CMO 2.0 Conversation with Mark Colombo, SVP Digital Access Marketing, FedEx

Written by on May 4, 2009 – 5:58 am -

mark_colombo100I had the pleasure of conducting another CMO 2.0 Conversation with many teachable moments – this one with Mark Colombo, the Senior Vice President of Digital Access Marketing at FedEx. For the sake of full disclosure, I should say that Mark is a client of Beeline Labs, the company I co-founded and where I am a partner.

Mark set the stage by giving an overview of the FedEx business, a $36B company.  Mark described his business as a “network business,” with very similar characteristics as telecom carriers, railroads, and airlines – facing unique challenges in that they can not easily reconfigure their network based on specific market segment requirements.

We talked a fair amount about the changes in marketing caused by shifts in audience expectations. In this case the audience expectation shift has to do with how customers interact with FedEx and with one another. People increasingly want to interact on their own terms. In Asia that may mean through a text based interface on a cell phone, while in the US people expect a richer Web experience. Meeting expectations gets further complicated by generational differences – with some people using technology only when they interact with FedEx, and others expecting the same rich interfaces that they have grown accustomed to in using other online environments and applications. FedEx now handles 13 million digital experiences with their customers every day, making them not just a business services company, but also a software application development company – and one that has to deliver on its brand promise of trust and reliability through all those software applications. Managing the shift from having most of your customer touch-points happening through digital interfaces instead of through humans (the FedEx drivers) is not a trivial challenge.

From a brand perspective marketing has gone through some interesting transitions. In the 50′s and 60′s, brands used to be built on a set of attributes. Now brands are built by customers, one experience at a time, and those experiences are, obviously, more and more online experiences. Fedex has seen additional changes in branding as their offering is increasingly becoming a critical part of their customers’ offerings – thus becoming an “ingredient brand.”

Mark also talked about changes in market research and in measuring marketing effectiveness – with the most important measure of marketing effectiveness at FedEx now being customer loyalty instead of customer satisfaction. It’s not hard to understand when you realize that a 1% increase in loyalty comes with an extra $100M straight into the bottom line. Interestingly enough, loyalty is strongest among people who had a problem that was resolved to their satisfaction, not among those that never had a problem. When discussing market research we also talked about the power of the 2.0 world and how it makes it so much easier to get instant feedback.

Other interesting topics that we touched on include:

  • How Fedex uncovered affinity-based group behavior in their community, and the role of cognitive surplus in brand champions and customer (self-)support
  • How the new “word of mouth” is increasingly coupled with customer support
  • How they set up a listening infrastructure to monitor what is being said about the company and to be able to quickly turn negative word of mouth into positive word of mouth to increase customer loyalty
  • The importance of co-marketing with customers
  • The role of listening in innovation, and how listening is the most important thing you can do as a marketer
  • How fairness plays an important role in customer loyalty. You can fail to solve a person’s problem but still instill loyalty if what you did appeared to be fair in the eyes of the customer.

Mark also touched on the type of marketing people he is looking for – well rounded people with strong technical skills who are good listeners.

You can listen to the recorded call below and soon we will be posting a transcript of the conversation as well.


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