Being ‘modern’ sounds quaint. It’s one of those baffling descriptors used for architecture and even art that more often than not describes something created a long time ago. But the simple definition of modern means “of, relating to, or characteristic of the present or the immediate past” and “involving recent techniques, methods, or ideas.” It’s neither futuristic nor anchored in a naïve, Worlds Fair-image of the near future.
The modern CMO is about using the tools of today, sometimes in new ways. This isn’t about Google Glass, neuromarketing or even the Internet of Things. We are talking about near-term realities – the increasing precision in targeting communications, shifting to a “pull” strategy via content marketing, and combining data with creativity to be more relevant to people. Since people’s daily field of vision is hopelessly cluttered with commercial messages, media choices and the routine celebrations of family and friends (just judge your Facebook newsfeed), marketers must earn a place in people’s lives by delivering value above messages or at the very least delivering exactly the right message to the right person at the right time to be of-use.
The modern marketing organization looks and behaves differently, as well. It’s not an advertising factory. Nor is it the loose collection of marketing and communications disciplines intended to intercept people from “360 degrees.” All disciplines must be data-driven or, at least, data-informed. Data tells us how marketing really works. We design communications programs around how journalists use information. Content marketing sparks sharing or the data tells us it isn’t relevant. We optimize the effectiveness of digital advertising by pulling data-connected levers in near-real-time. Integrated marketing doesn’t just connect marcom disciplines long overdue for alignment, it ensures they are responding to similar data, insights and, ultimately, the customer.
Now marketing must be reconnected with sales. These cannot be two, separate functions each in denial of the other’s relevance or contribution to business health and profits. If we care about our customer first and are committed to becoming increasingly customer-centered, then we need to be wise about the entire buyer (or customer) journey – from before they even know us to when they are a valued customer in their tenth year of service.
This is about what it means to walk-the-walk today of the modern chief marketing officer and organization. While ‘digital’ is certainly a part of that experience as is data, speed-to-market and so much more, it is not defined by any one of these. The job of the marketing organization, in the appropriated words of David Ogilvy, is to “sell or else.” How a leading marketing organization does that today is very different than fifty years ago.
11 Ideas Driving the Modern Chief Marketing Officer & Organization
Embrace new digital behaviors – No question that the growing ability to move information across digital networks has and will change our behaviors profoundly. We shop differently. We trust differently. We make decisions differently. In some cases these may be small, additive changes (we still look to an insurance agent to explain our choices even while we research those choices ahead of time via Google). In some cases these will be fundamental and disruptive changes. Predicting which will be which or the speed of change is hard. One tip for actually understanding these changes better? Embrace these new habits within your organization. Employees should be encouraged to interact with the brand and its customers online. How else will we understand these new digital behaviors if not by practicing them ourselves?
It’s a buyer’s journey – Hoping to romance and sway customers at the point of purchase alone will not win. We need to recognize that buyers telegraph their intent earlier and earlier in the journey towards buying something. And that their/our needs are different when we are understanding a problem or need, gathering information or are actually ready to buy. Marketers must adopt the fundamental principle of designing marketing around the customer journey. Understanding what a prospect or customer is trying to get done or decide that leads to initially discovering your product is a very different proposition than prompting them to pick your product now.
Mining data for insights and actions – Big data, little data – what we really need are more actionable insights from data and ways to trigger actions based upon data and insights. Data science is hard. While it takes more geeky collaborators than the creatives who bring advertising ideas to life it is hardly an exact science nor does it need to be. Direct marketers believe the customer can be instrumented to the point of becoming a truly predictable wind-up doll. Or more accurately, they live and die by the numbers with little concern for the prospect or customer save for the action they wish to stimulate. The modern CMO never loses sight nor compassion for the customer. They see data and insights as a better way to empower a test-and-learn marketing machine.
Designed for testing and agility – Building a marketing organization that can plan and create fast while turning on a dime isn’t as it easy as it might appear. It takes the A/B testing methodology of direct marketers, the ability to create content, not just advertisements, quickly and in response to data, and the discipline of deciphering performance immediately. Think about how that affects review and approval cycles. Creative and content are now never “perfect” but simply ready-to-publish. In short, it changes everything.
A culture of collaboration – No one discipline rules the roost and the only way to ‘punch above your weight’ in a world gone made with ad spend is to plan integrated programs and get every discipline to work together. Planning models can help. Fostering a culture where people are rewarded for collaborating with a method of working by which the best collaborators become the best marketers makes all of the difference.
The addressable individual – Not all that long ago, we talked about building addressable audiences. Brands did that through their social channels and through partnering with mysterious companies in the ad stack that could create and maintain custom audiences. Meanwhile, the customer experience team defined an ambition to treat every customer as an individual promising to deliver increasingly personalized services relevant to the individual. The addressable individual – whether they are an existing customer or a prospect – is clearly where we are heading. That means thousands or millions, depending on your business, of micro-segments and ultimately individuals getting customized treatment from the brand. What IBM and Salesforce label “the connected customer” where we evolve past segments to addressing individuals will require a lot of technology and technology mastery to execute.
Being of-use – With an onslaught of media choices, channels, shows, messages and more, the one thing none of us have enough of is time. Marketers cannot hope to sell through interruptive advertising. It just won’t break through. We need to learn how we can be of-use to people such that we deliver welcome value. Great content, better or more complete service, personalized value and even discounts, even new products can all address genuine consumer needs. We can shift from an annoying “push” model of marketing to a “pull” model where even our marketing becomes a welcome contribution.
Content marketing – Content is at the heart of the “pull” ambition for brands. Can we create useful and/or entertaining content that connects with people at the right moments in their journey as customers (customers-to-be)? Most organizations can create the white paper, the how-to video series, even the entertaining content partnership (or more realistically, the content ‘sponsorship’). Building a content culture and machine inside the marketing function is a lot harder. As with many good ideas, the devil is in the doing (or the details of the doing). Applying a data-driven approach where speed-to-publish matters more than creating the one perfect communication is hard. It’s not just a process shift with different job functions (e.g. editors and writers) but a culture shift as to what gets approved and out the door.
Reducing friction – It is difficult to draw lines between a marketer’s job and those directly responsible for a seamless and friction-free customer experience. As marketers shift from pure ad messages to creating content that is valuable to prospects and customers alike, they inevitably will think about ways to reduce the friction people experience when doing any kind of business with a brand. It can be reducing a few button-clicks in a process, standardizing form design, providing some useful how-to content. Every service interaction has the potential to strengthen a relationship and drive advocacy or do just the opposite.
Relentlessly accountable – Building brand for brand’s sake only makes sense in the most marketing-centric of companies. For most other companies, we want to know how marketing drives sales-related metrics. That requires getting more complex attribution models, combining online and offline data, and subscribing to the customer journey planning model. Most modern marketers know they need a “dashboard” – that magical interface that funnels all marketing and sales data into some natural synthesis. Fewer start by designing the measurement model that will facilitate marketing investment decision-making and performance optimization. This step ensures that the dashboard displays meaning not just data.
Building belief – Marketing’s role inside the enterprise is changing. As it becomes more accountable and data-driven, it will be seen with less suspicion and envy within the enterprise. That’s the long view. CMO’s, like any business leader, need to build belief in their fresh view of modern marketing in order to galvanize peer support. That’s what leads to thoughtful budget increases and informed decision-making.