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CMOs & CIOs: Relationship Co-Pilots, From Lunch Room to Loyalty Loop

Part 2 in “The Missing Link” Series

For me, one of the most memorable moments of Mad Men’s final season occurs in “The Monolith”. In this episode, Don Draper’s charismatic creativity continues to be edged out, most notably by the research-driven age of advertising. It’s the “man vs. machine,” art vs. science battle that we’re so familiar with, but Matt Weiner’s slow-drip storytelling gives it fresh gravitas. This is especially true when media buyer Harry Crane’s whopping IBM computer is installed in the agency’s creative lounge (of course). Agency employees leave their desks to watch the installation of the hulking machine. It’s like a spacecraft has fallen from the sky.

Then wry Harry tells an irked Don, “I’m sorry you lost your lunch room. It’s not symbolic.”

This scene, although set in 1970, is a fitting analogy for what modern CMOs are feeling now. Their business-as-usual, dominated by big branding campaigns and relentless lead generation, has been disrupted by the data deluge. While today’s marketers are certainly more comfortable with data and technology than Don Draper, the interruption is still unsettling. Not only do CMOs have a soaring mound of data to sort through…but their goals have been joined by new arrivals. An intimidating revenue mandate – not to mention the sprawling customer experience – has lumbered into their “lunch room.”

Nevertheless, traditional marketing activities aren’t going away. This broadens the CMO’s purview considerably – something, as it turns out, CIOs can relate to. New accountabilities have squeezed past system performance to congregate in the technology “lunch room.” And they’re pretty hefty. Biggest among them: business results and increased revenue.

The cloud is changing IT's role, bringing the CIO’s goals closer to those of the CMO. Image credit: Wired Innovation Insights.


So the roles of both CMOs and CIOs are rapidly expanding. And they're stretching to pursue the same goal-fueling business growth. This carves out a common collaborative space…a unique opportunity for the two chiefs to partner like they've never partnered before.

As I argued in the first blog in "The Missing Link" series, the center of attention for the CMO-CIO partnership isn't digital marketing. Rather, the CMO-CIO bond should be based on building data-inspired customer relationships (which we at Dun & Bradstreet happen to believe is the key ingredient to business growth). This post builds upon this notion, exploring in more detail:

  • Why the customer experience (CX)—and, by extension, customer relationships—is such a powerful differentiator
  • Why companies need the combined chops of the two chiefs to succeed in growing customer relationships and their businesses
  • The notion of the "loyalty loop" and how it helps unite CMOs and CIOs in their new mission


Countdown to the CX

The "customer experience" is a favorite term among vendors. Like many concepts that tumble to buzzword status, the casual trotting out of CX has lost its origins in reality. We think of consistently good customer experiences as the prelude to strong customer relationships. But as CRM analyst Denis Pombriant blithely notes, the CX term "rarely has included such basics as asking for opinions from customers." It shouldn't be surprising, then, that CX efforts have resulted in disappointing outcomes. While more than 90% of Oracle customers say CX is very important, only about 25% believe their CX efforts are successful. Why? A CX home run requires a data-inspired approach to customer relationships, which is lacking in most organizations today. Skeptical? Look no further than the number of marketers who say they've attained a single view of the customer-as low as 6% in some studies.

B2B businesses have to nail this – and soon. Consider what's happening in the automotive industry. With the growing popularity of connected cars, Ford's Don Butler predicts that product equity, which has traditionally resided in hardware, will eventually also include software and the CX. In other words, how well a car functions as a hub of desirable connected services will factor into its value. Further, Butler predicts all customer experiences will compete with each other, regardless of industry. And just like that, thanks to the multichannel customer and the Internet of Things, Amazon becomes Ford's competitor.

The battle of the best CX isn't just a B2C phenomenon. B2B companies need to move in a similar direction, considering how to shift their transactional businesses to focus more on the customer experience and its natural outgrowth (strong customer relationships).

The CMO and CIO are ideal co-pilots to tackle this challenge.

Customer Relationships in Flight

Growing – and sustaining – valuable business relationships may sound like a soft goal, but it's more onerous than it sounds. It's definitely more complex than it was a few years ago. Remember the days when we referred to customers as one-dimensional "targets"? (Stock photo companies are still exploiting this nomenclature ad nauseam.) Today, the presumably stationary target has evolved, skipping the clay pigeon stage altogether, emerging alive and fluttering as a fickle bird with free will and a painfully short attention span. The behavior of this new breed of customer is organic, cryptic and beyond our control. S/he leaves digital crumbs for us to find, collect and decode.

And oh yeah – if we're doing our marketing right, buyer engagement doesn't end with a purchase.

