A Time for Everything: With Dynamic Mapping, You Can Talk to the Right Customers at the Right Time


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What’s your most favored source of consumer insight? Research? Behavior tracking? Predictive modeling? Self-reported profiling? All of the above?

How about Scripture? Ecclesiastes asserts that there is “a time to keep silence and a time to speak.” But many marketers just don’t know the difference.

Especially since the advent of email, many companies simply can’t seem to shut up. Or to be more specific, they don’t know when to say what to whom.

Is anybody out there listening?

We don’t need any more research to tell us that some consumers will do everything possible to tune our messages out. At the same time, however, we know that when our messages deliver value and relevance, people will listen.

To deliver relevant value to the individual, we must gain a better understanding of how our marketing communications look to the consumer. One of the best ways to get such a picture is touch-point mapping, an approach that has been around for a few years.

A family with a college student could receive information on an economy car, even though the parents might have bought a luxury sedan and an SUV.

Some years ago, in our practice we started creating “communications schematics,” so clients could see the whole range of customer interactions over a given time, usually a year in the customer lifecycle. That approach provides a unified, customer’s-eye-view of marketing communications and interactions, and often reveals gaps where some customers might be contacted to profitably drive incremental business. Just as important—perhaps more so in today’s world of easy and inexpensive email—such a snapshot illustrates how marketers over-communicate to some customers.

From snapshot to motion picture

But that “snapshot” approach was limited and static; it was still difficult to get a dimensional view of complicated customer scenarios. So we married it with another current marketing trend, the use of personae to understand customer behavior.

Perhaps one of the best-known uses of the customer persona in recent years has been Best Buy’s approach to merchandising stores and customizing communications according to different customer types: Barry the upscale techie, Jill the busy suburban mom, Ray the family guy, etc. It’s a helpful step in understanding archetypal customer behavior. When you create touch-point maps from the persona’s point of view, you have a new and valuable kind of customer insight: the dynamic touch-point map.

This technique allows marketers to view complex customer interactions over time, as they change based on different scenarios including customer behavior, profile data, preferences, regional or brand-specific promotional needs and other factors. It helps identify customer segments where there might be missed opportunities to stimulate desired behavior. At the other end of the spectrum, this approach highlights those customers at risk of communication overload. These are opportunities for efficiencies and savings, allowing you to more effectively allocate marketing resources. Consider how these companies use dynamic touch-point mapping to chart the course of their marketing communications:

  • A leading hospitality chain is working to understand how to communicate with its guests and reward program members more effectively. Dynamic touch-point mapping revealed just which customers were at which extreme; some customers were receiving literally hundreds of messages per year, while others with similar profiles received two. The company was able to adjust its complex communications matrix that includes a number of different brands and a dazzling array of marketing messages. By creating business rules based on the insights gleaned from mapping, the company minimizes the potential for annoying some guests—or simply getting lost in the background noise. At the same time, they can direct offers to customers who might be stimulated to visit more often.

  • At a major U.S. financial services firm, product-based silos produce multiple, uncoordinated communications streams, which can be confusing and off-putting to customers. With dynamic touch-point mapping, the company will be able to use customer knowledge to eliminate inappropriate offers from different divisions, and avoid multiple offers competing for attention. Frequently we find that when representatives of different product, brand or channel groups from the same company get together in a room and see a dynamic, holistic view of their customer interactions, a lot of light bulbs illuminate over a lot of heads.

  • In yet another industry, a multi-brand auto retailer is using a sophisticated approach to dynamic touch-point mapping to integrate enterprise-wide communications to diverse customer segments including prospective car buyers, past purchasers and service customers. Based on a number of factors, each customer will receive personal, informational selling messages at appropriate times. For example, a family with a college student could receive information on an economy car, even though the parents might have bought a luxury sedan and an SUV in the past. New parents might hear about the latest minivan. Customers coming off their existing leases would receive helpful information to help them secure their next car. Service reminders with special offers for longtime customers can be sent at the right times. Ultimately, this system will drive increased customer loyalty, repeat purchase, greater overall “share of garage” and increased cross-selling of service and other related products.

When companies use dynamic touch-point mapping, not only can they customize and streamline their marketing messages, achieving a better ROI, but also they can avoid sending the wrong messages to customers.

Too many of the wrong communications can lose customers. A recent U.K. study (The Corporate Culture Customer Trust Index, January 2007) shows that one of the top five drivers of customer distrust is “too many sales calls.” Another is the perception that a company fails to protect consumer privacy. Yet a third of the top five is “failure to correct mistakes.” All three sources of distrust can be caused by the failure to use customer insight to properly target and schedule communications.

Dynamic touch-point mapping is a new way of viewing customer communications, and it may become vital to helping marketers deliver relevance and value to individual customers and prospects.

It could be the first step to gaining the kind of consumer insight that tells us when to speak and when to keep silent.


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