Relationship-Based Business

“Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.” -Benjamin Franklin 

We are moving into our 10th year of being in business. It’s an exciting milestone and as I reflect on the last ten years; I am so proud of what we have accomplished. You are an important member of a team that is focused on providing groundbreaking, innovative, and meaningful consulting to our clients. We set out to improve the quality of the customer experience. We have lofty goals of making millions of people a little bit happier every day – our contribution to the world. 

We’ve learned that it doesn’t just require SDL Tridion skills, creative expertise or consulting skills, we’ve learned time and time again it takes great teamwork to achieve results for our clients. Teamwork is inclusive of our clients; our best accounts are the ones in which we become strategic partners with them. You can measure the health of a consulting company by examining the strength and quality of its relationships. 

When I think about goals for 2020, one is to improve our relationships, internally and externally. Go find a relationship that needs work and work on it. Make a difference in the little things and the big things. I always appreciated the saying… “people don’t care about how much you know until they know who much you care”. When I worked at Nordstrom, we sent thank-you notes to each of our customers, it was a little thing but a meaningful one. So, let’s show our clients and our co-workers how much we care.  
Let’s go be great! 

Leading a Digital Revolution

“We all get the exact same 365 days. The only difference is what we do with them.” —Hillary DePiano 

Cheers to 2020! 

We are all on a personal journey with lessons to be learned, challenges to be overcome and joys to be remembered. I find this time of year brimming with reflections and ideas about next year. 2020 starts pretty soon, as a little kid, I used to think how far away 2020 was and now here we are. My better self has been looking forward to this for a long time. 

I feel the beginning of resonance, both personally and professionally. But let me opine briefly about Tahzoo for a moment. We are built on an idea that the customer experience should improve dramatically, that technology should be an enabler to better experience and not a crushing quest for efficiency that robs consumers of their joy. How you spend your money and who you spend your money with is one of the most quintessential of human experiences. Think about all of the cities built around a town square and market. There has been a marriage between commerce and community since we became civilized.  
Our mission is to improve the customer experience, to build the connections between community and commerce that are the moral equivalent of the market square in the 21st century. Amazon has built an unbelievably efficient distribution engine, it’s really awesome, but recommendations alone don’t make a town square. Our challenge as a company is to figure out how do we use all the technology at our disposal to humanize the customer experience. What is super exciting to me is that the technology is more like a canvas than a set of interstitial building blocks. 

We can now actually design experiences with interaction models that customers will find pleasing and personalized. Tahzoo is a company full of great builders, in 2020 we will become great designers too. It’s all coming together, technology, data, and design to create the company I envisioned 10 years ago. 
So, no matter what you’re doing at Tahzoo, remember your job is to make the customer experience better. Every interaction between our client and their customer should feel like opening a present. We are the company that will lead this revolution.  
Let’s go be great! 

Personalization in a B2B World

“Hire character. Train skill.” -Peter Schutz 

In a real-world setting, a good salesperson would size-up a new prospect walking in the door and within seconds begin to tailor the conversation to that person’s needs. In the digital world of eCommerce and automated marketing, the union of data and content management technologies is allowing companies to replicate that salesperson’s ability to tailor the conversation to the prospect at hand, delivering different content to each digital customer based on data insights. 

At Tahzoo, we call this personalization. We are mirroring the human-to-human sales interaction in an online sphere to turn what was once a one-way and one-size-fits-all approach to digital content and digital marketing into a true, two-way conversation between brands and their customers. We are giving our clients—many of whom are in the FORTUNE 500—the agility to adapt their marketing messages on the fly to reach deeper more meaningful relationships with their customers. 
In the digital customer experience (CX) world, personalization is defined as the ability to provide content (words, images, video, and audio) to a specific customer based on real-time data about that customer, including their age, location, search history, and other “data insights” that can drive a richer and more personally targeted customer experience. 

