Understanding Customer Journey Orchestration (CJO) and Real-time Interaction Management (RTIM)

Marketing teams are consumed with the task of finding effective ways to
reach and engage customers effectively. To achieve this, marketers have to understand customer journeys in all their complexity. The concepts of Customer Journey Orchestration (CJO) and Real-time Interaction Management
(RTIM) are two concepts that have emerged as key strategies to meeting this challenge.

CEOWorld: Investing in Employees for Improved Customer Experience

This article was originally published on CEOWorld Magazine. The customer
experience (CX) is the grand sum of all interactions between a company and
its customers. It’s the lasting impression that a business leaves on its
patrons, and it’s one of the most important elements when it comes to
creating long-term relationships with customers.

Fast Company: Embracing the customer lifetime value model


This article was written by Greg Kihlström and originally published on Fast Company. Read the full article here.

CLV is extremely important for those organizations that are embracing the modern view of a service-based model and the future of customer experience.

As long as there are shareholders and other stakeholders that define a company’s success in terms of profitability, there will always be pressure to deliver on short-term goals and quotas. I’ve found the brands that stand the test of time, however, are able to balance this need for short-term success with a longer-term view of growth and the value that a loyal customer provides. 

This is often referred to as a customer lifetime value model, where the total benefit that a customer’s interactions, purchases, recommendations, and other activities over their entire relationship with a brand is accounted for. In my advisory and consulting work, I’ve had the chance to work with many brands in order to help them define and implement this important method of measurement.

Here are three key components that brands should put in place in order to successfully adopt a customer lifetime value model. 

This article was written by Greg Kihlström and originally published on Fast Company. Read the full article here.


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First-party data strategies: an introduction for marketers


As a marketer, you know that data is an essential component of any successful marketing campaign. By collecting and analyzing data, you can gain insights into your customers’ preferences, behaviors, and demographics, which can help you tailor your marketing efforts to better meet their needs and interests.

However, with the increasing focus on data privacy and security, it’s becoming more important than ever for marketers to think carefully about how they collect, use, and protect customer data. One way to do this is by creating a first-party data strategy for your customer data.

What is first-party data?

First-party data is data that is collected directly from your customers through interactions with your business. This could include information collected through your website, mobile app, email campaigns, or in-store purchases. It can also include data that your customers voluntarily provide to you, such as through surveys or sign-ups for newsletters or loyalty programs.

Why is first-party data important?

There are several reasons why first-party data is important for marketers:

It’s more accurate: First-party data is collected directly from your customers, so it’s more likely to be accurate and up-to-date. This is especially important when it comes to tracking customer behaviors and preferences, as this information can help you create more targeted and relevant marketing campaigns.

It’s more trustworthy: Customers are more likely to trust data that has been collected directly by your business, as opposed to third-party data that has been collected by an external source. This can help build trust and loyalty with your customers, which is essential for long-term business success.

It’s more controlled: With first-party data, you have full control over how it is collected and used. This means you can ensure that your data collection practices are transparent, secure, and compliant with data privacy laws.

It’s more valuable: First-party data is unique to your business, which makes it highly valuable. It can help you understand your customers in a way that third-party data simply can’t, and can be used to create personalized marketing campaigns that are more likely to be successful.

How to create a first-party data strategy

If you want to make the most of your first-party data, it’s important to have a clear strategy in place for collecting, managing, and using it. Here are some steps you can take to create a first-party data strategy:

Identify your data needs: Start by thinking about what types of data you need to support your marketing efforts. This could include demographic information, purchasing history, website behavior, and more.

Determine how you will collect data: There are many ways to collect first-party data, including through your website, mobile app, email campaigns, and in-store interactions. Choose the methods that make the most sense for your business and will be the most effective at gathering the data you need.

Implement data management practices: Make sure you have processes in place to manage your data effectively. This could include storing data securely, regularly updating and cleaning it, and protecting it from unauthorized access.

Define how you will use the data: Determine how you will use the data you collect to support your marketing efforts. This could include creating targeted email campaigns, personalizing website content, and more.

