Tuesday, April 18th, 2017 | 5 min read
At the Sprinklr Digital Transformation Summit in Nashville, Microsoft General Manager and CMO Grad Conn shared a powerful idea: The conclusion you reach on your own is 1,000 times more powerful than the conclusion someone wants you to reach.
“Classically, in marketing, we’ve told people what we want them to think,” Conn said. “My brand is better, buy me, here’s why.”
Conn’s underlying point – that brands must provide an experience that customers actually enjoy, as opposed to just hoping they elicit a certain response – reflects the steep challenges companies face when it comes to providing excellent experiences to connected and empowered consumers.
We’ve shifted from a mass “broadcast model” to a “stimulus response model,” Conn explained, and the onus is on brands to spark a real, positive reaction.
The problem is that companies are slow to adapt. Conn offered the metaphor that entire industries are often like beaches hitting the neck of an hourglass. “If senior management is not transforming at your company,” he warned. “Leave that company, or wait until they hit that hourglass.”
So what’s the way to avoid the bottleneck? For Conn, the answer is cohesion: both in the way that brands treat their customers, and in the technology they use to do so.
When a brand’s objective is – as it should be – to provide a personal, seamless experience, it must take a holistic approach that accounts for everyone who interacts with it. “We have a habit of treating each stage of the customer lifecycle separately,” said Conn. “But we have to remember that your current customer is also your next customer.”
Conn went on to explain that a company’s technology stack shouldn’t start with disparate parts, but rather “with what you’re trying to do with the customer.”
“The idea that you’re creating a massive [technology] stack is fundamentally flawed,” he said. “My systems of insight dashboard allows me to see end to end. As a CMO, the only way for me to see that I’m going to take a revenue commitment is by knowing I’ve got enough control of the different stages of what’s happening in the nurture cycle to modify things so that it all works.”
For Mohan Sawhney, Innovation and Marketing professor at the Kellogg School of Management, digital transformation is about customers.
During his Summit address, he explained how customers’ expectations have changed. “Now companies are being benchmarked against the best of the best,” said Sawhney. “You don’t compete in your industry on customer experience; you compete with Amazon, Netflix, Airbnb, and Uber.”
While companies are all too aware of this new, more competitive dynamic, they’re often hamstrung by a lack of proper governance of data and systems. “How do we put it all together so that our content, platforms, and channels come together in service of the customer?” he asked the gathered attendees.
In today’s business climate, Sawhney continued, CMOs must play an elevated role. They are now “a partner in revenue generation and growth,” he said – adding that CMOs must also manage the creation of an excellent customer experience, and the automated processes that are becoming more prevalent.
It’s a tall order because of the evolving, multifaceted state of marketing. “Marketing transformation is a multi-lane highway because it involves people, processes, organization, culture, and systems,” Sawhney said. “You cannot go on this journey unless you make progress on all of these lanes simultaneously.”
Sawhney echoed Conn’s assertion that companies should work around the needs of their customers, and not simply follow the path that their technology takes them. “Don’t let the tools guide your strategy,” he said. “Let your customers and your strategy guide your tools.”
And to meet the needs of today’s customers, said Sawhney, brands companies must think small. “The future of marketing is the death of big,” he said. “It’s lots of small, agile executions around customer satisfaction.”
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