While brand, digital, direct and promotional marketing initiatives are still important to today’s marketing strategy, customer marketing has put a spotlight on the importance of building and maintaining strong long-term relationships with customers.
Unlike acquisition efforts that typically run as short-term campaigns, customer marketing requires a longer attention span. It’s important to pay attention to the emotional value your customers place on your brand, the economics of each customer relationship (today and tomorrow) and the role customers play in revolutionizing your business. You must then act accordingly.
With any behavioral change, CMOs need to start by understanding this simple five-step approach to becoming leaders in customer marketing:
1. Assess the state of your customer commitment.
This is a difficult step for many marketers. Once you admit that you don’t value your customers as much as you should and that you’re ready to do something about it, it’s time to assess the current state of your commitment by evaluating your business from multiple vantage points:
• Financial review: What resources are dedicated to my customers?
• Creative review: Do I speak to my customers as individuals?
• Technology review: Does my technology infrastructure identify, isolate and engage customers in a unique fashion?
• Strategy review: Do I have a deliberate focus on how to grow customers, enhance my relationship with them, path them to advocates and continue my innovation around them?
2. Create a customer marketing vision.
A strong customer marketing vision entails using the desires and needs of the customer to guide the expansion of the brand and the innovation of the business. As basic as that sounds, a customer marketing vision needs to be primarily focused on how innovation for the business is derived and defined by the customer. This is truly the power of an effective customer marketing strategy.
3. Partner with key constituents to justify the pivot.
In order to pivot toward the customer, you need to establish strong alignment and partnership with the finance and technology leadership of your organization. A customer marketing strategy and enterprise are dependent upon a solid financial and technology foundation that recognizes the value of customers (today and in the future) and how to effectively use technology to prioritize, engage and enhance the customer relationship to drive profitable growth. Without committed partners, the evolution and growth of the business and brand will be slow and inefficient.
4. Take subtle shifts to start.
What you’ve been building and leading as a CMO will not evolve overnight. You have a brand strategy, an acquisition franchise, revenue commitments and a business to sustain. Venturing into a strong customer marketing strategy will need to be a deliberate, well-thought-out series of tactics.
In parallel, you need to lay foundational elements of technology, data, marketing and resource reallocation. These changes will need to have defined KPIs and correlated testing strategies so successes are true successes that can lead to scale, and failures are clearly identified, understood and limited.
5. Transition a vision into a plan, a plan into a pilot, and a pilot into a profitable growth strategy.
As your organization begins to turn and you build on success and learn from failures, it is important to define a path forward that is guided by the vision but facilitated by a plan through linked or associated pilots.
Pilots are very effective tools in validating the hypothesis involved in migrating your organization around the customer. They provide proof points for your team, your leadership peers and your customers. A good pilot strategy can tackle parts or elements of your plan that enable you to build upon each one and justify continued investments, evolution and resources.
It’s Not Too Late — Yet
Today, the evolved CMO is really the business leader at the center of creating a customer marketing strategy that needs to be the beacon for the business. They must focus on both revenue generation and expense management, return on investment and innovation, and evolving the brand position to meet an ever-changing market dynamic and customer demand.
Ultimately, today’s CMO needs to lead the way in energizing the organization, cutting through internal politics and creating support and commitment to the customer. It seems like a different type of role than the traditional CMO plays; however, when you look at market-leading brands, where most (if not all) place a significant amount of resources on customer marketing, evolved CMOs are driving their positions.
The challenge is real for both the CMO and the business, but with the right guidance and partner, successful customer marketing can redefine both near-term and long-term business opportunities and enable brands to connect with customers in unmatched and mutually profitable ways.