For as long as there has been a marketplace, businesses would offer a product or service, then find a market of buyers. Hence the rise of "marketing." However, forward thinking businesses are now flipping the switch on traditional forms of marketing and instead finding the right target customer first, then building solutions to serve them. This fundamental shift to a customer centric business, requires a new form of Marketing and new type of customer relationship.
Enter the new heads of Marketing leading this transformation, the Brand Officers and Customer Experience Officers. These officers are tasked with executing a customer first model to drive both customer loyalty and new business. The most successful of these officers achieve success by building emotional connections with the modern buyer every step of the way.
The title of Brand Officer, is permeating throughout marketing organizations, and is responsible for a brand’s image, experience and identity. In a world where every component of marketing now has a digital component, Brand Officers are expected to build emotional connections with prospects and customers across all (digital) channels. “They are the bridge between logic and magic, strategy and design.” - Marty Neumeier, The Brand Gap
The Customer Experience Officer, sometimes known as the Customer Officer, works with all internal teams to ensure the entire customer relationship and brand across all products and channels is delivered with the greatest possible experience. According to Gartner, “Customer experience is the most pressing mandate for marketers, the top area of marketing technology investment in 2014, and it will lead innovation spending for 2015.” Customer Experience is proving to be the best way to build a sustainable competitive advantage, the holy grail of marketing.
In collaboration, the new heads build customer loyalty and advocacy focused on and built with the customer first, particularly challenging with the short attention spanned millennials. To connect with millennials - estimated to be 75% of the workforce by 2025 - these officers bring the audience into the creative process. They have a two way dialogue with the customer. They communicate with more than words and filter their learnings to product. They understand the customer at a deeper level. They advocate on the customer’s behalf as a means to build loyalty and trust. Mostly though, they build emotional connections.
Organizations that fail to place the customer first and ignore the brand experience across digital channels will surely fail to connect with the modern buyer (millennials). Recently, Gap lost it’s way because they “Lost their Brand Identity, once effortlessly cool, now everything - and nothing - to everyone.” The results are a closure of 175 North American stores. Gap is struggling because they aren’t building an emotional connection to the new customer, the millennials, already the new heart of the economy. Gap was brand focused, but the brand wasn’t targeting the new customer.
For customer centric businesses, the failure to focus on the Brand is just as paramount, especially for B2B enterprise companies. Buyers today are much more informed, and according to CEB Global, the average B2B buyer is 57% of the way through the purchasing process before they contact a seller directly. Prospects have most likely already determined whether they will purchase or not, and for those that have said yes, they will most likely need help getting org-wide buy-in and are willing to talk price immediately. The question modern buyers ask isn't should they buy, it's how do they buy.
To sell to the modern buyer, businesses must be both customer driven and brand focused. Knowing who the modern buyer is creates a bigger opportunity, opens new markets and provides a means to drive lasting loyalty. How does the organization help their sales teams seize the modern buyer’s attention and drive sales?
Businesses need to cultivate stories that are easily shared in the marketplace or within an organization. Brands aren’t what they say they are, but what the others say about them. To build word of mouth in the digital age, Brand Officers need to create stories that are easily shared. Frequently that is done with content, but isn’t limited to such. For enterprise B2B companies, create content that is tailored to the prospect's organization and is easily shared within their organization. Be functional over merely interesting.
Build emotional connections, especially important in this increasingly digital world. Customers have made their decision within six seconds of visiting a website, and first impressions are 94% design related. Investing in emotional design, especially with your website, will increase trust immediately and provide a longer term loyalty boost.
The best Brand Officers probably won’t have an MBA, but rather an MFA. Emotional connections are the heart of the brand experience and those schooled in design are the best at understanding and leveraging emotion, especially in digital formats, most popular with millennial. CXO’s should have a strong background in either sales or the tools & apps necessary to understand the full customer view. In many ways the CXO is considered the mini CEO, the one who always advocates for the customer. Hire both as complements and ensure at least one of the two have a strong understanding of the digital space.
CEO’s would do quite well to build the new marketing organization with the Brand Officer front and center and pair with the more organization wide focused CXO’s. These are the new roles in modern marketing organizations, representing art and science, strategy and creativity, which will propel brands to transform to the new customer centric world.