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The Tide Turns: Marketing's Pivotal Role in CEM Transformations

“There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood leads on to fortune.”  Shakespeare penned these famous words to urge Cassius to war in Julius Caesar, but they have a remarkable applicability to the CMOs of today.  Marketers are increasingly being asked to extend their influence, to take on non-traditional activities, to drive strategy–in effect to turn the tide within their organizations. War may be too strong a term for the task at hand; however, there is little doubt that a significant change is taking place and Marketing is at the helm.

Consider today’s generally accepted definition of marketing: the process of building profitable customer relationships by creating value for customers and capturing value in return (Philip Kotler).  Marketing analyst firm Demand Metric interprets this to mean that the modern marketing organization has responsibility over revenue generation and sales enablement, as well as authority over all the processes, technologies, tools and talent that support the customer universe. In theory this makes sense, creating value for customers necessitates exerting considerable influence over the customer experience. Data-driven marketing organizations are uniquely positioned to take on this challenge with their deep understanding of customer behaviors, preferences and value. In reality however, constructing a (battle) plan is in order because marketers rarely have authority over everything impacting the customer experience. 

The Chief Marketing Officer of a high-end retailer (Gwen) provides a perfect illustration. Unifying sales practices across stores, coordinating activity between digital and brick and mortar channels, and adopting a comprehensive communications policy to optimize customer contacts required business model changes effecting sales, service, digital, marketing and merchandising. Despite the gaining the additional title of Customer Experience Officer, Gwen did not have authority to make these sweeping changes. Managing the customer experience meant partnering with business units, mapping out customer touch points and jointly determining changes required to create an excellent customer journey. 

In an interview with McKinsey & Company, John Hayes, CMO of American Express, believes the change is so profound that he likens it to the industrial revolution. John says, “I haven’t met anyone who feels that they have the organization completely aligned with where this revolution is going. Marketing is touching so many more parts of the organization now. We have to organize in a way that starts to break down the traditional silos in the business.”  With John’s comments in mind, let’s look at another definition–of CRM, coined in 2001 before the emergence of marketing as such a strong change agent:  

“The alignment of business strategy, organization structure and culture, and customer information and technology so that all customer interactions can be conducted to the long-term satisfaction of the customer and to the benefit and profit of the organization.” (Building the Customer Centric Enterprise, Wiley, 2001)

Exceedingly similar to the definition of marketing, is it not? Clearly requiring significant organizational change to accomplish, right? Only now, there is an acknowledged driver for this change–the CMO. Making it work means marketing taking a much more pervasive role.  Forging new partnerships, influencing peers in the C-suite and becoming the de-facto integrator between siloed business groups will be increasingly critical for the marketing organization of the future. 

marketing / shutterstock

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