Choosing the Right Customer Experience Management Platform

CEM platforms serve customers at every stage in the journey. Choose the one that’s best for you.

A “customer experience” management (CEM) platform needs to serve the needs of the customer at every stage in the journey from awareness to purchase and post-purchase. And, it needs to deliver relevant content, at the right time, on the right channel, based on the data-proven needs of the customer.

This report is a guide to evaluating, and choosing the customer experience management platform that best suits your company’s chosen customer experience approach. In the report, we identified four customer experience archetypes that companies can choose depending on business objectives, customers’ needs, and operating environments. The goal is to find a CEM whose strengths and unique capabilities match the CX archetype that your company prioritizes. The guide is based on an analysis of the specific features and strengths each vendor has, rather than a ranking of who offers the most solutions in one suite.

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The 5 Stages of Digital Content Maturity

From early stages to sophistication, companies follow a predictable path in the content maturity cycle.

Meeting Customer Needs Through Digital Content

Customer expectations of branded content have changed, and companies must evolve their strategies to meet them. Today’s customers demand personalized, relevant content and they want a consistent experience across all a brand’s digital content channels. In our research, we found that companies who were doing the best job of meeting these customer expectations shared six common traits:

  • Leadership supported content efforts
  • Content strategy that extended beyond marketing
  • Content creation is based on customer data
  • Multiple teams created content, but shared a common vision
  • Content was personalized and delivered in real-time
  • Content was expected to impact the business

To achieve these indicators of maturity, companies must go through a series of sequential changes across their entire content operation. We found that companies progress through five stages on their way to digital content maturity:

  • Non-Strategic Stage: No expectations for digital content
  • Testing Stage: Initial experiments begin
  • Scaling Stage: Focus on scaling production and delivery
  • Strategic Stage: Recognition of content beyond marketing
  • Sophisticated Stage: Content serves customer needs across the organization

By identifying which stage most closely describes their current state, companies can prioritize the steps they need to take to reach the next stage of digital content maturity. Companies can use this maturity model to benchmark how far they have progressed across each pillar of the content-producing operation, including leadership, strategy, governance, creation, delivery and measurement.

Read the full report to gain a better understanding of your organization’s digital content maturity.

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Experience Strategy: Connecting Customer Experiences to Business Strategy

When it comes to experience, customers want relevance and speed, not delight. How can you deliver faster?

Despite customer experience being a top priority for the C-suite, few organizations have a coherent strategy that aligns customer experience against business strategy and then across departments. Our research found that the key is to use relationships as the foundation for a next-generation customer experience strategy, with touchpoints and journeys remaining practical necessities. The strategy must prioritize experiences that create relevance in the relationship that in the end drives business results.

This report describes how to develop a strategy that starts by understanding the maturity of your experience strategy formulation and execution capabilities. From there, it includes the four steps of an experience strategy process:

  • Understanding the next generation customer on a continuous basis.
  • Creating a vision and guiding principles that connect experience to relationships.
  • Prioritizing experience initiatives for relevance.
  • Aligning the organization for execution.

Key Findings

  • Despite making customer experience a priority, companies still don’t know how to invest in it.
  • When it comes to experience, customers want relevance and speed, not delight. The most important elements of an ideal customer experience are fast responses to questions/complaints and the ability to find information quickly.
  • Experience strategy is defined as a set of prioritized and coordinated moves that use experiences to build relationships that result in brand and business outcomes.
  • A robust strategy starts with an honest assessment of where the organization is on the experience maturity curve, along three dimensions of Strategy and Vision, Organizational Readiness, and Leadership Alignment.
  • Organizations should take four key steps to build a next-generation experience strategy.

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The 2019 State of Digital Marketing

Acquiring the right skills and scaling innovation are the biggest challenges for marketing organizations.

What Does Digital Marketing Excellence Look Like?

Altimeter’s 2019 State of Digital Marketing report gives marketers the latest data on how companies are using digital marketing to drive business results. It identifies and quantifies the key practices being used by companies to achieve digital marketing excellence.

Based on a survey of 500 senior digital marketers across North America, Europe and China, the report provides key insights into what strategies, channels and practices perform best, including how these vary across industries and regions. It also identifies trends in innovation, current technology adoption and key metrics for measuring digital marketing success.

Key Findings From the Report

  • Brand awareness (37%) was cited as the top goal of digital marketing, followed by lead generation (26%) and customer experience (20%).
  • Acquiring the right skills (55%) and scaling innovation (54%) are the biggest challenges for marketing organizations.
  • Data analysis (41%) and tech expertise (38%) are the most-desired skills in new hires.
  • Sixty-one percent of marketers said customer loyalty and Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) are their top metrics for measuring digital marketing success.
  • Over 60% of respondents said their companies have mapped a digital customer journey, content customization rules, and testing points across all digital touchpoints.
  • Websites (56%) and social media (69%) are the best-performing channels for digital marketing.
  • Salesforce (26%) and Adobe (22%) are the most popular “primary” digital marketing platform vendors.

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The Next Chapter of Digital Transformation in China

Our research finds that in China, change efforts are more likely to be customer-focused and led by CEOs.

