female conductor leading a string orchestra
PHOTO: Manuel Nägeli

I'm passionate about the marketing-led customer experience (MLCX) and have written extensively about why now is the time for marketers to lead CX. Marketers own more of the customer journey, invest more heavily in technology, and have a deeper understanding of the customer than any other business unit, and this has given them the wherewithal to elevate and orchestrate CX throughout the entire B2B organization.

But while MLCX is a powerful movement, it isn't always easy for marketers to translate it into reality. When the destination is this ambitious, it can be hard to know where to begin. 

In this article, I'll outline a series of first steps for operationalizing MLCX in your organization, whether you are at the beginning of your CX journey, already on the path, or ready to take your existing CX efforts to the next level. 

1. For Beginners: Set Up Systems of Measurement

All too often, organizations start running with CX before they've learned to walk. New customer engagement tools and marketing channels are fun distractions, but adding more bells and whistles doesn't always result in a better customer experience. 

Instead, start your journey on a solid foundation by creating systems of measurement. There's an adage that what gets measured gets done, and until you can measure the levels of engagement that your current approach delivers, you can't test new approaches, optimize your results, or make the case for more marketing resources or a collaboration with other business units such as sales or customer success. 

You won't need new technology to get started. Your CRM, CMS, and marketing automation platform offer a wealth of insight into your customers. Something as simple as setting up source attribution — the ability to track the sources that refer customers to you initially — can be transformative. By creating a system of UTMs (urchin tracking modules) that embed information about the sources that referred a customer to your site, you can start tracking customer interactions online and measuring the relative effectiveness of the sources (such as LinkedIn posts, display ads, search engines) that refer them to your site. Armed with this intelligence, you can begin to understand your customers better by identifying the sources that reach and engage them most effectively. It will also lay the foundation for granular tracking of content assets to identify the types and topics that perform best with specific audience segments, all of which will tell you where you need to focus your efforts in future in order to maximize ROI. 

This may seem like a modest step, but it's a crucial one in the journey toward marketing that proactively leads customer engagement strategy rather than reactively fulfilling requests from other organizational functions. 

Related Article: Where Does Customer Experience End and Digital Marketing Begin?

2. For Intermediates: Choose and Optimize Your Channel

We marketers tend to be ambitious and driven, and one of the most common mistakes we make is to underestimate the effort required to move the dial in any one area. Once we have the ability to measure our impact, it's easy to fall into the trap of trying to optimize everything at once, but doing so will dilute the impact and leave us running in too many directions at once. 

Instead, keep it focused and manageable. Let the data show you which channel delivers the greatest impact and double down on your efforts there. However, it needs to be a channel that your department owns. If your website runs on a complex CMS owned by IT, for example, you may need to postpone launching an optimization effort in this channel unless you are tightly aligned with IT. Otherwise you could find yourself stymied by an inability to roll out changes swiftly and monitor your performance data. 

Once you've identified a high-performing, marketing-owned channel, start brainstorming ways to optimize its effectiveness. How could it serve your customers better? Could the messaging be clearer? Could the content be segmented or personalized to surface relevant information faster? Could the experience be made more interactive and engaging? Could you add better prompts and CTAs to help the customer take the next step in the journey?

Take a close look at the three components of the customer experience — technology, data and content — and identify the areas that need to be backfilled or upgraded. Once you have determined your optimization initiative, choose three or four KPIs to help you measure the increase in customer engagement, satisfaction or velocity. 

Related Article: The Worst Way to Test Agile Marketing and What to Do Instead

3. For the Advanced: Use Your Success to Evangelize

One of the core objectives of MLCX is to unite a customer journey that has been fragmented across multiple business functions. For marketers who have a demonstrated ability to measure and optimize their marketing efforts, the next step is to start breaking down organizational silos and leading a cross-functional effort to deliver a cohesive, intuitive experience to the customer.

To lead an MLCX initiative that extends beyond marketing's traditional confines will require getting organizational buy-in. Fortunately, obtaining that buy-in is easier when you can clearly demonstrate your department's proven track record of implementing CX improvements that have a measurable impact. By sharing marketing's CX wins, you can convince other departments and rally them to the cause, and you may find they approach you of their own accord once they see the results you’ve demonstrated.

Look for places where a cross-functional collaboration can reduce friction and enhance the customer experience. For example, you might build a system that cookies site visitors and relays the data to the support team so that they can see the support articles customers read and the questions they asked in chat before they called the help line. This additional context could help support staff anticipate the level of frustration, respond appropriately, and solve the problem sooner. That, in turn, will enhance efficiency and increase customer satisfaction. 

Ultimately, these broader initiatives will enable you to gradually connect disparate customer touchpoints to gain 360-degree view of the customer and deliver a unified, rewarding customer journey (see the image below).

customer engagement model

Related Article: Are All Your Different KPIs at Odds With the Customer Experience

The Future of Marketing

Marketing-led CX is revolutionizing the way B2B organizations empower their customers and the role marketers play in that process. By consolidating CX within the marketing function, marketers can transform both the customer's experience and organization's revenue potential. 

Positioning the marketing function as the CX leader within the organization is an ambitious goal, but it doesn't have to feel intimidating. Marketers at every stage can move their practice forward by focusing on their ability to measure, optimize, and evangelize the impact of CX at every stage of the customer journey.