[Guest post by Larry Weber and Lisa Leslie Henderson.]
There is a shake-up taking place in the C-suite. It happens every time there is a game-changing disruption in the marketplace. Today companies are introducing several new C-level positions: the chief customer officer, chief experience officer, chief design officer, chief innovation officer, chief insight officer, chief analytics officer, and the chief digital officer. The threads running through all of these new positions are a piercing focus on customers, the imperative for companies to distinguish themselves on basis of their customer experience, and a desire to better understanding current, emerging, and future demand to fuel innovation. These new C-level positions also reflect senior managers’ conviction that these tasks require organizational capabilities beyond that of today’s marketing departments.
It's all about the customer
The chief customer officer (CCO, or the chief experience officer or chief customer experience officer), for example, is charged with understanding and enhancing the customer experience across the entire customer journey. This begins with a potential customer’s awareness of a need or desire; continues with his or her discovery of various companies' solutions; includes lead generation, nurturing, and potential purchase; incorporates customer service, ongoing engagement, and loyalty programs; and often includes collaboration efforts—co-creation, co-servicing, and advocacy — with customers. Senior managers with extensive experience that span operations, quality control, marketing, and information systems are filling these roles. Their rich and varied backgrounds provide them with the credibility and networks to lead the effort across functions, business units, and broader partner ecosystem; the majority report directly to the CEO.
Leading with design
The chief design officer (CDO) is charged with infusing design principles and methodology throughout the organization. In this instance, design is not about making products more beautiful or enhancing the cleverness of marketing. Rather, it is about expanding the way that strategy is developed with creative thinking, and putting the customer, rather than the company, and the center of innovation. A new role, the CDO position tends to be awarded to designers with many years of product and process development experience, often gained in consultative roles with innovation firms like IDEO. Catalysts for change, they are creative thinkers and strong leaders, skilled in running effective innovation processes, and able to inspire and equip everyone within the company to think like a designer. Most CDOs report directly to the CEO; some designers are CEOs.
Innovating the way to the future
Today’s Chief Innovation Officer (CInO) is closely related to the CDO, with responsibility for future generation of revenue and profits. In the past, winning innovation strategies included incremental, share-taking enhancements or cost saving reductions. With the fat now out of the system, competition coming from four corners of the globe, and the half-life of business models declining, companies must transform themselves into vibrant platforms upon which they can continually develop and test new products and services that have the potential to build or transform industries. Cultivation of purposeful networks of partners who share the costs, risks, and development of these offerings is central to this platform-based innovation strategy. CInOS often report to the head of R&D or the CEO; in some instances both the Chief Marketing Officer and the Chief Information Officer are accountable to the CInO.
Data, with a side of insights
The role of the chief insight officer, chief analytics officer, and chief digital officer reflects the growing importance of data and advanced analytics in companies’ ability to offer a remarkable customer experience. The insight generated from data and analytics allows companies to prioritize consumers; predict what they may want or need next, and design and deliver individualized-customer interactions across the customer journey. Marketers are also able to test hypotheses about trends in their markets, categories, and adjacent spaces, and to evaluate their marketing efforts. Solid executive leadership is required to fill this role, as he/she must be able to build a broader analytics foundation than is currently available in most companies. This includes putting new technology infrastructure and tools in place to gather disparate data, coordinating data analytic efforts, building consensus around the focus of business analytics throughout the organization, and being a champion and enabler of a more data-driven mind-set across departments. This person also has to be obsessed with customers and committed to driving business results with data in real time.
With all these new C-level titles, is there room for a CMO in the C-suite? Absolutely. Indeed, the CMO role could morph into any of these roles, if marketers develop the requisite skills.
The role of the CMO of the future
For starters, we need to understand our customers thoroughly. Drawing upon big and small data, qualitative and quantitative information, and advanced analytics, we must be able to build a dynamic, real-time context for our interactions. This is critical, as relevance is rapidly becoming essential to engagement, not to mention sales, advocacy, or collaboration. We also need to be able to understand how our customers experience our brands at all stages of their journey with us. This is a dynamic proposition as preferences and brand impressions change continuously.
This also necessitates that marketers become experience architects, able to design and develop relevant experiences that will intrigue, engage, and perhaps delight our prospects and customers on an ongoing basis. To do so, we can become adept at experience design and with the basics of behavior science, to better understand how to elicit a target behavior and to create habits around our brands. Knowing the ins and outs of marketing automation makes it possible for us to scale individualized communications across channels and to incorporate predictive analytics to choose the next best action. State-of-the-art content marketing strategies, social media engagement, and effective loyalty program design fuel ongoing engagement.
It is not enough to be familiar with these new tools. Using them to build customer relationships is essential. Ultimate job security and satisfaction comes from our ability to transform key-market segments into relationships with real people who feel a connection with us — and to be able to do so at scale. This requires us to re- envision our role as marketers to be one of trusted advisors rather than pushers of sales, and to value our customers as partners, rather than transactions.
Building relationships is a collaborative venture. It involves managing and integrating multiple moving parts within our own organizations: customer service, sales, web design, fulfillment, IT, e-commerce, and more. Each of these parts has to work together consistently to realize the customer experience differential.
Finally — and this may well be the most complicated part — we must remain curious experts, not experts who are blinded by their knowledge. As well as we may know our prospects and customers, we must do what marketing expert Scott Bedbury, once said: “Show up stupid. Be forever curious.” To be successful, it is helpful to always look with fresh eyes and to force ourselves to continually ask potentially naive sounding questions of our colleagues who may know our prospects and customers differently.
Marketers need to get in the game now and take ownership of what is to be, not standing back, allowing others to assume marketing’s responsibilities. Understanding the new marketing toolkit, and how these tools work together to create remarkable customer experiences will allow us to meet the challenge, take advantage of the opportunities in front of us, and survive C-Suite shakeups.
Larry Weber (@thelarryweber) and Lisa Leslie Henderson (@ljlhendo) are co-authors of The Digital Marketer: 10 New Skills You Must Learn to Stay Relevant and Customer-Centric (April 2014). Be a part of the conversation at #thedigitalmarketer and http://thedigitalmarketer.racepointglobal.com.
Image credit: "Empty Boardroom" by reynermedia (Flickr)