I spoke with Greg Marlin the CEO and founder of Transformation.ai, a company that is revolutionizing the customer journey by radically simplifying it for marketers using great visualization software and Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Radically Simplify the Customer Journey Map with Powerful Artificial Intelligence
04:38 How Transformation.ai Simplifies Customer Journey Mapping
06:44 Integration with Leading Platforms like HubSpot, Salesforce and Facebook.
07:53 Customer Journey Mapping
08:37 A Simple Way to Digitize the Customer Journey
10:30 Connecting Data Silos Across the Organization
11:03 Crawl, Walk and Run Approach to Implementation
12:19 External and Internal Touch Points
13:33 The Ideal Customer
14:58 Implementing Transformation.ai
18:12 Artificial Intelligence Trends
20:28 Advise for Agencies Implementing Artificial Intelligence
25:05 The Future of Artificial Intelligence
28:20 Transformation.ai for Marketing Agencies
- You can invest a lot effort, research and brainpower in developing a great strategy, however if you fail to embed that strategy in your daily activity – you will fail.
- Our maps provide highly interactive tools that connect to your actual data. All data related to your customer journey is now managed and accessible from one central location in a very visual way.
- When exploring Artificial Intelligence for your business ask yourself, how can you use AI to amplify what already works or how can you use AI to amplify your strategy?
- The next big wave for marketing agencies is customer journey management or customer experience management. We’re already starting to see marketing agencies re-branding themselves as customer experience agencies.
Justin Jones: I spoke with Greg Marlin the CEO and founder of Transformation.ai, a company that is revolutionizing the customer journey by radically simplifying it for marketers using great visualization software and Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Greg is not only a serial entrepreneur and AI expert, but also a seasoned marketer. He is exactly the kind of expert we love to speak with at SimpleAI.ca. If I understand correctly, Transformation.ai provides an agile framework for connecting all the elements throughout the customer journey, making it very visual, easy to modify, and very easy to connect and plug in data from various sources.
Greg, tell us a little about yourself, what you’re doing, and where you’re going with Transformation.ai
Greg Marlin: I really enjoy having these high level strategic conversations as they form the foundation and guide the companies and software I build – it’s all about elevating strategy.
The world is becoming increasingly complex, driven by the empowered customer. So more than ever, we need to slow down and have an effective strategy against which to execute. Yes, you can make tactical adjustments and iterations throughout, however it still needs to be guided by a higher-level and well thought out strategy. This deep appreciation for strategy has always informed my thinking.
This goes back to my first professional job at Siemens as a strategic planning analyst. I worked with a great team which was responsible for managing a portfolio of over four hundred different product lines within Siemens. I saw how all of these different products interconnected and the importance of strategy. But at the same time, I was frustrated, we could not clearly track execution effectiveness. There was a gap between strategic planning and the execution of that plan.
This is a pattern that I saw many times throughout my career. You can invest a lot effort, research and brainpower in developing a great strategy, however if you fail to embed that strategy in your daily activity – you will fail. I’m always working to elevate strategy through the software that we build, making the lives of executives easier and simpler.
Justin Jones: As a marketer myself, I can confirm that you’re solving a very real problem by bridging the strategy and execution gap. There are so many technology choices and moving parts within marketing that it quickly becomes overwhelming. If I understand correctly, Transformation.ai brings all customer journey data together in one central location – which is fantastic, as the customer journey is notoriously difficult to track and manage. So, your software simplifies this whole process through the use of an agile framework that pulls the various elements together. You can easily report on the various elements (e.g. email, SEM) and share insights throughout the organization so the whole company is informed and on the same performance execution page.
Greg Marlin: I would call our platform a radical simplification – taking something that’s very complex and then radically simplify it. For me that was the customer journey map as it obliterates the silos within an organization. There’s no hiding between different functions and tools. It shows you the journeys as they happen through dots, lines and interconnections – similar to the way our brains process information. We do not display connections in tables and rows or through spreadsheets. We see the customer journey map as the central tool for managing your business.
Justin Jones: You pull in data from different sources through integrations with companies like Facebook, HubSpot and Salesforce and then parse and make sense of the data?