How to Unlock Uncommon Growth in the New Digital Era

Digital transformation is one of the most closely followed topics in the world today. And in China’s distinct and fast evolving landscape, digital transformation is even more important. In the past few years, the tech giants BAT (Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent), JD and some of our most recent tech unicorns including Didi Chuxing, ByteDance (TikTok and Toutiao), RED and Meituan Dianping among others, have led the first wave of digital transformation. Now, we are entering the ‘second half’ of the digital revolution, where more traditional businesses are transforming themselves to become more digitally-led to compete and thrive.

Prophet’s digital research arm, Altimeter, recently published The 2018-2019 State of Digital Transformation report, aiming to capture the shifts and trends that are shaping modern digital transformation, globally and in China. We surveyed 554 digital strategists, C-suite and other executive-level leaders from organizations with at least 1,000 employees, across three geographies: North America (US and Canada), Europe (UK, France and Germany) and China. Our global study revealed insightful differences between businesses operating in China, and those in the rest of the world, on how they think of and approach digital transformations.

Altimeter identified ‘The Six Stages of Digital Transformation’ to help companies understand where they are — and where they need to be — on the road to digital transformation

In this article, we will discuss some of our observations and findings as well as implications on how to drive digital transformation and unlock uncommon growth in China.

Digital transformation is no longer an option, but an enterprise-wide initiative that is increasingly led by the CEO.

Our study demonstrates that almost all companies around the world, and even more so in China, are undergoing some sort of digital transformation. Digital transformation is no longer an option but a crucial component in any business growth strategy. In China, 89% of the companies interviewed are undertaking cross-disciplinary and enterprise-wide digital transformation, higher than the rest of the world.

Q: Is your organization undergoing a formal digital transformation effort in 2018?

In the past, it’s oftentimes the CIO/CTO that leads digital transformation initiatives. Nowadays, they are increasingly led from the top. 42% of the companies in China said that their steering committee for digital transformation is led directly by the CEO, which is significantly higher than what we found in other countries (29% in rest of the word).

Q: Which role or group does the steering committee primarily report to?

Companies in China are ‘playing offense’, using digital transformation as a way to differentiate, drive revenue, enhance customer experiences and acquire new customers.

When we asked which departments are prioritized in their digital transformation efforts, Chinese companies compared to the rest of the world are far more focused on digital transformation in the space of marketing and customer experience (83% of digital transformation in China touch customer experience, 58% marketing, 75% e-commerce, compared to 32%, 40%, 23% respectively). China is also applying and directing digital transformation towards product and innovation, far ahead of the rest of the world.

However, Chinese companies seem to be putting less emphasis on its digital transformation behind internal efforts such as HR, employee and legal.

Q: You mentioned that your role directly supports the digital transformation of a specific business unit. Which business unit(s) do you support?

This orientation of digital transformation toward external factors over internal efforts is closely linked to China’s highly competitive digital ecosystem and dynamic market landscape. To serve rapidly changing consumers and respond to a fast-moving and innovative environment, businesses in China use digital to stay competitive. Every industry has to keep up and evolve – retail only exists as “new retail,” finance is simply fintech and manufacturing is all about IoT, robotics and AI-powered solutions.

For companies in China, digital transformation is all about ‘playing offense’ and driving a competitive edge. Digital transformation helps identify growth opportunities (62% in China versus 48% in rest of the word), it helps understand consumer behaviors and preferences (50%  versus 45%) and it helps respond to increased competition (45% versus 40%).

On average, global firms tend to use digital transformation as a means to drive operational efficiencies, whereas China tends to focus its digital effort to drive customer demand and experiences.

Q: What are the key drivers of digital transformation within your organization?

The drive for growth is clearly reflected in Chinese companies’ long-term priorities of digital transformation as well. When deep diving into the areas of focus for their transformation, one can clearly see how CX and customer data strategy dominate the agenda. While 62% of the firms in China are investing in IT and technology to better manage data, a third of companies in China are still finding their way to design new and improved customer experiences, to integrate better and make e-commerce more intuitive, to improve the agility of their operations.

It is worth noting that organization and internal transformation is relatively low in terms of priorities for many Chinese companies, compared to CX and other growth-centric efforts.

“For companies in China, digital transformation is all about ‘playing offense’ and driving a competitive edge.”

Q: Each of the following describes different types of digital transformation initiatives. Please indicate which initiatives are most important to your long-term digital transformation efforts. (Data shown above is from China respondents only)

As high as 74% of the Chinese companies interviewed are in the process of (28%) or have completed (46%) mapping out the customer journey.

BAT or the like of Didi have raised consumers’ expectations. Any consumers interacting with a brand and business expect fluidity, just in time, total personalization, and complete integration cross touch points and interactions.

Q: Which of the following best describes your company’s efforts around the customer journey/experience?

Companies in China see ROI and budget as bigger challenges than organization and culture.

As companies in China evaluate whether to increase investments in digital, they expressed concerns about the lack of data and ROI. In fact, 61% of companies in China expressed concerns over the lack of data and ROI, while only 34% shared concerns with budgeting. While external factors clearly motivate companies in China to transform digitally, they are less worried about internal facing ones compared to the rest of the world.

