Empowered Customers Are Now In Control. Is Your Marketing Team Ready To Play By The New Rules?

In 1860, the year Abraham Lincoln was elected President, Milton Bradley invented his first board game, the Checkered Game of Life. The game simulates a person's travels through his or her life, from infancy to retirement, with jobs, marriage, and possible children along the way. Some squares on the board help you along, with little lithographed hands pointing the way, but almost any spin from nearly every square involves a decision, a choice among as many as eight possible moves. The Checkered Game of Life requires you to make decisions — lots and lots of them — and each of those decisions leads you down a different path, requiring more decisions as you go.

Over 150 years later, the premise of the Game of Life holds as true for the decisions our customers make as it did for the personal decisions outlined in 1860.

In the post-digital world of today, empowered customers have taken control of the relationship they have with the companies they interact with. Your customers now face a maze of media, devices, conversations, and interactions as they make decisions along their path to purchase. As marketers, you must engage customers in the right way across the entirety of what Forrester calls the customer life cycle, from customers initially identifying a need to researching their options, making a purchase, and using the product.

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Want To Keep Your Competitive Edge In A Fast-Changing World? It’s Time For CMOS To Lead Strategic Planning From The Outside In

There’s a particle accelerator in the basement of one of the most celebrated art museums in the world — the Louvre. It's a piece of technology in the most unlikely of places that produces helium and nitrogen beams from a single source to reveal layers of work that are invisible to the human eye.

Why would the Louvre have invested in and put such unconventional technology to work? The better question is, “Why not?” Rather than go on a competitive hunt for more masterpieces, the Louvre devised a strategy to make the most of the assets it had. Staff members were determined to put themselves in the mind of the masters, to think outside in, and to imagine how their artists might have used their precious (and difficult-to-come-by) canvases in more ways than one. Could they discover new treasures that would fuel the Louvre’s leadership in the art world?

Putting its strategy to the test, the Louvre used the accelerator to undercover five lost images from the masterpieces of famous artists from Picasso to van Gogh. The device revealed several layers of images that had been painted over in the final version of the painting. No one knew they were there. By putting an unconventional artist-centric strategy in place, the Louvre harnessed its greatest assets. It armed that strategy with the right technology and a scientific approach to uncover the hidden story that lay beneath the surface of a painting.

In the same way, it’s time for CMOs to lead the transformation of their firm's strategic planning process to an outside-in perspective focused on the customer.

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It’s March . . . Time To Bring Structure To Your Messaging Madness

Being the sports enthusiast that I am, I love this time of year. March Madness is in full swing and down to the Final Four. And what madness this year’s tournament has delivered so far. Exciting opening rounds, Sweet Sixteen and Elight Eight games.  A decision here or there has decided great games, and amazing execution has followed. We’ve seen surprise after surprise of upsets of favored teams by the upstarts — all with the common goal of  cutting down that net.

While surprises, upsets, and last-minute execution shifts may make for thrilling college basketball games and entertainment, they’re not part of a winning strategy for your market messaging and customer engagement, which drive the growth that your CEO expects.

In our discussions with CMOs and marketing leaders across industries and business models, we find that many senior marketing executives still struggle with bringing a disciplined approach to the creation and execution of messaging. Rather, we see messages developed in an ad hoc way to solve the need of the moment, giving little thought to alignment from the customer’s view across touchpoints.

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CMOs: It’s Time To Rally Your Employees Around Brand Building

Fred Rogers touched the hearts of millions of children through his work in creating and hosting one of the most beloved educational television programs — Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Throughout its run, the show built a strong brand that was recognized as a leader in educating millions of young children. When public funds for the program became scarce, Mister Rogers stood before the US Senate Subcommittee on Communications to passionately defend the educational mission of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. The goose-bumps-producing testimony compelled one of the most impatient subcommittee chairmen to approve $20 million in funding for the show.

Mister Rogers was able to accomplish this inspiring feat by building a strong brand for his show and using that brand to accomplish a seemingly impossible task — creating a community of devoted fans that Congress was compelled to keep alive and growing.

As our friendly neighbor Mister Rogers showed us, it’s possible to build a strong lasting brand by charming a community of involved supporters.

CMOs, it’s time for you to take a lesson from Mister Rogers by rallying and engaging your entire organization to reach the full potential of your brand.

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CMOs And CIOs: A Couple Still In Need Of Therapy To Reach Power Status

A new pneumonia virus first infected a few people in China in November 2002. A scant seven months later, the virus known as SARS had infected more than 8,000 people in 26 countries and caused 774 deaths. The international medical community mobilized: Within one short month, it discovered the virus that caused SARS, completed its genetic sequencing, outlined its modes of transmission, and communicated guidance for managing the outbreak.

How did this happen so fast? The power of collaboration. A network of 11 laboratories in nine countries came together and collaborated to identify the cause of SARS and how best to combat it. They shared research in near real time, empowering each lab to build on the work of the others. Compare the success of this collaborative effort to the three years it took to discover that HIV led to AIDS as well as the slow movement to solve our current Ebola crisis. Clearly, collaboration when mobilized can have a huge, positive impact on the world in which we live, work, and play.

