The most successful CMOs understand that putting customers at the center of marketing requires more than just a technology purchase.

Having observed hundreds of marketing technology decisions by brands, it’s clear  that the best practitioners follow familiar paths to success.

• Equip yourself with the knowledge before you start talking technology

• Map out the best customer journey you can deliver today

• Imagine your best future state,  then work your way back

• Audit your team’s capabilities and experience

• Then  commit to the hard work of change.

Let’s examine these in detail.

Step One – Get smart

Long before they start talking technology the best CMOs  gather information and assess  their own situation. They learn everything while committing to nothing.

They see how their own organisation acts by signing up as a customer or prospect and testing how relevant, timely and individualized the communications are. They do the same with competitors and global leaders all the time collecting information about the type of customer experience that leading organisations deliver.

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They then talk to vendors, consultants, agencies, analysts even journalists to hear opinions, ideas and collect facts. Importantly, they don’t allow themselves to be railroaded into decisions.  They ignore the hyperbole and focus on the substantive facts and build knowledge.

Finally they reach out to their network to ask other marketers what works, what doesn’t and listen to recommendations and cautions.

Step two – In the moment

Step two involves working out what’s the very best that can be done today.

Smart CMOs  draw out a perfect customer journey as a starting point and think through the channels, touch points, content and the data they need to achieve that journey.

They think through how to deliver that journey. Next they get back to all the people they talked to and ask how they can deliver that journey. Then comes the fun bit – working out the practical nuts and bolts of what they need to do today.

They don’t come at it from the perspective of lazy platitudes; instead the analyze from the machine’s perspective drawing out the real platform and input they need to deliver a competitive experience.

Step three – Future, Perfect.

Next, marketing leaders look ahead and determine their long-term stretch goals and work backwards to today. They might project three years into the future and ask themselves, “To deliver this exact experience, what data, systems, content and channels will we need to connect together and how exactly can we do it?”.

Then they will take this new knowledge, and consider the perfect view of the architecture they want to put in place.

This will involve some rough return on investment models so they can begin to prioritize. This is also the point many CMOs will start to formally engage directly with their own IT departments. 

Step four – Know thyself

Having defined as closely as possible what the best end state might look like the smartest operators then turn their gaze inwards. They ask “does my team possess the experience to market to individuals, or combine data from different channels, or orchestrate communications across channels? Do they have the capabilities to analyze and optimize the results, can they really make judgements about the features of the competing technologies?”

Working in the disciplines of digital marketing  such as digital display, search marketing,  email,  web, social media, and smart mobility requires deep, specific domain experience. but this has driven rigid silos within the digital marketing industry (which is ironic given the criticism heaped on the ‘old-school marketers’ for treating digital as a silo). While a team may have great capabilities around individual parts of the puzzle, the real magic comes from organising capabilities around this idea of putting the customer at the center. 

The best marketers identify the team members who will help navigate to this future state before they look to enhance their technologies.

Step five – Pedal, metal

The leading CMOs buckle themselves in and get ready for the big ride. They are now ready to talk about development requirements, talk to vendors, make selections, sign off plans and get moving. In parallel they are reviewing their own organisation and processes to ensure they support this new cross channel or, cross department  future.

Next steps

Only once you are on top of those five steps is it time to begin talking to a vendor who can offer a foundational marketing cloud solution.

While it should be a fairly simple exercise to see who aligns with your roadmap and your requirements you still need to dig deeply beyond just the technical capabilities and ask questions about the vendor’s investment in their customer success team, consulting support, how robust the partner is, the best practice, the training, the customer forums and beyond.

In this way you are able to make a decision from a very informed perspective.

Future proofing suggests clearly that you need to choose a foundational marketing cloud platform whose strategy is open to integrations to the thousands of specialized marketing, data and content applications.

Finally, any platform you choose needs to be as innovative as you are. 

That’s because the innovation is never going to stop and the pace of change is never going to slow.

Paul Cross is the Group Vice President, Customer Success, Oracle Marketing Cloud (OMC), ANZ, Asia and Japan.  Andrew Birmingham is the director of the Which-50 Digital Intelligence Unit. Oracle Marketing Cloud is a corporate member of the Which-50 Digital Intelligence Unit. Members contribute their expertise and insights to Which-50 for the benefit of our senior executive audience. Membership fees apply.



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