buying a book is one thing, buying your first home, deciding on a cancer treatment, choosing a career, booking your honeymoon…these are quite another.  And it’s not just because of financial cost. With these decisions, these considered purchases, the risks transcend financial cost. There is more emotional skin in the game, sometimes to a very serious or life-changing degree.

For example, take the considered purchase of buying a home. Data may tell you how many times a person visits a website, what keywords or ads got them there, what pages they viewed, where they live, and a multitude of other invaluable information.  The science may find patterns and correlations between specific keywords and specific content or how demographics align with the length of time between research and purchase. But now you are left with the why? Why do the data yield those results? And in leveraging the human element, you put yourself in the shoes of the first time homebuyer who is about to start a family or empty nesters looking for a place to retire.  It’s those considerations that drive you to use science to make artful decisions on what to test and how to test it that are far different than the ones driven by data alone. That’s creative intelligence at work.

Therefore, while business intelligence is critical and artificial intelligence is powerful, there’s an argument to be made that creative intelligence leads the way for optimizing the considered purchase. If you think about it, it’s the only way to be truly Customer-centric.  How so? Because it’s the only way that gives the Customer, the human, the weight they deserve in the equation.

Creative intelligence for the considered purchase. That’s what it’s about now, or at least what it should be.

Key Takeaways:

  • The power of data can be used to fuel the customer journey from awareness to purchase to loyalty and evangelism. But data isn’t the whole story.
  • No matter how much data we have about our customers, this data is about humans—people with feelings and inclinations and needs that are challenging, if not impossible, to quantify.
  • Extracting valuable customer intelligence requires creative intelligence, a process that applies meaning and understanding to existing data.
  • Creative intelligence is particularly relevant to analyzing considered purchases— complex buying decisions with a high degree of financial and/or emotional risk and reward.

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Author: Shamir Duverseau
Shamir Duverseau

Maximize Data with Lean Thinking

Build. Measure. Learn. Those three words are at the core of Lean methodology, a way of doing business that incorporates elements from Six Sigma, agile development, design thinking, and other sources. Lean methodology is a modern application to business that has a longer history in the manufacturing industry, originating in the Toyota Production System in the 1950s. It has since been used by successful startups and large corporations alike, across industries. Lean’s continuous improvement cycle enables companies to make meaningful progress by getting the best use of customer data and intelligence.

When it comes to the digital experience, Lean thinking can be a tool of immeasurable power. From acquiring qualified traffic to converting those prospects into customers to retaining those customers to build lifetime value, a Lean viewpoint can help optimize every touchpoint of the customer journey. As this is especially the case in a considered purchase industry, Lean is now at the heart of how we at Smart Panda Labs are helping our clients drive customer lifetime value.

Here’s how.

Build

Everyone knows that building products and services that meet customer needs is a primary goal of any business. But customer needs are varied and nuanced, requiring answers to a long list of questions. If you wait to answer all the questions at once, or worse, assume you already know the answers, you risk high costs and wasted time at best. At worst, you risk the failure of an initiative, a division, or an entire organization.

This is why the term “minimal viable product,” or MVP, has become so popular and so important. A tenet of Lean and Agile methodologies, an MVP is a product with just enough features to satisfy early customers and provide feedback for future product development.  Each iteration of this streamlined product or service is meant to answer a question or two, or meet a set of demands, but not all demands at once.

We have learned the value of MVPs for our clients’ products as well as our own. So, we build new services and processes, not as fait accomplis, but as MVPs in order to ensure that are meeting client needs.

Measure

Objectivity does not come easily to modern day organizations. While gathering unbiased data is becoming easier, there remains a persistent risk of a biased interpretation of the data.

Lean accounts for this through customer-centric experimentation and measurement, allowing customer interactions and feedback to live at the center of the story. Actionable metrics inform whether your customer is experiencing your product in the way you hypothesize, or if you need to pivot. Either way, customer data and creative intelligence are guiding your decisions, thus maximizing the results.

Our own actionable metrics include feedback from our clients. How do they feel our innovation is helping them? Is it making things easier or harder? Is it aiding them in meeting goals or communicating with teams? The answers to these questions, along with many others, will help us to know whether or not we are moving in the right direction. And these decisions can be based on real feedback, and not simply cool ideas that we fall in love with but bring no benefit to the client.