In other countries, a lack of clear vision (18%) and company culture (23%) pose major challenges for companies. Whereas in China, these numbers are substantially lower, at only 11% and 6% respectively. This again signals the confidence and determination of businesses in China to drive forward digital transformation despite internal obstacles. The top-down cultural norm in China and the fact that many employees are digital native and fluent as consumers, provide businesses a competitive advantage, being more intentional and more rapidly willing and ready to transform.

Executive Summary

  • Over the past decade, China’s growth and technology transformation has been led and fueled by BAT (Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent). We are now entering the next chapter of digital transformation where businesses and brands must adapt and lead their own digital transformation to compete and thrive.
  • In China’s unique digital ecosystem, almost all companies are undergoing digital transformations. Compared to other countries in the world, Chinese enterprises embrace digital transformation in a more proactive way—with CEOs playing a bigger role in leading the effort.  Additionally, companies in China prioritize consumer-facing touch points, such as customer experience and e-commerce, to a significantly higher degree in their digital transformation.
  • It is worth noting that having a strong organizational culture is instrumental to sustainable growth. However, companies in China are overwhelmingly more concerned with ROI than internal initiatives like organizational structure and employee engagement. While a driving customer-centric growth is a competitive advantage for companies operating in China, internal organization, way of working and company culture are also essential enablers for tapping into the Body, the Mind, and the Soul of the organization. Another global study by Prophet, Catalysts: The Cultural Levers of Digital Transformation, argues that organizational culture and the employee experience have a vital part to play in shaping progress. As a result, the human factors in digital transformation have grown in prominence.

We believe, in order for businesses to win with digital transformation, they must adopt four necessary shifts in mindset and way of working:

1. From being technology-focused to being customer-obsessed

Technology is a means, not an end. Investing heavily in IT or data systems is undoubtedly important. However, without deep understanding of your target audience, you are just doing digital for the sake of digital. Businesses must leverage digital approaches and strategies in a smart way to identify, understand and serve their customers in a more agile and profound way.

2. From tech-led sponsorship to multidisciplinary sponsorship

Digital transformation is instrumental to the future of any company, and how business will operate. CEOs must play a pivotal role in driving the transformation agenda forward.  The CEO must clarify the strategic roadmap, drive cross-disciplinary collaboration, coordinate resources, and encourage trial and error across the organization, to experiment, learn, to codify and ultimately scale up.

3. From investing in operations and touch points only to investing in people and culture

The growth of a business and brand is deeply rooted in its internal capabilities and the company culture. This is especially true in the digital age where a company’s organization, people and culture need to be more agile and adaptable. However wonderful the digital infrastructure or system is, the capability of the team (the mind), the mindsets (the soul), the new operating model (the body), anchored on a clear purpose (the bigger Why, the firm’s DNA), are what matter in delivering truly effective, winning digital transformation.

4. From regarding digital transformation as a cost center to keep up, to thinking transformative investments to achieve uncommon growth

Although digital transformation requires significant investment, the outcome will be extremely beneficial if successful. Instead of worrying about the cost, identify clear objectives and benchmarks to continuously measure ROI and impact on revenue growth and profitability, while adjusting investment accordingly. After all, digital transformation is not a ‘whether or not’ question, it is a must have, must do.


Successful digital transformation means shifting focus from technology to customers and moving resources towards internal organization, employees, culture and measurement. As China’s digital ecosystem becomes increasingly sophisticated, on top of investing in consumer facing digital initiatives, companies must adopt the mindset to look inward—to their own organization, culture and work style—to find sustainable growth in an era of disruption.

Where does your company stand in digital transformation compared to other companies around the world? Click here to download the global report for more insights.


The State of IoT In the Home: Part 1

As consumer interest in connected home devices grows, home security, health and safety get star billing.

The “Internet of Things” (IoT) market for the home — in which disparate devices work together to create a “smart home” — is in its early days. Some connected devices have long been in use in municipal life, at work, and in our personal lives (e.g., smartphones and “wearables”). But while home security systems and smart utility meters have been around for years, the “digital transformation” of the home is still just getting off the ground.

Our research shows that while adoption for home IoT products is in the early stages — only 23% of consumers own at least one IoT home product, like a smart TV — purchase intent is very strong. We anticipate three waves of adoption over the next several years and, if consumer intent is realized, an average global growth of 265% (in units sold) in the next 12 months.

In this report, we answer questions that help brands position themselves for this market: Who is the smart home IoT product buyer? What does the next wave of buyer look like? What drives consumers to purchase, and what obstacles do they perceive? What products for the home do consumers want to be smarter and connected?