Greg Marlin: It starts with the mapping itself. In terms of our value proposition, there are two core elements. The first is that we save you a lot of time in managing customer journeys. The second is we drive insight. So, you save time and gain insight.
Whenever we build an agile framework, we want to ensure there is some structure, but also provide enough flexibility that you’re not forced to do things a certain way. Every strategist knows their business best and Transformation.ai provides a framework that conforms to your unique needs.
At the fundamental level when someone is doing customer journey mapping today, they’ll start with big picture boards, sticky notes, PowerPoint or Vizio etc. The Return on Investment (ROI) for just doing this is already very clear, the challenge is that there’s a lot of manual work involved.
If you want to create a new version of a customer journey using a basic tool like PowerPoint – there is a lot of cutting and pasting which makes it prohibitive in terms of work involved, especially when running multiple experiments. This is slow, painful and not scalable.
So we created a very easy way to digitize your touch points and then reuse them in a simple drag and drop mapping interface. Depending on the size and sophistication of your organization, this could save you literally hundreds of hours. The next step now you’ve mapped it – unlike other methods, it’s not just a pretty picture … you can you do something with it.
Our maps provide highly interactive tools that connect to your actual data. You integrate with a platform like HubSpot, and now when you click on an individual touch point (e.g. email) within your map – you are connected directly to your data source. All data related to your customer journey is now managed and accessible from one central location in a very visual way.
You can combine that with other types of data. For example, you want some marketing automation data, some Google Analytics data, or perhaps data from your survey monkey integration. You’re able to combine various types of data at a touch point level. Then at a map level, which might be your end-to-end customer journey map (or smaller segment) you roll up all the touch points into a single highly visual dashboard.
On a simple conceptual level, you’ve mapped the customer journey, now you can easily create different versions of the map and also collaborate during the process. If at some point you realize you’re missing a touch point, or would like to further enhance the journey – the time and effort is drastically reduced. You now have an opportunity to easily experiment with the customer journey as it’s fully digitized and connected to all data sources.
When you pull the data into the map and actually see how these journeys are performing, that provides huge insight because the map is perhaps connecting 8 to 20 data silos across your organization.
The data is presented exactly how you want to see it, in the context you want to see it. The alternative is to jump around between these 8 to 20 data silos and somehow parse and connect the data in your brain. That’s really hard, if not impossible. Our goal is to radically simplify the customer journey and make it highly visual.
We actually call it our crawl, walk, run methodology. The crawl adds value by digitizing the touch points on your map and using them to gain insight. The walk refers to the point where you identify and instrument touch points throughout the customer journey. If you’re missing a key piece of information, identify it, source it and then include it in the map.
Using Transformation.ai you can easily see what data you need at a particular touch point and how to roll that up into a dashboard that represents the map. You can see the map and you see the dashboard which provides a lot of cues as to what’s important. This is where the agile framework helps. As you move into the run phase you’re managing your business using these maps. These customer journey maps can be a combination external and internal touch points.
You have touch points that are external, they are the customer experience. You have the internal touch points that form the processes; they create those experiences for your customers. As a team you see the results, have conversations and use the collaborative tools for improving the map – you get to see the entire customer journey in one end-to-end interactive and collaborative map.
When you make a change, it is recorded in the system and you can see how changes impact results. It really makes running your business very simple. It’s a radical simplification of how you go about managing these otherwise very complex things called customer journeys.
Justin Jones: Who is your ideal customer and is there a minimum requirement in terms of minimum data?
Greg Marlin: We add a lot value to any business that wants to create customer journey mapping. You can technically extract a tremendous amount of value from one data point, for example Google Analytics. Implementing a solution like Transformation.ai does require a degree of buy-in from the company executives as it transforms the business on many levels.
Justin Jones: How long does it take to implement Transformation.ai?
Greg Marlin: It is surprisingly quick to implement. We have a free trial so people can start today.
Our onboarding process usually takes a couple of weeks to ensure optimal configuration – however we target 30 to 90 days for the entire team to become comfortable with the software.
