When the Covid-19 pandemic struck, businesses faced unprecedented challenges. The pandemic proved that new modes of digital work and collaboration actually increase productivity and the pace of innovation. Growth companies in highly competitive markets — subscription businesses, marketplaces, omnichannel retail, and FinTech — have continued to innovate and disrupt markets regardless of the pandemic. That’s because growth companies have the agility, technology, and resources to capitalize on changing the abrupt end of physical proximity as a barrier to innovation. Like an estuary, the best companies have enabled marketers, data scientists, and product innovators to mix and create valuable, new customer experiences.
Growth company CMOs believe in the disruptive potential of their customer data, but many struggle. Why? CMOs have to navigate increasingly rapid technology changes in three areas: consumer, corporate, and the ever confusing MarTech landscape. New channels, data sources, analytical methods, digital products, and marketing programs only multiply the complexity of building competitive customer experiences.
We all know that customer data, analytics, and highly personalized customer journeys can build revenue and market share, but what’s often left unsaid is the enormous effort it takes to integrate and make sense of data…especially when everything about the data is rapidly changing. Technology roadmaps, product development cycles, strapped engineers, and exploding ticket queues often bottleneck the best and brightest customer experiences that marketers could deliver if they could keep pace. This leaves CMOs stretched and stressed in a multidimensional tug of war — struggling to balance how to optimize what works well today, place the right bets for tomorrow, and adjust to the never-ending chaos created by hard-to-anticipate technology, privacy, and regulatory shifts.
The herky-jerky of Apple’s privacy announcements one day and Google’s reprieve on third party cookies has left nearly every marketer seasick. Tried and true digital acquisition techniques might theoretically stop working overnight; critical data flows might dry up; and the impact on revenue could be tremendous. Most don’t have access to the engineering resources that could give them the agility they seek, and so they simply can’t stay afloat as the tides shift.
Growth company CMO’s are caught on the horns of a dilemma — customer innovation (and revenue) depend on technical and data innovations, but the increasing complexity and rapid shifts in technology and data hamstring their ability to deliver those innovations. Without enabling marketers with the right data in the right places, CMOs won’t be able to deliver the results that investors and customers want.
The Five Forces: Threats or Opportunities?
Leading growth company CMOs can break the tug of war between innovation and technical complexity by mastering five key forces to turn data into outcomes.
Flexibility & Speed
Data models and schemas may not be the hottest dinner party topic, but prioritizing flexibility pays outsized dividends. Even for smaller growth companies, marketing and customer data is complex; while your dev or IT team may be able to handle it, many marketing tools can’t. Too many marketing tools require that engineers spend time integrating or reformatting data, and yet because the engineers are busy, marketing misses the window of opportunity. Investing in the right customer data platform repays itself many times over in new campaigns and journeys.
The Data Flywheel
The pandemic accelerated emerging and growth businesses, especially those that freely mix online and offline, subscription and ecommerce, direct and marketplace. Yet because customer data is often scattered across systems, marketers often don’t know which journeys to focus on or how to guide the journey across channels. The right customer data platform helps marketers quickly ideate, test, and iterate, creating a data flywheel that builds revenue and engagement through rapid optimization.
Unified Customer View
Often growth company CMOs are saddled with multiple marketing systems acquired by predecessors when marketing programs and the customer base were much smaller. What worked well then creates complexity now: each system has different customer data and may not share data easily with other systems. Smart CMOs are focused on unifying customer data at the profile level, then managing the flow of profiles, segments, triggers, and content through an orchestration CDP. The result? Existing MarTech systems not only work better when supplied with more data, they work together better, delivering more consistent personalization and with a cadence that’s relevant to each customer’s lifecycle stage.
CMOs face customer identity challenges on two fronts: the headlines constantly decry the first, the manifold shifts in consumers’ digital identities, from App Tracking Transparency to the demise of third party cookies. But digital identity isn’t the only identity challenge. Offline identity is a challenge for businesses that market to households and individuals; or that operate loyalty programs that engage members and individuals. Almost any marketing program benefits from both digital and offline identity resolution. And marketing techniques like segmentation, personalization, and next best action all deliver higher ROI with better identity management. CMOs who master identity will have the pleasure of delivering far better performance reports to their boards.
Many growth marketers limp by with technology that no longer cuts the mustard. Many tools can’t even tap into rich customer data maintained in cloud data warehouses. Their segmentation models rely on outdated batch data. Or they don’t have the ability to experiment across channels. Yet what CMO can rip and replace everything? CMOs who deploy a customer data platform don’t face this challenge. Instead, they use the CDP to integrate and orchestrate data flows, so that existing tech performs better, and can be retired or replaced on a rational schedule.
As businesses look ahead to the post-pandemic world, growth companies will continue to innovate, disrupt business-as-usual and inspire new customer experiences. With the right tools in place, growth-minded CMOs can harness the power of technology to capitalize on innovation and drive business growth.