Why a New to Do List Can Give CMOs a Good Night’s Sleep

edge of keyboard next to checklist

By Matt McNeany, CEO and Founder, CODE Worldwide

If the modern-day CMO could travel back just a few decades in time it would be fascinating to compare what prevents them getting a good night’s sleep today with the problems their predecessors faced.

Finding the ‘big ad idea’; affording the best TV time; product differentiation — all aspects that spring to mind from marketing campaigns gone by. Today’s CMO still has those things on their plate but a pile of other issues besides.

The post-modern consumer is chief among these. The buyer is now highly informed, aware of where to go to buy what they want, at a price that’s perfect for them. They’re also more concerned than ever about customer privacy; as if constantly changing data legislation and evolving technology wasn’t enough for marketers to deal with.

Paradoxically, while consumers’ brows furrow over brands’ attitude to privacy, they’re also demanding personalisation in all brand interactions. Regardless of how much personal data they want to share, they expect to be recognised – and for brands to recognise their needs – with a highly targeted, relevant experience at every touchpoint.

Meanwhile, the role of brand is subject to growing scrutiny. If consumers can buy anything, anywhere what is brand’s true value? Legacy brands in particular are wrestling with this dilemma. If legacy products in categories such as luxury, automotive and retail lose value from the moment of purchase, how can they compete for share of wallet with the likes of Amazon, Spotify and Uber that are imbued with value which actually increases after purchase?

Rather than reach for the sleeping pills to get a proper rest in the face of all these troubles, CMOs should organise their to-do list around four key factors that will collectively help their brand compete and stay relevant. Let’s take each task in turn.

1. Build a Brand That Matters to Customers

If you want to avoid commoditising your product or service you need a reason for your target market to invest effort, time and emotion in your brand.

There are many things you can hang your hat on. Is your offering unique in the market? Do you offer exceptional service standards? Are you loved by customers for a rewarding experience, outstanding value or because you share a common purpose?

Forgive me if those questions sound a bit ‘marketing 101’. But they are easily overlooked amid the intensity of modern marketing.

Left unaddressed, they leave flaws which can easily be exposed when savvy consumers shine a light on your business.

2. Use Customer Experiences to Create Mutual Value

Collecting data at every opportunity is the key to brands truly understanding their customers. Not just who they are and what they buy but insight at an economic and even psychological level.

Again, it sounds obvious. But if that’s the case, why aren’t more brands doing this well? Partly because – as stated earlier – consumers are more suspicious of data use and consequently reluctant to hand it over.

The antidote to data apathy is brilliant experiences. If an experience drives both engagement and value for the customer, they’re more likely to offer key personal information in return. After all, who wouldn’t want a repeat performance of an experience that’s emotionally or financially enriching?

Experience is a spectrum spanning real-world events and sponsorship, through offers and rewards, to features of the product itself. Infuse each interaction with the chance to collect data that tells your brand more about the customer. Data capture opportunities can range from direct questions to feedback forms and reviews.

AI-driven analysis of this data allows us to learn more about people’s likes, concerns and preferences; understand more about their lives, needs and motivations; and uncover the drivers of their behaviour. When executed well, the exchange of experience for data becomes a virtuous circle that builds deeper connections and value for brands and customer alike.

3. Plan to Deliver Personalisation at Scale

Despite all the talk about personalisation in our industry it remains relatively rare. Many brands can personalise in a single channel — web, CRM or DCO — but few are able to deliver on the promise of personalisation across the whole customer journey.

This is partly the fault of the wider marketing organisation not being set up for personalised communications. Technology is often cited as the fix, but if the framework for creating value from personalisation isn’t in place even the best tech will fail to drive it.

Core elements of a personalisation framework include:

  • Data – but not just customer information; the requirement is for an integrated data model that combines customer, channel/content and contextual – competitor activity, campaign performance – data
  • Intelligence – data science models built to provide insights and next-best action recommendations; along with how these factors can be influenced by product, pricing and promotion, from best place to engage and what to offer to ideal spend
  • Activation capabilities – too often siloed by channel or product. Personalisation demands a shift to customer-centric campaign views, triggering specific communications that are tailored to the individual. This, in turn, is fueled by continuous measurement and learning so brands create in-house data assets: ‘institutional knowledge’

4. Rip up Your Marketing Organisation

That might sound dramatic. But the fact is, a total redesign of your marketing function, capability and organisation of the brand and its partners is really the only way to achieve your goals.

This most important step is a daunting prospect but I believe the job of the modern CMO is to set up their organisation, people, processes and technology to compete and thrive in a changing, challenging world.

Most brands’ marketing operating models were designed to deliver marketing effectiveness for a product within a particular location or channel. That’s led to siloed teams for web, paid media, CRM and so on — not to mention local, decentralised teams.

Take a step back and it’s obvious this is the antithesis to customer-centricity. What if the customer wants a different product to the one being served or isn’t engaging with web, paid media or CRM?

Brands and their agencies can be guilty of relying on this model and resisting change – even though we all know the approach doesn’t work anymore. The scale and pace of modern marketing demands a step change in what we produce and how we produce it – not the narrow objectives of the past, for example a great web experience or print ad developed in isolation from other executions.

Personalisation demands a world where consumers move from a handful of ads to thousands of distinct experiences delivered in disparate channels; each interaction adapted using data learned from all touchpoints. The key to all of this is automation, via integrated technology and datasets.

Armed with this neat to-do list CMOs can stop simply talking about their crucial tasks and set about tackling them. That’s the key to truly valuable customer experiences, brand success – and a better night’s sleep.