Performance marketing vs the customer experience

Posted on 30/03/2016



[A week ago, I made it to my first Google Firestarters event. Here are the notes and ideas I made off with.]

I’ve read the write-ups to these events many times on Neil Perkin’s Only Dead Fish blog. They always seemed like the kinda thing I’d be into so I headed over to hear three people (Alex Campbell, Damien Bennett and Ben Salmon) argue the toss on: “Is customer experience the biggest opportunity in performance marketing?

The venue, the company, and even the food was great. But the talks? Insightfully flawed.

I should explain that last bit. It’s not that the talks weren’t good; they were just predictable. All three speakers, each deeply versed in the science of performance marketing, cried ” yes!” and proceeded to show:

  1. How channel attribution is possible by incrementally combining data sets
  2. That channel metrics should vary depending on the role of the channel and their place in a customers’ purchase journey
  3. Opportunities to cut friction in customer journeys through first establishing trust, then identifying context, business opportunities, and finally by personalizing digital experiences

Some good ideas, a few good sound bites and some lovely slide templates.

But disappointing to see such a narrow (and homogenous) view of the customer experience (henceforth, CX”).

Looking purely at the sales funnel and ways to reduce friction will do this. You can optimise the crap out of your website / campaign / service, but that’s just one aspect of the experience. And it’s not a sustainable advantage – just about every organisation now focuses heavily improving their channel mix, cost efficiency and website experience. This was the CX from the channel marketers POV, talking “prospecting”, “touch points” and retargeting. Which mean nothing to real people, to customers.

None of the ideas or techniques they discussed really move customers from established positions to a brand. And none of them help find new market positions for a company.

The other elements of “customer experience” consider how to create unique, compelling, or memorable moments that build positive associations between people and products. Not just efficient experiences, but ones that become a point of differentiation.

So, in answer to the question:

No, CX is not the biggest opportunity for performance marketing, because it encompasses far more than channel optimisation and personalising experiences.
The biggest opportunity for performance marketing is to think less like marketers, and more about how the entire system of activities can create differentiating experiences that people want.

It’s not about your marketing. It’s about enabling simple (even pleasurable) transactions. And unless you’re looking ahead at new ways to transact and the kind of transactions people will want to make in the future, then you’ll never own the customer experience, only chase it.