It’s easy to ask the wrong question, as my colleague Augie Ray pointed out in a recent post. But why do marketers ask the wrong question? And how does the right question help them?
Marketers today hear a rising drumbeat exhorting them to take ownership of more processes within their organizations. For example, in a previous blog, I noted that “Marketing is no longer merely the bullhorn for the business. Rather, marketers are responsible for driving profitable growth through the acquisition, retention and expansion of the most valuable customer relationships.” Thinking about the strategic and tactical marketing challenges that distributed organizations (think master/subbrand arrangements like auto brands and dealer networks) face, assuming this notion of expanded ownership extends to the customer relationship doesn’t require much of a leap.
Many brands, both B2C and B2B, get sidetracked squabbling over what team(s) within their organization should own the customer, when the real focus should be organizing around a shared responsibility for customer success. In fact, the power that customers today wield is such that any brand not enabling customers to dictate the relationship will soon find itself at a serious disadvantage. Moving from “Who owns the customer?” to “How can we distribute responsibility for customer success?” represents an important philosophical distinction, one that should guide your marketing if not your entire company ethos.
The mind shift involved, to say nothing of the strategic, organizational and technological hurdles, is not to be underestimated. To quote the Talking Heads, “You might ask yourself, how do I work this?” Altering your existing corporate mindset or adopting an altogether new one centered on the customer is a necessary first step. But alone it’s not enough, no matter how challenging taking that step may be.
You need a considered strategy, the right tools and a well-executed set of tactics that govern and guarantee a customer-centric focus for everything you do as a brand — from the organization and incentivization of teams to the collection and use of customer data. Pursue a single record of truth about your customers, but make sure you have a data governance plan in place to make use of the information. The best strategy without good execution is as of little use as the best technology without a strategy to guide it. Having one without the others is a recipe for failure.
That’s the case for any organization, but complex brands engaged in distributed marketing scenarios face this challenge more acutely. Why? Well for one, there’s the question of how they can empower local representatives in a way that preserves internal alignment on brand and customer experience guidelines. In practice, that means providing the right dose of freedom to enable authenticity without overdoing it, which is a fine line to tread.
Technology can help marketing leaders set limits by facilitating orchestration across a distributed organization. Marketers devote a significant resources to this effort. As my colleague Kirsten Newbold-Knipp observes (Gartner client subscription required), “Marketers spend a third of their budget on technology to plan, orchestrate and measure compelling [customer] experiences.” And in distributed marketing scenarios, effective orchestration really is the key to helping an extended network of partners and clients sell to and service the customer.
Remember: The customer owns you, and in turn, you need to own the internal processes that will foster a customer-centric organization. That’s not a “same as it ever was” scenario, and it’s one where asking the right question(s) can help.