Becoming Chief Profitability Officer (Part 6)

As discussed earlier, there are three tracks to grow profitability:

  • Velvet Rope Marketing for the top 20% (Best Customers)
  • Median Customer Marketing for the middle 30% (Rest Customers)
  • Long Tail Marketing for the bottom 50% (Test Customers)

We have discussed VRM and how the combination of CDP, CLV, BCG, Martech and Adtech can help brands identify Best Customers, provide them a Velvet Rope experience, acquire more like them and help the newly acquired customers to become Best Customers faster.

Let us now turn our attention to the middle 30% — what I have termed as the “Rest Customers.” These are customers who have a lower CLV than the Best, are still profitable for the brand, but perhaps not as loyal or valuable as the Best. These can also be termed as “median customers” – not at the top or at the bottom of the CLV pyramid. Hence, I have used the term “Median Customer Marketing” to identify the initiatives for this segment. What can be done with these customers?

There are two activities that can help grow profitability from the Rest Customers – nudging them to the “next best action” and identifying future Best Customers by analysing the genomes for each of them.

Here is a brief on next best action marketing from NGData: “The concept of delivering the right message to the right customer, at the right time, and via the right channel has been around for some time. Next best action marketing can best be described as an evolution of this concept, evaluating the customer’s past behaviour, recent actions, interests, and needs in the context of the organization’s marketing goals to identify the most effective action (making an offer, a promotion, reaching out by phone, sending an email, etc.) to achieve desired outcomes.”

Here is additional info from Optimove: “Next best action marketing (NBAM) is a customer-centric approach to marketing in which the goal is to address each customer with the marketing treatment most likely to generate the desired result. NBAM differs from other marketing approaches in two key respects: (1) it is customer-oriented instead of being product-oriented, and (2) it aims to approach each customer within the context of their unique behaviours, needs and preferences instead of by assuming all customers (or large subsets of a customer base) will respond similarly.”

What needs to be done is to identify where a customer is along the journey and use a martech solution to nudge the customer with a specific action. This action can be identified by looking at genomes of similar customers and identifying what they did next.

A similar genome analysis can help identify customers who could have the potential to be moved to a higher spend with the brand. This is important because there will always be some churn from among the Best Customers so creating a pipeline of future Best Customers becomes important.

Tomorrow: Becoming Chief Profitability Officer (Part 7)

Becoming Chief Profitability Officer (Part 5)

To summarise the story so far:

  • Brands should collect customer data at every touchpoint and store it in a CDP
  • Transaction data can be used to determine CLV
  • CLV can then be used to segment customers and identify the Best Customers
  • All the other data (behavioural, demographic) about customers can be used to build the Customer Genome

By looking at the Customer Genomes of the Best Customers as determined by their CLV, it now becomes possible to identify the Best Customer Genome (BCG) – those attributes and actions common to the most valuable customers of a brand.  (As far as I can tell, this is a new idea.)

The BCG is important because a small fraction of the customers account for a disproportionate share of revenues and profits of a brand. Knowing how these customers are different lets us replicate their attributes in acquisition and behaviour in the onboarding process to ensure that brands can manufacture more Best Customers.

BCG is not a static set of attributes. Like in the real world, there is continuous evolution. In this case, it is AI-ML that can help with this process. The models keep learning about what makes a Best Customer by looking for patterns in various types of data made available through CDP, and thus keep improving on the definition of the BCG.

These twin ideas of CLV and BCG lay the foundation for Velvet Rope Marketing as can be seen in the graphic below:

CLV and BCG are the anchors for doing VRM right, which in turn is the key to growing profits. A martech platform integrated with adtech is the best friend of the Chief Profitability Officer to help in executing the four key jobs we had identified earlier:

  • Identify Best Customers
  • Give them the Velvet Rope Experience
  • Acquire more like them
  • Help them become Best Customers faster


This is the essence of Velvet Rope Marketing: using data to create a differentiated experience for the Best Customers to ensure maximum wallet share via smart cross-sell and upsell, and churn elimination.

The idea sounds surprisingly simple, and yet very few companies actually do it right. In the post-Covid future, CxOs who can get VRM right can look forward to a profitable future.

Tomorrow: Becoming Chief Profitability Officer (Part 6)

Becoming Chief Profitability Officer (Part 4)

What exactly is the Customer Genome?

Here is an initial overview from a 2016 article in The Drum based on work done by Accenture:

According to Jeriad Zoghby, Personalization Lead at Accenture Interactive, the genome technology excels is in its ability to “imprint” a customer’s DNA and go into not just more depth, but width as well. Looking at the map of a customer’s DNA leads to much more meaningful insight than the “you bought this, you might like this” or “you bought this, other people bought this” conundrum facing marketers.

“My DNA defines who I am. The idea of the customer genome is the DNA that defines my preferences, passions and needs — things that decide why I choose things,” said Zoghby. “If you took every interaction and exploded it into its DNA, the DNA is actually the product DNA — that goes beyond its title or its product name. Every (marketing) email has DNA, for example. Subject lines, offers, products that were recommended, creative in the background for the imaging or messaging.”

