Marketing’s Role in Digital Transformation: Why Sales Owns the Last Mile

It’s Not the Buyer Journey, It’s the Customer Journey.

This is the last in a series of articles on the largest change to Marketing since the rise of the internet. We are now facing the last mile of relationship transformation between buyers and sellers that began with broad access to digital content. Marketing has been at the forefront of this change – first in creating digital experiences with the content on the web and email and eventually tying those digital channels together using Marketing Automation. Marketers are now facing the cold reality that the returns on automation are rapidly declining. What’s next?

If you step back and look at the transformation of the customer experience, not only Marketing but the entire buyer journey, it’s apparent the next step for the organization is the Digital Transformation of Sales. Leading companies such as SAP and Guardian Life are taking steps in this direction – It’s critical Marketing get involved now. Whether experimenting with Chatbots or investing in Sales Enablement technology, Marketing needs to be the customer experience champion throughout these initiatives.

Marketing Must Become the CX Champion

Championing customer experience (CX) starts during the Sales experience and buyer journey, and extends beyond the purchase to the full term of the company relationship – Marketing should lead the charge to create engaging experiences throughout the customer life cycle. If you wonder why SAP spent $8B for Qualtrics, the largest acquisition in their history, it’s because the foundation of managing experience is a way to measure experience and that’s what Qualtrics does.

Marketing leaders are best positioned not only to champion the CX, but to take ownership of that experience and establish a pivotal role in setting the course for the company. Taking ownership requires divesting other responsibilities like advertising and marketing operations. These specialist functions are now more technical and operational than creative and should be aligned more with Sales rather than Marketing. In fact, these functions can all be merged under the Chief Revenue Officer – for more on this read The Pedowitz Group’s approach to Revenue Marketing.

What’s Left for Marketing Leaders If They Handoff Demand Generation Operations?

One of my assignments early in my consulting career was a large scale transformation project for a national retailer. The retailer was rapidly losing ground to Walmart and decided to differentiate by becoming a customer-centric organization. I was tasked with figuring out how the process could drive customer-centricity. Just as a strategy often follows culture, process follows organization so I started with rethinking the organization. Retail is like many industries in organizing around internal function, like product and supply chain, rather than customers. The buying function (think consumer electronics, women’s fashion) drives most process and is accountable for a P&L – they own the business.

I recommended organizing around the customer rather than products and creating business owners who align with customer segments. Instead of the women’s fashion buyer running a business, the working mother customer leader owns the P&L for that segment. Buying becomes a functional center of excellence. Organizing by customer segment changes the discussion, incentives, and necessarily drives process to be much more customer-centric. Changing the organizational structure changes the process. Similarly, changing the Marketing organization changes the customer experience!

Start Small and Get Moving

The idea is not necessarily to change your organization overnight. That said, it’s important to have a vision for where your organization is going. That vision will inspire and direct your own actions and then motivate and drive the team as the strategy matures. Read through the past installments in my six-part MarTech Series for advice on how to create your business plan.

The first priority is to work on the engagement plan for sales in social. Succeeding in social selling requires investments in Content Strategy, Sales Enablement technology, and education, and risk management. Start by reading and engaging with industry analysts  to begin your education journey, I recommend following Mary Shea at Forrester – she has participated in several great video interviews.

In closing, I don’t think there has been a more exciting and challenging time to be in Marketing. There’s a tremendous opportunity and need for change. Don’t wait for it to happen – make it happen, and enjoy the journey!

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