Key Findings

To form a clear picture of where the smart home IoT market is headed, we started by researching who’s buying connected products today, who is likely to buy in the next phase, and longer-term prospects. This is what we learned:

  • “Early Adopters” are frustrated by a lack of automation at home and view connected technology as the solution. They are young, skew male, and are less price-sensitive. Once aware of a new connected product, they are more likely to purchase it
  • “Fast Followers” are more concerned with the ease of use of home IoT products and expect them to learn their habits, becoming more useful over time. Although their incomes are on par with Early Adopters, they are much more price-sensitive, less brand conscious, believe connected products shouldn’t cost more, and less likely to value premium products
  • Although “Laggards’” awareness of IoT for the home in some product categories is on par with awareness of Early Adopters and Fast Followers, they are much less likely to convert to purchase. Having the latest technology products is less important to Laggards, who skew older and just slightly more female
  • The Chinese market for home IoT products is particularly promising, especially when it comes to ownership of connected devices and intent to purchase. Chinese consumers are the least price-sensitive of any region and focus more than consumers in any other region on health benefits when making purchasing decisions
  • Our research findings point to three waves of home IoT product adoption. We believe near-term adoption will focus on the Home Security and the Home Environment Control product categories, followed by the Home Entertainment and the Health & Fitness categories, and, lagging, the Bed, Bath & Kitchen and the Pet, Child & Elderly Care categories
  • Consumer priorities for health and safety — and for product attributes like relevance and value — are leading drivers for the next wave of adoption. Device aesthetics and prestige of ownership lag in priority. Again, significant cultural differences between China and Western cultures should be studied by brands that target both markets

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Key Elements of a Next-Generation Digital Marketing Strategy

Get new insights into demand generation, driving digital commerce and optimizing customer experience.

Six Drivers of Digital Marketing Success

Digital marketing has come a long way from simply putting banner ads on the internet. It has evolved from mass messaging to personalized messaging, and finally to integrated communications in blended physical and digital environments.

In addition to the traditional goals of creating awareness about the brand, marketers can now choose from a new range of goals, ranging from demand generation, driving digital commerce, and optimizing the customer experience of products and services.

In order to deliver on these new goals, marketers need a next-gen digital marketing strategy, one that goes beyond the scope of what marketers could traditionally achieve and harnesses the power and complexity of today’s marketing technology and data platforms.

This report defines the key characteristics of a next-gen strategy, and identifies 6 drivers of its successful implementation to help you evaluate your team’s readiness for the next phase of its digital evolution.

In this report, you will learn:

  • What defines a ‘next-gen’ digital marketing strategy
  • What key factors drive success in this new marketing paradigm
  • How to prioritize the use cases and technologies that are most important to your marketing organization

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The State of Digital Transformation 2019

Most transformation efforts continue to focus on modernizing customer touchpoints and enabling infrastructure.

Digital is an enterprise-wide strategic priority — but there’s work to be done

Now in its fifth year, our annual “State of Digital Transformation” research continues to document the constantly evolving enterprise. As disruptive technologies and their impact on organizations and markets continue to progress, our research aims to capture the shifts and trends that are shaping modern digital transformation.

In 2019, strategic digital transformation is only becoming more pervasive moving beyond IT to impact competitiveness throughout the organization. Budgets are soaring. The list of disruptive technologies on the radar of stakeholders is expanding. Ownership is moving to the C-Suite and managed by cross-functional, collaborative groups. Customer experience (CX) continues to lead digital transformation investments, but as we observed in 2017, employee experience and organizational culture are also rising in importance to empower and accelerate change, growth, and innovation.

Digital Transformation as an Enterprise-Wide Movement

This year, it’s clear that digital transformation is maturing into an enterprise-wide movement. Digital transformation is modernizing how companies work and compete and helping them effectively adapt and grow in an evolving digital economy.

What’s also evident is that there is still much work to do as companies are, by and large, prioritizing technology over grasping the disruptive trends that are influencing markets and, more specifically, customer and employee behaviors and expectations.

The State of Digital Transformation: 5 Key Takeaways

  • A successful digital transformation is an enterprise-wide effort that is best served by a leader with broad organizational purview. For the second year in a row, CIOs are reported as most often owning or sponsoring digital transformation initiatives (28%), with CEOs increasingly playing a leadership role (23%).
  • Market pressures are the leading drivers of digital transformation as most efforts are spurred by growth opportunities (51%) and increased competitive pressure (41%). With high-profile data breach scandals making daily headlines, new regulatory standards like GDPR are also providing impetus for organizations to transform (38%).
  • While there is a growing acknowledgment of the importance of human factors in digital transformation – like employee experience and organizational culture – most transformation efforts continue to focus on modernizing customer touchpoints (54%) and enabling infrastructure (45%). But many organizations are not doing their due diligence when it comes to understanding their customers, with 41% of companies making investments in digital transformation without the guidance of thorough customer research.
  • Organizational buy-in remains a top challenge for those leading digital transformation. The companies we studied report digital transformation is still often perceived as a cost center (28%), and data to prove ROI is hard to come by (29%). Cultural issues also pose notable difficulty, with entrenched viewpoints, resistance to change (26%), and legal and compliance concerns (26%) stymieing progress.
  • Innovation is staking its claim within the organization. Nearly half of respondents report that they are building a culture of innovation, with in-house innovation teams becoming the norm.

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What Does Digital Marketing Excellence Look Like in 2018?

It’s time to move past funnel metrics and look for more accurate ways to track marketing’s impact.

Marketers today are under pressure to master an ever-increasing range of new skills and technologies, but few think they’re actually doing well:

  • 39% of marketers don’t think their organization’s marketing strategy is effective (HubSpot, State of Inbound  2017)
  • Only 6% of companies think their digital marketing and traditional marketing integration process is completely optimized (Smart Insights, Managing Digital Marketing research report, 2017)
  • Only 58% of marketers say they are often successful in achieving their marketing goals (CoSchedule, State of Marketing)

With declining organic search results and click-through rates on content, it’s no wonder that digital marketers are having a harder time proving their success. However, this perceived lack of success has less to do with marketers’ abilities, and more to do with a lack of clear benchmarks for success. How do you know you’re good if you don’t know what good looks like? We’ve identified three markers of excellence for the modern digital marketing department.