The impact of personalization will be particularly significant in the relationship-based business-to-business (B2B) space. The technologies for delivering highly nuanced personalized content and the data needed to pinpoint customer preferences are well established and proven to deliver business results through greater contextual relevancy, conversion rates, and long-term customer loyalty.  
The technical infrastructure necessary to support the goals of personalization across all digital channels are available and will be imperative to market leadership and commercial viability in the industry for the foreseeable future.  
While personalization technology has advanced, the growing gap between truly relevant customer experiences—what Tahzoo refers to as “Responsive Experiences,” which adapt content to the user, based on data gathered about the user—and the standard one-size-fits-all content model, common in business-to-business sales is revealing a fundamental weakness in the ability of some firms to sell their products in the digital realm. 

Tahzoo likes to frame the disparity by asking a single, provocative question: what would happen if a human sales representative were as bad at selling office equipment, laptops, or even copy paper as the majority of today’s B2B websites? The answer is simple: they would be fired. 
For far too long, marketers have gotten away with being terrible salespeople online because they are insulated by the law of large numbers—if they churn through enough people, eventually some portion of them (usually a minute portion) will convert to customers. Volume is the name of the game, but volume is also tremendously expensive, inefficient, and ineffective for company and customer alike.  
While our ability to know the customer through data insights is better and more powerful than ever, and the technology is now sophisticated enough to make the dream of true personalization a reality, there is more to the arithmetic of marketing than mere data and technology. 

Tahzoo believes that much of the fault for the sorry state of online selling falls at the feet of companies’ poor understanding of how their customers become educated about their products and services. What more is selling than education, after all? And who better to learn about education than educators?  
For inspiration in transforming the digital customer experience into something truly revolutionary, we turned to a trusted principle of education theory known as Learning Models, a theory first developed by the academic Robert Gagné in the 1980s. 
In this white paper, Tahzoo marries Gagne’s “Learning Models” principles and digital personalization to unite these disparate pieces into a comprehensive digital customer experience model that describes:  

  1. How customers think about their own business problems and potential solutions.  
  2. The step-by-step process—the learning model—for educating a prospect through digital channels.  
  3. How to gather insightful and accurate data about those customers. 
  4. The technology to deliver relevant customer experience to sell better in the online setting. 

To remain relevant to today’s digitally driven B2B customers, the industry must move toward greater personalization. If today’s industry leaders don’t take up the charge, another service will surely find a better way to meet the needs of these customers. The B2B space is ripe for disruption. 

Is there a new and disruptive competitor awaiting the B2B space? That remains to be seen. But, if there is, such a competitor will surely emerge from the shadows of data-driven, technology-enabled, customer-centric personalization. 

To effectively communicate relevant and personalized content—not merely to present it—to drive consumer decision-making means that the floodgate to personalized content must be opened, but firms must first invite consumers to explore all their options through a process of self-education. In this paradigm, the mere presentation of information must progress from mere fact-finding to a real and lasting conversation between customers and companies.  
When this happens—when Learning Models and digital personalization are truly aligned—then and only then will B2B customers be both engaged and educated. And that’s when great things can happen. 
Let’s go be great! 

The Culture of Experience

The culture of customer experience is upon us… although very nascent, while there have been a few companies grounded in customer service over the last 20 years they are outliers and not the norm. Most large companies are organized to serve themselves while providing a service or product to the market. Typically, one part of the organization is dedicated to the customer in the context of sales or marketing.

In the customer experience economy, the entire organization needs to be designed to serve customers and deliver a shareable experience. It must be understood throughout the organization the real value of a consumer spending their money and time interacting with a brand. I used to say that all companies are becoming publishers whether they wanted to or not because the competition and the way that all purchasing has become considered sales cycle was going to force the issue. However, I think that we are now seeing with the proliferation of connections between people and the speed of communication through technology that all companies are now experience providers.

For many years the experience, the interaction, was managed by a division within a Fortune 500 company who looked at the in-store, in-branch, or in-restaurant experience and created something that was visually appealing, memorable, pleasant, and efficient. The design, well-executed, helped consumers know where to stand in line, where to get help, or look for specific products. It was staffed with friendly people who could naturally fill in the missing details or connections but most importantly provide a personalized experience or build a personal rapport with the consumer. They made the intuitively inefficient and efficient experience; if the design wasn’t quite right the personal connection filled the gaps.

