Leading CMOs Will Excel at Customer Obsession in 2016

Critical Success Factors in the Age of the Customer

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2016 will be a consequential year in the race to win in the age of the customer. The market now moves at a speed not seen before -- driven by customers' demanding expectations and market disruptors -- and to keep up, companies must accept this pace as the norm. CMOs have a significant role to play here -- acting as the drivers for the real and profound change needed to compete and win in this competitive market.

The key to success will be a relentless focus on customer obsession. That is why savvy CMOs in 2016 will step up to lead customer experience efforts, accepting it as their number one strategic priority for the coming year. This journey won't be easy -- success will require strong leadership that is up against a massive challenge: years of uncoordinated technology adoption across call centers, business units, marketing teams and product lines, making a single view of the customer an expensive and daunting endeavor.

Personalization is the first critical success factor in the customer journey

In 2016, the gap between customer-obsessed leaders and laggards will widen, spurred by the recognition of several critical success factors that will aid firms in their mission to serve customers in their moment of need. It's no surprise then that personalization will become the new bar defining marketing's value, playing a key role in determining which firms win mindshare, loyalty, and ultimately revenue.

Your customers expect that each encounter with your brand will be informed and enriched by current and accurate information about their accounts, history and preferences. They will reward you if you can anticipate their personal needs and wants -- and will punish you if your systems and processes lead to a clumsy understanding of customer details at each encounter.

Needless to say, the customer is no longer the roadblock to moving forward with personalization. In fact, thanks to hyperadoption -- the rapid, simultaneous uptake of new devices and services -- consumers are now using the necessary technologies and services to allow for 1:1 marketing. Rather, the barrier exists within your own internal systems and processes that are not optimized to unleash the power of customer intelligence.

Together with your CIO, it is your job in 2016 to begin to correct this fault. There may be a bit of '"fake it 'til you make it" -- few marketers will be able to build digital bridges to individual customers in 2016 that would allow for the collection and real-time analysis of continuous data for truly personalized marketing. But fortunately, no consumer wakes up in the morning desperate for "perfect personalization." Instead, consumers just want solutions in their moments of need. You can do the latter now while patiently pushing on the former.

Insights are your competitive weapon

If you feel like your team is drowning in data, you're not alone. Hyperadoption of data-generating devices and products have left firms -- both B2C and B2B -- drowning in data, but starving for insight. Yet, this data hold the keys to the personalization kingdom. This is where your partnership with the CIO will become paramount. You will need to work together to deliver a business technology agenda -- the technology, systems and processes to win, serve, and retain customers -- in order to build out an analytics capability that can shift the big data conversation toward insights and action.

In 2016, leading CMOs will recognize this need, and will embrace analytics as another critical success factor in their customer experience journey. On the flip side, laggards will be slow to undo the "build it and they will come" approach to unite data with customer operations, accelerating their risk of customer churn.

You've already recognized that empowered consumers have changed the fundamentals of the market. And you might have already started your journey toward re-orienting your business strategy around the customer. But those were just the early phases of the age of the customer. 2016 is your year -- are you ready to adopt the new market pace as your norm?