Plain vanilla programmatic marketing strategies do not cut it anymore

by | Aug 19, 2019 | Airlines, News

I am sure you have been there. When someone knows a topic really well you will get a good recommendation. If they, in addition, know what you are trying to achieve you will get a great recommendation. If they know you equally well the recommendation will be world class. You feel that you have actually been helped. I suppose we agree. Do we?

Yesterday we, customers of mine and colleagues, discussed how to make programmatic marketing as effective as possible. We circled around the topic of personalisation, relevance, timeliness, etc. All absolutely spot on. But with certainty too narrow yet.

Digital Marketing is an understatement. It is an entirely new way of thinking.

There are elements that compare to traditional marketing & ways of engaging. There are elements that are new, most notably that it gives us the ability to interact with customers, as opposed to just push a message without getting direct feedback. It gives us the ability to interact with our customers in a whole new way.

When I think of proper digital engagement I think of four (4) things. They are definitely achievable. Step by step.

  1. Know yourself – Understand your own products and how they relate to each to each other. It enables to sell value. E.g. why not offer a person who likes Venice a trip to one of the Croatian towns in North Croatia?
  2. Build a digital selling machine – No need to know everything about me as a person. But learn about me and what I am interested in (as a customer). Build on it, remember it, make intelligent recommendations based on it.
  3. Abandon traditional channel thinking – Make it simple to interact with you. Be (like) a single, homogenous, digital assistant that gives me what I am looking for, independent of the channel.
  4. The organisation & technology foundation: Last but not least: Grow the foundation with your capabilities. The more effort you invest into your foundation (strategy & incremental growth) the smoother the journey will be.

Combining those pillars, the growth potential is in the double digits. For some beyond. For both, revenue as well as customer satisfaction and retention metrics like CSAT, NPS, etc.

Pillar 1: Know yourself

I – as a customer – expect you – as a business – to know your “stuff”. More eloquently, your domain. The more you know about me, of course, the better a recommendation will be. But first you need to know yourself (what you offer and how it is connected). Because what I, as a customer, am interested in and/or buy says a lot about my preferences already. And that enables you (as a business) to help me (as a customer).

Amazon is a good example. Their portfolio is extremely broad, and you would think there is no way to make a sensible recommendation. And yet, they are doing somewhat well. They have learned very well how their own product portfolio relates to each other and to you as their customer.

This enables much more elaborate propositions. If you are a travel business: Know your product and what it means for your customer. A flight to Rome could mean culture, summer, sun or business. It depends on length, time of year, the specifics.

Pillar 2: Build a digital selling machine

As a customer I want you to help me. All the way from planning a trip through to returning back home. You, as a business, don’t need to know every personal detail of mine. I don’t expect this from any business. What I do expect is that you learn about me, the business I did with you, what I am interested in, and make relevant recommendations.

What I feel is important is that you build a digital selling framework. Something that allows you to focus on modelling & testing audiences, rather than making sure the product ends up on .com or in an e-mail. Use technology to automate the display of product, so you can surface on the product and its target audience.

This makes it simple to do business with you. This on top of Pillar 1 will ensure you show the right thing to me. I have seen easyJet do this particularly well. Very subtle, smart recommendations, with the customer in mind (as opposed to the product). From a customer perspective they seem to make total sense within the given context.

Pillar 3: Be a single, digital assistant. Abandon traditional channel thinking.

We need to abandon thinking in traditional channels. Yes, we have channels, and we may need to structure our organisations along those channels. “Digital” – however – provides an ability to put your business behind a homogenous, digital surface. Something that feels consistent. Independent of how and where a customer interacts with your business.

This enables you to have the right conversation at every step of the journey. However a customer gets in touch with you. If you are an airline, and I call you on the phone you could know that I a) have an active booking with you, b) just landed with a 90 minute delay, c) am about to miss my connection, and d) am thus not interested in a cross-sell but in fixing my issue (not a real example!).

Pillar 4: The organisational & technology foundation.

That of course requires a solid foundation: from an organisational, operating model, data and technology perspective, etc. Typically my conversations are in the space of:

  • Delivery operating models: Define how you will structure your team so you can deliver all of this and the necessary organisational change – across silos.
  • Digital operating model: Define how do you sell & service in this new world? Bring propositions in front of the customer faster. Click-not-code-strategies is what I see happening here.
  • New data mindset & strategy: Make the shift from often slow & rigid (mostly) consistent data to fast(er) and eventually consistent data. I realise this is not equally applicable to every domain: e.g. finance, regulatory, etc.
  • Debt-tolerant governance models: I feel we need to make our governance models more tolerant to technical debt. Focus on speed rather than “making it too perfect”. I appreciate it is a fine line, but has to be addressed.
  • Explore & exploit way-of-working: Grow a capability to become more agile (that includes Scrum but isn’t Scrum). A framework that allows you to build, validate, measure, improve & grow incrementally.
  • Intelligence & technology strategy: Unavoidably, technology plays and essential part in all of this. We know that, for example, very successful businesses are 12x more likely to have consistent channel experiences. 2/3 of them engage in next best step analytics. So it is important to define where the technology stack is heading – beyond what we may traditionally have defined as an “IT strategy”. Topics like two-speed IT, artificial intelligence, predictive technologies, near real-time or real-time data processing, a mix of relational- and graph-data-stores, streams, APIs, server-less services, etc. play a role in this.
  • Security strategy: And most importantly security. Needless to say, keeping all that data safe and remaining transparent with customers as to how you use their data is a key concern for customers.

This is not a trivial topic but absolutely doable. We are working on this with our customers every single day. Please come and speak to us. We are very, very interested. The opportunity in travel tremendous. Please contact us on, or find us for a conversation at the Salesforce booth at the Aviation Festival. We are more than happy to help.

written by michael picler, salesforce

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