Learn

“If you cannot fail, you cannot learn.” Eric Reis, the author of The Lean Startup, makes this simple but important point. Not everything works out the way you envisioned. Lean tells us that with every failure comes a wonderful opportunity to learn and iterate. The key is to embrace the opportunity.

For example. One of our clients engaged us to run an experiment on their website. The first test we helped them run failed miserably and quickly. It was designed to be a quick win … but turned out to be far from it. However, the resulting learnings from this failure yielded another experiment that was impactful in both its effect on the business goals (adding seven figures of incremental revenue for the year) and the additional customer insights it yielded.

Failure can’t always be the primary concern. Whether or not we are learning from these failures is what matters. We use our learnings to improve products and services on behalf of our clients, and also to improve the client experience we provide. What makes us better at our jobs also makes for better relationships.

Build. Learn. Measure. This is the backbone of how we harness data and creative intelligence to help our clients drive value from their customers, and it is becoming the method by which we serve our clients, period. If you are reading this, you are more than likely someone’s client. Should you expect any less?

 

Key Takeaways:

  • Lean methodology is a continuous improvement approach that enables companies to make meaningful progress by getting the best use of customer data and intelligence.
  • A key tenet of Lean is the “minimum viable product,” or MVP, which encourages the release of a product with just enough features to satisfy early customers and provide feedback for future product
  • Lean also emphasizes customer-centric experimentation and measurement, so that customer data and creative intelligence are guiding decision making.
  • Lean tells us that with every failure comes a wonderful opportunity to learn and iterate. The key is to embrace the opportunity.
  • As applied to digital marketing strategy, a Lean viewpoint can help optimize every touchpoint of the digital experience—from acquiring qualified traffic to converting those prospects into customers to retaining those customers to build lifetime value,
  • Lean and its backbone of Build, Measure, and Learn is now at the heart of how we improve products and services for clients. It also informs how we improve the overall experience we provide our clients.

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Author: Shamir Duverseau
Shamir Duverseau

Choose Your Partner through Diagnosis & Design

Someone once said, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” Both the origin and context of this quote are somewhat obscure and open to interpretation, but it comes to mind whenever I think about the importance of seeking the right help at the right time, particularly in business.

For example, to meet specific business goals, you and your team may have reached the conclusion that more digital expertise and resources are needed. There are hundreds if not thousands of agencies and consulting firms that specialize in digital marketing, strategy, and technology and further specialize in a particular market segment. If you are seeking a partner to support your digital efforts, is finding one that simply focuses on your target market sufficient to be considered the right help at the right time?

Of course, cost is likely a factor in the decision making, as well as the likeability of the team. But I would argue that none of the aforementioned criteria predict whether a firm can actually help you meet your business goals. You may not even know the obstacles your business must overcome in order to meet those business goals—a fact that makes it all the harder to choose the right partner to see you through.

To find the right help at the right time, you need a process that is not simply focused on personalities or price—although those are factors—but on discovery, diagnosis, and design.

Discovery

To provide a framework for this process, think about a visit to the doctor. No matter how much you like the provider’s personality, or the price of your copay, your primary concern is their ability to address your health concerns. You want them to take the time to understand your symptoms, review your test results, and apply their expertise and knowledge to properly diagnose your problem.

Your organization is no different. Before you can begin solving problems, you first need to understand what they are. Engaging a third party—ideally the agency you hope to enlist over the long term—can help you conduct a thorough exploration of your current digital strategy. Engage this partner to listen to what you need, audit how things are currently working, review the data, and help you take stock of your digital challenges and opportunities.

Diagnosis

After robust discovery, it’s time for a careful diagnosis. Conditions can be complex and nuanced, so the right diagnosis takes time. Everyone on your team needs to agree on the problem, because everyone must be invested, collectively, in solving it. If the firm supporting you in this process is applying their expertise and their creative intelligence to the process, they will be able to help you connect the dots between causes, symptoms, and the challenges to solve.

Design

With respect to our doctor visit analogy, once you feel good that you and your care team have properly diagnosed your health problem, it’s time to design your treatment plan. The same applies to your business. Once your challenges are diagnosed, your partnering firm or agency will need to provide you with a high-level understanding of the proposed solutions. You’ll also need to know what the solution is worth to you and your organization, not just in potential revenue but in errors prevented, time saved, or opportunities created. And you need to have a clear understanding of how the partner will be able to add value.