Using baby shampoo as an example, Zoghby outlined how the genome process reveals itself.

“Every time you buy it, view it, consume it — it would then type to your genome — in different ways, because viewing a product is not the same as committing to buying it,” explained Zoghby. “When I’m viewing it I’m putting in my wish list, I’m voting with my time. But when I vote with my dollars by buying it I’m saying, ‘Yeah, I buy Burt’s Bees baby shampoo.’ Same thing for dish detergent, laundry detergent, cleaning supplies, whatever, we start to see the common attributes that are starting to form there whether it’s about organics, whether it’s about certain scents, hypo-allergenic, Burt’s Bees, whatever. This is true across anything.”

Here is more from Michael Buckley, Accenture, written in 2016:

Customer genomes – the detailed digital DNA of customers – are the next generation of market and customer segmentation that organisations need to consider in order to keep up with evolving customer needs. Customer genomes focus on using traditional data (such as demographics, purchase history and loyalty programs), alternate data (from sources such as social media profiles and community-based data) and derived data (including insights describing an individual obtained from analysis of the selected data sets) to create digital DNA that includes the information every organisation should know about each of their customers.

This organically derived data includes distinctive markers that organisations can apply to create targeted approaches to high-value customers and prospects. By effectively leveraging all of this data, organisations can evolve from personalisation to hyperpersonalisation of data, which is tailored to each individual customer.

Put simply, the Customer Genome provides a distinctive digitally encoded representation of a customer. It allows us to compare different customers, predict what a specific customer is likely to do next and create personalised experiences. The innovation I want to discuss next is the idea of a Best Customer Genome.

Tomorrow: Becoming Chief Profitability Officer (Part 5)

Becoming Chief Profitability Officer (Part 3)

Velvet Rope Marketing is about identifying and marketing to the Best Customers of a business. (For some businesses, it could be adapted to doing the same to incoming leads.) Let’s begin with the process of identifying Best Customers:

The first step is to collect data at every touchpoint. In the online world, this is easier since access is via a website or an app. In both cases, all customer actions can be captured. If a customer is logged in, then it becomes possible to link to a unique personal identifier (email ID or mobile number). If not, then it has to be tied to a cookie (on a browser) or a device ID (on the mobile). In the offline world, this is a much harder problem to address since a customer may not be identified until the point-of-sale. In the future, face recognition systems may allow tracking of customers from entry to exit, thus providing better insights into the customer’s interests. In the near-term, stores could use smart cards or mobile apps to identify repeat customers at entry to create an assisted or personalised experience.

The second step is to store all the data in a customer data platform (CDP). A CDP thus becomes the repository of all of the customer’s demographic data (name, gender, location), behavioural data (app and web interactions) and transactions. It thus becomes possible to create a unique profile for every customer.

The third step is to calculate customer lifetime value based on the transaction data. My earlier post on CLV explains this process. It is important to note that the CLV described here is a forward-looking, predictive measurement.

The fourth step is to segment the customers based on their CLV. A possible approach can be to consider three segments: Best (top 20%), Rest (middle 30%) and Test (bottom 50%). This 20-30-50 split may vary based on actual numbers for different companies but is quite indicative of the 60-20-20 revenue contribution.  If companies measure profitability, they will find that the biggest contribution comes from their Best Customers, followed by some from the Rest Customers.

The Test Customers are likely to result in losses if one factors in the cost of acquisition and servicing. (I call them Test Customers because they are ‘testing’ the brand and are not likely to do repeat transactions. They came in once, ‘tested’ the brand and then went away. We will discuss more about them in the section on Long Tail Marketing.)

The next two steps involve calculating the Customer Genome and from there decoding the Best Customer Genome (BCG), followed by the final step of using AI-ML to create a continuously evolving and learning process for analysing customer data.

Tomorrow: Becoming Chief Profitability Officer (Part 4)

Becoming Chief Profitability Officer (Part 2)

The path to profits runs through marketing. For most companies, marketing is the largest cost after wages and salaries. Hence, the pressure to cut marketing budgets is going to be intense. It is in this context that marketing needs to be re-imagined for the post-Covid future for the increasingly digital customer.

There are three themes around which the new marketing can be re-organised to drive profits based on the customer segments:

  • Velvet Rope Marketing for the top 20% (Best Customers)
  • Median Customer Marketing for the middle 30% (Rest Customers)
  • Long Tail Marketing for the bottom 50% (Test Customers)

Velvet Rope Marketing (VRM) is the most important because the contribution of Best Customers to revenues is much higher than the other categories. My earlier series and webinar on VRM discuss the ideas in greater detail. In this context, the four most important jobs for a Chief Profitability Officer are:

  • Identify Best Customers
  • Give them the Velvet Rope Experience
  • Acquire more like them
  • Help them become Best Customers faster

In this series, we will also dig deeper into how to implement VRM using the ideas of CDP (Customer Data Platform), CLV (Customer Lifetime Value) and BCG (Best Customer Genome). We will also expand on ideas for marketing to the Rest and Test Customers via Median Customer Marketing and Long Tail Marketing, respectively. While their relative contributions to revenue and profits are likely to be lower, they can serve as a fertile ground for identifying future Best Customers.

