Why marketing cannot carry the CX torch alone

While marketing can spearhead the drive to customer-centricity, they cannot carry the CX torch alone, argues Debbie Qaqish

Everywhere you turn, you see and hear something about customer experience (CX), customer engagement, customer focus or customer centricity. It’s as if the B2B world woke up and discovered the value of customer focus. 

The good and bad news about this topic is that it isn't anything new. An entire world of research on the value of a customer-centric approach began in the 1990s – both in academic and professional circles. 

Case study after case study shows a customer-centric approach results in higher margins, higher client satisfaction scores, reductions in service costs, improved revenue growth, and an increase in employee satisfaction. In addition, companies that deploy a customer-centric approach outperform the competition and create competitive advantage in their market.

Forced to move from product-centric to customer-centric

In many ways, companies are being forced away from product-centric, go-to-market strategies to customer-centric, go-to-market strategies. 

Let’s face it, today’s B2B buyer is in firm control of what they need and when they need it. Just about everything they need to know about can be found online. The control has gone from a company leading a sales process to a company participating in the buyer journey. 

In this new world of customer control and customer choices based on a few clicks, companies are realizing the value of engaging with the customer at every point in the buyer journey. For most companies, the implementation of this strategy falls to marketing. 

Three reasons why marketing is set up to fail

Initially, having marketing lead a move to customer-centricity seems to make sense. After all, they have the technology and are already engaging with the customer along the buyer journey.

But while marketing can spearhead the drive to customer-centricity, they cannot carry the torch alone.   

A working definition for customer focus

Earlier in this article, I mentioned the great benefits of a customer-driven organization – revenue growth, improved margins and competitive advantage to name a few. 

These benefits are not realized when a company deploys a customer-centric strategy in functional silos. These benefits are only realized when a company crafts and executes a holistic, company-wide customer-centric strategy. 

A great working definition for this type of strategy is found in an academic theory called 'market orientation'. This theory states market orientation is a firm-wide capability to sense and respond to changes in the customer. 

This definition of customer-focus encompasses:

  • One view of the customer on their journey that is common to the entire organization.
  • Speaking to the customer with a complementary set of messages from across all functions.
  • A way to collect and share customer information dynamically.
  • A way for the relevant part of the organization to dynamically provide a relevant customer response.
  • Using data to make data-driven decisions.

This is a tall order, yet this is what it means to be customer-centric. Also inherent in this definition is the idea of measurement: ensuring that metrics from the CEO down to every part of the organization aligns to the customer-centric principles and strategies. What gets measured, gets done.

Fighting over who owns the customer

I recently met with a marketing team that was charged with customer-centric marketing and engagement. The only problem was sales knew nothing about this initiative and once they did know, were highly resistant to having marketing do anything with their prospects and their customers. 

This resistance came from both the hunters and the farmers, who felt like they knew their customers better than anyone and, therefore, didn't need any help from marketing.

A recent example of a failed customer-centric initiative was when a client’s marketing team tried to map the entire customer lifecycle in isolation. They attempted to do this not just from a name in the database to MQL to closed opportunity, but included all onboarding, upselling/cross-selling, building loyalty and advocacy processes. 

This act stepped on the toes of other groups who were part of these interactions and it was not well received. The problem was the lack of an executive vision and execution plan: one group was charged with developing customer-focus rather than making this a company-wide, change management initiative.

Organizational structures

If you have been a product-centric company, everything you have in place in terms of organizational structure has supported that strategy.

In a world in which the customer was not in control and sales did 90% of the engagement, having sales and marketing silos makes sense. 

However, in a world where the customer could find out about you only if they talked to sales, their options were limited and it made sense for sales and marketing to be siloed organizations. 

In an information-starved environment, functional silos worked. Yet, this is not the world we live in today: I believe functional silos should be scrapped and companies should re-organize around the customer journey.

Combined sales and marketing operations

Earlier this year, I wrote a series of articles about SMOPS (sales and marketing operations that are combined). What I found in these companies was an amazing focus on the customer. 

Actually, many SMOPS groups are created as a way to better respond to the customer journey. These SMOPS organizations were characterized by having one view to the entire customer lifecycle, sales, marketing and other parts of the organization. 

They also orchestrated fluid and consistent messages, used data for all decision-making and were fanatical about business results based on sales and marketing working together. 

SMOPS groups epitomize how an organization can successfully restructure itself to make the customer the center of its business.

Conclusion

It’s apparent that simply giving marketing the charge to do 'customer engagement' is not enough. 

If a company is serious about transforming from product-centric to customer-centric, then we're talking about a company-wide change management initiative. Changes need to be made to every part of the business. 

This type of change is transformational and begins with executive leadership. It encompasses a look at the working definition of any CX strategy, establishing a holistic implementation strategy, and looking at organizational structures. This isn't easy, but it is very rewarding. 

In our engagement economy, the customer is in control – whether B2C or B2B. To compete and win requires giving marketing an environment for success. Marketing cannot do this alone.