On March 3, a group of CMOs gathered in New York City for our New York City Chapter Dinner. The theme of the evening was “Breakthroughs in Using Human Data to Transform Your Customer Experience” and our speakers were Kris Gates, Vice President Marketing, Strategy and Customer Experience at MassMutual and Ernan Roman, president of Ernan Roman Direct Marketing (ERDM) and named by the Online Marketing Institute as one of the “2014 Top 40 Digital Luminaries” and by Crain’s BtoB Magazine as one of the “100 most influential people in Business Marketing”.

Below you’ll find Ernan’s summary of what was discussed at the event, including Key Takeaways, the Value of Human Data and MassMutual’s case study (hint, customer experience personalization works!):

Start with these 8 Key Takeaways:

  1. Preference, Personalization, Privacy must mesh
  2. Focus shift from cost (expense) to return (revenue)
  3. Adopt perspective “how does this benefit the customer” (vs. us)
  4. Customer insights are a privilege
  5. Short-term sales are not the end-game
  6. Trust is easily lost, but hard to gain
  7. Customer experience reengineering might require a whole new personnel skill set
  8. Start small, iterate, prove the model, then scale

Now, onto The Value of Human Data:

As CMOs know all too well, customers are ignoring generic messaging and demanding personalized and relevant communications based on their individual preferences.

The good news, according to new research findings, is that customers and prospects are willing to provide personal or business information in exchange for more personalized offers, communications and experiences.

CMOs need to meet this challenge and opportunity by evolving from impersonal, transaction-based marketing, to highly personalized, preference-based, communications.

The Reciprocity of Value Equation

The following research finding has emerged from 12,000+ hours of Voice of Customer (VoC) research our firm has conducted for companies including MassMutual, IBM, Norton AntiVirus, QVC, NBC and Microsoft; In spite of privacy concerns, BtoB and BtoC customers are willing to provide detailed information in exchange for increased value and relevance.

To satisfy these demands, marketers must adopt transformational strategies that recognize the value of Human Data; true personalization of communications, offers and experiences driven by deep opt-in individual preference information provided by customers in exchange for receiving unprecedented levels of preference-driven personalization.

We call this the Reciprocity of Value Equation;

Customer Reciprocity – Recognition by customers that to receive more relevant and personalized communications and offers, they need to provide marketers with personal or business preference information.


Business Reciprocity – Recognition by marketers that they have to provide significantly more personalized communications and offers.To be truly personalized these have to be based on more than just transactional, overlay and inferential data.


“Human Data” – BtoB or BtoC opt-in self profiled information regarding:


Customer Experience Transformation!

Real-Life Example: Human Data + Personalization = Greater Results for MassMutual

For MassMutual Retirement Services Division, a leading provider of employer sponsored voluntary benefits, including retirement plans, life and disability insurance, VoC insights indicated that many customers and prospects didn’t have an in-depth understanding of the need and value of the company’s products. VoC research indicated that people needed to understand how these products related to them as individuals at their very specific life stages and situations.

According to Kris Gates, Vice President Marketing, Strategy and Customer Experience, “We believed that with tighter targeting we could increase engagement and ultimately get more of our participants on the right track with their savings and protection needs. The VoC research was the real driver for what those segments would ultimately look like. By listening to our customers, we were able to go beyond our previous strategies of age segmentation, to now looking at life stage and attitude toward our products. As a result, we are seeing improved responses in a category that has low consumer engagement and inertia.”

MassMutual engaged consumers to opt-in and provide their preference information. This information was used to change segmentation strategies, product offerings, messaging and visual images. Additionally, they removed barriers to engagement and purchasing by focusing on consumer attitudes toward certain retirement and insurance products at various life stages.

Based on VoC research findings, MassMutual also created an online “edutainment” talk show, “SmartView,” to address personal financial topics related to customer requests for information. Each episode show provided real life examples and advice.

Following is a summary of results from people who were given the option to opt-in to receive the SmartView updates, versus the Control population.

  • 94% higher open rates
  • 1062% higher video views
  • Zero unsubscribes
  • 100% deliverability.

The following chart shows the results achieved by utilizing VoC-research driven segmentation and personalization strategies. Look at the difference in response rate between Year 1, with one segment and generalized messaging and Year 3 with truly personalized and segment specific content and imagery. This resulted in a 200% increase in response

Target Response Rate
Year 1
One segment and generalized messaging
198,000 1.81%
Year 2
24 segments with personalized imagery
365,000 3.79%
Year 3
Truly personalized and segment specific content and imagery
350,078 5.99%

Revisiting our 8 Key Takeaways:

  1. Three strategies must mesh to deliver on customer expectations; Preference capture, Personalization and Privacy.
  2. As part of driving Change, shift focus from Cost (Expense) to Return (Revenue).
  3. Must change company culture and thinking; from “how does this benefit us?” to “how does this benefit the customer?”
  4. Customer insights are a privilege, not something you are entitled to.
  5. Don’t ruin the hard fought gains for short-term sales.
  6. Trust is easily lost, but hard to gain, especially when dealing with personal information and relationships.
  7. Customer Experience reengineering might require different a different personnel skillset. Do you have the talent on staff required to take it to the next level?
  8. Start small, iterate, prove the model, then scale.