Marketing's two-headed beast

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Pair digital with traditional, youth with maturity for the ultimate customer experience

In an October 2012 article, Forbes magazine declared the role of the chief marketing officer (CMO) dead.

Reports of its demise may feel somewhat exaggerated, yet the traditional role of the CMO is under siege. Gone are the days of the Madison Avenue “Mad Men” advertising executive.

Today, consumers are in the driver's seat.

Consumers want what they want, when they want it. And if they fail to get it, they will tell all their friends and followers on social media how they feel.

No longer able to compete by having the best service, product or price, CMOs need to find new ways to reach their customers and keep them. They need to understand rapidly evolving technology, become an integral part of IT transformations, use data to mine customer preferences, and use social media to maximum advantage — all areas that stretch the traditional disciplines of marketing.

1. What’s the issue?

As growth becomes the top issue in most boardrooms, CMOs and their teams are challenged to evolve their value to the organization. Today’s CMOs are serving as transformation leaders for the enterprise and, increasingly, owners of the customer experience across marketing, sales, service and even operations.

Within many large companies, the ubiquity of mobile devices and social media has spawned the creation of the chief experience officer (CXO) or chief commercial officer (CCO). Typically, younger, tech-savvy and digitally minded, the CXO/CCO has overall responsibility for the customer experience (and often, unfortunately, limited authority).

Companies that compete to win will elevate customer experience, and the associated marketing disciplines, to the level of research and development within the organization.

2. Why now?

Technology is moving faster than ever and accelerating every day. The massive mainstreaming of mobile devices and social media combined with the rise of the super consumer means companies are competing with every other company in existence to create the ultimate customer experience.

The person they look to initially to create this experience is the CMO. If the CMO fails to deliver, companies are creating the CXO/CCO role — often outside of marketing — to cover the gaps.

The digital revolution also means that digital is now interwoven into the customer experience. As such, within some companies, the CXO/CCO will also serve as the chief digital officer and vice versa.

3. How does this affect you?

The role of the CMO has expanded significantly. The pressure to remain at the forefront of leading digital marketing strategies and the technology and competencies required to support them are enormous.

In this environment, IT is often unable to cope with the speed of change at the customer interaction level — and that’s not where the function’s focus is. IT is more concerned with maintaining operational systems.

CMOs now spend approximately 15% to 20% of their budget on technology. The result may be greater speed to market in the short term, but also greater headaches for IT over the long term as systems and infrastructure become increasingly fragmented across the enterprise.

If companies expect to differentiate themselves on the customer experience, the marketing team of the future needs to be constantly learning about the rapidly evolving technologies that enable it to provide the best experience at scale.

The CMO has traditionally been more of a creative role; however, more and more customer experience requires a mixture of both creative and analytical activities. CMOs are being pushed to justify marketing spend, measure the voice of the customer and transition digital “vanity metrics” such as “likes” and “followers” into business impacts.

Amid such complexities, companies also need to determine where the CXO/CCO fits — how it can help bridge the gap between IT and generate synergies with marketing to maximize both the customer experience and the company’s competitive edge.

4. What’s the fix?

To create a synergistic marketing environment where the CMO and CXO/CCO can collaborate to create the best customer experience, companies should:

EY image - synergistic marketing environment for CMO and CXO/CCO

  1. Measure the customer experience
    The first step in creating the best customer experience is to understand the customer experience in the context of a company’s brand. Customer surveys, social media brand sentiment assessments and direct feedback can help to identify key drivers.
  2. Elevate the role of the CXO/CCO
    CMOs and CXO/CCOs need to work closely together to determine how best to integrate a new digital experience into more traditional marketing efforts. It’s less about eliminating market segmentation, PR or communications and more about using marketing’s insights on the customer to make operational improvements that enable companies to drive the customer experience from brand through billing.
  3. Make customer experience everyone’s job
    The consumer is firmly in the driver’s seat and every touchpoint the company has must reflect that. The CMO can help the CXO/CCO create a culture that more effectively controls these touchpoints and, ultimately, the customer experience.
  4. Co-create the customer experience with the consumer
    Today’s consumers want to do more than select the best customer experience – they want to have a say in how a company designs, sells, delivers and services a product. By developing collaborative relationships with consumers, the CMO-CXO/CCO team can generate new ideas and build brand loyalty, creating a win-win experience.

5. What’s the bottom line?

As the empowered consumer continues to move firmly into the driver’s seat, the need for companies to differentiate themselves on experience is paramount.

To create the ultimate customer experience, companies need to find the right balance that bridges the analog-digital, boardroom-hipster divide.

By finding synergies that amplify the skills and competencies the CMO and CXO/CCO bring to the organization, companies will be able to stay current with both rapidly advancing technologies and changing customer needs.