DNA Origami
PHOTO: Duncan Hull

Organizations are moving faster than ever to digitally transform. While this probably won't come as a surprise, their motivations might.

Smart brands today are accelerating their digital transformations not to stay ahead of the competition, but to stay ahead of their customers, whose rising expectations continue to be set by the major tech players, such as Amazon, Apple and Uber.

Digital Transformation Doesn’t Have an End Date

Not every organization competes directly with these powerhouses. However, we’re all competing with them in the arena of customer experience. As such, companies are beginning to realize that digital transformation required to achieve success isn’t just another project to be completed; it’s a process of ongoing innovation, in service of giving customers the best possible experience.  

Consumer demands for great experiences enabled by digitalization are forcing marketers and customer experience (CX) leaders to look at their strategies through a different lens: the experience they provide is the product they’re selling.

This shift in how businesses view “digital transformation” – a phrase debated and discussed in board rooms for years – is vital to their success.

Related Article: Digital Transformation Isn't a One and Done Deal

Organizational Change Is as Critical as Technology Investment

Fortunately, many businesses are responding by adjusting their strategies to reflect the new reality. They must move fast and evolve quickly in service of great customer experiences.

However, investing in more or new digital and marketing technology is only part of the answer.  The new must-have “capability” is strong executive leadership, providing clear mandates to align investments and actions to focus on customer needs.  

It’s a challenge to get above the noise and identify what makes a strong CMO and a customer-obsessed organization. I’ve taken a hard look at what qualities today’s most innovative marketing minds bring to the table and found commonalities that can be boiled down into three core areas that make up the “digital DNA” of today’s successful CMOs. Map these three elements back to everything else — personalization, customer journeys, digital experience, etc. — and you'll recognize today's leaders. 

The DNA of Today's CMO

These leaders have:

Data in Their Veins

Data is the lifeblood of any organization trying to compete based on experience. Much like blood coursing through our veins, this rich information flows through every part of an organization, picking up and depositing intelligence throughout. However, many organizations lack the means to interpret this information and, as a result, miss valuable insights that could be harnessed to inform their digital strategies.

Today’s successful CMOs go beyond rich data gathering and focus on effectively understanding and applying the insights within that data. Otherwise, the time and energy spent collecting and cataloging every customer’s newsletter opens, chatbot conversations and purchase histories will be rendered useless.

Just as we rely on regular blood testing to gauge our current health and make better lifestyle choices, like cutting out certain foods or exercising more, CMOs must use the data streaming through their business to dictate their next digital experience moves. Data is the key to greater personalization, richer one-on-one experiences, and more intelligent, predictive, and well-informed next actions or offers along the customer journey.  Without an informed action plan, organizations cannot make lasting improvements to their customer experience model. Businesses driven by CMOs with data in their veins will recognize this and be poised to remain at the front of the pack.

Related Article: 3 Areas of Focus for Today's Data-Driven CMO

Experience in Their Soul

Experience in the soul is a real thing. Some CMOs get it, many don’t.

The CMOs that truly understand and embrace this are the ones who put the customer at the center of every action they take. These leaders see beyond the marketing funnel and have a keen eye toward building meaningful, long-term relationships with their customers that go beyond a mere transaction. CMOs who have experience in their souls aim for larger and more ambitious goals: to leave an indisputable and immutable impact on their customers by making their lives easier, better and more satisfying.

Technology alone cannot accomplish this. However, it does play a key role. CMOs who truly embrace this thinking look for unique ways to leverage technology in the experience building process, creating new, relevant ways for customers to meet their needs at at each step of their journey, and in every interaction with an organization — from the purchase of a specific product or service, to obtaining effective service and support, to becoming a long-term, loyal customer. Amazon Go is the epitome of this mindset, with these revolutionary “grab 'n' go” stores using the latest in mobile and sensor technology to deliver a frictionless journey to customers that satisfies their demand for a quicker and more convenient shopping experience.

Related Article: Amazon Go Pushes the Limits of Mobile Commerce

Customers in Their Heart

Customers have been outsiders in an insiders’ game for far too long.

For way too long, organizations have approached customer experience from the inside-out — it’s all about your company, not about the customer. A successful CMO with customers in their heart approaches marketing quite differently, employing an outside-in mentality that puts the customer first in every aspect of their marketing strategy. And their approach can help inspire the whole organization to act this way.

These CMOs are adept at putting themselves in someone else’s shoes, enabling them to realistically understand where their company fits into the lives of customers. For example, grocery delivery company Shipt keeps customer relationships at the heart of its organization. In fact, the company was founded to solve a specific problem for busy professionals and parents who struggled with hectic and negative in-store shopping experiences. Because of Shipt’s attention to customers, with a highly personal service aligned to their needs, the company has a loyal and growing user base.

Leaders who keep customers close to their heart understand their organization is just one part of a customer’s life - one speck on their journey. And they know customers contending with many other specks vying for attention every day. Recognizing this enables CMOs to effectively strategize, developing offers, implementing promotions and curating touchpoints that seamlessly fit into the lives of their customers without inundating them. The focus remains on being helpful – knowing that bottom line success will follow.

Related Article: Customer-Centric? Employee-Centric? How About a People-Centric Culture

The New CMO Mandate

For years marketers have put blood, sweat and tears into their work, but as customer expectations continue to rise, perhaps it’s time for a different approach. It may seem daunting, but you’ll find that once you embrace one of these values, the others fall into place.