The Changing Role of Marketing in the Customer Experience Era


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What does marketing mean to you? Some people have a limited view of marketing (e.g. marketing generates leads) others look at it more broadly (e.g. Marketing drives the strategy of the company by defining the brand promise and postioning that guide many other decisions). This view has a significant impact on the role marketing plays in your business.

In my past, I’ve held (and interviewed) for a number of different VP and other senior level marketing jobs. My discussions always started with understanding the view of marketing. If the company was looking for someone to improve lead generation and viewed marketing as a tactical activity that had to be done but little more, the conversation was very short. On the other hand, when the CEO and I talked about collaborating to bring the strategy and positioning of the company to life, I knew I was talking to the right type of company.

How does this relate to customer experience? Its critical. Recently, a couple of things really caught my eye.

First, Patty Seybold blogged about “Why Customer Experience Shouldn’t Report to Marketing.” The crux of her post is that marketing does not have enough power and influence to drive all of the changes that are needed to improve customer experiences. Her argument is sound.

The second was this month’s McKinsey Quarterly Newsletter. The feature article is “We’re all marketers now.” It argues that:

“At the end of the day, customers no longer separate marketing from the product—it is the product. They don’t separate marketing from their in-store or online experience—it is the experience. In the era of engagement, marketing is the company.”

So the question, is how can marketing change its image to gain the power and influence necessary to drive a customer experience agenda? I think there are both tactical and strategic answers to that question.


  1. Make promises you can keep. Build trust by focusing your messaging around promises that are realistic and that customers value.
  2. Over-communicate the brand promises internally. Make sure every organization, especially front-line employees understand the promises the brand is making and their role in keeping the promise. Raise marketing’s stature as the driver for executing on the corporate strategy.
  3. Talk the talk. Don’t let yourself be positioned as a tactical implementer of marketing programs. Structure your communications and interactions to convey a strong leadership flavor around the role of a strong brand, brand promises, and positioning.

Strategic (and maybe a bit crazy):

  1. Make Marketing and Customer Service report to the same leader. This would make one team that owns the story that is used to engage customers and then follows through to deliver on brand promises.
  2. Make the Chief Experience Officer (CXO) a peer to the Chief Operations Officer (COO). Have anyone who touches the customer (sales,service, marketing) report to the CXO. The CXO and the COO become the yin and yang of the organization, balancing the needs of the customer with the internal business needs.

What do you think? What is the real role of marketing and how can marketing become more of a focal point and strategic driver within organizations to enable experience based differentiation? How should marketing deal with its internal perception problem (while focusing on creating postive, accurate perceptions externally.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Hank Barnes
Hank Barnes provides research and advisory services on go-to-market strategies--particularly around marketing, positioning, and customer experience--for technology providers. Hank has more than 25 years of high-technology sales and marketing experience in both field and corporate roles, both as an individual contributor and the marketing leader for several startups. He is a long-time proponent of customer-centric marketing and the use of customer experience as a key differentiator for business success. His posts here include content from his days with Adobe, SAP, and now Gartner


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