The New Indicators of Digital Marketing Excellence

In the early years of digital marketing, the goal was digital adoption and scale. This meant transitioning from traditional channels to digital ones, like web, email, social media, search and display. In 2018, we’re well past that point, as the investment in digital marketing channels is outpacing traditional channels for the first time. “Going digital” is no longer a marker of success or innovation.

Instead, here are the new most important factors for driving digital marketing excellence:

Going beyond the top-of-the-funnel

Traditionally, digital marketing has focused on the beginning phase of the customer journey, where its job is to create brand awareness and consideration. But there’s no reason marketing activity should stop once a potential customer goes from a prospect to a lead or even a buyer. With its ability to create data-based content and deliver it on relevant digital channels, marketing has permission to play in areas it hasn’t before.

“There’s no reason marketing activity should stop once a potential customer goes from a prospect to a lead.”

However, this depends wholly on how well marketing can leverage the data, content and tools of customer communication used by other departments, such as sales and service. By collaborating on strategies and sharing assets, modern marketers can use advanced data analysis and personalized content to keep customers engaged at every step of the journey. They can optimize any kind of communication, ranging from targeted promotional ads on social media to personalized relevant content on the website, and post-sale emails that introduce other products or customer service information.

“3D” customer segmentation and personalization

Advertisers have always created targeted content based on demographic customer data. And digital marketers have recently become very good at targeting customers based on their online behavior, such as their keyword searches or browsing history. However, the most sophisticated marketing departments are now targeting customers using “3D” customer segmentation. This is advanced customer segmentation that combines demographic data (age, sex, location or income), behavioral data (online activity generated in the moment) and preference data (historical data from previous sales or surveys) to create a holistic profile of the customer, and their specific needs at every step of the journey.

To do this kind of segmentation, marketing departments need to invest in platforms, processes and people who can ingest, standardize and analyze customer data from many different channels and departments. It’s an exercise that requires a tremendous amount of trust and collaboration across departments, but the end result is a highly relevant customer experience that drives loyalty, advocacy and most importantly, increased revenue.

Operating in new environments

Customer expectations for communication are shifting to new environments and channels, and companies must evolve to meet them. Marketers should be prepared to operate (and innovate) in new, blended digital and physical environments. These include connected objects (i.e. the Internet of Things), smart assistants (Siri, Alexa etc.) and augmented/mixed/virtual reality environments.

Some of these new environments are not managed by marketing, however, marketing can still have an impact by sharing customer data and setting guidelines for creating compelling, relevant content that’s consistent with the brand.

Key Components of a Digital Marketing Organization

Although we’ve identified three major factors for modern marketing excellence, it can be difficult to know where to start. To help you map (and assess) your organization’s capabilities, we’ve identified four areas (or disciplines) you need to excel at:

Team Empowerment:

This includes having a clear strategy, supportive leadership and a solid idea of governance and accountability for all the marketing processes within the organization. It also includes evaluating the teams’ skill set and determining where additional training or hiring is required.

Best Move Strategy:

This is the ability to synthesize insights from multiple customer data sources to program the “next best move.” This is a highly personalized message or piece of content delivered to a customer that has the best chance of achieving the desired outcome, such as acquisition (for new products), moving closer to purchase or creating an up-sell opportunity.

Creative Customization:

This area is responsible for actually creating or setting the rules for the dynamic creation of content/messages that have been requested in the “best-move strategy” module. New demands in volume and velocity also require higher efficiency in content development and higher effectiveness in performance.

Platform Enablement:

This area focuses on having the best possible resources, in terms of data and technology that can execute the marketing plan across all the other disciplines. In many cases, it’s less a matter of adding new technologies and more about extending capabilities or creating integrations to achieve new goals.

Three Ways to Assess Your Company’s Digital Marketing Maturity

The below figure breaks down the specific tasks that are usually components of each discipline, varying by the size and type of organization.

Download Full-Size Chart

If we map these disciplines against each channel the company uses to communicate with customers, we get a grid that allows us to map exactly where the strengths and weaknesses of the marketing organization lie.

Download Full-Size Chart

You can use this grid to assess your marketing organization in three different ways:

Approach 1: Focus first on a single channel

You can evaluate the strength of every discipline within a single channel, for example, if you’d like to get better at your social media strategy, you can evaluate how well your social strategy is defined (Team Empowerment), whether you can use customer data to effectively personalize messages (Best-Move Strategy), how good your creative assets and messaging are performing (Creative Personalization) and finally you can evaluate the quality and performance of your social media management tools (Platform Enablement.) This framework provides a comprehensive way to evaluate a single channels performance, or assess the viability of a completely new channel.

Approach 2: Focus on a single discipline, across all channels

Alternatively, you can focus on improving a single discipline, especially if it is a central team that is responsible for it across all your digital channels. For example, you could focus purely on your customer analytics team (Best Move Strategy) or your integrated marketing platforms stack (Platform Enablement) to power personalized experiences across all your channels. This approach works best for organizations that want to completely embrace new and innovative practices across the board, rather than an incremental, channel-based approach.

