In today's uber-connected online world, every customer is just one click away from the competition. So, how can you win? Oracle President Mark Hurd says the answer lies in using what he calls a "customer-obsessed" marketing strategy.
Hurd starts with the premise that marketers need to focus on the fact that customers can easily click away to a competitor. Recognition of that simple fact, he explains, can make the difference between being a market leader and going out of business.
The good news, he writes in his column, is that as marketing executives strive to develop new customer-engagement models and optimize multiple channels, "they now have access to world-class marketing-automation tools, which have the potential to keep more prospects from making that one-click jump to a competitor."
Of course, Oracle produces plenty of marketing-automation and CRM software to aid the process. But that's not his point, in this case. Instead, Hurd's point is that the winners in the new "connected-consumer" era will need to embrace this new concept of customer-obsessed marketing. Oh, and there's another key ingredient in Hurd's recipe for success.
"As marketing morphs into the front-line force tracking and engaging consumers' changing behaviors, CEOs must give it the enhanced support it deserves," he said. "And you, as CMO, need to be able to demonstrate to the CEO why this is a strategic necessity."
With that in mind, Hurd divulged his five key tenets marketers must embrace to not only stand out but also succeed in a world where businesses face the danger of becoming overwhelmed by the relentless impact of consumerization.
1. A Greater Responsibility
As Hurd sees it, marketing has a greater responsibility for the customer relationship than ever before. He points to a recent survey by Forrester and the Business Market Association that reveals 76 percent of marketing leaders are doing things today that no one thought they'd be responsible for three or four years ago.
"What it comes down to is, marketing must own every digital interaction across all touch points from initial interest through sales, service and support. But it's important to understand exactly what it means to be customer obsessed, so that you can use those communications wisely," Hurd said.
"It's not so much about pitching and influencing anymore as it is about supporting a great customer experience. Make customers want to connect with you not as a vendor of products, but as a source of intelligent information that will help them succeed. Do right by your customers, and they'll do right by you."
2. It's All About the Data
Hurd doesn't want to hear that big data is going to somehow solve all your marketing challenges. As he sees it, businesses need solutions that intelligently apply all the information gathered on their customers.
"For example, my cellular provider knows how much I use my phone and where I'm traveling. The provider could offer me location-specific services, or save me money with a better-aligned voice and data plan. I travel a lot," he said. "What if airline partners had their data connected so that they could cross-sell upgrades or hotel and rental-car discounts? That's the kind of service that excites customers."
3. No More IT-Marketing Divide
According to industry research firm Gartner, 88 percent of chief marketing officers say they don't have a real-time view of customer interactions across their company, Hurd noted. That, he said, means they'll have to partner with their IT teams to secure the technology and put in place the business processes required to support this integrated view.
"You're not going to be able to survive in the marketing role without a deep capability in IT, because that's how you reach the customer. Going forward, the two roles might fuse together, because by 2017, Gartner projects, CMOs will spend more on IT than CIOs," Hurd said. "A big driver of the increased spend is digital marketing. Already, 23 percent of CMOs are devoting the majority of their budgets to digital marketing -- a shift that promises to deliver better outcomes for marketers and for businesses."
4. Automation's Transforming Power
Hurd said most traditional marketing people have focused on brand advertising and lead generation. Back in the day, a week-old lead was fresh. That's not true any more. Hence, the value of marketing automation. Hurd is practicing what he's preaching at Oracle via its Eloqua acquisition. He said Oracle has already witnessed 20 times growth in conversion rates from lead to sales opportunity.
"We're able to measure the impact of social communications, both inbound and outbound, as a part of our integrated multichannel marketing campaigns, and we're able to do this throughout our sales process," Hurd said. "And we've doubled the open rate of our customer communications and likewise have seen a doubling of completed registration forms for offers and events."
5. It's a Team Effort
Hurd isn't expecting the CMO to handle this all alone. No one leader has all these skill sets. But the CMO can support these initiatives from the top down. Hurd closed his column with a real-world example of how this kind of marketing can make a difference.
"About a year ago, when I was on a long trip from New York to Abu Dhabi and Australia, I ran out of clothes. I called my wife, who was planning to meet me in Australia, and asked her to bring shirts. When I got to the hotel, the shirts were waiting, straight from a local retailer in Melbourne," Hurd said.
As it turns out, his wife had accessed a retailer's Web site on her iPhone, and ended up chatting with a personal shopper. The shopper got his size, gathered the shirts from a retailer in Melbourne and had them shipped to Hurd's hotel. The shirts weren't even from the retailer's own stock. They got them from a competitor just to get the job done.
"I've told this story many times, because it's so shocking to me that a company would be able to pivot so quickly, and go outside of their own catalog -- to another retailer! -- to solve my problem. It's a whole new level of differentiated service, and I haven't forgotten it," Hurd said.
"That's the kind of experience that makes me a firm believer in the value of customer-obsessed marketing. It shows how marketing, in becoming an advocate for your customer, becomes an effective advocate for your company, too."