A CMO's Guide for Marketing Transformation

Five Items to Gauge How Your Marketing Function Is Progressing

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The end of the year is a time to reflect on how much your marketing function is transforming in a world that has rapidly become digital-first. Here at Visa, I think about this both for what we do ourselves and also as I guide our financial institutions and merchant clients globally on how best to evolve their own marketing. Here are the questions I use to gauge the pace of marketing transformation in an organization. Use them to determine your own progress in 2015:

1. Make insights a competitive advantage. How well do you truly know your digital customers? Are you using new tools, digital datasets and technologies to learn more? What is the ratio between the number of surveys you run to the number of design prototypes you're testing? (Hint, the latter is more important). Are you able to incorporate data sets from the heart of your core business into how you understand your consumers and assess your marketing investments? Facebook runs a program where they throttle their office internet speed on Tuesdays so that their engineers can better appreciate what consumers in developing markets have to deal with. Are you radical enough in how you're learning about your customers the way Facebook is?

2. Invest more in your product experience and allow it to define your brand more. You can't hide a bad product behind a great TV ad anymore. Product experiences are doing more to build and nurture a brand than any single marketing activity. In fact, recent research I commissioned showed that for financial institutions, mobile app experiences do more to drive brand preference than peer recommendations, TV ads, expert reviews or email. Just as most publishers have done over the last few years, invest in building that mobile-app muscle. You're going to need it to create great product experiences and also to build your brand. After all, for a bank the mobile app is the new branch. The same logic applies across several industries. This also means that your product and marketing teams need to get closer.

3. Create memorable, recognizable customer experiences. Where are you starting your customer engagement? Is it beginning in mobile? Or are you caught in the cycle of creating TV ads, relabeling some of them as online videos and then publishing them on Facebook and YouTube boosted by paid media? If so, maybe you are missing something. Ask yourself whether you have a signature way of interacting with your customers -- one that is uniquely recognizable, not just in what you're communicating but also in how you're doing it over time. GE's recent effort with Google cardboard and The New York Times is commendable not only as a fresh way to bring consumers a non-traditional experience on significant scale, but also because it was in sync with what we've come to expect from GE over the years.

4. Steal shamelessly from Silicon Valley. Living in Silicon Valley has been humbling for me. I've learned that a brand can never pace with startup innovation -- we're too compromising and bureaucratic to match the speed, dynamism and entrepreneurial spirit that successful startups embody. Does that mean your company is going to get Ubered? Not necessarily, but you can compete more effectively with your competitors or the next Y Combinator startup by harnessing startup innovation to help drive specific business objectives and infuse a growth-hacking culture mindset internally. The "Everywhere Initiative" here at Visa is helping us bridge those worlds. Do you have a formal startup innovation program?

5. Talk less about digital media spends and instead fix how the spends are done. If you're the typical marketer, you're probably talking a lot about how much you spend in digital. But do you focus on the actual mobile ad experiences, too? Do you have relationships with mobile ad networks? Is the ad viewability scandal hurting your own results? Does your mobile advertising tie to your website behavior? Is your mobile measurement on par with your other channels? Do you service it through a social loyalty program? Those are the questions to be focused on. Your consumers are mobile-first and rush to spend more in mobile, but put effort into the "how." Focusing on how much you're spending in digital can quickly become a huge distraction.

This guide could be larger to also account for whether you're investing in the right employee training, rethinking your agency models, retooling your brand with purpose or speaking in the language of digital service, for example. However, the questions above are what I find to be most urgent to drive marketing transformation. For you, other questions may make the list. But regardless, tracking your progress against a guide will help you transform more quickly in the coming year for sure. Best of luck in 2016!

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