Approach 3: Chart a path to excellence

If you’re looking for a complete overhaul of your marketing organization, the best approach might be to conduct a full-scale assessment of every discipline, across every channel, and identify gaps/weaknesses. You can then create a list of initiatives, and prioritize them according to impact, and cost, giving you a clear roadmap that not only improves existing processes, but creates ways to implement new innovations. This is a much longer approach, but it is the most methodical, and accommodating way to effect a true digital transformation of marketing.


If there’s one thing the above frameworks show, it’s that digital marketing isn’t quite marketing anymore. By using personalized content, real-time communication, and messaging that isn’t always promotional, it’s safe to say digital marketing is actually digital communications. Instead of a loudspeaker, marketing is just a speaker, (and a conversationalist at that).

This isn’t to say that sales, service and marketing should be rolled up into one uber-communications department. Each customer-facing department can continue to operate according to its traditional roles and strengths. It does mean, however, that marketing’s ownership of digital channels and customer data gives it a central – if not leading – role as an innovator and custodian of the digital customer experience. And that should empower marketers to define their success in more expansive ways than ever before.

Learn how Prophet can help you evolve your digital strategy!


There Are 5 Content Strategy Archetypes – Pick One

Our research shows there are powerful advantages to choosing one type of content and sticking with it.

Companies today are throwing all sorts of content at the consumer, hoping that something, anything, will stick.

Do you want a company blog with Buzzfeed-style listicles? Done! Do you want an entertaining persona you can follow on social media? Check out our tweets! What’s that? You’ll only consider us if we give you research results that no one else has? Download our whitepaper!

As a result, marketing departments are either drowning under the pressure of constantly feeding the content beast, or they’re paralyzed by indecision, and not producing any content at all.

“The best content-producing companies have clarity and purpose for the content they create and deliver.”

The best content-producing companies have clarity and purpose for the content they create and deliver. Not only do they have a clear idea for what content they are going to produce, more importantly, they know what they won’t produce. This kind of clarity comes from making data-driven decisions about what kind of content will deliver on the needs of their specific audiences/customers.

The Five Content Strategy Archetypes:

Our research shows there are really only five types of content that companies produce. The key to success is to prioritize one of them, and base your content strategy on it. It’s all about picking one type of content and becoming really good at it, rather than trying to produce everything. These five archetypes are:

1. Content as Presence

This archetype is all about content that is promotional and aimed at reaching a wide audience. It focuses purely on promoting the brand, rather than the company, or its products. This type of content is also typically what we think of when we hear the term “content marketing.” It’s really great for companies who are new and want to get their name out there or companies that have been around for a while and want to stay relevant to their audiences. Examples include Coca-Cola or Red Bull, which run flashy advertising campaigns or live events that promote brand values such as excitement, friendship or a lifestyle, but rarely talk about the product.

2. Content as Currency

This archetype is called “currency” because it involves delivering valuable, proprietary information to a customer in exchange for them considering your product or services. This content should help the customer make a decision in their personal or professional lives. It also makes the brand a trusted partner and credible thought leader, which in turn makes the customer more likely to consider purchasing their services. Examples include research whitepapers, expert advice or guidebooks. McKinsey is a company that does this well, running a full-service research operation to generate credibility for its consulting services.

3. Content as a Window

Sometimes, it’s in a company’s best interests to turn the lens on itself, rather than its brand or products (hence “window”.) This archetype’s goal is to promote transparency and loyalty by highlighting the company’s values, practices, and employees. Its especially good for companies whose products and services are considered “risky” and have to address consumer concerns about safety or ethics before engaging. Examples include hospitals like Piedmont Health which create articles and videos that showcase its doctors, surgeons and tell stories of patients successfully undergoing risky procedures.

4. Content as Community

Customers who are part of a community of shared interests or hobbies may believe their peers are more credible than a brand that sells products for that interest. Especially when it comes to exchanging tips and tricks, best practices, or finding solutions to common problems. By creating a platform, such as a forum or social media group for customers to exchange these ideas, the brand acts as a participant in the community and is able to take advantage of all the content that’s produced on it. A good example is outdoor equipment retailer REI, whose blog is almost entirely made up of community-sourced articles from outdoor enthusiasts.

5. Content as Support

Not all content as to be “marketing.” In fact, sometimes the customer’s biggest need is unsexy, product-focused content that simply tells them how to purchase, use, repair or upgrade a product or service. This is especially relevant for companies that make high-end, complex products, such as appliances or cars. Examples of this archetype include product manuals, how-to videos and FAQs.

How to Choose the Right Content Archetype

The first reaction most people have to the five content archetypes is “We have to produce all of them!” Practically speaking, this is true, but what we’re trying to establish is which content archetype will you invest most of your time and energy in. Try to answer, “what content will you be famous for?” If you can determine this, it will cut down waste, streamline your efforts, and most importantly, give you a clear content strategy with a purpose.

To do that, we recommend these steps:

Know Your Customer’s Needs

It all starts with using whatever data you have at hand to first identify your different customer personas (according to demographics, behavior, location) and then list their needs. Do they need product support information? Or would they rather get information that helps them make decisions outside of your products/services? Try to create a forced ranking of your customer’s greatest needs (that content can solve).

