Building a business case to break down the communications silos within a business does not only require a clear understanding of the business benefits that will be achieved but a considerable amount of internal alignment of different functions. While both are obvious points, they also pose significant challenges. To a degree, it is the challenging nature of building the business case and attempting to align differing functions that explains why these internal communications silos exist in the first place.
Regardless of the nature of the organisation, the principal communications silos that need to be addressed are whichever functions have responsibility for marketing to customers, sales, and ongoing customer engagement. In many organisations, this will involve multiple departments – for example, many companies treat the digital channel as being separate from marketing.
All of these departments are undertaking customer communications as an intrinsic part of their function and, therefore, in order to meet their departmental objectives and KPIs. As stated in other articles on this subject, little thought is given to the impact on the customer of this dysfunctional and uncoordinated approach to communicating with the customer.
Logic therefore dictates that understanding the impact upon the customer of communications silos is the logical place to start. A range of factors will need to be analysed which, depending on the nature of your organisation, can be summarised as five key factors:
1. Sentiment – what is the contribution to negative brand sentiment (e.g. NPS) from poorly targeted and irrelevant communications that are commonly caused by communications silos?
2. Action – what proportion of marketing opt out by customers is caused by the over communication commonly caused by communications silos?
3. Missed opportunities – to what degree are you missing out on new business opportunities (new customer acquisition, as well as cross sell and up sell to existing customers)?
4. Customer experience – how is the customer experience being impacted by communication silos, especially when a promise made by one piece of communication from one department is not fulfilled when the customer then communicates with another part of the business?
5. Regulatory complaint – if applicable, are contraventions of regulatory rules and guidelines being caused by comms silos?
Identifying the most effective and efficient approach for uncovering this information will depend on the nature of your business and available budget and resource. Clearly a degree of research and analysis is required and it is unlikely that you will have the raw data to hand already that will provide the answers to the above questions.
However, from this data you will be able to start building the business case. In doing so there are a number of other factors that need to be considered. The first is, of course, the commercial impact of a robust customer-centric communications strategy. The data from the above customer impact analysis will inform a lot of this part of the business case. However, there are other factors to consider that will provide commercial benefit through improved sales conversion.
To understand what this looks like, you first need to take a step back from simply considering communications silos as a problem. Instead, consider the customer engagement benefits from creating joined-up communications through the target audience’s actual buying journey. By mapping the true customer journey from initial engagement through to purchase, receipt of product/service and the ongoing customer relationship, you will increase sales conversions and opportunity to cross-sell/up-sell to your customers as you will be more relevant. At the same time, you will improve the cost benefit ratio of your communications because by being more relevant, engagement levels will increase – e.g. open rates of e-mails will improve.
The second factor that needs to be considered when building the business case is imperative in the world of KPIs. By being able to align communications across all business functions, it will be possible to understand the attribution to sale of each business function. For example, the marketing function will be able to directly attribute the value it brought to the sale through its audience engagement activities as each stage of the audience journey can be measured and analysed. It is also for this reason that the investment made into content marketing can be commercially measured as the initial audience engagement is then followed through with content that guides the audience through the buying journey.
The final factor to consider is the potential ability to improve forecasting capabilities. This is only possible if the approach taken to breaking down communications silos conforms to the Intelligent Customer Engagement approach whereby structured journeys are created for all your content. If this approach is taken, then it will be possible to analyse customer progression towards your defined commercial goals and forecast sales best on that data.
When it comes to project costs, the most effective route to choose is one that aligns the communications silos rather than one that seeks to integrate them. By aligning the comms silos, you do not need to rip and replace any of the existing systems and structures that you have in place. To do so would, of course, involve enormous cost and upheaval.
Alignment involves understanding that behind every communication lies content and contact. Starting with the content, by mapping out the audience journey in relation to the content that is required at every step of the audience’s journey towards your commercial goals, you are then able to pass forward information on that content consumption to the next silo. By doing so, the silo still exists from an organisational perspective but not from the audience’s perspective. The organisation now has a ‘memory’ of the communications engagement it has had with the target audience – be it a prospective or existing customer.
Using this structured journey approach, that lies at the heart of Intelligent Customer Engagement, the approach you need to take to breaking down the silos involves mapping the journeys and enabling the flow-through of content consumption data between the various systems. This is done by putting in place a single system that will receive data on content consumption from your existing systems.
A robust contact strategy then supports this approach by ensuring that your target audiences are receiving appropriate volumes and types of communications that support their journeys rather than simply your conversion goals. This does, of course, mean that your organisation will have to embrace the core tenets of customer-centricity. However, it is only through such an approach that the issues you will have identified around the impact on the customer from communications silos will be resolved.
The net result will be a robust, commercially-driven business case. However, achieving internal buy-in is usually the most formidable challenge given the range of business functions affected. Yet, given the universal benefits that each function will enjoy, achieving this internal alignment will be possible.