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!
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: http://ernanroman.blogspot.com/