As technology has replaced many of these branches, stores, and human touchpoints, in part because it’s more cost-effective, in part because the speed of the transaction or the convenience for the consumer held sway. Large companies have inarticulately made an effort to increase the number of touchpoints or tackle the gaps in service as a series of technology and marketing projects. As with all transformations, a serialized and interstitial set of projects never provide the harmony and richness of the experience a consumer demands. Often times when I hear large companies speak about their digital transformation or customer experience projects they feel like how a symphony would be written by a series of committees each focused on the instrument they play.

It is the whole experience, in all its dimensions that need to be addressed. For a large company, this is an almost achievable amount of organizational alignment required in a short period of time. Most companies have been built over decades and the organizational division, operating principals, and culture cannot be rewired overnight. As with most disruption triggered by technology, the initial innovation is obtuse but with great promise. So while the value is well understood, the adoption model follows a standard distribution curve, the early adopters take a leap of faith, and when the point of leverage to value is understood the majority steps in. In some cases, the adoption curve can be accelerated when “killer” applications can be applied.

In the case of digital transformation, the killer application is personalization. Delivering experience in context, that is relevant and personalized is the key to moving an organization forward. In the case of customer experience and within the experience economy, the accelerant is the ability of large organizations to deliver personalized or contextualized experiences. While it may take a decade or more for a Fortune 500 company to reorganize, we can deliver value today through a more personalized experience.

As expected, the organizational changes that will take time to work their way through a company that spent decades building for and organizing around 20th-century models can recognize immediate value by through technology recreating the front line staff that helped clients find what they needed, answered questions and most importantly build a sense of intimacy between a consumer and brand.

Where are we going?

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”    -Confucius 

Where are we going? 

We are going to be a world-class Customer Experience Agency. 
I get asked a lot about the strategic direction of the company. I am working on our 2017 plan which I am excited to roll out to all of you in the next month or so. In the meantime, I have been framing a set of attributes that define my vision for the company and thought it would be a good time to share them with you. 
You’ll see that it is a blend of characteristics, outcomes, and extension of our values. Please take some time to review. 

  • We will provide leading and innovative solutions to common marketing problems 
  • Which means we have the capabilities and competencies expected of a leading agency 
  • We will be innovative and explore ways in which we can solve problems that give Tahzoo a lasting strategic advantage 
  • We are going to be good and trying new things experimenting with solutions or businesses failing quickly learning and trying it all over again 
  • We are going to be great at building businesses within our company 
  • We will deliver and execute our work with the highest level of caring and concern for our client 
  • We will always put the wellbeing and success of our client before ourselves and our profit 
  • To the fullest extent possible we will strive for transparency and openness in how we deal with our clients and one another 
  • We will be a data and metrics-driven company 
  • We will work hard to find the right measurements to help better inform decision making and provide clear expectations for ourselves our teams and our rewards 
  • We are going to work hard to ensure that we have a harmonious and pleasant work environment 
  • We will systematically eliminate chaos from our business 
  • We will over-invest in our facilities and benefits to ensure that we provide a great work experience for our employees 
  • We will have robust training and professional development programs for our employees 

I hope this will provide you a framework for how to align within our company. We are working diligently to ensure that we deliver on this framework during the last half of the year and in 2017. 
Let’s go be great! 

The Experience Economy: Part 1

I have long contended that history goes in reverse—that is, time goes backward, not forward. If you want to know what is happening today—or, more importantly, if you want to know why it is happening, you have to look at yesterday and the day before that and so on to truly understand how we got where we are.

I believe that our current value system is amid a profound and permanent shift. Consumerism is dead. Experience is all. People no longer care about what goods you have; they care about how good you have it. Businesses built upon old value systems must change to meet these new expectations or fail.

People no longer care about what goods you have; they care about how good you have it. #CX

— Brad Heidemann (@Brad_Heidemann) July 12, 2016

How I came to this conclusion started in a Starbucks in Bethesda, Maryland in 2010, the day I founded a company known as Tahzoo. In many ways, our success is a product of these shifting cultural values and of the rise of social media and the sharing economy. It all comes together in what I like to call The Experience Economy.

