Turning the Titanic: Becoming a Leader in Customer Marketing

Over the last few weeks, we've been discussing what CMOs need to know in order to be more customer-centric. With any behavioral change, having a guide is helpful. By understanding this simple five-step approach CMOs can start their journey on becoming a leader in customer marketing.

Step 1: Assess the state of your customer commitment

This is a difficult step for many marketers. Once you admit that you don’t value your customers enough, and that you’re ready to do something about it, it’s time to assess the current state of your commitment by evaluating the business from multiple vantage points:

Financial review: What resources are dedicated to my customers?

Creative review: Do I speak to my customers as customers or individuals?

Technology review: Does my technology infrastructure identify, isolate and engage customers in a unique fashion?

Strategy review: Do I have a deliberate focus on how to grow customers, enhance my relationship with them, path them to advocates and continue my innovation around them?

Step 2: Create a customer marketing vision

A strong customer marketing vision entails using the desire and needs of the customer to guide the expansion of the brand and the innovation of the business. As basic as that sounds, a customer marketing vision needs to be primarily focused on how innovation for the business is derived and defined by the customer. This is truly the power of an effective customer marketing strategy.

Step 3: Partner with key constituents to justify the pivot

In order to pivot away from the brand and towards the customer, you need to establish strong alignment and partnership with the finance and technology leadership of the organization. A customer marketing strategy and enterprise are dependent upon a solid financial and technology foundation that recognizes the value of customers (today and in the future) and how to effectively use technology to prioritize, engage and enhance the customer relationship. Without committed partners, the evolution of the business and brand will be slow and inefficient.

Step 4: Remember, you’re turning the Titanic, so subtle shifts are best to start

What you’ve been building and leading as a CMO will not evolve overnight. You have a brand strategy, an acquisition franchise, revenue commitments and a business to sustain. Venturing into a strong customer marketing strategy will need to be a deliberate, thought-out series of tactics. In parallel, you need to lay foundational elements of technology, data, marketing and resource reallocation. These changes will need to have defined KPIs and correlated testing strategies—so that successes are true successes that can lead to scale, and failures are clearly identified, understood and limited.

Step 5: Transition a vision into a plan, a plan into a pilot, a pilot into a project

As your organization begins to turn and you build on success and learn from failures, it is important to define a path forward that is guided by the vision, but facilitated by a plan through linked or associated pilots. Pilots are very effective tools in validating the hypothesis involved in migrating your organization around the customer. They provide proof points for your team, your leadership peers and your customers. A good pilot strategy can tackle parts or elements of your plan that enable you to build upon each one and justify continued investments, evolution and resources. Pilots are critical.

It’s not too late. But it’s about to be.

Today, the evolved CMO is really the business leader at the center of creating a customer marketing strategy that needs to be the beacon for the business. He/she has to focus on both revenue generation and expense management, return on investment and innovation, and evolving the brand position to meet an ever-changing market dynamic and customer demand.

Ultimately, today’s CMO needs to lead the way for energizing the organization, cutting through internal politics and creating support and commitment to the customer. Seems like a different type of role than the traditional CMO plays. However, when you look at market-leading brands, where most (if not all) place a significant amount of resource on customer marketing, the evolved CMO is driving their position.

The challenge is real for both the CMO and his/her business, but with the right guidance, partner and even some relevant strategy consulting, successful customer marketing can redefine both near-term and long-term business opportunities and enable brands to connect with customers in unmatched and mutually profitable ways.


This post is an excerpt of our "Last Call for Customer-Centricity" white paper. To learn more, please click here.