Booz&Co wrote in their article “The Social Life of Brands” on Strategy+Business that the value of a brand is linked with the relationships it has with its customers, creating and retaining them. For marketing, its fundamental task is managing these relationships. In a recent research by Gallup the results were striking, a 240 percent boost in performance was achieved when both employees and customers were enaged. This is exactly, in a highly technological driven business environment, digital innovation is the catalyst that improves engagement and provide means to manage relationships better, faster and in a cheaper way though digital.

Last Thursday I had the opportunity to visit the event “Digital Marketing in 1 day” in Bussum, the Netherlands. I was invited by Eric-Jan van Putten from Sitecore to come to this event and understand developments in digital marketing and –innovation. From our point of perspective (elaborated in the first paragraph) I was interested to see what the speakers would provide from the relationship and enagement point of perpective.

I attended five sessions, read further for the key insights I took away combined and synthized with other insights.

Volvo: Social media and CRM

Rob Verstegen of Volvo Cars Netherlands is doing great things when it comes to CRM and social media. Interestingly they were not integrating the two (yet). This is not surprising when we keep in mind the social CRM adoption:

Volvo introduced social media by starting with Facebook and using this platform to engage with their fans. They created an innovative campaign that ‘honored’ their fans. Of the 200,000 Volvo cars in the Netherlands, 30,000 Volvo drivers have become a fan on their Facebook page.

Volvo did more than one campaign, others were also integrated in their CRM system to understand which driver was installing their Facebook application. A further integration of social in their CRM still has to happen but it will be beneficial because relationship management in the automotive is a challenge.

Some of the challenges Volvo Netherlands experiences, but are similar to others on social CRM, are:

  • Buy in from management, what does social bring.
  • Further integration of social (for the purpose of customer service for instance) means redesigning processes and KPI’s.

This won’t happen for certain overnight, but consumers aren’t accepting “push messages” anymore and want to be engaged more intimately. Social CRM in combination with storytelling will become more and more important.

Online customer experience

During the online customer experience session presented by Jeroen Huizinga of Sitecore the digital innovation was to be sought in the application of technology in relation to the online customer experience and how to relevantly engage with visitors.

Customer experience management focusses on using implicit data and create added value from it for the customer. There are many tools and technologies that drive the digital experience, but all too often, organizations don’t listen well to their customers. What do they want, how do they come in and so on is all data that can be used to create relevant engagement.

The advice given is to start simple, step by step. Create relevancy within the customer journey by creating a compelling experience and enable that through supporting technology.

Customer experience is one of the 10 types of innovation, the experience is the most intangible type of innovation, but also one that can differentiate the best from competitors:

Source: cocatalyst

The digital environment supports and enables the creation of an experience, that is something hard to copy. Combine the two and companies can have a headstart in terms of innovation and competitiveness.

Sales intelligence

Competitivenevess is also spured by sales intelligence derived from online data.  This session was also provided by Sitecore. The sales manager Martin Lourens presented one of their cases –Merlo Coffee- to show how their content management system provides insight that informs their own sales process.

One of the remarks that stood me by was:

Customers visit your site (ed. digital asset in general) with a certain intent.

Derive understanding of this intent for the purpose of sales is a great application of online insight. Another perspective that he gave was how an enabling technology such as theirs makes the job more fun for sales people. Being able to build up efficiently and effectively understanding on a certain prospect (that visited their site –in this case-) makes it more fun and more effective in ultimately converting the prospect.

Employee engagement is often overlooked. Technologies are not only built to facilitate certain processes, faster, better and cheaper but it also means to make the employee’s job a nicer one, a more fulfilling one.

Volvo Trucks: creating a consistent cross-channel experience

Danielle van Eck (Volvo Trucks) and Peter Redert (Adnovate) gave a joint presentation. Adnovate is a marketing operations platform that enables efficient and effective marketing processes. The first half of the session was a quick intro to Adnovate and why they build the platform as it is. The second half of the session was presented by Volvo Trucks and presented their case.

In the current business landscape, companies have the need to do more with less. Streamlining and making marketing processes more efficient is part of this need. Everyone that is needed in the marketing supply chain can connect to the Adnovate’s platform, what it enables is consistency. This counts especially for large international organizations that need effective alignment at a low cost.

Volvo Trucks which has 1600 dealers EMEA wide and a 15-20% marketshare has challenges such as time to market, brand consistency, efficiency and high cost. Dealers are also in this case important. They all can create their own marketing communications, but to make sure brand and communication consistency is guarenteed is a challenge.

In this case as well, digital innovation and enablement provides cost-effective engagement and collaboration between the different stakeholders. Digital technology adapts the way people are working and enhances it.

Process innovation as differentiator.

 Online customer feedback

Jaap Wilms from Nationale Nederlanden (a Dutch insurer) presented his case on the integration of the Net Promoter Score (NPS) in the company. NPS is great from a stakeholder engagement and management perspective. Through the feedback of end-customers, the stakeholders at “the back-end” can be accounted on their performance. Ultimately, the customer experience is the measure of success of the employees and other business partner’s experience and output.

The difference between conventional feedback and NPS is that the latter addresses both “heart” and “mind”. This is important to understand because it puts the reputation on the line of those that recommend (or not) a company to their friend or colleague.

Why is promoter behavior important? Because just 14% of customers trusts advertising and 78% trusts their peers. NPS is a great metric to align the company to be customer-centric and is a feedback tool that makes work accountable and more fun due to the improved employee engagement.

Nationale Nederlanden launched the first (of three) phase of the NPS program at the beginning of this year:

  1. Collect data
  2. Analyze, improve, stimulate
  3. Forget NPS

The second phase will start beginning next year. The last phase seems counter-intuitive, but the in this is that NPS is just a metric, not the end-goal. Cultural change is the goal, to do so, NPS and customer-centric behavior must become an intrinsic part of the organization’s DNA.


The event was interesting because of the shared cases, and it made me realize that digital innovation is not only the catalyst but in many cases it is the enabler. There is so much data, channels and media to take into account that is becomes more challenging by the day. Being and staying relevant, nurturing relationships to create and retain customers is something that is an accumulative result of innovations in each of the 10 types as described in the second session. Digital innovation is the business accelerator to do things better, faster and cheaper in comparison to competitors and taking into account all the stakeholders in the process.

Digital capabilities are a fundamental building block, how competitive are you by means of digital?

By Gianluigi Cuccureddu

About the author:

Gianluigi Cuccureddu, contributing editor, is an experienced writer specializing in innovation, connected business and marketing. He is co-founder of Damarque, an EMEA professional services firm that takes a strategic view and hands-on approach across the entire value chain to help organizations integrate social technologies. To help them drive employee productivity, customer loyalty and better innovation. Damarque acts as trusted advisor to organizations to support and guide them through this transition phase and offers a unique approach and combination of competences.


The Social Life of Brands by Strategy+Business

The Business Impact of Human Emotions by Gallup

Digital Transformation: A Roadmap for Billion-Dollar Organizations by MIT and Capgemini