CX Decoded Podcast Guest Liz Miller and Nicole France
CX Decoded Podcast
April 6, 2021

CX Decoded Podcast Episode 6: Overcoming Marketing Bad Habits


Marketing’s under a microscope. Well, it really always has been, but especially over the past 12 months or so.

The challenges for the marketing department in the past year during the COVID-19 pandemic have been many: striking the right brand tone, dealing with trimmed budgets and, most of all, staying relevant and keeping their jobs.

Forrester predicted 469,000 marketing jobs would be lost in the US by the end of 2020 in one forecast. AT&T, Sony Pictures and KPMG are just a few brands that have had marketing layoffs since COVID-19 came into the global picture.

Marketers maybe more than ever need to prove their worth. They need to shed bad habits, reduce inefficiencies and nail it when it comes to submitting the right tone in brand messaging.

In this episode of CX Decoded, we caught up with two colleagues from Constellation Research — Nicole France and Liz Miller. They are analysts and researchers now but marketers at heart, having served in marketing roles in the past. France is the vice president and principal analyst focusing on customer experience as an enterprise-wide team sport. Miller is also a vice president and principal analyst at Constellation focusing on the chief marketing officer, the evolution of customer engagement and the connection between security and brand trust.

They discuss in this podcast common mistakes and bad habits for marketers and why it’s important to crack them at a critical time for the discipline.

Episode Transcript

Note: This transcript has been edited for space and clarity.

Dom Nicastro: It's been a rough 12 months. What were some of the hard lessons from the past 12 months that marketers learned?

Nicole France: For me I think one of the observations I've made is that marketers were really adept at turning on a dime. The challenge was that all of their systems weren't necessarily as flexible as they were. That caused a whole bunch of challenges and frankly a lot of those holes didn't really appear until something went wrong.

Liz Miller: Marketers, and CMOs in particular, really were some of the first that had to respond. You had to respond with, "What are we doing about all of this pandemic stuff? What are we doing with our teams? Are we trying to keep everyone safe?" Remember the end of March last year, everyone's email inboxes filled up with those, “We're all in this together. In these unprecedented times” emails and we'd already moved past those by the time they were even deployed. So we moved fast.

But Nicole is right. We found out pretty quickly where the holes and deficiencies were in our stack. And we also learned kind of where we had over-indexed. Dom you brought up a lot of the jobs that were lost. CMOs I talked to time and time again said listen, we weren't worried about the tools at that point. We figured out where the deficiencies were, but we started looking around, and we started to realize that all the people that we hired kind of new technically how to use the tools, but we didn't have a lot of people who are good at some of the softer stuff. We bought a lot of tools, but we didn't necessarily pay enough attention to the talent so I'm seeing a lot of folks kind of go through that talent assessment now.

Rich Hein: And I think that brings up one of the mistakes that we wanted to talk about today, which is choosing technology over talent.

Liz Miller: One of the things Nicole and I do kind of all day long is we stare at those pitches and you know the wondrous world of this is the ultimate Swiss Army Knife in communicating with anyone you've ever wanted to communicate with.

And I think a lot of times, what happened was, we focused on what tools do we need to solve all these problems, but we didn't pay attention to either the people or quite frankly the processes that we had in place for those.

A friend of mine years ago said the equation is always, “If you take new technology and old process, you just got really fast old process.” And the reality is all of those old processes were pretty busted. They were pretty wrong. And so what we ended up seeing really quickly were really bad processes just being churned out really fast. So it's why you saw workflows break down in that March and April timeframe. Nicole, how many times did I have to tweet out the words, “Check your workflow”?

Nicole France: Oh, a lot.

Rich Hein: I think it was a very trying moment. We had a lot of people that were just heads down trying to get everything done, trying to get the tone right. At the very beginning of this I feel like marketers were in some peril, just because they were focused on getting things done, and moving things forward. And we saw several organizations have some tone-deaf responses at the start of the pandemic.

Nicole France: It's interesting, Rich. Because I think it points to one of the tech over talent pitfalls, for sure. I've been part of a lot of marketing organizations that really over-rotated toward staffing their teams with people who understood specific channels or types of media, but who didn't necessarily have either the background or the experience to understand the big picture. That's one of those things that we're really coming back to and reassessing."

I think if you look at a lot of senior marketers, these are people that have done a lot of different things, held many different kinds of roles, have a tremendously broad set of experiences because marketing always has to change and adapt. And I think one of the real traps is getting too sort of enamored of certain technologies, or certain channels and missing the point which is really about making those connections with customers, regardless of the channel, regardless of the means.

Liz Miller: There's this frustration of we want to do things faster. But the reality is, and I think the big undercurrent of what we learned last year: Marketing and especially CMOs, for the last maybe five, six years, have been talking about how the mandate has changed. And it's very true. The mandate for marketing has absolutely shifted. And we kind of have moved away thankfully from being the chief storytellers of our brand and all of that kind of light touch fluff stuff.

And we've now become drivers of growth. The reality though is when we were talking about that I think there was a lot of conversation around marketers being the growth drivers five years ago. What last year proved is we had to very quickly redefine and crystallize what growth meant for our organization and that was going to be revenue, and revenue through that acquisition, revenue through those customer transactions. But also through efficiencies and cleaning out the bottom line.

And so I think we've really narrowed in on how marketers are going to be the growth drivers and that is going to come through in not only the great stories that we tell but the efficiencies that we prove and the technologies that we realize. Wow, maybe I shouldn't be spending that much on all of these tools that require me to also pay an extra invoice on like data storage. So we're asking harder questions of a lot of our tools and we're not looking at things like AI and thinking, it's gonna solve everything. It's gonna be an awesome intern. It's gonna take some of those monotonous tasks off the table.

We proved last year, how quickly we can transform. Well, now our CEOs are going to be like, “OK great you guys ran really fast last year, keep it up.” So now we're running like a sprint but like a marathon length. And that's tough. That's gonna be hard.

Nicole France: It's a marathon at a four-minute mile.