What customers are seeing and experiencing versus what brands are communicating to them can often be in conflict. The gap between Marketing and Customer Experience (CX) teams is largely responsible for that.
In this article, I’ll pose some conversation starters to help bridge that gap and get everyone working together for the benefit of the customer and, ultimately, the business.
In a 2016 Marketo study, 86% of CMOs and Marketing executives believed they would own the end-to-end customer experience by 2020. It’s 2020, and we know today that this has not occurred; as a matter of fact, we know that there continues to be a gap between these two groups within the organization.
According to the American Marketing Association, “marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”
In simple terms, marketing is the action or business process of promoting and selling products or services, and thus creating exchange relationships.
The evolution of the marketing team
Traditionally, in most cases, Marketing’s function has been to do what it takes to attract and acquire customers, instead of retention. Unfortunately, when brands focus more heavily on doing what it takes to bring new customers in the door—e.g., discounts, promotions, freebies, etc.—their execution looks different than when they focus on what it takes to keep the customer.
In the past, that work has been all about the four Ps: product, price, place, and promotion.
But marketing has evolved, and the Ps have evolved as well. They now also include:
People (employees, customers, vendors)
Physical evidence (aka touchpoints)
Productivity (aka efficiency and quality)
Peter Drucker, who is hailed as the father of modern management, defines marketing as “knowing and understanding the customer so well that the product or service fits him…and sells itself.”
Knowing and understanding customers is not one of the original four Ps. So, you see, the Ps had to evolve. You can’t market your product without focusing on the people, the brand promise, and all of the other Ps on the list above. What this list adds up to, ultimately, is all about the experience.
This indicates that the natural progression for marketers is to work more closely with the Chief Customer Officer (CCO) and the CX team to deliver a better experience from the moment the customer has a need and becomes aware of the brand.
9 ways to bridge the gap between marketing and CX
Below are nine conversation starters to help you bridge the gap between these two teams and get them working together toward a common cause: a better experience for the customer.
1. Culture is the foundation
The only way to ensure that the entire organization can truly work together is to develop a customer-centric culture. Your culture is a combination of what you design and what you allow.
By definition, a customer-centric culture is a collaborative culture. It is deliberately designed to be customer-centric; there must be a commitment from the top, from the entire C-suite, to put the customer at the heart of the business, and to always operate with the customer’s best interests in mind.
You can see how, with this type of culture in place, there’s no room for warring factions or disconnected departments within an organization.
2. Customer understanding is the cornerstone
To ensure you always put the customer’s best interests at the heart of how you run the business, you’ve got to do the work to understand customers, and then bring that work into all you do.
There are three ways to achieve customer understanding:
Listening (feedback and data)
Empathizing (journey maps)
Customer understanding work is mainly done by the CX team, although Marketing typically develops buyer personas. However, these personas need to be upgraded from buyer personas (demographics, what they buy, why they buy, brand preferences) to customer personas (needs, expectations, pain points, problems to solve, jobs to be done), so that you truly understand who you’re selling to.
Not only that, but you also need to design products and services that solve problems for them. Think about how much more effective the marketing message would be–and how much more value would be delivered for the customer–if these two groups worked together.
3. Socialize and operationalize insights
It’s not enough to just do the work to understand customers (aka collecting and analyzing feedback); you have to do something with what you’ve learned. You need to socialize and operationalize the data and insights.
With access to those insights, the Marketing team can ensure that communications and messaging hit the right people at the right time, that advertising is relevant and timely, and that content is personalized to the individual customer.
Consider the scenario of a financial institution that surveys its customers about their satisfaction with the banking experience, including its various products.
You’re a customer of a bank, and you use four of the bank’s products, i.e., checking, savings, and two different credit cards. You constantly receive offers from the bank to sign up for one of its credit cards—one that you already have; this frustrates you to no end. You let the bank know as much in your survey response.
Your feedback is analyzed by the CX team, and it’s discovered that this problem is pervasive. This data is passed on to the Marketing team, which then identifies the root cause to be a breakdown in the process to clean addresses against the existing customer database. The cost savings in data processing, printing, and postage fees are phenomenal. And the impact on customer satisfaction is appreciable.
The onus is on the CX team to ensure that not only the feedback but also the insights are dispersed out into the organization to be acted upon.
This can be done through:
Developing and giving access to role-based dashboards in your VoC platform.
Telling customer stories (not just charts and data) in team or department meetings.
Getting on the agenda of your executive team staff meeting to share insight.
Sharing customer feedback and interviews on monitors throughout the organization.
Creating a customer room where “all things customers” can be found.
4. People before products
Product is one of the original four Ps, but without putting in the work to really understand customers–their needs, pain points, problems to solve, jobs to be done–how can you design and then sell the product?
You need to design products for customers, not find customers for your products. I wrote about this in more detail in another article that addresses the gap between Product and CX. Marketing works closely with Product, so it’s important that both teams are equipped with the right data and insights to design and develop products that solve customer problems.
5. Retention over acquisition
Without a doubt, companies need to acquire customers in order to grow. But when that growth is driven by erroneous, lopsided thinking, then it’s tainted.
Clearly, in order to grow, companies must bring in new customers. The fastest way to grow, and the quickest way to boost short-term revenue, is to win more customers. In addition, focusing on acquisition solves another “problem” that can be a little messier with retention: the ROI is fast and measurable, and CEOs love to report to their shareholders that the business is thriving because their customer base grew by X%.