Communicate with customers: It’s important to be transparent about how you collect and use customer data. Make sure you have a clear privacy policy in place and communicate with customers about how you use their data.

In conclusion, creating a first-party data strategy is essential for marketers who want to effectively collect, manage, and use customer data to support their marketing efforts. By focusing on first-party data, you can ensure that the data you collect is accurate, trustworthy, controlled, and valuable, and you can build trust and loyalty with your customers. By following the steps outlined above, you can create a strong first-party data strategy that will help you make the most of your customer data and drive success for your business.


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MarTech: The ROI of personalized experiences: Process measurements


This article was written by Greg Kihlström for MarTech. You can read the full article here.

Looking at the methods used to personalize, how efficiently they are performed and how they are improved over time is part of measuring ROI.

This is the third of a three-part series on the ROI of personalization. You can read the first part (audience measurements) here and the second part (content measurements) here.  

After examining how audiences and content are measured in terms of personalized experiences, let’s discuss how brands should approach the process that drives personalization. 

Process measurements require looking at the methods used to personalize, how efficiently they are performed and how they are improved over time.

In this article, we will:

Cover three aspects of operationalizing personalization.

Do a reality check for those brands that want to go all in on 1:1 omnichannel experiences.

Explore the viability of doing this and the cost of not doing it.

This article was written by Greg Kihlström for MarTech. You can read the full article here.


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MarTech: The ROI of personalized experiences: Content measurements


Track the ROI of personalized content by looking at individual and incremental performance and using a multi-touch attribution model.

The following was written by Greg Kihlström for MarTech. Read the full article here.

While doing personalization well poses challenges to even the most sophisticated brands, offering personalized customer experiences is increasingly becoming a distinguishing factor in high-performing companies. 

Companies excelling at personalization can generate up to 40% more revenue than those deemed average at it, according to McKinsey.

In the first article in this series, we looked at measuring the performance of personalized experience by how customers reacted, whether individually or within audience segments. 

The next way to measure the ROI on personalized experience is by looking at the performance of content and its contribution as part of a specific experience and across the entire buyer’s journey.

Read the full article here.


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The Customer Experience Paradox: A Prediction for 2023


For a while now, the marketing and advertising world has been grapping with two very important, yet opposing ideas.

The first set of ideas is the need for more personalized customer experiences that drive greater loyalty and purchase behavior, and which requires a greater amount of first-party data to be owned and understood by the brand. Those following the research are already aware that consumers are more likely to shop and purchase from brands that tailor their experience with content, offers and other details. Of course, this also means that in order for a brand to personalize and experience on a one-to-one basis, they need to know a lot about that customer. This means they need to collect relevant information about that individual.

The second set of ideas is the need for greater consumer privacy protections and governance over that data. With increasing regulations in Europe (GDPR), the state of Califorina (CCPA), and now even in Virginia (VCDPA) these regulations are restricting more and more how brands use first-party (directly owned by the brand) and third-party (owned by other entities and used for tracking and targeting of advertising and other marketing) data. Additionally, the industry has started to regulate itself, with Apple, Microsoft, and a handful of others taking the lead on protections on third party cookies and mobile device ID tracking. Once Google fully deprecates third-party cookies, the world of advertising will be forever changed.

In 2023, we are going to see the clash of these two extremely important areas for brands and marketers. One one hand, they seem at odds with each other. How can a brand actively try to collect more data about an individual in order to personalize their experience, while also minimizing the amount of risk of falling out of compliance with consumer data privacy regulations?

The other way of looking at this is that a lot of the methods that marketers and advertisers have been using to get data about their customers is, at best, flawed, and at worst, unethical. Third party data sources vary widely in their accuracy, as well as in how ethical their methods of data collection are. This can often mean that brands investing in collecting first-party data, or working with ethical data “clean rooms” where first-party data is shared among trusted parties, can provide better information, thus better experiences. All while remaining within compliance.