Now, just because CMOs and CIOs are not curing world hunger or an infectious disease, that does not mean they can choose to ignore the power of collaboration. In fact, as CMOs and CIOs, you too need to be collaboration superstars in order to prosper in the age of the customer

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CMOs Boldly Reach For More Influence Across The Enterprise In 2015

For as long as there have been children and travel, frustrated parents have been subjected to repeatedly hearing a simple, “Are we there yet?” In their innocence, children seem to understand that all journeys should lead to a final destination; with those journeys never reaching their destination quick enough.
 
Empowered buyers have raised the ante to successfully win, serve, and retain them, increasing the pressure on organizations to accelerate their journey to customer obsession. But almost halfway through the decade, we find organizations struggling to find the right leader to seize the reins and transform the organization to be laser-focused on the customer. Enter the CMO.
 
In 2015, Forrester believes CMOs will step forward and take responsibility for turning the enterprise toward the customer, evolving their role into the engine that fuels customer-centric company growth. It’s time for CMOs to cultivate the trust, respect, and collaboration across the entire C-suite and use that influence to ask for the right to not only hold but also turn the keys to the customer.
 
My colleagues, James L. McQuivey, Moira Dorsey, Laura Ramos, Sarah Sikowitz, Tracy Stokes, and I therefore studied the landscape and expect CMOs to seize this new opportunity to both shape their personal success and accelerate the growth of their organizations in 2015. In particular, we predict that:
 
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It Takes A Village To Make Your Marketing Technology Investments Thrive

Having its root as an Igbo and Yoruba Nigerian proverb, “It takes a village” has come to mean that the responsibility for raising children is shared across the larger family and community. But it hasn’t stopped there. Hillary Clinton adopted this proverb as her own when she published a book on children and family values in 1995. And in May 2014, Pope Francis had a crowd of more than 300,000 school students outside the Vatican chant the saying over and over again.

This simple proverb has taken on an important meaning throughout the world, as it communicates the importance of community, cooperation, sharing, and bringing together the skills of many different parts of the community to produce the best result — the raising of a well-rounded child.

But at its core, “It takes a village” applies to more than just raising children.

In a business environment, “it takes a village” applies to how you find and then bring together the best resources to grow your business.  Speaking at Salesforce Dreamforce 2014 this morning, Hillary Clinton shared her views of how organizations must do good while doing well by adopting the core values of innvation, fun and giving back to the "village" at large.

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CMOs — Learn From The NFL Missteps To Protect And Build Your Brand

I admit it; I’m a sports junkie. And, this is usually one of my favorite times of the year — the first few weeks of the NFL season. But this year, it’s been more about how poorly the NFL is managing what happens off the field than it is the excitement of what’s happening on the field of play.

Somehow the NFL has forgotten what its carefully built brand stands for. It's forgotten that every experience fans have with its brand — including players’ behavior — makes a difference. And it's lost touch with what matters to its customer base. 

With a serious case of misjudgment, the NFL missed the opportunity to have its brand set an example and agenda for the rest of the country to follow with a no-tolerance stand on domestic violence. Instead, the deplorable way it's handled the Ray Rice domestic violence incident as well as others that have since come to light has damaged the carefully crafted NFL brand image, reputation, and ultimately overall success of its $6 billion business. So what can CMOs learn from the NFL experience to avoid missteps and instead build a strong and resilient brand?

Read my new report “How To Build A Strong B2B Brand” (subscription required) to help you avoid the pitfalls the NFL fell into. Expanding on Tracy Stokes' work in our brand experience playbook, my new report applies Tracy’s work to the unique challenges B2B marketers face in building, growing, and managing customer-centric brand experiences. 

Read my report and learn how to:

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CMOs: Step Up To Lead The Transformation To Customer Obsession

Since rising to prominence as a part of the C-suite back in the late 1990s, the role of the chief marketing officer (CMO) has never been as critical to the success of organizations as it is in today's customer-driven post-digital age. And CMOs are taking notice, stepping up to the leadership challenge as a full partner in the C-suite. As marketers indicated in our report on The Evolved CMO In 2014 (subscription required), their business leadership requires them to optimize the marketing organization they oversee. Forrester believes that as empowered customers take control of their relationship with brands, CMOs must optimize their teams by redefining their organization in the form of a marketing operating system (MOS).

An MOS-based structure transforms every facet of a marketing organization requiring CMOs to inspire their organizations to think and act differently. It’s up to you, the CMO, to establish the vision, define the new values, and model the behaviors you want from your team as you implement your MOS.

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Do You Have The Right Roles On Your Marketing Team To Prosper In The Age Of The Customer?

It’s NBA finals time, and for the fourth year in a row, my Miami Heat are playing for the championship. While the big three (James, Wade, and Bosh) are extremely talented, it takes more than just the talent of these superstars to deliver the third championship in a row. To cement the Heat’s legacy and put the team in the position to claim another title as the best ever, the Heat has surrounded the big three with the right roles, staffed with the right role players. These role players on the Miami Heat know what’s expected of them and recognize the vital part they play in the Heat’s success. It’s Ray Allen hitting a 3 when he’s called upon or Birdman blocking a critical shot to keep Miami’s lead. Each member of the Miami Heat understands that while the big-three superstars may ultimately make the difference, it’s really the way the entire system works together that propels the team to victory time and time again.

And while this may surprise you, for your marketing team, it’s no different. Without a doubt, you have your superstars that go the extra mile to rev up your marketing engine. But do you have the right role players to help your marketing operating system work well as a unit? Do they know what’s expected of them? Do you know what role players you need and what to look for when you hire them?

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