In a recent conversation with a chief technology officer, he asserted all digital technology changes in his organisation were being led by IT and not by marketing. It made me wonder: How long a marketing function like this could survive?
No technology will fix a CMO’s problems unless they first get their marketing strategy and structure in order, skill up their teams appropriately, and become stewards of data, Bluewolf’s global CMO claims.
Speaking to CMO during a recent visit to Sydney, Corinne Sklar, said too many marketers still perceive technology as a panacea and fail to take into account the wider cultural and operational changes needed to operate successfully in a digital-first environment. She noted a lot of the work the consulting agency does with CMOs today centres on the organisational structure needed to become a customer-led marketing function.
“The big question is: Do you have the right cadence of execution around doing digital marketing?” she asks. “So do you have a content producer? A copywriter? Or if you’re not going to do that internally, who are the partners you’re going to work with on that? And do they have that technology expertise in-house? There is a lot of maturity still happening around this.”
Sklar used the analogy of a diet pill as a way of illustrating how many CMOs still view technology. “You can’t just take the pill, you need to eat well, exercise, and it takes time. But no one wants to hear that,” she said.
“The first and biggest focus I go to CMOs with is getting clear on the strategy, which should dictate the KPIs and team structure.
“You might be an enterprise company focused on channel marketing as your number one priority this year, and cost efficiency changes the way your team may be structured at that point in time. That’s also the kind of flexibility marketers need to have in their team structures.”
Sklar is both the CMO and a consultant around marketing strategy and technology for Bluewolf, and has spent the past 10 years with the consulting firm. The company started as Salesforce’s first integration partner with a focus on cloud-based sales and contact centre technology, and has steadily built its marketing technology credentials and vendor partnerships along the way.
Today, the firm works across the mid-market and enterprise space and positions itself as a consultancy on “everything about the customer”.
Actionable data insights
One of the key ways Sklar sees CMOs leading the customer engagement charge is by becoming the stewards of data in their organisation.
“If you’re the CMO, the only personification you have of your customer is the data in your system,” she claimed. “If you want to get closer to customers, get closer to the data – understand it, see what the quality of that data is.”
Sklar agreed marketers have not had, nor always will have, responsibility for all data inputs coming into their systems. But that doesn’t stop them from being stewards of data. And the way to get such access is by partnering with IT.
“It’s not that different to what used to happen in finance in large organisations – there was always a reporting function because no one had access to the data,” she commented. “What’s going to change is visibility of the data, which is going to be pushed up into a lot of different layers thanks to visualisation programs out there.”
But democratisation of data insight won’t matter a jot if organisations don’t then use insights for action, Sklar said.
“Dashboards themselves don’t tell people what to change or how to act,” she said. “It’s not just automation of the technology, but also automation for you as a call centre or sales rep. That’s where the power comes into the insights.”
As an example of making data actionable, Sklar pointed to one of Bluewolf and Salesforce’s clients in the global distribution industry. The client opted to remove data visualisation dashboards in the sales function in favour of pop-up predictive customer insights.
“They have an algorithm that looks at when a client is potentially going to leave because of various behaviours, such as how many times they called the call centre, or the number of times the delivery guy was late, and which then sends a notice to a sales rep advising them to act,” Sklar explained. “It pushes through chatter and says your client should get a personal call from you because of these behaviours. That’s a proactive insight.
“The more data that can be used to drive actionable insights, the more you’ll have a big impact.”
Invariably, these insights are about acting in key customer moments, Sklar said.
“It’s about building a strategy around the customer moments in time where you need data, or designing what experience you want to have and saying what data you need to impact that customer moment at that point in time,” she said.
To get there, CMOs need to stay close to the data, not forgetting about their overarching strategy, and to focus on business outcomes, Sklar said.
“But don’t forget about brand and content. The one thing that gets me when I speak to marketers – and again I think this is something B2B can learn from consumer – is that they’ve fallen in love with the technology,” she said. “Yet there is someone on the other side of that email. Just doing the welcome program isn’t enough.
“A lot of consumers now are getting hyper-personalisation, which may not be something they like. Use brand to drive strategy. That will tell you how to use data and how not to.”
Innovation is the other catchcry of many marketers today, and Sklar is no different in believing CMOs must take the lead on driving customer-led improvement in their organisation.
“Innovation is a culture of adaption,” she claimed. “It’s about listening to your people and your customers and designing solutions for them based on things that are aligned to business metrics. Our employees need innovation to do their jobs and deliver to the customer. So it’s about developing strategies built around a customer, leveraging flexible technology and then not stopping.
“The minute you roll this out, your business is changing. And any technology that is a flexible technology will never deliver the value if you don’t know how to manage and harness the speed and quality of those tools. It’s the consistent thing we see over and over again.”
Sklar pointed to Bluewolf’s recent work with local customer, Australia Post, in its call centre as an example of tapping technology, data insight and employees to drive innovation. Having first discovered the number one issue for Australia Post customers was about locating a missing parcel, Bluewolf staff then realised call centre reps had devised a process of keeping customers engaged on the phone and extending times of the call to buy time. This was because the organisation had seven different apps reps had to log into to find a parcel.
Reps were then cutting and pasting data into multiple systems in order to respond.
“We took what would take 116 clicks down to 11 clicks, in one console and system,” Sklar said. “That was unbelievable transformation for them and cut down times by 20 to 30 per cent. That’s now being rolled out across all call centres and teams.”
According to Sklar, more and more CMOs are taking accountability for such innovation, and are looking to technology as a way to deliver it. Where things are still awry is in collaboration or interaction between marketing teams and customer operations, she said.
“Businesses are set up in silos for a reason, and we don’t have the org structures designed yet. There is the rise of the chief customer officer, and of these sorts of roles, but we’re still structurally set up in these silos,” Sklar said.
“Technology, visibility and data break down silos. This is the krux to me of the future of CMOs - you still create campaigns and content that actually engage people and you can’t forget about that, but you also need to get closer to your IT team.”
Through all of her work with marketing leaders, Sklar also said she aims to help CMOs say ‘no’.
“Saying no is about being clear on my strategy and knowing what the impact of these tools is going to be,” she added. “You’re going to have your digital person, campaign manager all saying you can do all these things. Being able to say no helps you drive business value out of these tools and ensures you’re clear on your brand strategy and messaging.”