Customer Experience, Digital Marketing, What Successful B2B CMOs Will Do in 2014
It’s been said that the night is darkest right before the dawn of a new day. The same may be true for the dark days of B2B marketing. The past five years have seen marketing’s value, credibility and influence challenged to the point where many organizations removed their CMOs and had function report to sales.

A New Day for Marketing

A recent report by Forrester’s Laura Ramos, “B2B CMOS Must Evolve or Move On,” heralds that a new dawn may be breaking. Marketing has regained internal credibility, tenure has increased and other disciplines are increasingly seeking advice and guidance from CMOs.

While the sample size is small -- 177 to be precise -- and is limited to mainly Fortune 500 companies, Forrester’s conclusion is that marketers have stepped up their game in order to survive. But not without ongoing risks. Budgets aren’t growing, increased scrutiny continues, as well as an expectation that B2B marketing is accountable for measurable revenue.

Meanwhile, CMOs are faced with new responsibilities for which they lack the skills and resources while competing in rapidly evolving markets that makes planning futile. Additionally, they are expected to expertly balance overseeing execution with spending most of their days in the field collaborating with peers.

To turn that dawn into a new day, Laura advises B2B CMOs to redefine their jobs. She offers four suggestions:

  • Drop reporting on marketing-only metrics. Instead report on those activities and investments that are directly tied to company goals and business objectives.
  • Delegate, delegate, delegate. Hire the right resources and empower them with the responsibility and hold them accountability for executing tactical plans and delivering the results to plan.
  • Retool how the rest of the organization sees marketing. Get out and walk in the shoes of peers then show them how marketing positively impacts their business objectives.
  • Lead the transformation to a customer-obsessed organization. Understand customer lifetime expectations and show peers where the gaps are and how to close them with a mix of programs, realigned investments, and culture change.

The last bullet challenges CMOs to think differently.

Marketing needs to stop focusing on “The Lead” and start acting as a trusted resource not just for prospects and customers but also internally. Social media, transparency and buyer control have fundamentally changed marketing. Branding has been replaced by buyer enablement and delivering on expectations of outcomes, proof proofs, value and experience.

The buyer expects that suppliers intimately understand their business, how they define value and deliver on those expectations throughout the lifetime of the relationship. Any change in that experience impacts trust, credibility and, ultimately, the buyer’s confidence. Only by being relevant, responsive and reliable can B2B CMOs turn hard earned credibility into trust, internally as well as with buyers.

Ironically, the starting point for becoming a trusted partner is the same as beginning the transformation into a customer-obsessed organization. It begins with an intimate understanding of the buyers’ journey and operationalizing it externally as well as internally.

Journey Maps as Catalyst for Change

Where CMOs often falter is in how they operationalize journey maps. Too often journey maps are seen as a marketing- or customer service-only initiative to fix tactical, siloed activities. The real ROI of journey mapping comes when they are operationalized cross-functionally.

Using journey maps to improve demand generation might make Marketing look good but when those new customers churn because the post-purchase experience is radically different from the marketing experience, no advantage is gained. Actually more harm is done because the brand’s reputation is tarnished, internal finger pointing between teams leaves employees frustrated, and revenue is lost, forever, not just from that customer but from those they've told.

The right approach is for Marketing, Product Management, Sales, Customer Service, Field Support, IT, HR and Operations to collectively determine how to operationalize the maps -- a simple statement that is often very hard for companies to follow through on. Journey mapping leads to change and no one likes change especially if they didn't think it up. Teams able to work through their zero-sum games of power and see themselves through the lens of the buyer have the greatest potential to transform their organizations into tomorrow’s market leaders.

There are five activities that CMOs should lead in operationalizing journey maps:

  1. Own and sponsor journey mapping of the entire lifecycle of the customer relationship from Trigger Event through implementation and product decommission.
  2. Understand in detail the activities, emotions, expectations and tollgates that make up the journey.
  3. Develop a detailed gap analysis between the experience the buyer expects and the experience the seller currently delivers.
  4. Define change in "bite-size" programs and prioritize those that impact revenue and buyer interaction performance in the short- as well as the long-term.
  5. Set target metrics to measure buyer preference, experience satisfaction, revenue conversions and routinely share the results with all employees.

Moving Forward

This is a critical time for Marketing; it needs to lead with an inspired vision, gutsy leadership and fact-based decision making that is laser focused on how to build trust through buyer enablement and engagement. Forrester advocates that to be successful, CMOs should hire trainable Millennials, ditch their dependence on agencies, codify best practices that match new responsibilities and challenge the status quo.

I question Laura’s advice to hire resources first and worry about training them later. Hiring young, adaptive employees that can’t contribute to the new marketing responsibilities on Day one is a disaster waiting to happen -- for the company as well as the CMO. Tales abound of how this strategy has left many high-flying companies sitting on their feathers.

That aside, I would add one more piece of advice -- the CMO has to function as the organization’s muse. Only by understanding how to effectively operationalize buyer expectations into strategy, business models, organization structures, business processes and culture can CMOs drive revenue growth.

The new dawn of marketing rests on the CMO’s ability to lead the rest of their company to continually create and deliver meaningful value; however the market and its buyers define it.

Title image courtesy of wang song (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: Read more of Christine's thoughts on changes in the marketing profession in 6 Best Practices for Sales + Marketing Alignment: A Bridge Over Troubled Waters