2013 may turn out to be a watershed year. According to PWC’s (Price, Waterhouse Cooper) annual survey of CEO’s, nearly 65% view building a customer-focused organization as one of their top priorities. Along with this top priority comes a willingness to invest time and money into developing customer intimacy and expanding their customer bases. What this means for CMO’s is the gaze of the CEO’s on the customer health of the business will be stronger than ever.
Moving Beyond Lip Service
For years, we have heard CEO’s in roundtables, presentations, interviews, and conferences espouse the need to get closer to customers. Highlighting the need to provide better experiences and services to enhance the organizational brand. We may see a marked change arriving in 2014 with CEO’s moving beyond lip service.
Today’s CEO’s are making several important customer connections:
- Rapidly changing buying behaviors can put company growth opportunities at critical risk
- Customers and prospect buyers have more choices available to them
- Reduced costs, in terms of time, money, and resources along with new technologies, are making switching easier
- Globalization has increased the unknown about customers and markets
The More Pressing Alignment Issue
The amount of attention given to marketing and sales alignment can border on overkill. No doubt fueled by new services and technologies aimed at both marketing and sales. It is a continuing saga, which has existed for decades. This issue can best be addressed by first bringing the customer to the center of the organization.
What is becoming more evident is the need for CMO’s and CEO’s to get in alignment on mobilizing the entire organization around the customer. It is the more pressing issue. Not doing so is the bigger risk.
Learning To Listen To The Customer
Like many CEO’s, the challenge will be moving from being the voice advocating for customers to being one of its most ardent listeners of customers. Relying on not only quantitative or data-driven insights, but also qualitative insights about customers and prospect buyers. In my recent article about a return to the 3 purposes of marketing, I expressed a valuable role marketing leaders can play to get a seat at the table with CEO’s. The imperative is to align on several key business drivers CEO’s now care about:
- Develop programs designed to build a customer-focused organization
- Provide “listening” to the organization via data-driven and qualitative buyer insights
- Recast business strategies to be aligned with customers and their situational challenges
- Guide the organization on product/service creation, which meet customer goals
- Integrate marketing, sales, and service towards a holistic approach to customer engagement
Speaking The Same Language
While the CEO now cares about these key business drivers more passionately than before, CMO’s will need to get into alignment on how they connect to the CEO’s specific drivers boards and shareholders hold him or her accountable to:
- Drive revenue growth
- Expand customer base
- Improve profit margins
- Grow market share
CMO’s today will need to provide linkage of their efforts in building a customer-focused organization to what CEO’s must provide in terms of performance. The good news is CEO’s today are seeing the need to improve the organization’s focus on customers as the means to meet overall performance goals.
CEO Wants Insights On Customers
It is increasingly clear CEO’s will now want more insights about customers and prospect buyers. Desiring to possess a deeper understanding to support growth strategies. CMO’s, in essence, will need to lead with insights. Taking on the role of one of the key “listeners” of customers and prospect buyers. Powerful data-driven as well as qualitative buyer insights will help inform future customer strategies focused on:
- Customer engagement
- Customer growth
- Customer retention
- Customer loyalty
What CEO’s are awakening to is the phenomenon of buying behaviors shifting rapidly. Presenting a new set of challenges and risks related to sustainable growth. CMO’s can pull up a chair and have a seat at the table if they can provide confident perspectives based on insights. Sharing valuable buyer insights, which minimizes risks of loss in customer retention and bolsters the ability to plan for future growth.
By being the active “listener” of customers and prospect buyers through powerful buyer insights, you get the active listening ear of the CEO.