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As challenging and complex as the era of digital transformation appears to be, the reality is that businesses are always in a state of transformation. This one just happens to be digital.

What is different this time, and relevant to today’s marketer, is the accelerating pace of the digital era, its impact on the customer experience, and the CMO’s responsibility in leading the charge. Based on discussions with CMOs from Fortune 500 companies, here are five of the most critical elements for delivering on digital transformation in an era of constant change.

1. Integration 

In order to deliver a great customer experience, CMOs need to bring together strategy, technology, data, and creative. The complexity behind doing so can’t be overstated. To do it successfully requires that CMOs work closely with IT to break down silos across the organization and integrate functions, data, systems, and processes, not to mention all brands and acquired companies.

If you’ve ever heard a customer wonder out loud why a company doesn’t know who they are, it’s usually due to a lack of integration on the back end. Unfortunately, customers are indifferent to these challenges. They simply assume that companies of all sizes, with various brands, know their customers, or at least know enough about them to deliver a positive experience.


Guest Post by Jane Hiscock, President, Farland Group.


2. Staying Relevant and Engendering Passion

While integration of systems and processes is crucial to the customer experience, we all know it’s not just about breaking down silos.

Staying relevant to your target audience and engendering passion for the brand is what attracts, inspires, engages, and ideally wins customers for life – or at least for the foreseeable future. In the era of digital transformation, where stiff competition and fickle customers are the norm, creating a unique emotional connection with your brand is more important than ever.

One way to accomplish this is to focus on the right emotional drivers in your messaging and content. The trick here is taking a thoughtful approach in your execution and keeping things consistent as you scale. 

3. Keeping Pace with a Shifting Customer Base

Understanding buying behavior and anticipating customer needs has always been part of the job. Today, the more data and insights we have, the more personalized our marketing messages can be. In theory.

Personalization will continue to play a strong role in customer engagement strategies, but the techniques for personalization are changing. If you want to show that you understand the mindset of your various audiences, personalization has to go beyond simply sharing previous purchase history. It must be able to predict customer needs and deliver more tailored customer experiences based on those needs.

4. Changing the Way Work Is Done

Gone are the days of job descriptions with checklists, staying in your comfort zone, and working within the confines of your team. Today, CMOs at top organizations are changing the way work gets done.

These changes are creating a new type of workforce where the focus is on engaging customers and prioritizing the customer experience. Doing this often requires a “re-skilling” of the marketing team along with on-going training at every level of the organization, up to and including the CEO. It also includes the adoption of agile marketing methodologies and entirely new ways of operating.

As you acclimate to a new way of working, be open to experimenting with different team formations and mixing up the matrix. Where it makes sense, external partners may be needed to help extend digital capabilities and create new customer experiences. Amidst all this change, however, don’t lose sight of what matters most: your customers and the value you provide them.

By keeping the objectives front and center, you can reduce any fears that might arise from new approaches while also energizing the team.

5. Leading culture transformation 

Many businesses today are in the middle of an industry or business model transformation that’s been brought about by the digital revolution.

Successfully navigating the transformation requires an investment from each function across the organization to respond to new operating models, evolving modes of engagement, and different customer expectations.

Increasingly, CMOs are leading the charge in driving internal change and creating opportunities to engage employees in the transformation. They’re determining which programs best reflect the company’s vision as it transforms.

As one CMO put it, “The CEO should be the Chief Culture Officer, but the marketing team is the one that can create and lead meaningful actions. It is demonstrable activities across the board that create a culture.”

Transformation waves come and go. But none have been as sweeping or had the incredible impact of today’s digital transformation.

What’s so exciting, however, is the way this transformation presents CMOs with the opportunity to drive and effect lasting change, change that will impact their companies, employees, customers, and the industry at large.

Done right, it’s a real opportunity to leave a lasting legacy.

Image Source (Creative Commons): Official LeWeb Photos.


jane-hiscockJane Hiscock is President of Farland Group. The organization tailors a mix of strategy consulting, research, and programs to help B2B companies build stronger relationships with their c-level customers.

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