To be that partner, marketing must embrace five key responsibilities:
Represent the voice of the market
Synchronize the customer experience across all channels
Be the brand steward
Capitalize on insights
Be an integrator and force multiplier across the company
We gathered a panel of experts to discuss the future of marketing in the context of these core responsibilities.
Q. Do employers have an obligation to train and develop their employees?
Thomas Stewart: The voice of the market has become much more cacophonous than it used to be. But many employees don’t see and hear the market at all or see only pieces of it – they’re in the plant or the back office. But more and more, we are asking every employee to take on more decision-making authority. That means they have to know how to connect the voice of the market to the strategy. Marketers are the ones who are able to put the pieces together in a way that resonates not only outside to the customer but also inside to the people who are creating value.
Tom Stephenson: The prevalence of social media creates an enormous amount of information, and companies struggle with interpreting the themes coming out of that. Who’s having the conversations that matter? There’s a tremendous need to filter that information, focus it, and act upon it. Capturing these insights is uniquely marketing.
Q. What is marketing’s role in defining the customer experience and ensuring a consistent experience across all channels?
David Edelman: There’s a whole set of experiences customers go through even before they buy your product. With digital channels, there are even more touch points along that journey, and those touch points need to be consistent in the way they present the brand. They also need to be integrated so that as you move from one point in time, such as doing research on a site, to then walking into a store, the associate in the store can consistently describe the same product that you were reading about online. It comes back to looking at it from the customer’s point of view and making sure there’s logic to how everything fits into their journey.
Stewart: Channels rarely die, they simply multiply. There were catalogs, and then 800 numbers, and then the Internet. As the number of channels expands, somebody has to be able to connect them all in such a way so that I, the customer, recognize that I’m dealing with the same bank, or the same bookstore, or the same clothing store wherever I approach it from.
Q. How are you using data to develop a better understanding of customers and consumers?
Rebecca Carr: A lot of companies think they have great insights and they’re acting on them, but the problem is they’re not looking at a full, 360-degree view and doing it in real time. Those are real challenges. In the past, companies looked at [customer experience] in a very siloed manner. But now, whether you’re B2B or B2C or B2B2C, you have to look at every interaction with your customer throughout the lifecycle to have the full, 360-degree view. That’s why the CMO’s relationship with the CIO is so important. It’s about really being able to tap into the data that’s being [captured] across the myriad of mediums.
Mark Wilson: I’m a big believer that any information that you don’t take action on is irrelevant. Marketers need to understand if they are actually using information to change something. Because if they’re not, maybe the investment could be made someplace else.
Stewart: The data has become table stakes. The difference in the value we create for customers and the value we as marketers deliver to our businesses is tied to how well we derive insights from the facts. A few months ago I was talking to Billy Beane, the moneyball general manager of the Oakland A’s, and he said the irony is that while the importance of analytics and data was going up, it was also increasing the importance of seasoned judgment to recognize what patterns mean and how we might do something about it.
If you have data and no insight, you are going to make huge mistakes but think that you’re right, just as much as if you have insight and no data.
Q. How do you approach brand management in this era of the empowered customer?
Carr: Too often companies spend a lot of money on brand messaging, but they neglect to make it real for the employees. First and foremost, you have to translate the brand promise across every interaction [customers] have with your company. And then, very tangibly, whether you’re a software engineer or a sales rep, translating that brand promise into a commitment to the experience in a very specific and measurable way across the business.
Stewart: As CMO, there’s not a whole lot I can do with brand advertising that [has the same impact] as the things that happen every day when a partner makes a presentation to a client or when a senior associate talks with a client about progress on a project. The brand, therefore, must be carried in the DNA of every employee in the company. The essence of branding is why should you buy from us rather than the other guy? You have to work with employees to help them to understand the message but give them enough flexibility to adapt to the real job – which is to solve the client’s problem and not to promote our brand.
Q. How does marketing use customer insights as the glue to connect other parts of the business? What is its role as a force multiplier?
Stephenson: Marketing can be a force multiplier by creating transparency around information, data, and the market. And that last one’s the new one, because historically, that hasn’t been marketing.
Q. What key metrics do you track? How is your approach to measurement evolving?
Edelman: A very simple, top-line metric that marketing has to hold itself to is above-market growth. How much are they growing above the general market in which they are defined so that they’re gaining share against their competitors? Are they really standing out in terms of gaining share? Above-market growth is where marketers should be focused first and foremost. Underneath that is the cost efficiency of doing that.
Carr: Ultimately the most important metrics are revenue and profitability. I have a detailed scorecard of the metrics that marketing tracks: share of voice in the market, positioning in analyst briefings, Web site impressions, pay per click, click-through rates, open rates. But they’re all just numbers – they may be growing and may be really high relative to industry benchmarks, but ultimately if you’re not making a revenue number, you know what you’re doing is not working.
Wilson: The one metric that I wish we could measure more effectively than we do is the return on our marketing investment. And that means the revenue that we’re generating incrementally as a result of doing marketing. With understanding the effect that building brand equity has in terms of a dollar impact to the company and then consequently what that means in terms of shareholder value, I feel like some of that we’re moving closer toward but we’re not quite there yet in terms of a science.