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TIAA CMO Connie Weaver Answers 4 Questions for Marketing Innovators

Connie Weaver is an expert in brand transformation, customer analytics, and digital strategy. Her approach combines the "art and science" of branding by establishing data and measurement as a key complement to on-going innovation. Currently the Chief Marketing Officer for investment giant TIAA, she has led marketing efforts for a range of Fortune 100 companies, start-ups, and non-profit organizations.

Connie recently participated in the "4 Questions for Marketing Innovators" series.

1. What is one marketing topic that is most important to you as an innovator?
Breaking down the barriers to innovation, no question. It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that it's too difficult to innovate in a complex environment. This is the kind of shackled thinking that drives innovators crazy! Not only is this constrained confidence bad for you as a leader, it's terrible for your organization.

Look at TIAA. Look at financial services. We are a nearly 100-year-old company in an industry loaded with many more guardrails than you'll find elsewhere. FINRA, banking regulations, insurance compliance standards – the list goes on.

Yet we were able to innovate beyond even our own expectations throughout all phases of our transformation. We placed the customer at the center of every decision and asked, "How does our brand make the customer feel? How can we enhance that emotional connection?" We dramatically streamlined our website and online experience. Our marketing function collaborated with our legal and compliance groups to make sure our new "radically simple" language still fit within industry regulations.

And yes, there were barriers along every step. One of the keys to overcoming the pain points is to remember that you can innovate anywhere, anytime. If you make the customer a priority and passionately stand behind your mission, there is always a path. Sure, you may need to test and learn, walk before you run. We all do. But stay resolute in your efforts to be innovative and you will move the needle.

2. Why is this so important?
The results that you can drive through innovation make all of the effort worth it. Since rebranding TIAA, we have seen major improvements not only in awareness of our brand, but deeper understanding of what our brand stands for and how it can support the customer's needs. We've also seen great leaps in online traffic and doubled the time visitors spend on our site.

These are major wins. And they have all occurred because of our commitment to innovate with the customer in mind. We continue to meet customers where they are in their financial journeys and provide them with the tools they need to reach major milestones. If we hadn't decided to set off on this quest for innovation and transformation, we could possibly be falling behind our customers and what they need from us.

3. How can this improve the customer experience?
The experiences we are fostering for our customers are always top of mind for us. And that comes out of trust, loyalty and total transparency. We sat in the living rooms of customers to talk about their financial fears and trepidations. We took our focus way "off Broadway" and traveled to cities across the country to uncover major insights.

If customers feel front and center – and that you're willing to innovate to help them and not just yourselves – then they are more likely to engage with your brand. And, we can achieve our goal of making our customers feel more confident in their financial futures.

4. How will this improve the effectiveness of marketing?
If there is true buy-in, innovation can galvanize an organization. This TIAA transformation was not about one single person being an innovator or one single idea being innovative. This has been about driving change for our customers and getting a lot of people to help us along the way.

From the beginning, we thought outside of the financial services box and stoked up partnerships internally. We worked hand-in-hand with sales, legal and compliance, finance, and strategic agencies.

And this all-in engagement is what has made me the most proud. I have led many successful brand transformations in all sorts of crisis and change, but never before have I seen this type of impact in such a short period of time. Our entire organization has rallied behind our customers. Ninety-six percent of our employees now understand the TIAA brand and what it represents. And we are excited to continue delivering innovation for 100 more years.

Bonus Question: What is your favorite activity outside of work?
I love working with nonprofit organizations to help them rebrand and become more customer-relevant. Making a difference matters to me and I'm lucky enough to serve on the boards of the national Make-A-Wish Foundation, Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, and the University of Connecticut Foundation. Let's not forget roller coasters, skiing and hiking – as if my professional life isn't exciting enough!

About the Author:
Ernan Roman Direct Marketing's Customer Experience strategies achieve consistent double-digit increases in response and revenue for their clients, which include IBM, MassMutual, QVC, Microsoft, and Symantec Corp.

As a leader in providing Voice of Customer research-based guidance, ERDM has conducted over 10,000 hours of interviews with their clients' customers and prospects, to gain an in-depth understanding of their expectations for high-value relationships.

The results achieved by ERDM's VoC-based strategies earned Ernan Roman induction into the Marketing Hall of Fame.

Visit his blog at:

Universal Answers? They’re in the Matrix

Do you know every type of communication that your customers are getting from your company? Do you know who's sending it, when they're getting it and how they're getting it? Did they request the communications, or is your company initiating contact based on customer information? 

You might not have all those answers at your fingertips, but one of the first things we do when we engage with an enterprise company is to create a communication matrix. That information-rich graphic allows us to see how you communicate with customers across the enterprise. Using the matrix, we can sort out what business units are sending communications to customers, and what channels they use to do so.  

