As the chief marketing officer of a customer experience intelligence company, I am often asked for my thoughts on the intersection between marketing and customer experience (CX). The two are similar in many ways and related because both are focused on connecting with the customer. The how and why of the connection with the customer can vary fairly substantially, however, and I believe that is where opportunity lies for a CMO with a CX-centric mindset.
The role of the CMO has changed substantially over the past several decades. It used to be marketing was primarily responsible for the definition and stewardship of the brand and, along with that, considered a cost-center. This was the era for the famous quote of “I know 50% of my marketing is working, I just don’t know which 50%.”
Then came the digital decade where everything could be measured, tracked, and quantified. This changed the role of the CMO to more of a “revenue generator.” As a result, Gartner stated at the beginning of 2017 that, “over the past several years, we’ve witnessed an expansion of the CMO mandate, from what was largely a promotional role to what is now often seen as the growth engine for the business.” We were sitting on top of the world. Our influence was growing, our budgets increasing.
Looking back, I tend to think of this shift as a pendulum swing, with the brand emphasis being on one side, the digital components on the other, and the role of the CMO swinging back and forth between the two. This pattern has recently been interrupted, however; by the end of 2017 Gartner found marketing budgets stagnating and stated, “marketing leaders must now justify past budget commitments and who the returns they deliver to ensure the future fiscal health of marketing.”
What changed? There are a lot of answers to that question—market environment, consumer expectations, competitive pressures. Marketing that is solely focused on an “acquisition” mindset isn’t working the same way it did even a year or two ago. Customers want, and frankly expect, a different kind of relationship with businesses. So, the pendulum is swinging back toward a middle ground where there is equal emphasis on brand promise/brand delivery and acquisition.
That middle ground requires today’s CMO to play a bigger part in the “end-to-end customer relationship,” which is where customer experience comes into the picture. Customer experience, when done well, is a holistic company initiative where every department plays an important role. The opportunity for the CMO is to help facilitate and coordinate this process. Often, a customer’s first exposure to a business is through marketing; if what they experience is inconsistent with their expectations, you’ve got a problem.
How do you understand if you are meeting customer expectations or not? You listen to your customers. How do you know if your brand promise resonates with them? They will tell you. Marketers have historically used market research, and traditional surveys to gain customer understanding, but they need something more; they need customer intelligence. Customers today are speaking to you and about you more than ever. They understand their voice has power, and they are willing to give loyalty to those brands that respect them and listen.
In order to make the move to customer experience intelligence, CMOs need a shift in mindset. The goal should no longer be just about acquiring customers, but also what the company needs to do to maintain and grow those customers. It should focus on the experience that allows for both of those scenarios. This doesn’t lie in just listening to your customers and doing whatever they ask, but rather optimizing the customer experience.
Optimization includes not only what matters to the customer, but also what matters to the business. Is what they’re asking feasible? Reasonable? Doable? Would acting on their demands have a positive impact on the business results? If you can’t answer these questions, you could focus your CX efforts on the wrong areas and essentially customer experience yourself out of business. Therefore, a focus on optimization is vital to a CX-centric mindset.
When a CMO focuses their efforts on the things that satisfy their customer and their business goals, they can lead their company to true CX intelligence and fulfill their evolved role of fostering relationships while also proving ROI every step of the way.