At Dreamforce 2017 I sat down with Cambell Holt, Chief Customer Officer, at Mercer to discuss how Mercer is harnessing the marketing revolution to engage customers and boost sales.

Think back to the revolutions throughout history that shaped the world. The advent of machinery, then information technology, then the internet all had a profound impact on the way we do business. At Dreamforce, Cambell and I discussed these developments and how they have led us to a new revolution that is happening in business right now: a marketing revolution.

But first, let’s consider how these historical revolutions impacted businesses over time. With the industrial revolution the emergence of industrial technology and its new tools allowed businesses to scale. One machine did the work of 100 men. Trucks and tractors took over from horses and transformed agriculture, mining and construction forever.

However, as we transitioned into knowledge industries, it was the scaling of information and its management that became the challenge. That’s where the software revolution came in.

The emergence of computers allowed business software to be applied to the workplace. Keyboards on the desk replaced pens behind the ears and messy hand written ledgers.

As the cost of computing fell and personal computers became ubiquitous, enterprise software platforms started to spread through the fabric of business.

The rise of the internet also produced another twist in the tale - the emergence of cloud computing and Software as a Service (SaaS). However, marketing, despite being a core function of business, was left in the dark in the early days of this software revolution.

The marketing revolution

Marketing was always an art.

You hired an agency, gave them a brief and they went off into their creative dens to brainstorm and make works of art called advertising. Then you spent big bucks on mass media campaigns.

But the rise of social media networks and the mobile web changed everything in marketing by enabling democratisation. You could now publish your own content, such as videos and articles. Then you could grow your distribution on social networks and have direct access to target prospects and customers. This was the tipping point for the marketing revolution.

Then marketing technology started to make its mark.

Over the last 10 years we have seen the rise of platforms and automation technologies, which have put the power of marketing back in the hands of the company.

The ascent of marketing tech - case study

I was able to get some great insights from Cambell about how this marketing revolution was impacting Mercer and one of its key services - creating and managing superannuation funds for organisations.

With the rise of digital technologies the challenge has been to transform Mercer into a business where they have control over its marketing functions. Over the last four years Cambell has focused on transitioning the brand to focus on the customer and his key tool of choice to do that at scale was marketing software.

In the past they owned their technology and built it themselves but realised they couldn't achieve excellence or scale quickly with that approach. Their new tactic was to become renters of best in class technology rather than the owners. This enabled them to focus on the customer instead of building technology.

By combining the power of Salesforce's Marketing Cloud and their own insights and analytics tool called "Mercer Edge",  Mercer was able to achieve two key optimisation:

  1. Segmentation - Building databases that allowed them to segment customers according to different categories.

  2. Personalisation - Using those lists they have been able to send the right content, at the right time, on the right device that was relevant to the prospect.

So how does the tech create a better customer journey?

Doing those tasks manually would be impossible. So machines do the scaling of the marketing effort. In applying and using the smarts within the software, they found certain triggers that they identified as critical in the customer buying journey. These could be as simple as opening an email or logging onto the website.

It can even be as granular as the software sending a message to the call centre, which triggers a call to a prospective or existing customer because they have hit an age threshold, such as retirement. 

The key takeaway

Thanks to the marketing revolution, marketing software and its importance to a business has moved from nowhere to everywhere. Marketing cloud is now seen as being as important as the accounting and finance system. 

Cambell told me that for him, marketing software now delivers more value than any other enterprise software system. Not only does it enable increased prospect and customer engagement, it also grows sales.

The results

Using segmentation and personalisation Mercer has achieved impressive results in the past four years:

  • Doubling sales conversions

  • Increasing customer engagement by 120%

  • Producing digital customers which are 350% more valuable than traditional customers

These are numbers that every CCO or CMO wants to take to the CEO.

The future

So what’s the next revolution? The ability of marketing technology and automation to provide insights and scale business is now becoming obvious.

The future holds even more promise and possibilities. As artificial intelligence matures and evolves to the next phase, it will collect and manage the data at scale and use it to improve sales and profitability. This will be done using predictive analytics, machine learning and other emerging technologies to provide crucial insights for business.

Regardless of how technology evolves, the key to business success is always delivering an exceptional customer experience.

If you’re keen to learn more about the trends that are transforming marketing today, download the latest State of Marketing report.