In the first whitepaper in the Message Convergence series, Preparing for Message Convergence, David Daniels and I put forth the rationale for Message Convergence. We spoke of the new communication norms — individualized, cross-channel, real time, interactive, increasingly mobile and customer controlled — and how they’re altering the ways companies and customers engage with each other. We also proposed five principles for implementing Message Convergence, with advice on topics ranging from organizational structure and metrics, to systems readiness and practices at customer touch points.
I’ve not met a marketer since who contests our worldview or Message Convergence as the right customer engagement strategy for the future. But given the enormity of the change and state of play within most companies — organizational silos with their associated politics, misaligned metrics, calcified business processes, antiquated messaging systems, questionable practices — the challenges to achieving Message Convergence may seem overwhelming.
‘Where do I start?’ has been the common question. My answer is that you must start with the technology. At its core, Message Convergence is a technology-enabled customer engagement strategy. Without the ‘right’ technology, you get nowhere, even if all the other puzzle pieces are in place. That’s part of the rationale for my answer, but the other part is even more compelling.
When considering Message Convergence as a desired state, it’s important to recognize that the customer behavioral changes driving the need for it are themselves being driven by technology. They’re inseparably linked. Technology enables new customer behavior, new behavior begets new technology to fulfill it — it’s a dynamic, accelerating cycle. And what’s happened is that a gap has opened up between how customers prefer to communicate and how companies are capable of communicating. Most businesses today lack the technology to mimic customer behavior in their communications.
So, yes, my answer is to start with technology. Closing that capability gap is a business imperative. And email is the place where companies should first apply better technology solutions to consolidate, coordinate and manage their customer communications in moving toward Message Convergence. After all, email remains the most widely used and profitable digital channel, so it makes sense to get that ‘right’ before moving on. And if companies invest smartly in their technology for email, it can serve them across other digital channels as well.
The purpose of our new white paper, The Dollars and Sense of Message Convergence, is to provide the business case arguments you’ll need to make sound messaging technology investments. It will be those technology choices and how you deploy them that determine your success. And, ultimately, dictate whether Message Convergence remains a pipe dream for your company or becomes a reality that yields brand-loyal customers, greater profitability and differentiation in the marketplace.