Marketing Is Vital for Organizations to Flourish in Challenging Times, Gartner Marketing Symposium Keynoter Says

Marketing leaders need to recognize and assert their role as chief stewards of vital stakeholder connections, Carlos Guerrero, senior director of advisory in the Gartner Marketing practice, said yesterday during his opening keynote of the virtual Gartner Marketing Symposium/Xpo.

Marketers need to align daily activities, decisions, and connections with customers, business partners and employees to drive long-term organizational goals and values, Guerrero said. "Marketing leaders must explore new pathways to revitalize these stakeholder connections —for example, solidifying brand purpose by leveraging partners across and beyond the enterprise to create ties with like-minded external brands. Marketers must also find ways to engage with their customers beyond transactions."

Data is essential in building strong customer connections because it enables marketers to deliver more relevant messages, build and understand customer journeys maps, and develop more customer-focused products and services, according to Guerrero. But data-driven activities alone won’t provide the strong, long-lasting customer relationships that marketers and their companies seek, he warned.

"Lately, marketing leaders have been guilty of conflating what we know about customers with truly knowing their customers," Guerrero explained. "What we know gets to all the data and information marketers have been able to gather about their customers. But truly knowing the customer requires a connection and establishing two-way channels through which valued information flows."

"Marketers are the voice of the customer. They have the digital expertise, and they see how organizational workings contribute to the customer experience or detract from it," added Mike McGuire, vice president analyst in the Gartner Marketing practice."Marketers are uniquely positioned to gather, interpret, analyze and act on customer insights. This is their superpower, and it needs to expand beyond serving marketing to empower those they collaborate and work with."

However, more than a third of digital marketers say that cross-functional relationship building is the most difficult activity they face. Building and maintaining strong connections with business partners is a two-way street—one that focuses on sharing challenges, listening to the challenges of partners and applying collective strengths to solve problems.

Also essential in building strong customer relationships is building strong relationships with everyone on the marketing team, said Dorian Cundick, vice president of advisory in the Gartner Marketing practice. "The degree to which marketers cultivate those employee connections can determine whether they're investing their limited energies and resources in nurturing a thriving brand or staving off threats from within."

According to a Gartner survey, more than one-third (36 percent) of employees had spoken out against their companies in the last year, and by next year, 30 percent of crisis communications budgets will be used to respond to such employee actions. Marketing leaders can take steps to limit such situations by offering team members something valuable and empowering them.

In a session on customer experience, Augie Ray, Gartner vice president and analyst covering customer experience, pointed out that the purpose of CX isn't to get customers to do what the company wants, but instead to do what customers value that at the same time builds strong company-customer relationships.

Companies need to do things for the customer, rather than to the customer, Ray explained. To do this, companies need to know what customers need, want, and value. So marketers need to convey customer knowledge across the organization.

Customer-centric strategies should be scaled on an organization-wide basis, Ray added.

To be successful in delivering excellent CX, companies also need mature voice of the customer (VOC) and customer research programs, according to Ray.

Mature VOC programs include the following:

  • Continuous relationship and transactional surveys throughout customer journeys;
  • Feedback combined with transactional and operational data that is analyzed for key customer drivers of satisfaction and dissatisfaction; and
  • Data and analysis that is shared in different ways to many employees.

Mature research programs include the following:

  • Consistent funding;
  • Continuous research aligned with strategic goals; and
  • Projects supported by research.

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