In 2023, we’ll see leaders in the space pull ahead at a faster pace by reconciling these two areas, while laggards may fall even further behind, delivering less than optimal customer experiences and with a need to play an even greater game of catch up in the months and years ahead. It will be exciting to see who stays at the forefront during these changing times!


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Exploring the Future of Podcasting with Josh Nielsen, Founder & CEO of Zencastr


The following was transcribed from a recent interview on The Agile Brand with Greg Kihlström podcast. 

Listen to the Episode

Prefer to listen? Click play on the video below to listen to the episode. 

Today we’re going to talk about the future of podcasting with someone who has been at the center of this movement since he founded his company in 2015. To help me discuss this topic, I’d like to welcome Josh Nielsen, Founder & CEO at Zencastr.

[Greg Kihlstrom] Let’s dive in here and start with a little background on podcasting itself. So, you know, while it’s extremely popular now, there were technically podcasts back in the early 2000s, though they weren’t nearly as popular, with such a broad demographic. What do you think brought about such a rise in popularity over the last several years?

Well, I can tell you what happened because I watched it happen. When I started building Zencastr, there was nowhere near as much excitement in the space as there is now. It was sort of a sleepy industry. And I’ve really got to say I didn’t even know it was going to be as big as it became. But, you know, I got lucky, I suppose. But really what happened, to answer your question, is – I’m trying to remember, this was as I was building the initial versions of Zencastr that started to blow up, and really the wave kind of built. And it was because you had podcasts like “Serial” and “This American Life,” I think, were the two sort of breakouts that happened in, I don’t know, 2016-ish, where they suddenly were getting millions of – I think it was “Serial” hit a milestone where they got a million downloads per episode. And they were hitting that regularly. And then everybody’s head started to turn, like “Whoa, that’s a lot of eyes; that’s a lot of brand impressions,” from an advertiser perspective. 

And so people realized, “Hey, there’s gold in those hills,” if there’s going to be that many people interested, as you mentioned, you know, in the United States alone 60-plus percent are listening monthly, if not more. And it’s just continued to grow. And I think I just saw the brand spend projections. It was projected to be the market size tripling by 2023 to 3-point-something-billion. Now the new projection is by 2026 it’s going to be 6-point-something-billion, another doubling. So it’s hitting an exponential growth curve. And it’s really just because so many people are interested in podcast content. It fits into their day in a way that many other mediums can’t and don’t. You can listen to it while you do your laundry, while you’re exercising, while you’re driving. And that’s a lot of time that people are spending and listening to content, and a lot of opportunity for creators and brands to get in front of people.

So I’m very familiar with Zencastr because I’ve been using it since I started this show in 2018. But maybe for those a little less familiar, can you give a little background on what exactly the platform is and does, and how do you differentiate it?

Great question to provide some context there. Back in those days, and the way I got keyed onto this market was I was actually working on a totally different company in the audio space. It was around music and helping electronic musicians collaborate together online. It didn’t work out, for many reasons. But someone said, you know, “Hey, podcasters have this problem getting high-quality assets back and forth. Maybe you can help there.” I honestly sat on that for a few years because I was focused on something else, but it always stuck in the back of my head. And I started looking into that problem, and I realized that podcasters at that time were using mostly Skype to do remote recordings, and most podcasters had either a remote co-host or a remote guest on most of their episodes. It’s really hard to find all the top performing people in your hometown that are going to come to your house, right? So you’ve got to cast a wider net. The problem with that, though, is that Skype, at that time, and now Zoom, which a lot of people use, has the same problem. It records on one end. And so the hosts might sound really good, but the guest is getting recorded with all of the voiceover IP artifacts, could be compressed. It can sound really robotic if the Internet connection is unstable. It can completely drop out at times. And that is really, really annoying to a podcast audience. They’ll jump your case on Twitter; they will stop listening to your show, if you’ve just got poor quality audio. It’s really annoying to the brain. And so it was a major pain point for podcasters at the time.

