2020 Vision: 5 Tips For Building Customer-Centric Organizations

Digital transformation is certainly a huge topic, but most brands are still trying to get their arms around it. Accenture’s recent global survey of almost 1,000 CMOs identified a small cohort of marketers—just 17%—who are leading the charge through this profound shift in marketing culture. What can other marketers learn from these pioneers?

The research shows that one defining quality in these outlier CMOs who have pulled off a smooth digital transformation is that they have been hugely successful at delivering hyper-relevant customer experiences. They are outperforming their peers by finding new and unique ways to unlock value. And they’re continuously adapting with speed and scale by making the customer the epicenter of their thinking and vision.

Brian Solis, principal analyst at Altimeter, recently wrote about the impact disruptive technologies have had on reshaping customer behaviors, and how “the most adaptable and resilient brands survive and thrive.” Behind every one of these adaptable and resilient brands, there’s an innovative CMO who has turned the key and unlocked digital transformation through customer-centricity.

Will you be one of those strong enough to survive this new age? Read on for advice from marketing leaders about how to prepare for an increasingly customer-centric environment in 2020.

1. Treat Content As An Information Asset

Melissa Webster, program vice president, content and digital media technologies, at IDC, has urged IT to think about content as it thinks about data, saying, “Content is an information asset. Like data, content must be well-managed, trustworthy, and secure.”

User data and content data combine to provide a more powerful, holistic measure of how customers interact with your content. This enhanced insight then serves as fuel for more enriching personalized experiences.

To understand what this looks like in practice, take the example of Silicon Labs. In looking to glean more value from its content, the company decided to manage all product content and assets inside a single CMS, rather than using a separate product information management system. Tags and consumer behavior data helped the brand better understand which products and features customers view on their site, and in turn, which experiences resonated most. This deeper view into the customer journey uncovered an opportunity to reduce friction in the path to purchase by converting PDFs to HTML.

Treating its content as assets resulted in a 47% increase in traffic, 88% gain in organic search, and 15% higher conversion rate for Silicon Labs.

2. Drive Emotional Connection Through Customer Experience

As marketers, it is our job to cut through the noise and truly listen to what customers are telling us about the experiences they want to have. Experience drives emotion, not the other way around, says Joseph Bradley, global vice president of Cisco’s IoT, blockchain, AI, and incubation businesses.

“One of the best examples I’ve seen of emotionally connected customers was when my wife and I moved to Chicago a few years ago. I gained a completely new level of understanding and respect for emotionally connected customers when I saw the long line of people in the winter standing outside in sub-zero temperatures, waiting for the debut of the new iPhone,” Bradley said in a recent CMO.com interview.  

3. Prioritize Personalization At Scale

Consumers consent more than ever before to brands collecting their personal data, but they certainly expect something of value in return. In fact, 67% of consumers feel it's very important for brands to automatically adjust content based on customer context, and 42% get annoyed when content isn't personalized, according to a Gartner study.

Personalization can give content and digital experiences a human touch that many consumers feel is lacking. According to PwC, 59% of consumers feel companies have lost that touch.

This isn’t a feel-good exercise; there’s a real value to be placed on personalization. Gartner projects that by 2020, smart personalization engines used to recognize customer intent will enable digital businesses to increase their profits by up to 15%. Adobe digital strategy group analyst Neeta Verma recommends that CMOs focus here to begin upgrading their personalization strategies:

1. Allow consumers to participate in the personalization process.

2. Remove silos between departments.

3. Augment algorithmic personalization with human decision-making.

4. Intertwine personalization with AI and machine learning.

4. Embrace The Living Business Mindset

Accenture’s global survey suggested that CMOs can make an exponential impact by adopting a “living business” approach that “continuously adapts at speed and scale to achieve total customer relevance and sustained growth.”

One of the key factors of a living business is its relevance. In fact, 64% of customers say they would switch from one brand to another due to a lack of relevance; one in four would quit doing business with a brand that isn’t relevant altogether.

Companies need to constantly and rapidly adapt, shift, and refine in order to stay relevant. Those 17% of pioneering CMOs leading the charge in digital transformation are supporting this initiative by pursuing disruptive growth and re-orienting the organization around the customer.

5. Collaborate And Communicate Fearlessly

CMOs have long been protective of their turf but, but it’s OK to drop their guard and start working together, says Ryan Bonnici, CMO of B2B software marketplace G2.

“Now more than ever, CMOs are building relationships, sharing ideas, and collaborating with one another, particularly in noncompeting industries,” he said in his recent column.

As marketing has increasingly collaborated with sales, ops, R&D, and other departments, leading CMOs have become the facilitator of collaborative conversations across the brand. Extending that openness outside the company can have major benefits for your marketing strategy.

“The relationship-building among today’s CMOs doesn’t just benefit startups looking to gain wisdom from marketing leaders at established enterprises. Sometimes, the disruptors are the ones offering great advice and ideas to power players,” Bonnici explained. “CMOs at large enterprises can learn from their counterparts at emerging firms, particularly in terms of how to remain agile, speed up innovation, and improve effectiveness in the use of resources. Likewise, B2B marketers should collaborate with those in B2C, and vice versa.”

That just 17% of CMOs have been identified as delivering hyper-relevant customer experiences points to a massive opportunity for the rest of us, particurlarly since 90% of today's CEOs and chief marketing officers believe the CMO role will fundamentally change over the next three years.

My question to you is, will you be helping to drive that change or will you be trying to keep up? The choice is yours.

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