We have found the customer journey map is becoming increasingly important for businesses because they realize that the customer experience is your brand. A growing number of companies are actually building dedicated customer journey management teams and there are even people with the title customer journey manager. It started in retail and financial services, but it is a rapidly growing title.
When it comes to AI I think what’s very interesting is there’s been a lot of commoditization around things that people thought were going to be important. There are a number of free or freemium tools that can do sophisticated Natural Language Processing (NLP) both on the text and image side. There’s never been a better time to build an AI application because of all this ‘free plumbing’ – the bigger companies like IBM, Microsoft, Google and Amazon have invested a lot of money in building AI infrastructure that everyday businesses can now leverage to build amazing tools. For example, you could build a chat bot which many companies are doing as the business case is very clear. You can even use the open source tools and build an AI generated app.
There’s a lot of activity around AI, but nobody has built a killer app yet.
Justin Jones: As a marketer and AI expert, what piece of advice would you give marketers looking at implementing AI?
Greg Marlin: Ask yourself, how can you use AI to amplify what already works? How can you use AI to amplify your strategy? Because ultimately that’s what this is about. You could waste a lot of time diving into domains of AI that don’t relate to your greatest challenges. Find a small innovation budget and devote some time to find a project that will increase your organizational knowledge of how AI works and can benefit your business. Beware, you could waste a lot of time if you go down the wrong rabbit hole.
There’s a lot of different ways that you can use the plumbing tools mentioned earlier. They’re continuing to evolve and their accuracy is pretty good.
Another piece of advice I’d give marketers. Whenever someone has a positive experience on the Internet, that is the new benchmark. They expect that same level of service from other businesses on the Internet. Once they experience Facebook, they expect every other social network to deliver a great experience. So, you may be competing with services and experiences in a completely different industry to yours. Don’t measure yourself only by those in your industry.
Start small, find something that works. Iterate and use the plumbing that’s available from the bigger organizations.
Justin Jones: Have you come across any high potential trends that relate to AI in marketing? Something that has made you step back and say, my goodness this is likely to explode in the next three to five years.
Greg Marlin: There’s a conversation among some of us that the breakout app is going to be around user interface. AI is currently where computers were in the 70’s. We have lots of hobbyists. You basically require a level of technical knowledge to create something of value with AI. The hobbyist of the 70’s bought their motherboard and put their own computers together. Then Apple came out with this super simple user interface for accessing your personal computer which appealed to the masses – now everyone could enjoy and interact with a personal computer. That started the user interface revolution.
It’s been a while since we’ve had a radical jump in the user interface. We see people and companies exploring the voice interface, for example Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri.
Justin Jones: I’m inspired by the future and what technology will bring. In our lifetime we’ve seen so much, from landing on the moon to autonomous cars. Before I die, I can envision a chip in my head that provides the ultimate user interface.
How do marketing agencies use your software, using Transformation.ai to drive their business and increase revenue?
Greg Marlin: In terms of Transformation.ai, customer journey mapping is something agencies are already offering as a service. It’s usually a one-off exercise, where the agency will create a persona and then map that persona’s journey.
However, with Transformation.ai agencies now have an opportunity to provide an ongoing management service for their clients. So, they build the customer journey map, they do the inventory of touch points, and now they manage those customer journeys as part of a monthly service to that client.
They can now build smaller projects for the client at an individual touch point or map level. Those projects could even include Artificial Intelligence (AI). They examine a particular touch point and build upon the existing data to create a model that could, for example deliver predictions. Or perhaps include automation through a chat bot. Transformation.ai provides a great visualization of the customer journey, the data, and opportunities for further enhancements and innovation. This provides another opportunity for agencies to add additional value for clients. Other services like email marketing, Search Engine Marketing (SEM), and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) have become very commoditized in recent years.
This is really the next big wave. Customer journey management or customer experience management. I’m already starting to see some marketing agencies re-branding themselves as customer experience agencies. For marketing agencies looking to get an early edge, this would be a good opportunity.
Transformation.ai – Radically simplify how you create and manage customer journey maps