The problem, though, is that acquisition costs get more expensive as retention numbers decline. Companies must acquire more customers to fill that leaky bucket. Without customers to retain, acquisition costs continue to increase. Brands can really only fix the retention problem by focusing on delivering the best customer experience. And when that happens, acquisition costs can even go down because existing customers will help drive acquisition through word-of-mouth referrals.
6. Experiences over marketing
Experiences are more powerful, more memorable, and more trusted than marketing. How do we know that?
92% of shoppers now read customer feedback as part of their decision-making process, according to Trustpilot.
70% of U.S. adults trust recommendations from others far more than statements from brands, according to Forrester.
Customer experience is marketing without marketing. It makes your job a lot easier. If you get the experience right, you’ll turn your customers into advocates. In other words, let the experience do the work for you, and then your customers will do the work for you.
7. Delivering the brand promise
Following on to the points made in no.6, trust is earned over time, through consistency, and through consistent experiences. When you consistently deliver on your brand promise, you will earn customer trust. When Marketing sets the brand promise, but the experience doesn’t deliver, the promise is broken, and trust is lost.
Unfortunately, there is a large gap between what customers expect and what the brand delivers. Accordingly, these the Marketing and CX teams must work together to ensure that the promise isn’t just about “selling the dream,” but it’s actually deliverable.
Conducting training for employees that combines that brand promise with customer insights and understanding–and how to deliver a great experience–will go a long way toward building relationships, earning customer trust, and building brand loyalty.
8. The human-to-human relationship
Marketers like to talk about customers being demanding, in control, in charge, owning the experience, holding the power, etc. Worse yet, businesses often only view them as account numbers or as transactions.
But here’s the thing: there is a relationship between customer and brand; it’s just that no one owns the relationship–it’s a shared responsibility between the customer and the brand. And it has to be viewed as a string of human-to-human interactions.
What customers really want is a participative relationship, co-creating with brands to ensure that their problems are solved. Refer back to point no.2 about customer understanding. When CX and Marketing work together to understand customers, the outcome is better for everyone.
9. Technology and the CIO partnership
There can’t be a conversation about marketing and CX without including mention of the Chief Information Officer (CIO), data, and technology.
Technology is a key enabler to socializing and operationalizing your customer feedback and other learnings gleaned through your customer understanding work. And for there to be a shift in focus from acquisition to the entire customer journey, data and technology must play a huge part.
Knowing the customer, generating that single view of the customer, and being able to deliver a personalized and simplified experience throughout the entire lifecycle is the direction the Marketing and CX partnership must take going forward. And to do so—in addition to technology and centralized data—they will need the help of the CIO.
It’s up to the CIO to identify data sources, how to best utilize them, and to determine what new technology will be required to make the shift a reality. However, the result to date has been more time spent innovating to bring on new customers than to service existing ones–exacerbating the disconnect between the top of the funnel and the overall customer experience. In other words, much like Marketing, the traditional priority for the CIO has been to provide technology that supports acquisition.
Unfortunately, the CIO has had difficulty keeping pace with the rapid innovation and acquisition of both martech (the blend of marketing and technology) and CXtech platforms (aka CX solutions), while having to continue to maintain and support–and attempt to modernize–numerous and disparate legacy systems, which have been the necessary and primary source for attempted customer retention initiatives.
The outdated legacy technology of yesterday does not allow for seamless, personalized, know-the-customer-at-every-touchpoint omnichannel experiences. Systems aren’t integrated and don’t talk to each other, ultimately rendering the data contained within useless and not actionable.
Fortunately, enterprise-wide feedback platforms along with customer-nurturing technology have become more advanced. And with that, there’s been a shift toward developing an overall customer engagement strategy that moves toward building the technology platforms of the future. These platforms will help to deliver a more targeted, personalized customer experience.
This new technology allows marketers to measure and track results more easily, thereby solving the old dilemma of only being able to track ROI for top-of-the-funnel marketing campaigns. Today, marketers have the tools at their fingertips to message, measure, and track ROI along the entire customer lifecycle. A partnership with the CX team only enriches their ability to deliver on the aforementioned brand promise.
This last point is an important one to close out on because data and technology support and facilitate the delivery of customer experiences. Marketing does some of their own research, and CX carries out a lot of the customer understanding work from point no.2. If the two teams collaborated, there’d be less overlap, less fatigue on the part of the customer, and more insights to design and deliver a great experience.
Bridging the gap between marketing and customer experience is critical. Companies have been pouring disproportionate resources–human, time, effort, capital into the top of the funnel, on attracting and acquiring new customers, while retention efforts have often gotten little more than loyalty programs and discount offers.
Imagine what a closer partnership between Marketing and CX teams could truly mean for customers and for the business. Let these conversation starters help bring these two teams together in your organization.
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About the guest author
Annette Franz is the founder and chief experience officer of CX Journey Inc.
She’s got 25 years of experience in both helping companies understand their employees and customers and identifying what drives retention, satisfaction, engagement, and the overall experience—so that, together, you can design a better experience for all constituents. She has worked with both B2B and B2C brands in a multitude of industries. Connect with her: www.cx-journey.com | @annettefranz | @cxjourney | LinkedIn | Facebook