This short video explains the information that goes into the matrix, and what we can devise from it once complete: 

Interested in creating a full view of your company's communications in order to find opportunities for efficiency and optimizing the customer experience? Click here to see an example of how we sort communications in the matrix.

About the Author: 
Eric V. Holtzclaw is  Chief Strategist  of PossibleNOW. He's a researcher, writer, serial entrepreneur and challenger-of-conventional wisdom. His book with Wiley Publishing on consumer behavior - Laddering: Unlocking the Potential of Consumer Behavior - hit bookstores in the summer of 2013. Eric helps strategically guide companies with the implementation of enterprise-wide preference management solutions.

Follow me on Twitter: @eholtzclaw | Connect on LinkedIn: Eric Holtzclaw

Being Human in the Age of Digital

Listen, remember and respond. That's how we communicate with one another. Wouldn't it be nice if companies could interact with us like our friends do, like other humans do? Too often, interacting with companies is cold, impersonal and frustrating. We get siloed or forgotten, or worse – called repeatedly from every department on the same day. Robotic, erratic, impersonal, right? Let's be human instead.

Of course we know that companies struggle to listen, remember and respond to individuals. There are many challenges for a single entity to do so, technical and organizational chief among them. When a customer "talks" to a company, whether via text, email or in-person in a retail environment, that information doesn't necessarily get filed away anywhere. But shouldn't it?

All this human-to-brand communication and not a data point to show for it. The result being that information is lost because the company doesn't have a way to store, share, react and communicate back to those customers in the future based on their stated preferences. To the customer, it appears that the company wasn't listening or simply doesn't care.

That lack of follow-through, or inability to follow-through, has consequences for customer experience, retention, efficiency, compliance and more. But more simply: It doesn't allow your company to react like a human.

Do you think your company is listening, remembering and responding to customers? For your company to feel human in the age of digital, they must gain control over communications.

In the coming weeks I'll discuss the challenges and solutions in communicating with your customers and how we can learn to listen, remember and respond.

Eric Tejeda is the Director of Product Marketing for PossibleNOW and CompliancePoint. Eric supports the organization’s growth objectives by productizing and launching innovative new products and services that fill critical needs in the marketplace. 

With 25 years of experience, Eric firmly believes that permission-based marketing and preference management is a mega trend and the path to success for marketers today. 

Follow me on Twitter: @EricTejeda | Connect on LinkedIn: Eric Tejeda

New Year, New Commitments

If one of your resolutions in 2017 was to enhance engagement, you're in the right place. While everyone else is still paying off gym memberships in order to run on treadmills to nowhere for their personal resolutions, you can set forth on professional resolutions and be confident that that you're well on your way to a solid 2017.

Instead of classes and diets, CMOs are buying software, engaging consultants and (gulp) seeking buy-in from skeptical CEOs. In the gym, the search for fitness might begin with push-ups, the stair-stepper or perhaps some good old-fashioned weights.

In the CMO's office, the solution is murkier. A clever social media campaign? A bigger investment in display advertising? A new in-store customer service training program?

For many enterprises, the journey to engagement must begin with listening to and learning from its audience. Without the basic ability to hear what consumers want and respond to their wishes, every other engagement initiative is doomed to fail. We call this preference management – the active collection and distribution of preferences such as product interest, channel preference and frequency of communication.

These preferences are not derived by profile data, purchase history or where they are on your website; rather, they are expressly stated by the consumer themselves. In other words, preference management means giving your customers and prospects the ability to conveniently communicate with your company, recording the information in a central location and acting on what they say. 

Sounds simple, right? In truth, it can be incredibly complex for an enterprise-level company with numerous customer touchpoints, departments, offerings and locations. As larger organizations delve into the topic, they soon discover why preference management is easier said than done. 

But who said getting in shape was easy? The point is that it is possible to make real progress on engagement when you start at the right place and move forward in incremental steps. For now, I invite you to consider your company's ability to collect, maintain and appropriately distribute customer and prospect information. Search this site for articles and videos on how to get started and don't hesitate to contact us to lean more. 

If engagement is your goal, preference management is your starting point. Welcome to the gym!

Rob Tate
As Vice President of Sales, Rob is responsible for growing the client base and market share and helping his sales team achieve their goals. He also develops partnership opportunities and industry relationships. Rob focuses on generating consistent results, utilizing sales and opportunity management tools and implementing best-of-class sales methodologies all of which have enabled him to build a scalable sales organization. He continually studies how metrics, leadership, culture, and innovation drive business value in the SaaS and marketing automation fields.

Don't Take It Personally, But Innovators Are Done With Personas

"The reason personas failed to achieve true personalization is that they were too simplistic to reflect the unique attributes that differentiate individual customers and prospects from the mass of other similar customers and prospects. And that is the essence of true personalization."

