The shifting sands of marketing excellence

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Excellence in marketing is continually being reshaped and redefined. New approaches, seismic changes and extreme levels of transparency are just a few of the factors creating an ever-changing landscape for marketing. What is possible and what is required is continually evolving.

In my recent post, I talked about the need for Agility, Authenticity and Passion, along with the "four C’s" which describe the pillars of great marketing today. Let’s take a look at some examples of great marketers and great companies who are putting these pillars into practice.

• Customer-centric. Customers are in control. They decide how and when to connect with you and your company and they vote with their online voice, dollars and attention. Customer engagement—an elusive achievement—is the No. 1 asset to a business today and the No. 1 goal for marketing to pursue. Customer engagement is only possible when customers’ wants and needs are put at the center of everything we do.

A simple and elegant example of customer-centricity is My Starbucks Idea. By encouraging customer-generated ideas, Starbucks allows individuals to post and vote on new ideas for Starbucks offerings. During the last five years, there have been 275 customer ideas that have been turned into Starbucks products. Customer-centric innovation enhances customer loyalty and customer experience, and in turn drives business results.

• Curious. Navigating channels and capabilities that crop up overnight requires an innate sense of curiosity and a proactive zest for continual learning. Staying current with and then leveraging warp-speed trends and developments is a must-have tool in every marketer’s toolkit.

For example, Sony Music Entertainment, with the help of Universal Mind, was able to create an emotional and engaging connection between fans and artists with a special customer experience via the latest digital and mobile technologies. Jimi Hendrix—The Complete Experience is an iOS 5 app built on Universal Mind’s pioneering Digital Experience Framework which provides customers with a rich story via videos, text, photos, audio, gaming and interactive graphics for mobile devices. During its first week in the App Store, the Jimi Hendrix app became No. 2 among free iPad music apps.

• Communicative. Content and communication are cornerstones of marketing today. It is no longer viable to broadcast messaging; true interactive communication that is relevant to your customers is the way to win hearts and minds. More communication is not better. Relevant, meaningful content and conversations that cut through the clutter is what matters.

American Express is a great example of a company that understands how to communicate openly and relevantly with their small-to-midsize business customers. American Express OPEN is a branded community that leverages social media to connect, communicate and engage SMBs in highly relevant content—not about AmEx products, but about topics most important to SMBs. Relevance drives revenue and for AmEx, knowing how to help their customers via relevant content and connections, has resulted in high levels of SMB engagement and loyalty.

• Connected. The rise in peer-to-peer marketing networks is indicative of the power and importance of building bridges and networks. As Porter Gale, former CMO of Virgin America, eloquently points out in her latest book title, "Your Network is Your Net Worth."

For me personally, as a member of several peer-to-peer marketing associations such as The CMO Council, The CMO Club, BMA and others, I have experienced tremendous benefits as a result of my peer-to-peer marketing connections. 

As our marketing and business landscape shifts incessantly, we need to redefine how to survive the shifts, switches and turns. Adopting a new mindset, approach and skills requires courage and determination. I suggest starting with the "four C’s" : being Customer-centric, Curious, Communicative and Connected.

What do you think?

Sandra Zoratti is an author, speaker and marketer. You can find Sandra on LinkedIn, Twitter @sandraz and on her website,

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