Actionable tips, community conversations, and marketing inspiration.

Pulse of the Industry: What We Learned From Our Customer Advisory Board

Veronica Covdy

Customer Marketing Manager @ AdRoll

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Embedded in the fabric of AdRoll is a hungry desire to truly understand our customers so that we can be of better service to them. This includes learning how they're navigating marketing challenges, pain points they're trying to solve, creative tricks of the trade, what they're prioritizing, and overall consumer trends.

Last month, we hosted 30 customers from various sizes and industries at our Customer Advisory Board in New York City. The event was a great opportunity to get to know what direct-to-consumer (D2C) marketers face on a day-to-day basis and to share exciting things that AdRoll has in store for 2020 and beyond.

Getting face-to-face time with customers shed light on things that I hadn't considered and reinforced the importance of building a customer-centric community. After a day jam-packed with learning and networking, I figured I would share some of these invaluable insights. Let's dive into my six biggest takeaways from our customer advisory board.

1. Marketers Crave the Opportunity to Learn From Each Other

The time spent mingling with each other, and knowledge sharing was by far everyone’s favorite part of the day. We sent out a post-event survey to attendees, and 100% said they want more in-person events to network with one another. There were people exchanging business cards (yes, those are still a thing) and contact information, simply for the purpose of staying connected after the event. 

Action Item: Consider starting a customer community where you can facilitate learning and networking amongst like-minded customers. Doing something as simple as creating a Slack channel and inviting those in your immediate professional network can be hugely impactful. Still not convinced? One stat that may blow your mind is that there are 4 million groups on LinkedIn, but less than 200 active Slack communities. Get on this trend soon before others in your industry catch on.

2. Brand Awareness Is Top of Mind

Out of the four customer journey phases (Awareness, Interest/Consideration, Purchase, and Retention/Loyalty), brand awareness is the area of focus that most of the marketers in attendance are allocating most of their time, budget, and resources towards. Some of the most successful increase lifetime value (LTV) and decrease customer acquisition costs (CAC).

Action Item: As noted above, brand awareness is a hot topic among digital marketers. Do your research and outline a brand awareness plan of action — this is especially important with the holiday shopping season fast approaching. This can consist of anything from creating top-of-the-funnel content to building out a highly-targeted social media campaign.

3. Marketers Are Ditching Last-Click Attribution

While maintaining some merits based on its simplicity and ease to implement, the ever-increasing multi-channel world has quickly shown that last-click attribution doesn’t cut it anymore. As a reminder, last-click attribution awards 100% credit of a sale to the last thing a customer clicked on before purchasing. The issue with last-click is that it gives marketers a narrow view of the customer journey and may cause brands to overvalue a marketing tactic or channel. Additionally, it can be nearly impossible to tie online and offline purchases to a specific action or strategy. This was echoed by nearly everyone at the customer advisory board. 

We surveyed our customers and found that most are using multi-touch attribution models. Multi-touch attribution awards credit to all of the actions customers take before purchasing, enabling brands to get a more holistic view of their customer journey, which empowers them to invest their marketing budgets smarter. Even with these benefits, our customers shared their intent to move towards a more data-driven approach — using data to optimize each channel more effectively. 

Action Item: If you're still using last-click, conduct an audit of all the products, campaigns, and channels that impact your customer journey. Make sure to avoid zeroing-in on vanity metrics, such as a customer's first or last interaction before purchase. Once you have an understanding of your channels, it will be easier to define marketing goals and align attribution objectives with your overall business goals. An improved marketing attribution model can help you understand true ROI, beyond just clicks.

4. Marketers Want to Increase LTV but Don’t Know How to Do It

During one of the breakout sessions, we had our customers map out their customer journeys. The goal was to not only help them visualize their customer journey (and associated mar-tech stack) but to also identify gaps and learn from their peers on how they can solve for these gaps.

As part of the exercise, customers outlined the areas that their organization was prioritizing (with time, resources, and budget), the areas they're interested in exploring, and the areas they're not prioritizing. Overwhelmingly, the majority of customers are spending the least time focusing on loyalty and retention.

A majority of their teams and organizations are conducting their business as if the customer journey were a linear experience (e.g., a person becomes aware of a brand, engages with the brand, and ultimately buys from the brand). However, everyone understood that it's more cost-efficient to improve their LTV as opposed to acquiring a net-new customer. Acquiring a new customer can cost up to five times more than retaining a current customer.

Action Item: It's time to rethink your allegiance to the traditional marketing funnel. Conversion paths have become incredibly complex (i.e., the customer lifecycle is not linear), and marketers need a roadmap that reflects that. Enter the marketing flywheel. The flywheel demonstrates how crucial current customers are by emphasizing how they spurn growth. Do a bit of research and start implementing it into your overall marketing strategy. 

Additionally, check out this post to learn about some quick-win tips to create and implement an effective retention program.

5. Marketers Are Investing in Out-of-Home Channels

D2C brands, such as Away, have come up with outside-the-box ideas to improve customer engagement. For example, Away created a travel lifestyle magazine, called Here Magazine, that's filled with everything from travel tips, inspiration, and essays. 

Our customers have taken note of these tactics and reinvested in out-of-home channels, like direct mail and podcasts. One of the customers in attendance discussed their most recent brand awareness campaign, where they placed subway ads throughout New York City. This was their first time investing in this type of tactic, and the results spoke for themselves: the search volume of their brand increased, which led to an influx of new website traffic. 

As a group, we discussed how these channels can be undervalued with the large shift towards digital channels, and there’s a huge opportunity to cut through the noise by showing up in non-conventional places.

Action Item: Map out all the channels where you engage with customers to see if they are primarily digital and how they differ from your competition. Once you identify your current channels, research unorthodox, or undervalued methods that could work for your industry, and set aside some budget to test. This can be as simple as a direct mail or as big as a billboard. Remember, out-of-home channels can be hugely impactful as long as they’re engaging and add to the value of your brand… and who knows, you could go viral!

6. Talking to Customers Is Really Important

There's no single piece of data that can replace the value of sitting down and talking to customers. As much as a marketer can try to predict what a customer may need, their pain points, and their goals, getting a sense of who they truly are can be a breakthrough for any marketing team (and company!).

Our customer advisory board events are structured in a way that gives customers the ability to impact every facet of AdRoll — this includes everything from how the business operates, product roadmaps, marketing initiatives, and more. Above all else, though, I witnessed firsthand how these events help build strong brand-customer relationships. Allowing customers to be more involved in the way that you conduct business creates trust and makes it easier for them to become emotionally invested in your success. This forges relationships centered around reciprocity and goodwill that last a lot longer than traditional, transactional relationships between customers and brands.

Action Item: Jump at every opportunity to talk to the people that you're marketing and selling to — customers! Don't just sit back and wait for something to come along. Host a networking event, meet-up, or happy hour. If you don't have the time or resources to host an in-person event, it can be as easy as scheduling a phone call or hosting a virtual meet-up.

Before you jump on a call, make sure you do some research on the customer and map out your questions. However, you don't want to have the conversation feel like an interrogation, so allow yourself to go off-script. There are so many ways you can connect with your customers — they’ll be thankful you did.

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