Identify Your Company’s Needs

Repeat this exercise with all the content stakeholders in your company, that is, any department or person whose success depends on the type of content their customer receives. Admittedly, it’s a little trickier since to create a forced ranking of priorities if multiple departments are involved. However, if you put the company’s needs as a whole before the needs of any one department, it becomes easier to prioritize the list. Does your company need to rebuild trust? Have more brand recognition? Less calls for its customer support centers? Try your best to narrow it down to the most important needs.

Select the Archetype That Delivers on Both

Using the process of elimination, go down the list of content archetypes and see which one has the best chance of delivering on both the needs you’ve identified of both the company and the customer.

Once again, this can be a difficult process and it might involve a fair amount of debate between your stakeholders, which is why we help facilitate these discussions in our Content Strategy Workshops!

The best way to reach agreement is to first choose an archetype that meets customer needs and then evaluate how well it does for company needs. In this way, your strategy is always putting the customer first, which, more often than not, ends up being the best thing for your company needs as well.


Finding the right content strategy archetype for your company can be a challenging process. While there are many considerations, these are just a few to help get you started.

Learn how Altimeter can help with your content strategy.


5 Tips to Better Train Executives on Digital Transformation

“What” and “how” are important. But without the “why” of transformation, digital efforts often fail.

If you are leading a digital transformation effort, you know how important it is to get executive buy-in. Yet many leaders have only a tangential grasp of what it means to be “digital” and shy away from getting their hands dirty. Altimeter found that low digital literacy or expertise among employees and leadership was the top challenge facing digital transformation initiatives. What’s frustrating is that while there is a plethora of training and development options, most executives still hang by their fingertips.

The problem is that most of the training programs focus primarily on the “what” and the “how”. What is digital transformation, What are the latest trends and business models you need to know (platforms, virtual reality, 3D printing, etc.), How do you use digital tools to engage with customers and employees, How do you lead a digital transformation process. But without the “why”, two things happen — they either never engage, or they see the potential but other priorities eclipse that early enthusiasm and digital fall to the wayside.

“The solution is to make digital transformation matter to each executive personally.”

The solution is to make digital transformation matter to each executive personally. I have been working with executives on their digital and social efforts for the past decade and the only successful, sustainable programs are those that continually reinforce the “why” of digital transformation.

5 Tips to Better Train & Develop Executives on Digital

Here are five tips on how to design or retool your digital training and development programs to ensure not only that executives develop a digital mindset, but that proactively seek out ways to improve their digital literacy.

  1. Tie digital to strategic objectives. Start with what is already a priority for every executive — the strategic objectives that they are on the hook to deliver. Identify how digital could help them achieve their strategic goal better, faster, more efficiently. There is not a single function or role that is not being impacted by digital — they key is to figure out why digital is important to each person. For example, if top line revenue growth is an objective, how can digital accelerate the decision making process with a target customer set?
  2. Put digital metrics on the executive dashboard. Every executive has a dashboard by which they measure their success. Having identified where digital can have an impact, include a few relevant, personalized digital metrics on the dashboard that connects digital to those strategic objectives.
  3. Enable peer mentoring. There is safety in numbers, and executives are no different. Hearing what’s working — and what’s frustrating — from their peers will give them the confidence and courage to try new things. Formalize the mentoring with “accountability partners” and make digital mentoring an item on the regular executive meeting agenda. Watch out for “reverse mentoring” where a lower-level (and typically younger) digitally-savvy employee is assigned to mentor an executive. The problem is that employees likely doesn’t understand the context of leadership for that executive and focuses on “what” and “how” without the “why”. I have found it infinitely easier to teach an executive how to think and be digital than to teach a digital native how to be a leader.
  4. Expose leaders to digital customers. At one company I’ve worked with, executives take every Thursday afternoon to go out and meet with customers. In the past few years, they’ve added digital channels to the mix, ensuring that executives see how customers use their mobile devices to engage with the company — and their competitors. There’s nothing like experiencing first hand the digital trials and tribulations as customers try to engage digitally with your organization.
  5. Engineer engagement. One of the hardest areas to change is the personal engagement of an executive on digital channels, either internally with employees or externally with customers and partners. In my book, “The Engaged Leader”, I lay out three ways to engage — Listen, Share, and Engage. Find ways to jumpstart direct, personal engagement by executives — the conversation and relationships they develop, if tied to strategic objectives, will sustain their digital engagement.


If you don’t have a digital transformation leadership training developed, here’s a list of executive development digital transformation courses. Before you send your executives off on these courses, make sure that they understand the “why” of digital transformation and ensure that when they return from the course, you have an environment that will nurture their newfound enthusiasm for all things digital.

Altimeter also offers customized digital leadership workshops that can be stand-alone, day-long events or worked into the agenda of your next executive retreat or offsite. Learn more.


How To Kill The Social Media Accounts You Don’t Need

Account proliferation is hobbling digital and social strategies. Social account territories can help.

As early as 2012—which seems like ancient history in social media—Altimeter researched the uncontrolled spread of brand pages in social. The first sentence of our 2012 report captured our message:

“Like a disease, social media proliferation will leave companies crippled — unless they develop a strategy to manage now.”

