Your Customer-Centric Marketing Agenda


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It’s hard to find an organization these days that isn’t talking about the need to become more customer focused. The best CMOs are focused on customer-centric strategies aligned with what their customers truly value. Those who are successful will enhance their brands and build trust while those who aren’t will continue to operate in a “business as usual” fashion. And, to complicate matters, all of this occurs at a time of rapid change and disruption. The scale of change and the pace of change have never been greater.


Consider the extent to which the following have changed in just the past few years:

  • Customer expectations – increased expectations based on experiences with leading organizations such as USAA, Amazon and Trader Joe’s.
  • Customer behavior – increased usage of mobile and tablet devices; widespread adoption of social media; changes in shopping and purchase behavior.
  • Mass marketing – declining effectiveness of traditional advertising, direct mailing, cold calling, etc.; the ability of customers to “tune-out” interruptions.
  • Data – the exponential increase in customer and customer interaction data across internal and external data sources.
  • Marketing technology – the rapid rise of marketing automation and customer experience management software.
  • CEO expectations – awareness of the essential role that marketing now plays in driving growth; expectations for the measurement of results and return on investment; expectations for insights that drive strategic decisions.

It’s no wonder then that modern marketing groups are consumed with both challenge and opportunity. Average CMO tenure remains low at around 4 years (although higher than the lowest point of 23 months in 2006). Surviving and thriving in the current environment requires a new agenda for marketing. While there are necessarily many facets to this agenda, three aspects are absolutely critical.


1. Investment Mindset

One of the keys to thriving with modern marketing is bringing an investment-like discipline. Despite significant spending on sales and marketing, most firms have little or no sense of return. This is despite the fact that marketing represents one of the most significant costs on most companies’ financial statements. This is starting to change, however, as more and more firms manage marketing performance with financial metrics such as cost efficiency, sales, revenue, and forecast metrics. By laying the groundwork to track financial metics, CMOs gain a clearer understanding of what is working and what is not, where to focus their investments, and how they can better enable key outcomes.

Marketing budgets often range from four to eight percent of revenue in many organizations. With many firms under continued budget pressure, an investment-like discipline provides CMOs with better ways to justify their budgets and present facts that demonstrate contributions to growth.

This mindset is a significant shift for marketers who traditionally haven’t had the data and tools available to highlight the financial returns from their work. But, the idea is catching on quickly. Marketing technology, data and analytics enables this approach, and marketing operations teams play an increasingly significant role in many firms.

2. Collaboration

The need for effective collaboration across functions within large organizations has never been greater. In order to maximize the value of marketing, one of top priorities for CMOs must be driving collaboration across disciplines. In modern marketing, the CMO now plays the role of super-connector.

Consider a few examples. Information about customers is the lifeblood of marketing, and much of this information exists right in front of us, within our own organizations. CMO, meet your new best friend, the head of Customer Care. Today, customer care organizations capture volumes of information about customers through a wide number of information systems, data stores, and satisfaction surveys. Most CMOs recognize that listening is a high priority and the best way to understand what customers are saying about their brands on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

CMOs need to collaborate with Customer Care for yet another reason. The experience customers have with customer service does much to shape their perceptions. Progressive CMOs view the actions of the service professional as part of the brand. In light of this, building effective collaboration and information sharing between marketing and customer care is essential.

The need of cross-functional interdepartmental collaboration between marketing and customer care is only one example. Collaboration between marketing and IT is now more important than ever. And, companies that align sales and marketing outperform their peers. Modern marketing cuts across almost every discipline in the enterprise.

3. Communication

One of the keys to collaboration is improved communication. There is a natural tendency within functional groups to speak the language of like-minded specialists. Business meetings are filled with acronyms and jargon that only people will similar education and backgrounds can understand. However, given the need to collaborate across functions and communicate the financial and strategic impact of marketing, this needs to change. CMOs and other marketing leaders must become skilled at effectively communicating with other groups and C-level executives. When marketers are able to talk in terms of financial results and strategic impact they gain the influence that is important for the success of their organizations as well as their careers.

A frequent example of the need for improved communication is in the area of data and metrics. Many marketers and data scientists have difficulty translating the complexity of the many metrics they track into actionable insights and stories that the CEO and CFO can easily comprehend. One of my past clients was fond of asking “What’s the ‘so what’?” It was her way of saying: what is the main takeaway of your analysis?; why should I care about it?; and what are you recommending that I do? It was a great way of helping everyone think through their communication from the recipient’s point of view.

What’s Your Agenda?

Success in marketing is closely correlated with overall success for the organizations that marketing serves. CMOs must thrive on constant change and while helping those they lead embrace changes in the most positive ways possible. This means building upon existing strengths while also clearly articulating why new approaches, styles, interactions, and tools are needed.

So, what will your agenda be? Are you operating in growth mode or trouble mode? Do you see yourself as a change agent?

One thing is certain. Those of us in marketing are in for more challenge—and corresponding opportunity—than ever before.

In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.

– Albert Einstein

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Birckhead
Dave is the Global Head of Marketing Technology at Spotify. He has worked with numerous Fortune 500 companies to bring about marketing technology solutions that optimize business performance, accelerate innovation and enhance marketing. You can find Dave on Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus.


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