Tomorrow: Becoming Chief Profitability Officer (Part 3)

Becoming Chief Profitability Officer (Part 1)

“There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.” – Lenin

In the US, e-commerce penetration as a percentage of retail sales grew from 5% to 16% in the ten years from 2009 to 2019. And then came coronavirus. In 8 weeks, the 16% rose to 27%. A decade of change repeated in 8 weeks.

We are living through extraordinary times. In India, we have seen four successive shocks in the past two months. First came the pandemic. Then, the lockdown. This led to a complete demand collapse for many industries and businesses. And finally, the government actions (or lack of them) which have compounded the problems.

Now, two months after the lockdown, there is no sign of “flattening the curve” as cases keep rising across many parts of India. Much of economic activity remains shut down even as efforts are finally being made to open up the economy. (For the record, I had written about the urgent need to Unlock India early in April.) Migrants who had come to cities in search of a better life have been making their way back to their villages. Layoffs are now starting to happen. Work from home has become the new normal for many employees. Even as medical challenges overwhelm cities like Mumbai, the full horror of the coming crisis is slowly becoming apparent.

For business leaders, there is no playbook which could have prepared them for these times. The post-Covid future is now revealing itself. Capital is going to be constrained, profits are coming under severe pressure, marketing budgets are being minimised and the customer is going digital in the wake of social distancing norms. A new normal is emerging – one which is here to stay.

For Chief Marketing Officers (and in fact all CxOs), it is time to think of the 5th P of Marketing. To Product, Price, Promotion and Place, they all need to think of Profit. Because without profits, there will be no business. In the post-Covid world, we all must become Chief Profitability Officers.

Tomorrow: Becoming Chief Profitability Officer (Part 2)

India’s Mission 10-20-30 (Part 12)

Here is the video from the Charcha 2020 where I spoke on Mission 10-20-30.  I start speaking at 1 hour 7 minutes into the video – for 14 minutes (have linked the video to that). This is followed by Rahul Basu’s presentation for 15 minutes, and then Q&A for about 25 minutes.


India’s Mission 10-20-30 (Part 11)

I am continuing by summarising the points that I gave in a talk at the Charcha 2020 event.

India faces many crises. We can continue on the suicidal path or use the pandemic to create a new India, a rebirth. We can choose our existing rulers or change the rules to ensure different outcomes. We can continue with kakistocracy (a government of the least qualified and the most corrupt) or create a genuine democracy where the voice of the people is heard. We can choose to stay on the road to serfdom or get on the path of freedom. We can live in poverty or make prosperity our new destination.

These are the choices we face. We can stay with the old or ring in the new. This is the Nayi Disha we need in India. It is time for an Indian Revolution – which does away with the old ways and creates a new system and future. The crisis that the pandemic has created, the Third World War we have been thrown into, the pain that we are presently enduring – it can lead to a happy ending if we are prepared to change direction.

This will require extraordinary vision and leadership at the highest levels in India’s government. It will also require people to come together and accept the change that we know can transform our future. We know there is no going back to the world that existed just a few months ago. We may not know the new world that lies ahead of us – but if we learn from the successes of other nations, we can start on a new journey.

We did not ask for the pandemic. It is here. We cannot question the why of the pandemic. The only questions we should ask as we contemplate the future are, “If not us, then who? If not now, when?”

The answers we give and the actions we take will determine the India that emerges from the Third World War. Mission 10-20-30 is the one big idea to take us to a future of freedom and prosperity.

Tomorrow: India’s Mission 10-20-30 (Part 12)

India’s Mission 10-20-30 (Part 10)

I am continuing by summarising the points that I gave in a talk at the Charcha 2020 event.

Mission 10-20-30 is about focusing on a single theme – job creation. It is about making transformational changes to ensure the creation of good jobs in the coming months and beyond. It is about freeing the people of India from the controls put on them by successive governments over the past 70+ years. This is the Sampoorna Swatantra (complete freedom) we need. Done right, Mission 10-20-30 is the Nayi Disha we need to lift hundreds of millions out of poverty in the coming years and put India on an irreversible path to prosperity.

“Even the smallest person can change the course of the future”, wrote JRR Tolkien in his book, “The Lord of the Rings.” For India to embark on Mission 10-20-30, even as we hope for our political leaders to make the right choices, we can use the power of India’s voters to put pressure on the politicians.

Of India’s 90 crore eligible voters, 30 crore are steadfast in their support for one of the existing political parties. But there are 60 crore who are not – there are 30 crore non-voters, and another 30 crore are non-aligned and make up their mind on whom to vote for just days prior to voting.

The impact of the pandemic will also force a change in the way campaigns are done – politics will also become digital. This can level the playing field for independent movements to take up established parties. Unity and pressure from these 60 crore voters can help make Mission 10-20-30 a reality.

Tomorrow: India’s Mission 10-20-30 (Part 11)