Problem solved? No. The problem still resonates with social business leaders today, including Alison Herzog, Director of Social Business Strategy at Dell. Herzog said, “Global businesses like Dell are complex – they’re made up of many regions, varying languages and cultures, diverse audiences and interests and wide-ranging areas of internal focus. Creating a focused, scalable social architecture and implementing this with a governing body is paramount. We knew that centering on customer experience, strategic pillars and where the real impact was possible matched with the appropriate resources would guide this, which became imperative when we completed the largest tech acquisition in history.” Prophet had the opportunity to work with the exceptional team at Dell to solve this challenge.

Social teams keep growing the number of owned accounts to keep up with continuous changes in social platforms, consumer behavior and business priorities. The result is a growing operational burden and a decrease in effectiveness per account. For many firms, like Dell, optimizing social account architecture is a requirement for effective social media innovation and performance.

Reinforcing the need for a solution is a telling data point from Altimeter’s recent 2016 State of Social Business report: 79% of the more than 500 strategists surveyed globally reported that “the social team is becoming more operational and a platform for other innovation teams.”

As a former social business leader at a major brand, that result didn’t surprise me. But, it heightened the importance of getting to the root of account proliferation. Business units will have a hard time using social platforms for business if they are too fragmented.  As a mature practice, we can expect the scope of social business operational responsibilities to grow, but an unchecked proliferation of pages amplifies this burden needlessly.

Can this be solved? Why hasn’t it?

Lack of governance lies at the heart of the problem. As a community of social business strategists, our “test & learn” approach has led to many impactful innovations, but rarely do we take the time to look back and decommission ideas that aren’t meeting objectives (especially individual pages/accounts that are perhaps perceived as low risk to leave abandoned).

There is a disconnect between the business objectives that initiated the page and the social team tasked with managing it. Or, the page’s creator may have left the company, making it difficult to remove. For many brands without an account management team for the social platform, filing a DMCA notice of copyright infringement may be the only option.

Another key issue is the low bar required to create a new branded page—especially if listening tools or rogue page trackers aren’t in place. Well-meaning employees may create pages for their store, an event or as a test. A few abandoned or underperforming pages may incur a little financial cost, but they quickly add up: crowding social metrics, complicating listening, confusing prospective customers with conflicting messages and – worst of all – creating the user perception that the brand doesn’t care or understand social media.

Simplifying a complex problem

As a governance problem, this is solvable—but it’s more than that. Not only do we need to fix the problem before it gets out of control, but better yet, this is the time to rethink the brand’s architecture of social media accounts.

Make a quick mental shift from today’s situation: If your current company had never implemented social media before, and had the benefit of starting from scratch, what would your social media brand architecture look like? You would want to consider the following:

  1. The Customer’s Journey.How do my social media pages fit within our broader, omni-channel customer journey? What pages do customers need and how do we create an intuitive experience that results in the outcomes we’re focused on? Does each organizational unit determine its own accounts in a silo, or is there a higher level perspective where fewer, broader accounts could make the journey feel seamless? When is an account so broad that it loses effectiveness?
  2. The Social Network Landscape.Where is there alignment between my business goals and the capabilities, culture, user demographics and consumer behavior of social networks? It may be easy to name Linkedin for recruiting, thought leadership or B2B sales needs, but what if alignment like this isn’t so obvious?
  3. Your Team & Resources.What social account architecture meets customer needs and has teams in my organization who are ready to commit to ongoing content and engagement? While internal reorganizations may be a constant challenge, finding teams who have strong alignment between goals and a new social page (that they can run with) is ideal. Of course, the danger to avoid here is an “inside-out” architecture, where your pages reflect your internal organizational structure, rather than the market and customer you’re serving.
  4. Your influence. Beyond the issues above, if you manage social for your company, you know the decision to take down an underperforming page can be problematic. How do you convince that leader that set up a Twitter handle she rarely uses that she should re-invest or decommission the account?  What if you only have a single page in Chinese for that market, but it isn’t performing?  Do you take it down, merge with others or reinvest? These are just some “tip of the iceberg” issues that emerge.

3 steps to redefining social account architecture

In our work with Dell, we found the secret to success is to work on three fronts:

1) Identify “social account territories” that reflect coherent customer journey needs. Once identified, it is possible to optimize the social account architecture (steps 2 and 3 below) one territory at a time;

2) use a data-driven, quantitative model for making easy decisions (e.g., those pages showing great or very poor results); and

3) use a decision tree—based on governance principles that leadership supports—to make tough decisions. Decisions range from removing the page, maintaining as is, re-investing, creating a new page where there is a missed opportunity, or merging the page with another.


With Altimeter’s deep research on this issue and Prophet’s brand strategy expertise, we’ve together developed a process that has delivered terrific results. For Dell, we helped to reduce the social team’s operational burden while allowing them to do what they do best: innovate and be a growth engine for the business. We’re grateful to Dell for working with us on this approach and pushing our thinking.

If you’re seeking guidance on your social account architecture or advice on how to re-architect your branded accounts, look no further. Contact us here or on Twitter (@EdTerpening, @ProphetBrand or @altimetergroup).