CMOs need to become more involved in their company’s overall digital transformation, because they’re the ones who best understand the customer.
That’s a key idea in two recent reports – Forrester’s “CMOs: Define Your Role in Digital Transformation” [Forrester clients only] and Altimeter’s “The State of Digital Transformation” [free, registration required].
Getting a seat. The subtitle to the Forrester report summarizes its main message to marketing executives: “To Get a Seat at the Table, Command Your Customer’s Experience.”
“Many CMOs are not necessarily part of the executive committee,” report author and analyst Thomas Husson said in an interview, “and [too] many of them do not really take an active role in the digital transformation journey.”
One reason he found: the addition of additional C-suite roles, like Chief Experience Officer or Chief Customer Officer. Brands that do have the strong involvement of their CMO in digital transformation, he said, include Southwest Airlines, JetBlue, Netflix, Lexus, Nike and Coca-Cola.
Customer experience. When the CIO and the IT department take the lead in digital transformation, Husson said, the emphasis is more on “improving processes and efficiencies and on reducing costs.” Many CMOs, on the other hand, own customer experience at their companies, and are likely to bring more of a focus on what the customer sees and does.
As an example of what CMOs can add, Husson suggested that the addition of chatbots for customer service might be more focused on streamlining processes than on making sure customers are happy, if the CIO is the only one guiding that department’s transformation.
The CMO shouldn’t “necessarily lead execution or get new responsibilities [to] the detriment of other members of the C-Suite,” he said, “but I think the more the CMO is involved, the more the customer experience is authentic, inspiring and mobilizing.”
Of course, CMOs have a lot to do already with transforming their own department, marketing. But CMOs could inject “values and brand purpose everywhere,” he said, as an “orchestrator and coordinator of customer experiences.”
“The ultimate ambassador.” Forty-one percent of organizations tell Forrester that marketing is the key owner of customer experience in their organizations.
Forrester’s advice to CMOs: immerse yourself in digital transformation, start by transforming your own marketing approach, create “an ambitious culture of hybrid teams,” turn your company’s brand values into employee values because that feeds customer experience and “consider yourself the ultimate ambassador of the customer experience.”
Altimeter’s study. Another new report, Altimeter’s fifth annual “The State of Digital Transformation,” noted that a successful transformational effort needs “a leader with broad organizational purview.” It points out that CIOs own or sponsor digital transformation initiatives for 28 percent of the respondents it surveyed for its research, while CEOs serve that leadership role for 23 percent. In 2018 in North America, the report says, only three percent of CMOs own digital transformation.
The Altimeter report points out a key reason why CMOs could be very useful: 41 percent of companies are making investments without thorough customer research.
Why you should care. Leading drivers of digital transformation, according to the Altimeter report, are growth opportunities, which were cited by 51 percent of respondents and, for 41 percent, increased competitive pressure. These stats point to the main reason for digital transformation: to transform the experience into something that customers expect and will enjoy — and keep the competition from getting there first.
While the technical staff need to have a major role in how that is done, the marketers are the one who can best inform what the new experience should present, and how. Taken together, these two reports offer some direction for how the challenge of digital transformation can best be addressed with customers in mind.
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