Most of what you need to know about corporate management you can learn either from Sun Tzu’s Art of War or from the 1995 film, The Usual Suspects. Everyone loves a film where the villains win, and everyone has a lurid respect when there is a dark underside to the victors. Since the rise of Pinterest no one reads anymore, so forget Art of War and focus on Suspects to understand how your CRM strategy gets derailed. With all of the twists and turns of who killed whom and who the robbers were, the overly confident Customs Agent Kujan, who could be any CIO, thinks that he is in control of the interrogation of the suspect, Verbal. Verbal is every marketing person who has ever had to explain to IT what they want, and why they do what they do, and why no one understands that they are innocent and just want to be left alone. As if. So Verbal, our marketing guru as hapless servant, explains to IT that the real villain is the pesky competition, Keyser Soze, “the devil himself.” And then an entire cast of others, sales, customer service, logistics, research, get in the way.
Marketing makes the idea of understanding the customer’s intent and market need so infernally complex that they get the budgets. They literally pull off the budget robbery. And IT doesn’t so much buy the story marketing tells as shrug its shoulders because there is no one else in the enterprise to meet marketing eye to eye. Who else has the budget, the freedom, the ability to squander 30 percent of spend with impunity? Try that, Customer Support. Try that, Human Resources. Everyone else has their feet held to the flame, while marketing spins confections of social media and ad placement. They continually fill the top of the funnel, while the under-budgeting of the post-sale processes where loyalty happen are largely underfunded and lacking in influence.
When do we tie marketing success to customer lifetime value? Didn’t we learn this through the crisis in the finance sector where compensation was achieved for short-term gains, with no effective claw-back when it became apparent that the gains were as ephemeral as the chance of reaching shore in Umberto Eco’s The Island of the Day Before.
Can we change? How can we link marketing with its enormous talent at attracting customers to IT, with its savvy at getting the systems we need procured and deployed, with Customer Service, where the true engagement with the customers happens? This is the responsibility of the harried CEO. It is his or her job to articulate that to the Board of Directors and shareholders in the same bold way that a Jeff Bezos has done for the past 15 years and what the kindred spirit Tony Hsieh pushed for as well. All we need to do is stand on the shoulders of giants.