Zero One: Will CMOs Seize the Reins of Customer Experience? Thinkstock

Zero One: Will CMOs Seize the Reins of Customer Experience?

Many companies will compete mostly on customer experience, and the CMO is well-positioned to lead the charge.

Ask CMOs if they’re on top of the digital customer experience, and many will say they’re retargeting ads to the masses and practicing account-based marketing for a handful of key accounts. What they won’t tell you is that they’re still marginalized as a sales support function and mired in marketing minutia.

In other words, despite marketing’s claims to be the great conductor of the customer experience, or CX, most organizations are far from transformative. With the rise of CX as a major battlefield for business, CMOs better seize the role before someone else does.

“Too many CMOs fail to lead their firm’s customer strategies because they are spread too thin across myriad lower-level tasks,” says Forrester principal analyst Shar VanBoskirk in a research note. “Sixty percent of marketing decision makers want to elevate the role of marketing within their companies.”

And there’s opportunity to do just that. Forrester says only one out of four business executives think it’s extremely likely that their firms will be more profitable in the next five years given their present management approach, corporate philosophy, and innovation strategy. In other words, digital change is in the wind.

Related: Zero One: Winning the Customer Experience Battle

This has led companies to bring in digital leaders, such as the chief digital officer, chief data officer, chief marketing technology officer, and chief CX officer. CMOs may find themselves in an internal competition with the newest executive.

On the upside, the CMO is perfectly positioned to own CX and lead the business into the digital era. “This duty stems from marketing’s close proximity to the customer, its savvy for storytelling, and its management of customer insights (CI) – 51 percent of marketing decision makers say their CI teams report into the CMO,” VanBoskirk says.

To become the CX conductor, though, CMOs will need to change the perception of marketing throughout the company. According to Forrester, 67 percent of marketers feel that senior leaders don’t perceive marketing as a strategic contributor. This means CMOs might have to launch an internal marketing campaign and promote themselves as the architect of brand experiences.

Forrester quoted CMO Stephanie Shore at MOO, a digital print and design company, as saying, “Make it widely known… that you aren’t just ‘the guys who buy the ads.’”

Conversely, CMOs will lose out on the opportunity if they continue to obsess over campaign creation, not CX. The trick is to avoid getting buried in the plethora of duties and details, such as counting clicks, that fall under marketing’s traditional purview. CMOs might have to bring in a channel partner to help them with marketing technology.

Failure carries many consequences. A marketing organization not at the tip of the spear of digital transformation will find a hard time wooing top talent in a limited pool. CMOs may face budget scrutiny and lose funding, their tenure stunted, if the marketing department has a diminished role, VanBoskirk says.

Related: 12 Digital Marketing Skills Over the Next 12 Months

So what should CMOs be doing?

Forrester cites UK insurance firm Aviva creating a “digital garage” to test innovative approaches. Retailer Nordstrom has a value-streammapping workshop to show employees where they contributed to customer success. This week, Forrester Consulting teamed with The Heath Brothers to help companies deliver great CX.

It’s all about getting in front and leading digital innovation and transformation through CX.

This won’t be easy, warns CEO Mike Mothner of digital agency Wpromote, quoted in the Forrester report: “It’s hard to break that ‘marketing as the last function’ mindset. But you can’t create post-digital experiences when marketing gets involved only at the end of the process.”

Based in Silicon Valley, Tom Kaneshige writes the Zero One blog covering digital transformation, AI, marketing tech and the Internet of Things for line-of-business executives. He is eager to hear how marketing tech is impacting your business. You can reach him at [email protected]  

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