These sentiments belong to TIAA CMO Connie Weaver. Indeed, over the past 12 months, we've seen a surge in the number of companies disappointed by the lack of a significant increase in response and engagement from their traditional persona-based segmentation. Whereas personas were once a good starting point to identify "buckets" of customers, the limitations of persona-based marketing have become apparent as the consumer decision-making journey veered from its predictable linear path and increased in complexity.

"Customer expectations for personalization have changed with astonishing velocity in the past year and will continue to transform rapidly," said Paul Andrukonis, director of channel engagement and personalization at Citi Global Cards. "To keep pace in today's highly personalized marketplace, it's essential to empower customers with the ability to shape their individual marketing and service experience with your brand."

Persona Research Findings
A consistent finding has emerged from thousands of hours of B2B and B2C Voice of Customer (VoC) research our firm has conducted for brands such as Microsoft, MassMutual, Gilt, and QVC: "It is essential for marketers to establish 'human partnerships and relationships' post-sale. Consumer relationships require authentic and relevant communications and interactions."

Additional thoughts from our research regarding the impact of personas gone wrong include:
  • "When I receive generic emails, it is obvious that you do not care enough to understand my individual needs. Instead, you are trying distill my complex needs into simple generalities to make your email blast easier for you ... and useless to me!"
  • "You marketers don't seem to understand that personalized engagement post-sale is valuable for the customer and ... it forges strong ties with your company that serve as a 'grace account' upon which to draw when there is the almost-certain problem or outreach from competition."

A Fortune CMO summed up the damage caused by traditional personas this way: "We are using new CRM technology to automate old bad behaviors ... not guided by how customers define improved CX and personalization ... so the result is irritating and brand-damaging spray and pray."

Going Forward: Human Data-Driven Personalization
Traditional personas based on implicit data (web browsing behavior, data mined from social media, and purchased-based behaviors) do not provide the necessary depth of information to drive relevant communications and offers. As a result, today's personas are not generating the expected increases in response. Marketers must now make a profound shift toward "human data," which is based on explicit, self-profiled, opt-in preference data. Human data personalization is unique in that it lends itself to segmentation based on self-described personality types, attitudes, and life stages.

"We are shifting focus from products we want to sell to truly understanding the financial needs and uncertainties of our individual customers and how they 'feel' about these complex issues," TIAA's Weaver said. "This is a profound shift and will impact every aspect of our personalization, CX, and problem-solving for each individual customer."

Added Citi's Andrukonis: "You will not transform your key metrics, such as conversion rates, engagement, ROI, or anything else, until your customers see their voice reflected in where, when, and how you sell your products. Moreover, by letting customers make you smarter about how, and how frequently, you market your products, you create more opportunities to heighten engagement with your brand."

Another brand leader, GameStop, is initiating new strategies to gain deeper insights about who its customers are in order to develop more authentic and effective human data-based personalization and CX strategies.

"We recently analyzed the personas we had been using and found that the customer had changed dramatically," said Darin Smith, senior director of PowerUp Rewards at GameStop. "We are now rethinking the real-world, human differences, versus just transactional differences, among our individual customers and formulating a plan to engage with them as individual gamers versus superficial aggregates of different gamer personas."

Another exciting innovator is luxury design brand Shinola. "Traditional personas tell you very little because they are based on simplistic models and transactions," said CMO Bridget Russo. "They cannot help understand why customers bought, what motivated them to buy, etc. Cookie-cutter persona-based marketing will not work for today's savvy buyers."

Dennis Kopitz, Shingle's director of ecommerce, added: "To achieve and scale true personalization, we need to obtain deep human insights regarding who buys which category of our products, why they buy, what their needs and expectations are, and what they want next from us. This will take us to a far deeper level of understanding than traditional personas."

Persona Takeaways
How can you evolve to the next level of personalization and achieve "human data-based partnerships and relationships" with customers? Here are three considerations:
  • Traditional segmentation based on modeled "generic" personas does not differentiate individual consumer interests, lifestyles, and connection with the brand/product. Rather, it limits the ability to demonstrate why a consumer should purchase from it versus competitors.
  • Human data, based on explicit, self-profiled, opt-in preference information, drives deeper levels of understanding and is therefore the key to developing more significant relationships.
  • Poorly executed personalization is viewed as irritating by consumers and not only wastes of marketer's time and resources, it damages brands.

About the Author:
Ernan Roman Direct Marketing's Customer Experience strategies achieve consistent double-digit increases in response and revenue for their clients, which include IBM, MassMutual, QVC, Microsoft, and Symantec Corp.

As a leader in providing Voice of Customer research-based guidance, ERDM has conducted over 10,000 hours of interviews with their clients' customers and prospects, to gain an in-depth understanding of their expectations for high-value relationships.

The results achieved by ERDM's VoC-based strategies earned Ernan Roman induction into the Marketing Hall of Fame.

Visit his blog at: