Archive for May, 2009|Monthly archive page

The Changing Role of the CMO in a Post-Digital World

The role of CMO is evolving from the traditional, functional manager who oversaw marketing communications, product marketing, PR, and online.

1. The new role of the CMO in a Post-Digital World doesn’t differentiate between online and offline, as a matter of fact, the emphasis is completely flipped from the old paradigm.

2. The idea of marketing as a silo function, independent of accountability for sales, customer experience, product or service satisfaction is also fading.

Evidence: Look at the number of marketing people on the street looking for jobs who were “staff” positions. My dad, an old-style chemical sales manager used to refer to those who weren’t in sales as “staff”, sales being “line”. Of course, this was borrowed from the military. The reality is that this model is coming back, but the twist is that in the best companies, everyone in an organization is now on the front-line with the customer. (Discussion of online communities, Web 2.0, & collaboration platforms to follow in subsequent posts)

Marketing functions disconnected from the customer relationship are a luxury that many companies in a down economy are making redundant. Whether these roles were important or not in reality doesn’t matter, the perception is that the company could live without them. I think the real question is whether these roles will come back with the economy or will shift…

The internet has continued evolve and the role of marketing is evolving with it. The divide between online and traditional is disapearing. Most customers and prospective buyers today don’t differentiate between online and offline. Even more so, when a majority of potential buyers do research on search engines prior to engaging with a vendor, you cannot afford to have siloed activities. As a matter of fact, because of cost and speed issues, more and more investment in marketing is going “online” and then repurposed offline.

Imagine that you run a webinar in combination with a partner organization that you promoted through an email marketing campaign, your partner, sales people, website, etc. ;which is really an inexpensive dry-run of your speaking engagement next month at a conference; which you will tout in a press release that is submitted online and will be picked up by all types of media, bloggers, and search engines; which you blog and twitter; which is also driven to get visability in an organic search to drive traffic to your website; all of which is to get traction so you can sell them.

At the end of the day, where does online and offline come in? Offline would be your branding and your interactive firm would be your execution of an online campaign or your website. This was disconnected from your CRM efforts which was somewhat disconnected from the way your sales people managed their sales efforts. I could throw in your business intelligence, enterprise content management, product management, etc. and you get the picture. I haven’t even gotten to what people do at your website, I will save the online community conversation for another post.

CMO’s really no longer do “Marketing”… they no longer differentiate between traditional and interactive; sales, marketing, and customer support… there are too many connected, moving pieces. The leading CMO’s today play 3 dimensional chess, ensuring that the:

  • Customer is the center of the customer lifecycle
  • Value of the offering is tangible and solves something important to the customer
  • Everyone involved in the customer lifecycle shares the perception of value
  • Company is viewed as a credible provider of the solution
  • Sales organization is positioned for the sale
  • Customer is satisfied
  • Customer will not only buy again, but will also refer others
  • Then they do it again, again, and again in a scalable way

None of the above is a traditional, functional view of marketing; advertising, PR, online product marketing, customer service, product management, channel marketing, etc. Instead, Marketing is aligned with the customer lifecycle. The Post-Digital CMO is focused and measured on bringing value throughout the life of the customer relationship; irregarless of the the medium. 

Now, take that a step further, the execution becomes more aligned to the desired value each step of the way. I don’t have a webinar, website, email marketing, channel marketing program, etc. I have a consistent value proposition, coordinated messaging, defined set of interactions through multiple touchpoints, and a measurable outcome that isn’t necessarily just about getting eyeballs or “butts in virtual seats”.

If  the integration sounds familiar, it is. Very much like sales has evolved, so has marketing. In the ’80’s the hot topic was “integrated marketing communications”, then it was “integrated marketing”, and now… just “integrated”.

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You Can’t Have a Relationship with a System

A fundamental flaw with CRM and the reason that CRM has never reached the level of value that it was touted to provide is that you cannot have a relationship with a system.

CRM does have its place, though. Fundamentally, organizations need to manage the “data” side of customer relationships. Having a centralized place to manage the transactional data is one of the key foundations for the growth and scale of business. CRM systems along with data warehousing systems and others provide a fundamental foudation for providing clear information about running the business.

The challenge is that the systems are business-centric & not customer-centric. We design and build our business systems to run our business, but we don’t necessarily put the customer in the middle. In many larger organizations, with lots of products, markets, segments, etc.; the customer is left to cobble together their own customer experience.

I like the concept of “customer experience management” a great deal. My work in social media is a definitely parallel to the pioneering work done to bring the business closer to the customer. I also like what the folks in email marketing are doing to become multi-channel communications platforms. At the end of the day, the closer you can come to meeting the individual customers needs throughout the customer lifecycle, the better. Even better, integrating the customer touchpoints into a cohesive single point of contact.

To me the analogy to golf works. Most companies, by definition, provide mediocre customer experience. Analogous to landing in the rough. The companies that work on trying to improve customer experience through automation are getting the ball in the fairway. The companies that can figure out how to get their employees, partners, customers, and prospects to interact in a more organic way, putting the customer experience at the heart of the customer lifecycle have a better chance to get it on the green.

