Bringing Humanity to the Forefront of Customer Experiences

Too many CMOs are focused on the next big industry development

a mass of people accumulate in a shopping area; the people and objects are all sorts of vibrant colors
There needs to be a shift to ensure that clients are being prioritized the right way. Getty Images
Headshot of Wayne Townsend

A systemic problem in marketing is that we often talk about our expertise and differentiators, flaunting our knowledge and uniqueness. Everything is unnecessarily complex, and the elitist attitude is prevalent. We use countless acronyms, and we’re on to the next industry trend as soon as the layperson begins to understand what the last one meant. “Simple” and “clear” is not how one would describe us.

As an industry, we are far too complicated, much too focused on being ahead, and not paying close enough attention to the human experiences we’re creating for our clients and their customers. The reality is that while we are chasing what’s next, many of our clients are falling further behind and need us more than ever to shepherd them forward.

Today, large global brands need to identify technology needs and solve organizational challenges in an effort to transform every consumer experience. Yet there are many factors holding companies back from advancing to true digital marketing transformation. The most common holdup are external factors compounded by internal struggles. Unfortunately, these are also often the most difficult challenges to overcome.

A recent study shows that 85 percent of enterprise decision-makers feel they have two years to make significant inroads toward digital transformation before suffering financially and/or falling behind competitors. Large organizations need to address the external and internal challenges impeding growth before it’s too late, including the following.

The reality is that while we are chasing what’s next, many of our clients are falling further behind and need us more than ever to shepherd them forward.

Obligations to long-standing partners

Long-term partnerships can be incredibly fruitful if bolstered by strong communication and accountability, but CMOs need to remember that KPIs are king.

In 2018, Campbell’s made the difficult decision to part ways with BBDO, which had worked with the soup company since 1954, in an effort to reinvent and transform the brand. Amid intense pressure to drive growth, partners need to focus on helping CMOs get to the heart of business problems or risk losing their seat at the table. By identifying business gaps—what’s happening to the organization and what new consumer demands companies face—only then will the CMO understand how these factors impact the business and marketing investments that need to be made to achieve sustainable results.

Outdated IT

Thirty-three percent of marketers cite data as their biggest obstacle. The industry saw this firsthand over the last year with GDPR implementation. An alarming number of companies were not set up to collect, store and use data correctly. Today, a commitment to data and IT is required. CMOs will never be able to blow up an entire tech stack in order to start over as they advance to true digital transformation. Companies must understand existing customer data and sync that data between technology silos. By evaluating the maturity of a company’s marketing tech stack, CMOs can identify missing or underutilized technology, connect channels and activate strategies in a way that gets the company to value quickly.

Attribution bias

Marketers regularly flock to new and emerging channels in a race to meet customers where they are. As a result, marketers have plugged much of their money into a subset of platforms and walled gardens. According to eMarketer, 63.1 percent of U.S. digital ad investments in 2017 went to Google and Facebook. CMOs can’t count on walled gardens to measure quality of audience, campaign performance or provide accurate attribution. The lack of transparency makes it difficult for marketers to identify customers inside walled gardens and connect their interactions back to other marketing efforts. A comprehensive customer identity that spans all touchpoints is required to ensure brands are connecting with people seamlessly and, ultimately, charting the best path forward for future investment.

There are two key steps companies can take to move toward greater transparency and self-awareness to create more human experiences. The first is to truly understand the path customers take in engaging with your brand, whether it’s across loyalty programs, email, CRM or social media. The second step is to assess technical and operational needs, scoring the performance of customer path touchpoints, grading vendors and identifying gaps that require investment.

Tackling the internal and external factors that contribute to unnecessary complexity that surround our industry will help us navigate what is arguably the most transformative era in marketing. It’s time we all realize we too are human and start focusing on helping CMOs transform customer experiences into more human ones.

@EpsilonMktg Wayne Townsend is president, technology for global marketing company Epsilon.