Keeping the modern "flighty" customer engaged requires a new style of marketing that is can only be called relationship-building. Because it's dynamic, interactive and disruptive to marketing's traditional "push" modus operandi, it requires technology that's more flexible and responsive to customer needs and triggers.

Unfortunately, some CMOs are still mostly focused on campaign execution and measurement, rather than nurturing customer relationships. However, if CMOs want to foster a stronger partnership with CIOs, they must first think beyond time-bound campaigns and focus on the ongoing customer relationship narrative.

Ditch the Funnel, Expand the Cockpit View

If relationships are so vital to business growth, then why do so many marketing organizations still live and die by lead generation? Maybe because the vertical "funnel" is tattooed on our brains.

Image credit: Klaxon

The funnel, which is really an internal construct, rubs an organization's customer-centric ("outside-in") perspective the wrong way. Lose this outdated paradigm, and watch a more robust CMO-CIO partnership take off. When the two chiefs are free to view their activities within a buyer's context, they'll see a different view from the cockpit: what they've been envisioning as a "funnel" is actually a perpetual loop.

The sales/marketing “funnel” is now a perpetual loop. Image credit: Marketing Tech News

Within this loop, the experience at each buyer's stage feeds into the next, with customer loyalty and advocacy at heart of the relationship. For this reason-and because Forbes Insights identifies customer loyalty as the number one concern among CMOs – let's refer to this modernized funnel as the "loyalty loop."

Clearly, technology is the critical underpinning of the loyalty loop. Modern business relationships are global. But they are also hyper-networked and digitally enabled. Technology plays a pivotal role in completing the relationship circuit throughout the loyalty loop-across devices, channels and meridians. Through appropriate system integration, the CIO shapes the customer experience via the collection, measurement/analysis and distribution of data throughout the customer lifecycle. Ultimately, IT delivers information that checks the box on relevance, completeness and context needed so customer-facing employees have what they need to sustain engaging human connections.

To further illustrate how important data, technology and the CIO are to nurturing relationships, consider a CMO who relies heavily on transactional data as a customer loyalty indicator. While a customer may repurchase or increase patronage, these facts don't necessarily mean they're loyal to the brand – or even what kind of relationship they want (or don't want) with the company. Marketers need additional "episodes" – i.e., data collection and aggregation enabled by technology-to assemble a clearer picture of the actual relationship. Analyzing additional data points (digital behavior, customer care interactions, social conversations) help reveal if the association is transactional or on the road to something more.

This level of data collection, integration and analysis is very different from that needed to evaluate the success of an email campaign or digital advertising effort. Enabling relationship-building within the loyalty loop requires CIOs to step up as strategic partners to marketing – and to the business as a whole.

But let's pause for a moment. How often do you think CIOs typically ponder customer loyalty? What about customer engagement? (About as often as Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce copywriter Michael Ginsberg and Don Draper agree on a campaign concept.) Yet, if CIOs share CMOs' goal of business growth – and, with it, relationship-building-they absolutely should be thinking about it. Some already are. Oracle CIO, Mark Sunday, says the favorite part of his job is learning about customers' businesses. (He even serves as an executive sponsor for some of Oracle's largest customers.)

Empowered by the cloud-and nudged by the consumerization of IT-modern CIOs have emerged from the back office. They're ready and able to be a strategic partner to marketing, but it's up to CMOs to invite them into a mind space where the goals clearly stretch beyond digital marketing. Only then will CIOs be inspired to offer more flexible and agile methods of customer engagement and relationship-building.

As relationship partners, how far can the CMO-CIO duo go? For answers, let's circle back to "The Monolith." At one point in the episode, Don becomes particularly perturbed by Lloyd, the head of LeaseTech, the company that's installing the agency's computer. Don can't seem to place Lloyd and his business within the typical scheme of business relationships; he thinks it's strange that Lloyd not only sells IBM computers, but also competes with IBM on installations.

Commenting on the new computer, Lloyd tells Don, "The IBM 360 can count more stars in a day than we can in a lifetime."

Unconvinced, Don says, "But what man laid on his back counting stars and thought about a number?"

"They probably thought about going to the moon," Lloyd replies.

This exchange captures vital elements to data-inspired relationship-building – and the modern CMO-CIO partnership. Art and science, information and imagination, loyalty loops and customer views…

It's definitely one way to blow the roof off the lunch room.

View other posts in "The Missing Link" series:

  • The Missing Link: What CMOs & CIOs Really Need to be Doing Together

Image credit: "Cathay Pacific: Pilot, Alex Jr. & Co-Pilot" by Matt_Welbo, Flickr