The best companies that are getting closer to the pin leverage business intelligence, multi-channel communications platforms, online communities, semantic technologies, and Web 2.0 technologies in conjunction with their current infrastuctures to bring a better customer experience to the table. If you can put a more usable front end to the half-dozen to the Enterprise Content Management systems that are common in a larger organization, you could really assist the organization to bridge across the multiple departments that touch a customer, as an example.

Let’s face it, the company that provides me a better “user interface”, is easier to do business with, provides better targeted recommendations, educates me without asking for a sale, provides access to information and other buyers to assist in my decision making, is transparent in their billing and packaging, connects me to a competent customer service person, and delivers value beyond the price of the product gets my loyalty.

None of this is difficult to strategize, but if it was easy, every company would do it. The challenge is prioritizing in a limited resource environment. At the end of the day, customer experience management is not a destination, but a journey.

If Online Communties are So Great, Why Isn’t Everyone Doing Them?

Simple answer is that doing online communities correctly takes work, planning, and coordination. Here are the reasons online communities fail:

Why Isn’t Everyone Doing Online Communities

Online communities aren’t for everyone; however, each of these concerns can be overcome with a good solid approach, coordination, and a subject matter expert. There are methods for managing the workload, handling the design, developing sufficient content, driving adoption, etc.

However, if you sell pencils for a living, don’t expect to sign up a millions and millions of users. How many pencil enthusiasts can there possibly be? A more realistic model may be to leverage the distributor network to create a more targeted community that supports the distributors efforts to marketing and sell the pencils through the channel. the scope maybe smaller, investment more controlled, AND expectations less of this type of community. All of the benefits to SEO, engagment, and sales, but proportional.

Bottom line is that an organization can be very successful leveraging online communities for marketing, but there has to be a well thought out plan with reasonable expectations.

Marketer’s Dilemma

I have been following a good number of different bloggers on marketing. One of the challenges I find is that one are that I can’t seem to find really good information published out there is how to really break through the “marketing noise” on the internet. Let’s face it, there is a real problem out there for traditional marketing vehicles:

Changing Landscape of Online Lead Generation

Changing Landscape of Online Lead Generation

So, when I talk to other marketing professionals and a good number of CEOs, I get acknowledgment that there is a problem with SEO, email marketing, telemarketing, direct mail, tradeshows, webinars, etc. but I get a lot of different solutions:

A. Do more of the same

B. Cut budgets and focus on just the “free stuff”

C. Use social media “stuff” like twitter, blogs, and linkedin

D. Hire more sales people who have rolodexes

So, bottom line is that I have been asking a lot of hard questions and not getting a lot of good responses. On the other hand, there are some really good people who do get it that I will acknowledge in the next few posts.

The short answer, if you are wondering, is that the only real way to break through the “noise” is to concentrate your fire and use a multi-channel approach on the outbound that is coordinated, segmented, and integrated with your sales efforts. I will talk more about a multi-channel approach in subsequent posts.

On the in-bound side, you need to make sure that you build an online community that enables you to get your thought leadership and make sure your prospective audience can identify your differentiation. The new buyer paradigm “Google before Engagement” means that the potential buyers are doing research prior to engaging with your sales organization. If you are not found in their organic search results, the odds of hitting their buying window is small. Additionally, the likelyhood of catching their attention with outbound marketing messaging is also limited.

Online communities allow you to:

  • Galvenize your evangelism efforts
  • Coordinate your partner, employees, customers, etc to assist you in evangelizing
  • Provide a thought-leadership showcase for your differentiation and value proposition
  • Enable partners to assist in presenting a holistic solution
  • Provides a more engaging web experience for visitors to your website
  • Provides more behavioral information to identify “buyers” from “browsers”
  • Provides specific calls-to-action and credentialling for your outbound marketing vehicles
  • Provides an incredible amount of user generated content to feed/flood the search engines
  • Provide a centralized place to drive referrals and recommendations

Ok, so “I get it, but…”

There are plenty of objections, challenges, etc that I will review in the next couple of posts to assist you in understanding the role community should play in your new marketing playbook…

Bottom line is that the internet is evolving, the internet is changing marketing, changing sales, changing everything. Marketing’s role and focus within an organization must evolve to be relavent.

If done correctly, you should not only be able to keep pace in a down economy, but grow. You can’t score on defense….

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Social Media is Like Fishing

There are two types of social media; external and branded. External social media is the facebooks, twitters, linkedins, of the world. These are the deep sea fishing of marketing. You don’t own the ocean, but you drop a line or a net and you catch fish.

The other side, branded social media is like fish farming where you create a branded, online community where you transition them from private, modelling your sales process. You go from a public discussion of your offering and market space, to semi-private membership discussion forums, to private groups for managing customers on a one-to-one basis.

The best marketing plans tie both types of social media together to assist in outbound marketing communications with a specific call to action back to your website with a more interactive, thought-leadership driven online community for educating potential buyers, qualifying the sales interest, and managing the customer lifecycle.