Marketers: Take a seat at the big table and drive the narrative

Former ​CMO and now chief operating officer of DocuSign says marketers must drive the narrative of a company from the beginning

Marketers must drive the narrative of a company from the beginning, to inform products, marketing and growth.

This is the view of the COO of DocuSign, Scott Olrich. And he would know, having been at the head of a multitude of companies in both marketing and other capacities for many years.

The former chairman of Heighten, which was bought by LinkedIn, as well as one-time president and CMO of Responsys, started his career at Accenture in business process re-engineering. It was at this point he started noticing business was emphasising cost cutting when he felt he needed to be focusing on growth.

What's more, Olrich found marketing, sales, and customer experience in many businesses to be un-orchestrated.  And it's marketers he felt can and should be driving this orchestration, which develops from an overall company narrative and vision.

“When we took on Responsys, we had a vision around something that became the marketing cloud. The problem was not email, however, there was a bigger problem:The issue was silos and marketing teams not talking to each other," he told CMO. "So the customer experience [CX] was un-orchestrated.

"If we built just an email marketing company in Responsys, our customers would have left us, even though that’s what they said they wanted at the time. My job as a marketer is to predict the future and be able to articulate it in a way that people get behind the vision – customers and c-suite."

Olrich described it as marketing setting the narrative and vision for a business.

"Business must ask: What do you want to be? Then you have to architect the product around that. The narrative drives the position, marketing, selling, and the customer experience. What you want to deliver as a marketer is an orchestrated experience, not a campaign," he continued. "In this way, you think about what the customer wants today, but also into the future. The DNA of the company then transforms.”

This bigger idea behind the company is what Olrich attributed the success of DocuSign to. The document management vendor's vision is set around an ‘agreement cloud’, rather than simply e-signatures.

Olrich said every company has agreement processes, which involves writing them and getting them signed. But they also have to act on them. However, these systems are not optimised for today’s speed of business.

“Every core business function has to intersect with agreement processes,” he added.

Olrich said this thinking has been driven by his foundation in marketing and emphasis not just on selling something; instead, it’s about creating that vision and driving growth and success from there. Something he said marketers are innately good at and would make them good chief operating officers.

“There’s operating a business, but you have to have someone who’s thinking about what the market needs and what the bigger problem is," he said. “CMOs have to be visionary and create the vision and narrative and then get the company to deliver on it."

However, Olrich suggested the disconnect existing today around the role of CMO is that many don’t think it’s their job.

“CEOs have to see a path to growth. To achieve this there are two things: What is the vision and product, and then how to take that to market. The aims is to figure how to create a vision and product, but also create demand for the vision and product, and we see the world is paying a premium for companies that can drive predictable growth," he explained. 

"As a marketer, driving demand comes by creating a compelling vision. Marketers should take on the role of being an orchestrator and drive the next narrative for the company, so the company can catch the next big wave. Most companies focus on that one wave they are already on. However, you won’t even stay on the one wave if you can’t create demand in a tangible way as a CMO.”

What's become blatantly apparent is campaigns that are disjointed and not underpinned by a solid marketing foundation will never drive brand equity in the long term, Olrich added.  

“There must be a core business processes, data, automated programs, and nurturing leads, because if you’re driving traffic and demand into something that’s not converting, it’s pointless," he claimed. “There will always be timely and compelling situations where campaigns make sense, but if these are just one hit wonder campaigns that don’t sit together, then you are not building long-term equity. You need to be an orchestrator of both campaign and company.

“The fact is, if you can’t articulate what the narrative of the company is, it’s hard to do marketing because it drives everything; it’s a waterfall from there. Marketers need to take the reins of this and they have the best skillsets to do so, marketers are good communicators.”

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