Is Your Customer Strategy Tech-Driven or Human-Driven?
Technology changes fast.
Human behavior, not so much.
I was reminded of this recently while reading an 1,800-year-old text.
The text speaks of four sons, “one who is wise, one who is wicked, one who is simple, and one who does not know to ask.” The text recommends telling the story to each son a different way.
In other words, segmentation.
Which is a good reminder — your customer strategy should start with human behavior and end with technology. Hopping on the latest tech trend is not a marketing strategy. Or to put it another way, don’t let the martech tail wag the dog.
Begin With Human Behavior
Begin by asking:
- What behaviors are customers/prospects currently exhibiting?
- What behaviors would we like them to have?
Then when there is a disconnect, you have to ask:
- What can we do (adding technology, better messaging, etc.) to get customers to change their behavior?
- How should we change our expectations/goals/technology to better align with customers’ natural behavior?
Sometimes customers don’t act the way we want because they don’t understand the perceived value of the action. Sometimes we’re not making the right promise to our customers. Or sometimes our lack of technology causes the customer to devalue our offering. This is a great opportunity for marketing to better communicate value to improve performance using conversion optimization on the messaging or launching a technology project to offer a richer feature set, customer portal, self-service abilities, more helpful customer touchpoints, etc.
But sometimes customers don’t act the way we want them to because our business goals do not reflect the reality of the marketplace. And technology may be dictating the experience for customers, instead of being shaped by it.
Tweak Technology to Align with the Right Human Behaviors
Here is a simple example. I was recently going through a checkout process, and when I clicked on “Country” in the form, the first option was “Afghanistan.” The form was alphabetical, so I had to scroll all the way down to the “U” section to get down to “United States of America.” (I know, I can click the “U” on my keyboard to get their quicker, but still, not a great customer experience).
Wild guess here: This company probably gets far more purchases from the United States of America than Afghanistan.
It’s a very simple (and common) example of technology taking precedence over human behavior. And just because its common does not mean we should dismiss it, because it unnecessarily causes customer frustration and friction in the purchase process.
If human behavior was the compass by which this marketing team made every decision, they would look at which countries produce the most business and list the country names in that order. Or use technology to serve the customer by defaulting the country name order based on the IP location of the visitor.
Now you might think, “Hey, this is just a default alphabetical listing in a plug-in.” Even still, the company making the plugin could use a human behavior-centric approach. For example, instead of just listing the countries alphabetically, they could list them based on GDP, in which case the USA ($21.5 trillion GDP) would be first, and Afghanistan ($20.8 billion GDP) would be much farther down the list.
Use Technology to Enable, Not Suppress, Human Behavior
The above example is a simple change, but what happens when customer behaviors don’t neatly align with our overall business model because they’re just interested in something else?
As Harvard Business School professor Thales Teixeira shared in our interview about mobile marketing and value decoupling, the first reaction is often to use tech to stop natural human behavior—whether that’s a cellular company blocking the installation of certain communication apps on phones or a retailer trying to use tech to disrupt cell signals and stop showrooming.
Using technology in this way is like trying to reverse the flow of the river.
Better to start with the natural flow of human behavior and use technology to shape and harness the river. One nice example we discussed was an online insurance company. It used smartphone app technology that enabled customers to buy insurance on individual products for specific time frames (like insuring a camera only while you’re on vacation) instead of having to buy an annual policy.
And Realize Not Every Solution Requires Technology
When you think tech first, there is always another platform or software or piece of the martech stack that seems absolutely essential. But when you instill in your team a focus on human behavior first, you might find some interesting work arounds.
Let’s go back to what we started the article with—segmentation. When we think of it as a behavior and not a tech feature, we can come up with creative ways to address it.
For example, In a recent MarketingExperiments YouTube Live session — "The End of Web Design: Don’t design for the web, design for the mind" — host Flint McGlaughlin (the managing director of MECLABS Institute) displayed a webpage and asked the audience “How would you make this page more human?”
One of the attendees gave a nice example of focusing on simple changes a marketing team could make that don’t require a major tech investment — “Invite the audience to segment themselves through a quiz or better yet separate them in the channel and send them to specialized sites if possible.”
There are many smart ways to layer technology into your marketing strategy, but they should all begin with human behavior. In that way, tech enables the behavior, instead of dictating it.
Daniel Burstein is the Senior Director, Content and Marketing at MECLABS Institute. Daniel oversees all content and marketing coming from the MarketingExperiments and MarketingSherpa brands while helping to shape the marketing direction for MECLABS — digging for actionable discoveries while serving as an advocate for the audience.