And that was, kind of, the initial problem and the initial entry point that we solved, long answer to your question. It was a double-ended recording solution. So you send a link to whoever you want to record with; it records them locally on their end; records you locally on your end; and then we mix those tracks together after the fact so that you have a really high-quality recording on both sides that is easy on the listener ears and sounds great and professional. And I should add, that was our entry to market. Now we’ve expanded and we realize there’s a lot of other problems in helping podcasters create high-quality content. And so now we’re helping them produce the content, distribute it, grow the audience and also find monetization.

I wanted to follow up with that, anyway, because you started Zencastr in 2015. I think it was audio only, and limited set of features, even though they were much needed features. But can you talk a little bit about those early days versus now? You know, what’s changed, both in the platform but also just from how you’re seeing people use the platform?

Yeah, I mean, A, the market is just blowing up. It’s white hot. And that’s been a big change, a lot more interest, a lot more bigger players in the market, a lot more people coming from other mediums to get into podcasting as well. It’s starting to become just another arrow, like a necessary arrow, in your quiver of your content marketing strategy, and for a lot of people the most powerful part of that. But, you know, I just went to the Podcast Movement Conference about a month ago, and one of the big things that I noticed there, and a big shift that’s happening now in the industry, is it used to be, you know, if you had a podcast, it was oftentimes mostly a passion project. You were probably spending out of your pocket to do this. You weren’t making a lot of money, if any, and sometimes you were spending hundreds if not thousands of dollars a year on all the tools and services around it. Now what’s starting to happen, now that you’re getting creators from YouTube and other platforms getting into podcasts, the expectations are changing to where it’s more of, instead of I’m going to pay you for your service, It’s like, “Hey, how are you going to help me make money, and how are we going to make money together?”

And I think that’s actually a great transition in the space. It’s a much needed thing. Most of these podcasters should be getting rewarded for the value that they’re providing into the ecosystem. And a way that I kind of describe what we’re trying to build is the YouTube for podcasts. If you’re on YouTube and you’ve got over a thousand downloads a month, there’s a button you can push, and now you’re monetizing; you’re in a rev share agreement with YouTube; you’re making money. And some of these guys are making a lot of money. And that doesn’t exist in podcasting right now, and it really should. And there’s no reason why it can’t. It’s been proven in other mediums. And that’s what we’ve built at Zencastr and are leaning heavily into. We believe that, if you’re a creator, you should be able to create and be rewarded for the time and effort you’re putting into it. And there’s a lot of people out there to listen, a lot of brands out there that are looking for more channels to grow. And podcasting is a great option there. 

So that’s a big shift that I’ve seen that’s been happening, and now if you go to the conference, that’s where the money is at; you know, the service companies are in the small booths, and then the advertising companies are renting out the galleries and throwing the big parties.

Yeah, and, I mean, do you see that as, I would say that’s a maturing industry, right? Is that kind of how you would characterize it?

The podcast ad market? Oh, yeah, I mean, it’s still very Wild West. I think it’s still even too early to call it maturing, like, it’s all over the place, and a lot of opportunity. You know, for example, we’ll go talk to some of our creators and we’ll just ask them an open-ended question like, “What does it cost to run an ad on your podcast,” to get a sense of how people are valuing themselves and the content. And you’ll get answers anywhere from, like, a five-cent CPM to a $500 CPM. And it’s just because the market is so all over the place right now. And, you know, that’s not a bad thing. It just means there’s a lot of work to be done to actually help people figure out how to actually make money and also not waste a ton of time.

That’s another big thing, not just monetization, but if a podcast takes you six hours per episode, which is what our old surveys we used to do before we started building all this product, that was the average, six hours; some people were spending a lot more time. And so just bringing that time to creation down and also making it so that it’s valuable for the creators is really a big part of what I think the podcasting market needs. There’s so many people that try to get into podcasting every day, hundreds, If not thousands, probably. And very few of them actually make it out of the other end of producing content and continuously making a show. It’s not because they don’t want to. It’s not because they don’t have talent. It’s just, it can be really hard and difficult without the right tool chain and the right help to not only help you create the content quickly. find your audience and then start kicking on the money as well, without having to be everything to everyone, like right now so many podcasters are trying to be a marketer, a podcast host, ad sales broker, social media, and nobody can really do all of that stuff well on their own. You kind of have to focus. But so many are being pulled in those directions right now.

