Something has been concerning me about some conversations and topics at marketing events over the last few years. Of course there has been lively discussion about the latest technologies and that facilitates customer focused approach to business. This has been topical as in the latest Connected Customer report, where 58% of consumers agree that technology has significantly changed their expectations of how companies should interact with them. But then the conversation often moves towards about the fact that marketers need to have a greater impact on, and a seat at, the board table.
On one hand the conversation this has been entirely tactical, “Look at all of the shiny things we have”. Then very quickly this has been followed up with “Marketers should be involved in more strategy and transformation” which often led to panel discussions that discussed topics along the lines of “Business leaders are making a mistake by not inviting more marketers to the decision table”.
In many cases I left these conferences frustrated by how an apparent obsession with tactical initiatives was preventing import conversations that could lead to organisational transformation.
Recently, at the Salesforce Basecamp conference in Melbourne, I noticed that dialogue has started to shift. The themes that were threaded through conversations had become focused on the need for strategic design, and how marketers need to work more closely with technologists and enterprise architects to ensure activity gets whole of company buy-in. The changing of conversations is very encouraging.
From my experience at Basecamp, here are the four key principles that can help marketers play a pivotal role in a business’s digital transformation strategy:
Many businesses are unaware what their overarching customer experience is, or how the systems and capabilities work to support that experience. Businesses often scale organically, and focus on requirements incrementally. But this lack of clarity makes it very difficult to design a future state.
Mapping business capabilities and IT systems combined with mapping customer journeys provides clarity to the business about how the organisation works, where efficiencies may realised, and where customer experiences could be improved to create a competitive advantage.
The best performing companies don’t start designing a future-state focused on technology. They start with experience. Using service design techniques, led by experienced practitioners, start with the customer and design the target state that transforms your business.
This includes focusing on what it takes to deliver. Begin with your most important asset - your people. Understanding how employees will support your target future state, and supporting them in their experience makes the difference between good and great.
Map process improvements and revise your technology architecture to provide a supporting technology roadmap. This approach ensures your people, processes and technology are designed comprehensively and cohesively.
Leadership should take artefacts developed in the design process and use them to communicate clearly with the organisation. This will help create the context for change, which most of the organisation will already be aware of and agree with.
The next phase is to be transparent about the projects, expectations and spend. This will allow people to understand how their own job impacts the process and provide them an opportunity to positively impact the process.
And of course communicate the successes, but be careful not to get addicted to “quick wins” at the expense of the long term strategy, as constant short term activity is where organisations can undergo a lot of change, but no real transformation.
Communication throughout a major change programme is critical. When you think you have communicated too much, you are probably pretty close to the right cadence.
Developing and articulating a vision and strategy is one thing, delivering on them is another. All too often businesses allow the delivery of new products or services to become engineering led, which loses focus on the customer problem the initiative was set out to solve.
Human centred design techniques can, and should, be employed all the way through the delivery process. Constantly testing and refining features and functions with the intended customer base ensures that internal assumptions about the customer are always being tested. Every idea is a hypothesis that should be validated or discarded.
This approach allows your organisation to begin to build up a strategic design practice that puts the customer at the centre of any initiative. It reduces risk and the cost of delivery.
Marketers can play a central role throughout much of this process, but it will take a shift in thinking. A shift away from thinking a “campaign strategy” is something more than a tactical plan. Shift away from debating traditional vs. digital. And a shift towards a different type of customer obsession. A customer obsession that focuses much more on improving the overall experience for the customer - and how that will impact, support and enable the company’s strategic vision. As the Connected Customer report tells us, 58% of consumers agree that technology has significantly changed their expectations of how companies should interact with them.
Discover more about how technology is changing consumer expectations in Salesforce’s new State of the Connected Customer report.