Scott Brinker kicked off his keynote at the MarTech East conference at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston on Oct. 2 by telling the 2,000 or so attendees that marketing is all about customer experience (CX) and ROI. Brinker is chair of the now four-year-old conference and author of the Chief Marketing Technologist blog.

Given that marketers are being tasked with the priority of producing better customer experiences on a digital and organizational level — not to mention gaining revenue for their companies — CMSWire asked MarTech attendees what their current top CX initiatives are. We wanted to know what keeps them up at night as they try to create such cohesive experiences across multiple channels and manage and distribute compelling content.

Marketers’ Top CX Challenges

First, let’s discuss the top five common marketing challenges identified last month by the Chartered Institute of Marketing:

  • Demonstrating ROI
  • Lack of fundamental marketing knowledge
  • Understanding customer behavior
  • Keeping up-to-date with digital
  • The changing role of product management

As part of his keynote, Brinker noted that marketing is 1 percent strategy and 99 percent operations. Therein lies a great challenge, being able to actually execute great marketing strategies through the business pipeline.

MarTech attendee Jon Russo, founder of B2B Fusion, a consultancy that helps marketers orchestrate and optimize their marketing technology stacks, told CMSWire that marketers struggle commonly in three areas:

  • Making sure data is in a productive state, that there’s governance around it and that somebody owns it.
  • Making sure their systems support the business process of handoffs whether it’d be accounts or leads.
  • Making sure they can leverage technologies like customer data platforms, where they can stitch data together and get a 360-degree view of the customer and also get the right reporting.

“We see all three of those challenges as not easy to solve,” Russo said, “but every company is really wrestling with how to progress in each of those areas.”

Related Article: How to Simplify the MarTech Stack

Defining Customer Accounts, Stakeholders

For some marketers, it's all about the right message to the right people. Erik Smith, marketing director for ABM at Arm Treasure Data, said in account-based marketing (ABM) there are longer sales cycles. “I think about customers in terms of accounts, and I look at all of the different people who are involved when they evaluate technology like ours,” Smith said. “Because the way that I approach an end user of our service is very different than how I would approach the director who manages that service and is very different than the CEO who has the budget to approve.”

As a marketer, Smith and his team map content against different buyer journeys “because that's extremely important to understand — not just the customer, but the customer as an account and how they work as a team and being able to sort of map and then predict other behaviors.” There are multiple people working in an organization, and Smith and his team want to map digital touchpoints for specific people and then serve up relevant content or interactions based on that behavior. “Let's take the director out to dinner,” Smith said. “Or let's invite the users to a conference or a hackathon. Let's start engaging them in different ways so that they start to really enjoy working with the brand in a way that makes sense to them.”

Creating Content Experiences for Multiple Customer Touch Points

Some marketers stress over-creating relevant experiences for customers beyond the initial acquisition. Anjali Yakkundi, product marketing director for Aprimo, said her number 1 priority now is moving beyond the top of the funnel and recognizing the entirety of the customer experience. “That's keeping me up at night,” Yakkundi said. “How do we create enough engaging content for the whole experience, not just getting people in? Are we getting people interested with content at every phase of that customer journey?”

It’s challenging, she said, to keep up with the content demands with limited resources. There are only so many creative resources and copywriters. There are only so many product marketers who can produce product content. “It’s not just getting the initial interest in awareness,” Yakkundi said. “It’s how do we actually sustain that with other content and other experiences? It definitely keeps me up [at night]. Who is going to design and create that content?”

Related Article: Why Customer Journey Mapping + Journey Analytics = 5-Star Customer Experiences

Being a Small Fish in a Big Pond

Graham Wall, enterprise sales director for, said his focus now is getting across his company’s message about its Artificial Intelligence (AI) offerings in a land of AI giants. “We're a very small fish in a very big pond,” Wall said. “We get lost in the whole AI customer experience buzz, and we're competing with people like Adobe and Oracle and Marketo, even though we are doing something fundamentally different. They are using the same terminology as us so we just get drowned out by the titans of industry. So that's a big challenge to differentiate what we do.” His goal? Get customers to agree to create compelling case studies. 

Learning Opportunities

Generating ‘Dynamic, Compelling’ Content

Content is also top of mind for David Howland, chief marketing officer at QuestBack. Howland said as CMO he has a “high-priority initiative” for his marketing team to generate “dynamic, compelling content that creates a need within our larger customer base.” “From a larger perspective,” he added, “when you talk about our go-to-market organization, it’s really about taking what has been operationalized very effectively and addressing the inefficiencies that still lie within.” 

On paper, everything’s set up for success. Nonetheless, Howland sees a "degradation of leads" and a lack of a true no-lead-left-behind approach. His focus is to learn more about tools and methodologies that can help.

Related Article: How to Future-Proof Your MarTech Stack

Helping Marketers Be Data-Driven

Lynne Capozzi, CMO at Acquia, told CMSWire her focus is on helping marketers become data driven and supporting their initiatives for a full 360-degree view of the customer. “That's what we're working on right now — making sure that we are allowing marketers to look at a full view of the customer from the first touch point to when they get that customer and hopefully maintain that customer,” Capozzi said. 

Stopping Business Process from Getting in the Way

The road toward customer-centricity begins with not letting processes get in the way, according to Neeti Mehta, senior vice president, brand and culture architect and co-founder at Automation Anywhere. “Operations often has mundane, repetitive tasks that can be automated — using the digital workforce to automate [certain tasks] allows us from a marketing organization point of view to be creative [so we can] really put the customer front and center,” Mehta said. 

Related Article: Flipping MarTech on its Head

Operationalize Customer Decisioning Across the Enterprise

Wilson Raj, global director of customer intelligence for SAS, said his team’s focus for customer initiatives, from a marketing perspective, is to operationalize customer decisioning across the enterprise. “What I mean by that is, it's not just a marketing function to be customer-centric,” Raj said. “It's not just sales function, or even a customer support function, to be customer-centric. It is an enterprise-wide function.”

Customer insights typically generated through marketing activities or sales activities has to be number synthesized in a more holistic way and then distributed on the fly to any function that needs it in order to optimize the customer journey. “That is really the biggest thing,” Raj said. “I see that marketers are doing well in understanding digital and using digital to its advantage, but the challenge is really more internal. How do we orchestrate that and then scale that out?”

Conclusion: Brace for Change

Marketers simply must be adaptive in order to keep up with customer experience priorities today. Brinker closed his keynote by saying, “My three-word advice to anyone in a marketing technology leadership position is design for change.”