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AiThority Interview with Matt Naeger, Global Chief Strategy Officer & Chief Marketing Officer, Merkle

AiThority Interview with Matt Naeger, Global Chief Strategy Officer & Chief Marketing Officer, Merkle Americasr_Qcard

Hi, Matt, welcome to Interview Series. Please tell us a little bit about your journey in the CX industry. How did you start at Merkle?

I joined Merkle in 2011 through the acquisition of IMPAQT, a search and digital marketing company I helped found and build. Since joining the organization, I have held a variety of roles, including scaling our digital media practice, running our largest media client Time Warner (HBONow, Warner Bros. Theatrical media, Warner Bros. Entertainment), leading our client solutioning team, and then finally building our customer strategy and consulting team as the Chief Strategy Officer for Merkle Americas, before taking on my current role as the global CSO and Chief Marketing Officer for Merkle.

CX management trends have changed in the last 2-3 years. Most organizations connect CX goals with their employee experience management as well. How do you achieve this fine balanced between CX and EX at Merkle?

The balance has always been about how Merkle can help brands connect the daily tasks that their employees do with the ways in which they want their customers to experience their brand. By aligning our clients’ work around their vision of a great customer experience, we help their employees feel empowered to make changes in those daily tasks to benefit the larger goals of the organization and their customers.

In simpler terms, we show organizations how to ensure that everything their employees do is viewed through the lens of what it will deliver for their customers. And, then incentives can be offered based on the outcomes that they drive in customer acquisition, retention, and satisfaction.

How do economic conditions like recession and price inflation impact CX goals? What kind of strategy works in such scenarios?

Economic conditions, whether good or not so good, are always a part of how you evaluate and measure what the needs of a customer are and whether or not you are meeting them. I think that CX becomes increasingly important for clients when their budgets are under pressure to either perform better or to control costs. It makes brands think more about whether they are acquiring the “right” customers versus just pursuing a certain number of them.

When you are facing budget pressure and financial constraints, you have to be sure that you aren’t paying to acquire customers who are not going to see ongoing value from your products. You must focus on keeping your best customers happy and learning why they are your best customers, and then use that intelligence to acquire new customers in a more intelligent way.

What kind of technologies influence the success of CX journeys? How is Merkle playing a key role in this ecosystem?

There are many technologies that influence the success of a customer experience journey, but the one that I think is most important is identity technology. You can have an amazing set of tech platforms to deliver experiences (and Merkle works with all of the key players in that arena), but if you don’t know who is going to be receiving the experience, what their needs and motivations are, and what they expect from that experience, you are really throwing things against the wall to see what sticks. The identity technology used in Merkury is a key differentiator; it links Merkle’s roots in data management, delivery and analytics capabilities, and design and development teams to help brands know and understand more about the customers they are touching.

Most brands already have CX tools tied to their marketing campaigns. Then why do they fail to achieve results?

Brands fail to achieve results mainly because the technology alone isn’t the answer. You have to pair technology with an organizational structure that knows how to use it, that is informed on what is working and why, and that gives the ability to make experiences very personal. Not personalized – personal.  The difference in those two words is massive.

Personalized is what you get when you set the technology in place and tell it to optimize to the next best action. Personal is when, through each step of the experience, you learn more about who the customer is, what that person’s needs are, and what is expected from the next experience. It allows you to talk to customers like you know them and not like they are just a part of a large group that 58% of the time wants to see image A vs. B.

What about the 42% who really want to see image B?

Do we not care about them? Do we not want them to get what they want?

AI and machine learning algorithms are helping marketing teams scale their CX strategies in 2023. Could you highlight the role of AI ML and other emerging technologies in CX software and tools?

AI and ML technologies are no doubt the future for customer experience delivery. They have the ability to learn on the fly and to adapt to small differences in people in a way that no planning or systemic process has in the past. They do however have their downsides, as we have seen recently. One of the big keys in this area is to ensure that your AI and ML technologies have a set of systems, guidelines, and people who sit over top of them to ensure that they are producing ethical results and not just optimizing on their own.

This is a big key to the future success of AI, and it’s something that the early releases of new AI have had problems with, now that they are operating outside of controlled environments.

What kind of roadmap should brands create for 2023? Could you elaborate more on creating newly defined CX using existing resources and workforce? Are these results sustainable?

2023 should be a year in which companies center their roadmaps on learning more about their customers and their needs. As we have talked about in Merkle’s Customer Experience Imperatives, companies need to be focused on:

1. How they can future-proof their organizations through the creation of a shared vision for long-term customer value

2. How they can reimagine their existing data and tech stack approach to learn more about their customers and create a two-way dialog, so that they are each learning about (and from) each other over the life of the relationship

3. How to make every B2C or B2B experience a path to commerce and an easier way to buy what you need when you need it from the company

If you can make progress in those three areas in 2023, you will sustain long-term results while  driving short-term success.

How can the whole marketing ecosystem quickly upgrade their “data privacy” gameplan – your predictions on the future of data-driven CX platforms:

This is a simple one – data privacy is all about the customer and creating a first-party data graph that is built by data that your customers and prospects are willing to share with you. The way that you get there can be the hard part, but it has to be based on a two-way value exchange.

Customers will share more information if they trust you, based on prior interactions, and believe that you will do something with that information to provide a better experience. And bonus points if they see that you have built relationships with other customers that have them singing your praises. The future of data-driven CX is all about what you deliver and how valuable you make experiences with your brand for your customer. CX platforms are all going to center around a first-party identity graph that has the portability to move between platforms and will continue to learn and grow the more that you challenge it to understand your customers.

Thank you, Matt! That was fun and we hope to see you back on soon.

As Merkle’s Global Chief Strategy Officer & Chief Marketing Officer, Americas, Matt brings nearly 20 years of helping marketers and brands embrace the advancements that make direct customer relationships possible. He leads the agency’s omni-channel strategy experts across industries — designing and launching integrated marketing programs by converging data with media and creating experiences that truly reach individuals.  

From the onset of digital marketing, Matt was an innovator and founder at IMPAQT, a pioneer SEM agency, which after being acquired helped to establish Merkle’s focus on digital — he has played a key role in its position as a frontrunner in the changing advertising agency model. As a recognized thought leader in the digital space, Matt brings his core data principles, his energy for what’s next, and his deep expertise in improving marketing for some of the best brands in the world. He has also worked with partners like Google, Microsoft and Facebook as their platforms have developed providing his expertise to their product teams as they have evolved digital marketing.

Matt has served as a strategy partner to Whirlpool, General Mills, Mercedes Benz, and Comcast; recent clients include Chase, HBO, Office Depot, and Time Warner Inc.

About MerkleMerkle, a dentsu company, is a leading data-driven customer experience management (CXM) company that specializes in the delivery of unique, personalized customer experiences across platforms and devices. For more than 30 years, Fortune 1000 companies and leading nonprofit organizations have partnered with Merkle to maximize the value of their customer portfolios. The company’s heritage in data, technology, and analytics forms the foundation for its unmatched skills in understanding consumer insights that drive hyper-personalized marketing strategies. Its combined strengths in consulting, creative, media, analytics, data, identity, CX/commerce, technology, and loyalty & promotions drive improved marketing results and competitive advantage. With more than 16,000 employees, Merkle is headquartered in Columbia, Maryland, with locations in 30+ countries throughout the Americas, EMEA, and APAC.

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