I think that’s where it is kind of pointing to what you were saying earlier, it’s got some room to mature, surely, as a communication tool and as an industry, even though it is being used so prevalently. As far as content goes, I mean, I think that’s certainly a key thing. I mean, you can have the greatest team in the world, but if the content of the show is not compelling and everything, it’s not going to get that audience that is going to stick with it. What have you seen in terms of trends in content? I mean, I know there’s more podcasts than ever, so probably more diverse content, but are there any things that you’re seeing, and maybe just to focus that question, you know, content as far as those those brands and those marketers out there that are looking to get into podcasting, like any trends that you’re seeing there?

You know, one thing I’m seeing is just more and more brands are getting into it, in one way or another. I’m always sort of surprised at the different kinds of content. And there’s just such a diverse array of all different kinds of interests that I couldn’t even tell you, like there’s the obvious ones, like true crime is hot, right? I think everybody knows that. But, you know, aside from that, we try not to focus too much on what the content is but just helping give everybody the tooling that they need. As far as trends, I think a lot of it is just this move towards kind of a creator economy that you’re seeing happen in other places is definitely strong in podcasting now. People are coming into podcasting, like obviously they have passion, but it’s also with an expectation that they’re going to be able to build a business out of this. And that’s kind of the goals they’re coming into. Podcasters are very entrepreneurial people, very strong-willed. The ones especially that are successful now because, and in the past, because it’s not been an easy road to walk down. And now we’re just seeing there’s a lot of demand for people to come in and build a business out of podcasting, by and large.

So what’s on your roadmap with Zencastr? What do you see in the next couple years ahead?

Well, as I mentioned, we’ve recently launched the full creation suite, not just recording but production and editing, promotion and monetization. Further down the road, I think we’re leaning pretty heavily right now into helping them monetize through advertising as clearly everybody wants to do that in some way, but there’s a lot of other options, I think, that make sense for podcasters to monetize with that you’re seeing a lot of people already engaging with, which is like private RSS feeds, backer programs. You’re seeing live streams, and like paid kind of other sorts of events, also like merch. You know, there’s all different ways that you can monetize. And I think, if you’re a new podcaster and you’re growing, you know, getting off the ground, you may have an easier time making money with a backer program. I’ve talked to some podcasters that have maybe 5,000 downloads a month or less, but they’ve got a really strong, loyal audience and a backer program. And 500 of their audience members a month are paying them as part of a backer program, and they’re making real money off of it. And that’s a really high engagement rate. You’re not going to get that out of an ad, right? 

And so I think, depending on your content, depending on the size of your show, there’s different monetization options that make sense for that stage. And we want to be there to serve in all of those different areas. So that’s some of where our head’s at moving forward, is not just monetizing through advertising but finding all of the different ways that you can provide value to your audience and provide a deeper connection there that’s going to be valuable for them.

About the Guest

Josh is the Founder & CEO at Zencaster, one of the leading podcast recording platforms.

About the Host, Greg Kihlström

Greg Kihlstrom is a best selling author, speaker, and entrepreneur and host of The Agile Brand podcast. He has worked with some of the world’s leading organizations on customer experience, employee experience, and digital transformation initiatives, both before and after selling his award-winning digital experience agency, Carousel30, in 2017.  Currently, he is Principal and Chief Strategist at GK5A. He has worked with some of the world’s top brands, including AOL, Choice Hotels, Coca-Cola, Dell, FedEx, GEICO, Marriott, MTV, Starbucks, Toyota and VMware. He currently serves on the University of Richmond’s Customer Experience Advisory Board, was the founding Chair of the American Advertising Federation’s National Innovation Committee, and served on the Virginia Tech Pamplin College of Business Marketing Mentorship Advisory Board.  Greg is Lean Six Sigma Black Belt certified, and holds a certification in Business Agility from ICP-BAF. 


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