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The idea that an organization should be focused on its customer seems like common sense, but it is not always easy to act on. The good news is that there has been a convergence of technology, data, and organizational thinking around customer experience, which has given companies the insights needed to engineer innovative programs that put the customer first.

Small Business Saturday is one such program. American Express started its Small Business Saturday campaign in 2010 as an alternative to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, both of which favor big brick-and-mortar and online retailers rather than small businesses.

The campaign grew into a movement. In 2011, President Obama and the U.S. Senate voiced their support. In 2012, American Express grew the program by donating free advertising, including social media advertising, for small businesses. By 2014, an American Express-commissioned survey estimated that $14.3 billion had been spent on Small Business Saturday.

Small Business Saturday’s success started with knowing what American Express customers wanted, according to Mary Ann Fitzmaurice Reilly, the company’s senior vice president of Global Brand, Integration and Insights. One of the largest credit card companies in the world, American Express has lots of consumer data. And with 25+ years serving small businesses, it also had data on this specific audience. After the recession of 2008, Fitzmaurice Reilly’s team found that small businesses needed more customers and that 93 percent of consumers wanted to support small businesses. That confluence of insights helped to create a win-win program.

You can hear Fitzmaurice Reilly speak about customer-centric business culture at her session Bringing Customer Centricity to Life on February 22 at VentureBeat’s Marketing.FWD Summit.

American Express’ support for small business doesn’t begin and end on one holiday, of course. Prior to her current role, Fitzmaurice Reilly was CMO of American Express Open. The Open brand not only sells credit cards, but also provides always-on content for small business owners, and Open’s forum allows them to share that information.

In addition to being a valuable customer utility, Open serves a strategic purpose for the company. It allows American Express to present its brand, products, and services as a solution to the challenges its customers are trying to solve.

Open also becomes a platform for what Fitzmaurice Reilly called a “circular customer decision journey” in a 2014 presentation at The CMO Club. It may take a small business a few months to buy a credit card. During this extended customer decision-making journey, Open can bring in prospects and help them evaluate and buy products, as well as connecting them with peers who are Open advocates. And at the end of this cycle, the prospects may become advocates themselves.

Customer centricity is a simple concept to understand but a hard one to implement, particular for marketers who work on distinct channels in distinct business units. That’s the challenge that Fitzmaurice Reilly is trying to solve by creating frameworks for integrated customer data and insights.

Hear from Mary Ann Fitzmaurice Reilly at Marketing.FWD Summit. Register now!

 

 

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