We all know that real change starts with a shift in thinking. And so we are winding down the Future of Marketing series (for now) with this post on the 5 mindset shifts marketing leaders need to make.
Previous interviews covered Social Business, Creativity, Big Data, Customer Experience, Thought Leadership, Content Culture, the Future of Search, the Science of Marketing, Content Brands and much more.
With more than 100 CMOs in attendance, the agenda was packed with fantastic panels and superb peer-to-peer conversation. Though the lessons from the event were numerous, I believe that the key insights I gleaned were that there are five major mindset shifts that CMOs need to make today, or risk missing opportunities to deliver tangible impact.
1. CMOs must walk in customers’ shoes
Top performing CMOs consistently recognize that customer-centricity is more than a buzz word—they understand that having a first-hand knowledge of the end-to-end customer experience is critical. Katrina Klier (@KatrinaKlier) from Accenture, put it plainly: “Be a user, trier, tester. Don’t rely on the experience of others, get your hands dirty.” The benefits of this field-based approach are manifold. As Sandra Zoratti (@sandraz) from Ricoh pointed out: “The best way to give an idea a sense of urgency is to invoke the voice of the customer.”
As it relates to getting closer to customers, it was clear that big data was top of mind as a means to help marketers “walk in customers’ shoes” at scale. But while big data may serve as a new route to customer insight and behavior, it hasn’t yet fully lived up to that promise. Perhaps data alone is not the answer—intuition and action are required. Jonathan Becher (@jbecher), SAP, spelled it out, “It’s about big decisions, not big data.” I believe CMOs must walk in customers’ shoes (often), ask the right questions, and be guided by experience to deliver the right outcomes for their businesses, and their clients.
2. Firms need to differentiate through brand experience
This was a recurring theme throughout the conference. Cammie Dunaway (@cwd8) of Kidmania took it a step further by linking customer understanding to engagement: “True engagement is about changing customer behavior.” Mary Ann Fitzmaurice of American Express OPEN shared the impact of the Small Business Saturday initiative, a program designed to help small businesses: “Our customers love us because they know we have their backs.”
In addition, Jonathan Becher of SAP underlined the magnitude of this desired shift: “There are now more mobile phones in the world than people.” When we look at mobile and social together, it’s clear we are now in an “always-on” era. Becher emphasized the urgency of the situation: “Business will need to run in real time to facilitate personalized engagement with customers.”
Dunaway also offered a powerful analogy to illustrate the contrast between a customer and an advocate relationship to a brand: “The difference between customers and advocates is like the distinction between tourists and citizens in a country.”
In my view, to motivate customers to that level of devotion requires CMOs to deliver great experience at every customer touchpoint.
3. The CMO role is a great gig, but it requires major skills
The CMOs in attendance engaged in candid discussion on skills and careers. Tom Seclow (@SpencerStuView) of Spencer Stuart presented a case study with the message that CMOs’ tenure continues to climb as they become more entrenched in their roles and expand their influence across their organizations. However, he warned that: “Short-term thinking and focus on quarterly earnings is a big challenge.” Douwe Bergsma (@douwebergsma) of Georgia-Pacific laid out three critical requirements for the role: “CMOs need to be 1) scientists 2) storytellers and 3) army generals.” And if that wasn’t enough ground to cover, Maryam Banikarim (@maryamb) of Gannett told CMOs that they need to “have creative agility, be connectors, [and] use interpersonal skills.”
Despite the heavy responsibility, the mood about the CMO role was upbeat. Mark Wilson of Avaya captured the sentiment when he contended that: “There has never been a better time to be a marketer.” Terri Funk Graham, Chairman of The CMO Club Presidents Circle (formerly of Jack in the Box), made an assessment that resonated with me in particular: “The most important skill of a great CMO is courage.”
I’d like to add curiosity. Without curiosity you don’t ask the great questions that will inform the intuition and insight to fuel that courage—as well as all the other necessary skills listed above.
4. Marketing teams need to behave more like smart startups
The innovation imperative surfaced many times during the Summit. SAP’s Becher hammered home the importance of culture: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast, lunch and dinner, so fix your culture to make your strategy work.” Kidmania’s Cammie Dunaway also offered pragmatic analysis: “Changing organizational behavior, is as much about muscle memory as resistance.” Stephanie Anderson of Time Warner Cable, reinforced that point: “We need to continually train and educate internally.”
Nancy Smith of iRobot (@NancyDSmith) also offered practical tips based on iRobot’s rule: “Leave at least 5 percent of your budget for crazy stuff (aka experiments). Why not give everyone on your team an opportunity to do a cool project, to be a part-time intern?” On organization, Denise Incandela of Saks Fifth Avenue advised: “Create an environment that rewards innovation and rapid testing. Don’t say yes to every new thing, focus and do what your firm can do well. Think scalable programs.”
To me, this body of advice can be summed up in a simple idea: marketing departments need to behave more like high-performing startups. CMOs must embrace experimentation, fail fast, get close to the customer, reduce internal approval cycles, and focus on fewer, more actionable metrics.
5. The B2B versus B2C dichotomy is becoming irrelevant
We had a vigorous debate over dinner about whether the B2B/B2C divide was still meaningful. Jonathan Becher of SAP nailed it with his pithy insight: “Glass buildings don’t buy software, people do.” Although there are differences in tactics in B2B versus B2C models, the need to engage buyers with relevant content, in their vernacular, and in a timely manner is common to both B2B and B2C. David Newberry (davidnewbs">@davidnewbs) of Pitney Bowes reasoned that: “The widespread availability of information means that all buyers are more informed than ever before.”
This erosion of asymmetry of information, the consumerization of IT, and the lower entry-point pricing of many products (e.g., freemium models) is compounding the need to think of all buyers as people—whether they are acting in a B2B or B2C capacity. Becher captured the shift well: “Marketing’s job is not to help sales people sell, it’s to help buyers buy.”
I left the Summit inspired, eager for the next opportunity to engage with colleagues, and in awe of the opportunity that we as CMOs have to drive real value for our businesses, and most importantly, our clients.
Did you attend Summit? What mindset shifts do you believe CMOs most urgently take?
Margaret Molloy is CMO at Velocidi, a full-service digital marketing agency. (firstname.lastname@example.org). Follow her on Twitter (@MargaretMolloy) or connect on LinkedIn for additional insights from her CMO conversations.