Lead the pivot to customer centricity
If a company is going to stay competitive, they must go where the customer goes and create a B2C experience for a B2B buyer.
A pervasive attitude in B2B corporate America exists that believes marketing operations (MO) is filled with geeks and button pushers who spend too much money on technology. Let’s look at both parts of this sentence. First, ask yourself, “How often is MO included in strategic discussions?” More often than not, strategic decisions are made without MO and then the MO group is charged with defining and executing the tactics. Given the wealth of data and customer insight available in MO, this is a big mistake.
Second, the CMO is spending more every year on technology. According to Gartner’s 2018 – 2019 CMO Spend Survey, marketing technology will take 29 percent of expenditure in 2018, compared to 22 percent in 2017. The martech spend is approaching one-third of the total CMO budget. As this number continues to spiral upward, executives are asking more than ever, “What are we getting for this spend?”
A concurrent set of events with the tactical-only perception of MO and the escalating martech spend is the pivot to customer-centricity. Company executives realize that the customer is now firmly in control of their journey. If the company is going to stay competitive, they must go where the customer goes and create a B2C experience for a B2B buyer. This realization is also backed up by numbers. According to a recent report from Genesys, pivoting to a customer focus improves customer retention by 42 percent, improves customer satisfaction by 33 percent and improves cross-sell and up-sell opportunities by 32 percent.
OK…let me get to how all this works together. Now that we are officially into 2019, I believe that the MO organization has the perfect opportunity to step out of the shadows and reshape the perception and the reality of the value the MO team can bring to an organization. They also have the perfect opportunity to justify higher budgets and to show real business results. This transformation can occur if the MO team is ready to step up and lead the pivot to customer- centricity. Stepping up involves changing the current mindset, broadening the skillset and focusing the toolset.
Changing your mindset
Mindset can be defined as how you see the world and how you think about it. It’s a bit like the parable of The Three Blind Men and the Elephant. A parable is a simple story that teaches or explains an idea. In this parable, each of the three blind men touched a different part of the elephant – the trunk, an ear and a leg. Based on their experience, they each developed how they viewed and thought about an elephant. One blind man thought the elephant was like a snake, one a leaf, and one a strong column of wood. Based on this limited experience, their views became firm and arguments about who was right ensued.
We are all ruled by our experiences and changing the mindset that we have developed over time can be quite challenging. This is one of the reasons why so many change efforts fail. And, your company pivoting to a customer versus a product-focus represents a huge change effort. So, as a marketing operations organization, you can lead the change by changing your mindset from a tech/data-centric view to one with the customer in the middle of your universe.
Let me give you an example. Take a look at your martech stack today. How do you represent and talk about your martech stack? First, if you don’t have a one page visual of your martech stack with an accompanying in-depth analysis of the systems including why you have them, what they do, who uses them, value received, etc., you are already behind. You can’t manage what you don’t know. The majority of martech stack views I have seen are very product-focused – just what your company is moving away from. I see martch stacks that group technologies by like functions most often. When Scott Brinker started the Stackies in 2015, many of those first submissions were more technology/product-focused. Since 2015, we’ve seen more exciting submissions with the customer as the driving force. A great example is Cisco’s Stackie in 2017. Their martech stack is represented based on stages of the buyer journey and the type of customer Cisco is working. In this case, a picture paints a thousand words while re-shaping a mindset.
As an MO organization, you can step up and lead the pivot to customer-centricity by how you represent, view, manage, buy, integrate and talk about your martech stack. Re-shaping your martech universe with the customer as the core is a powerful first step.
Broaden your skillset
Your skillset is your capabilities based on knowledge and experience. By placing the customer at the center of the MO universe, you not only change your mindset, but you also broaden your skillset. In addition to the three common Unicorn characteristics of tech/data/analytics, business acumen and marketing knowledge, a key fourth characteristic are added to the mix – customer knowledge and insights. While this may be considered part of the first three characteristics, it is so critical to the re-invented MO group, it needs to be called out.
The best way to describe a truly customer-centric capability is when there is a firm-wide capability to sense and respond to customer changes in real-time. Think Amazon. The most mature and successful MO organizations use the fourth characteristic to begin establishing a customer-centric mentality, set of processes and supporting structures for the organization. Having the skills to envision and operationalize the customer-centric strategy is key. However, having the skills to produce and share customer insights for better decision-making across the company represents a powerful step in re-shaping the value of MO to your organization.
Sharpen your toolset
With the new mindset and an understanding of some of the core new skills required to help you step up and lead the pivot to customer-centricity, it’s finally time to look at your toolset. Your toolset is defined as the methods and tools you use to get things done. Certainly, as you place the customer at the center of the martech universe, the customer continues to change and technology continues to evolve, you will need to sharpen and/or replace some of your tools. I’ve seen MO organizations move to a customer-focused approach and as a result, significantly change how they buy, integrate, manage and administer their martech stack. It’s not so much that huge changes are made in the actual technologies used (although this can vary). The biggest changes in the toolset are around how technology is purchased, managed, integrated and administered. It is a sharpening and focus on using the toolset based on a customer-centric view.
The B2B marketing operations organization is at a crossroads. They can continue along the same path and be viewed as techies and button-pushers who spend too much money with nothing to show for it. Or, they can take some bold new steps and lead the way to become a customer-centric organization. In 2019, I expect we’ll see that companies who successfully make the pivot to customer-centricity will have strong leadership from their MO organization. And, those pioneering MO organizations will be characterized by a changed mindset, a broadened skillset and a sharpened toolset.