Just as you wouldn’t select your medical specialists without knowing what is wrong and how to treat it, it is only after the discovery-diagnosis-design process is complete that you can make an informed decision about your partnership. How will the agency address the problem? What empirical intelligence and expertise will they bring to your team and your organization? How do they plan to work with you to overcome the obstacles? And, what will these solutions cost you?

 

When all is said and done, you want a partner who will act as your guide and add value to your work. They will use data and intelligence to articulate problems and bring solutions to the table. And, ideally, they will also identify early in the discovery-diagnosis-design process if they are the right fit for the task at hand, or whether additional “specialists” may be required along the way. If they do become your agency of record as a result of this process, then you’ll enjoy the added benefits of earned trust, an established common language, and a completed trial run of the collaboration.

We believe due diligence is a necessary part of the selection process. Before you put your trust in a partner, put your trust in the process.

 

Key Takeaways:

  • If you are seeking a partner to support your digital efforts, you need a process that is not simply focused on personalities or price—although those are factors—but on discovery, diagnosis, and design.
  • Before you can begin solving problems, you first need to understand what they are. Engaging a third party—ideally the agency you hope to enlist over the long term—can help you conduct a thorough exploration of your current digital strategy.
  • After robust discovery, it’s time for a careful diagnosis. If the agency supporting you in this process is applying their expertise and their creative intelligence to the process, they will be able to help you connect the dots between causes, symptoms, and the challenges to solve.
  • Once your challenges are diagnosed, your partnering agency will need to provide you with a high-level understanding of the proposed solutions. You need to have a clear understanding of how the agency will be able to add value.
  • Just as you wouldn’t select your medical specialists without knowing what is wrong and how to treat it, it is only after the discovery-diagnosis-design process is complete that you can make an informed decision about your partnership.

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Author: Shamir Duverseau
Shamir Duverseau

Smart Panda Labs Co-founder Alex Corzo Recognized by Orlando Business Journal 2019 40 Under 40

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Author: Shamir Duverseau
Shamir Duverseau

Smart Panda Labs Appoints New Director of Client Success

Orlando, FL – September 25, 2019 — Smart Panda Labs, a digital consultancy using data and creative intelligence to drive customer lifetime value, today announced the appointment of Lisa Edwards to the newly-created position of Director of Client Success. In this key leadership role, Edwards will collaborate with and support clients on goal-oriented and data-driven business strategy and development solutions while promoting transparency and managing expectations with internal project teams.

“Since our founding in 2010, Smart Panda Labs has been on a steady growth trajectory – guiding the digital business and marketing strategies of some of the world’s most successful global brands,” said Shamir Duverseau, co-founder and managing director of Smart Panda Labs. “Creating the position of Director of Client Success is a logical step forward in our company growth and in advancing the exceptional client service that has become our hallmark.

“Lisa is uniquely-suited to assume this position,” continued Duverseau, “With deep domain expertise in product management and digital strategy combined with her charismatic approach to managing client relationships and project teams, Lisa will be instrumental in ensuring our clients’ long term profitability and optimizing the considered purchase journey of their customers.”  Prior to her appointment, Edwards served as Engagement Director at Smart Panda Labs.

About Lisa Edwards

Lisa Edwards is an accomplished and versatile leader with 10+ years of digital strategy, product development and project management experience. Building and fostering Smart Panda Labs client relationships, Edwards simultaneously focuses on the goals and growth of team members to promote an environment that encourages innovation. Her specialties include product development and management, digital marketing strategy and planning, Agile project management, partner development, and relationship management. Before joining Smart Panda Labs, Edwards led successful multi-million dollar digital programs at The Walt Disney Company.

About Smart Panda Labs 

Smart Panda Labs is a digital consulting firm that drives customer lifetime value by optimizing every digital experience along the customer journey in a variety of considered purchase industries such as higher ed, travel and hospitality, healthcare, real estate, retail, and technologyMWBE-owned and founded in 2010 by digital strategy experts from Fortune 1000 companies, Smart Panda Labs is focused on the strength of data-driven and creative intelligence to increase their clients’ new customer acquisition and improve customer retention Visit Smart Panda Labs. Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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