Tahzoo works with FORTUNE 500 companies to perfect their “customer experiences” in the digital world. We use data to identify who our clients’ customers usually with great specificity and clarity. We use that data to understand those customers’ wants and needs. We create websites, mobile apps, and digital content that speaks to those customers as if they were a real person—a living, breathing human being. And, last, we use sophisticated technologies to deliver that content to them on the fly. Each potential customer receives not a one-size-fits-all, off-the-rack website, but rather a multichannel experience tailored to them specifically. Some people call it personalization. Some call it the “customer experience.” We call it the future.

But, as I said before, the story of today began yesterday, and yesterday began the day before that and so on. Back in 2010, I sat in a warm, cozy Starbucks contemplating the next phase of my life, enjoying a nice cup of coffee and some free wifi. I realize now that I was not just in a run-of-the-mill coffee shop, but rather I was ensconced in an experience that was carefully shaped by Howard Schultz and his amazing people over the course of the prior two decades.

Schultz had worked for Starbucks in the 1970s when the company sold only beans and machinery. He had a radical idea: he thought Starbucks might want to sell, you know … coffee. Eventually, he traveled to Italy and witnessed espresso culture and wanted to bring that all-day, everyday, neighborhood coffee house to the whole of America. Now, if you know anything about coffee in America in the 1970s and 80s you know it was a miserable experience and what a radical idea Schultz’s brainstorm represented. If you don’t recall those days, trust me, it was miserable. Weak, lukewarm, served up by the ladle into squeaky Styrofoam cups. Anyway, that idea was the spark of a revolution. Starbucks changed it all. Coffee went from a commodity to an experience.
Schultz dubbed his innovation, “The Third Place.” It was not home. It did not work. It was a place in between that hadn’t existed before; a place where people could meet and share their days over a good coffee—an affordable luxury to use another of Schultz’s phrases. In return, you got a comfortable seat, ample wifi, and no pressure to leave until you were good and ready. Starbucks felt like home. And that’s exactly how I felt on that day in 2010…. for this and many reasons I am so proud to have Starbucks as a client and to be working with such an innovative and leading-edge brand.

Leadership for May

Team Tahzoo, 

I’ve been thinking a lot about May’s theme, leadership. I have found myself at different points in my career where the leadership of others has been most impactful. And what I’ve learned from those impactful moments is that the best sign of leadership is when it is shown, not just a tag line. I’d love for you all to think about leadership as you take this month’s Voice of the Culture weekly surveys. I want you to think about who at Tahzoo has been showing good leadership. At the end of the month, I’d like to recognize those people, because being a leader happens at every level of an organization, and I want to hear from you and what good leadership you are experiencing and showing. 

This week I was in DC. It felt great to be home for a stint, even for a short while. Because next week takes me, Gabi Macy, Josh Einhorn, Brandon Bernard, Chad Van Lier, Matt Heidemann, John Kottcamp, and Dave Sterenberg from Tahzoo and Egbert Hendriks, Jeroen Suurd, Roland Muts, Maja Pejcic, and Andrew Vo from HintTech to San Francisco for the SDL Innovate event. Josh and Brandon are leading a session during Developer Day on Monday about Architecture and Hosting Innovation. Dave and Chad are participating in the Partner Lunch and SDL Regional VP Sales meeting also on Monday. I am joining their pre-conference dinner with press and analysts that evening. I also have a few media briefings with Forbes and 1:1 and we are looking into Fortune. On Tuesday, I have my keynote address where I will be speaking about Investing in CX. John will be hosting a VIP round table lunch that afternoon leading a discussion on how to pre­pare for your 5-year plan to become 20/20 in 2020.  John is also giving introductions to a few sessions throughout the conference and everyone will be working our booth, talking to clients and prospects, as well as SDL staff to drive new business for Tahzoo. Needless to say, it has the makings of a very promising event and I look forward to the opportunities that will arise.