The Changing Role of Marketing – Customer Experience and Conversion

business partners showing the changing role of marketing
business partners showing the changing role of marketing

I’ve talked before about why I believe that marketing has a marketing problem. Most people think marketing is just ads. People hate ads. Who wants to be sold to? There’s a reason that car salespeople and cold callers have such a slimy reputation.

But here’s the thing – these salespeople have earned that reputation through underhand tactics and trying to trick people into buying something based off lies and half-truths. If someone sold you something that was an amazing value and changed your life for the better, would you be mad? Obviously not.

There’s no problem with selling things. Consumers are aware that businesses exist to make money. But the needs of the business need to be aligned with the needs of the consumer.

Marketing isn’t sales. Marketing is simply a way of helping these customers and businesses find each other and build a mutually beneficial relationship.

Quick Takeaways:

  • Focus on the customer. Delivering great customer experiences should be the goal of every department in the business.
  • Build marketing into your company culture and break down silos so every department understands their part to play in the customer journey.
  • Data and analytics can help you to build better marketing campaigns that convert so you can demonstrate the ROI and value of marketing to C-suite.

The key to successful marketing is developing a clear understanding of the needs of your customers. If you think marketing is all about convincing people about how great your business or products are, you’re on the wrong track.

Instead, you should concentrate on finding out more about your customers: Who are they? What makes them tick? What do they want? What would make their lives better?

So, how do you find this out? Start a conversation with them.

I see marketing as a conversation between a customer who has a problem that needs solving, and a business that can provide a product or service to meet that need. In the process of this conversation, both parties learn more about each other and build a relationship over time.

Remember, people prefer to buy from brands they like, know, and trust. Your job as a marketer is not to sell, it’s simply to build this knowledge and trust – and be likable at the same time, of course!

So how do we get back to what marketing is supposed to be?

1. Focus on the Customer Experience (CX)

I can’t emphasize enough how vital it is for today’s businesses to put their customers at the heart of everything they do, not only for the success of their marketing strategy but also for the long-term success of their business as a whole.

Today’s CMOs understand that having a customer-centric mindset and focusing on developing amazing customer experiences is the key to business growth.

Chris Capossela, CMO at Microsoft, explains: “Companies today need to put the customer at the center of not just storytelling, but also in the products that the organization builds and each of the touch points with the customer… [They] need to know who their customers are, how they move through their experience, what the emotional dynamics are, and what information is required to help them be successful.”

Adobe’s latest Digital Trends report names customer experience as the most exciting business opportunity for next year – not content marketing (coming in at second), social media (not on the list), or any other form of digital marketing.

The customer experience has always been important, of course. But in today’s increasingly digital world, the way that consumers research and choose which products to buy is changing.

It’s not a case of advertising becoming less effective. But consumers are no longer passively relying on advertising and information from salespeople to inform them about products.

Instead, they’re going out and doing their own research from a number of different sources – they’ll use social media, blogs, video reviews, and other online information to build up a picture of the products and services they’re considering buying. They’ll also use the official information supplied on the brand website.

Over 80% of smartphone users research information on their phones before making a purchase in-store, and the vast majority of consumers read online reviews before making a purchase either online or offline.

In other words, it’s not enough to tell the world about how great you are anymore. You have to prove it. And this is only possible by providing truly great customer experiences. Almost 90% of companies are now competing primarily on the basis of customer experience, compared to only 36% in 2010. This puts CX above price and other traditionally critical factors.

What does this mean in practical terms?

  • A company that focuses on the customer experience does less advertising.
  • A company focused on customer experiences does less promotion
  • A company focused on customer experience does more content marketing

It’s just that simple. Advertising and promotion focus on your company. Content marketing focuses on the customer, by definition.

2. Make Culture an Integral Part of Marketing

So, if the customer experience is so important, what’s the key to delivering a great one?

Beyond understanding your customers, this comes down to developing a positive brand culture that aligns with their values and beliefs.

Former Chief Customer Officer at Marketo (now part of Adobe), Matt Zilli, explores this idea in a post titled The Power of Shared Beliefs. He points out that Apple customers already believe that Apple will always release the most innovative new products, everyone knows that Disneyland is the happiest place on earth (and so Disney products exist to make you happy), and Nike customers believe that Nike is doing everything they can to help each athlete release their true potential.

He goes on to explain that this “shared belief dynamic” only works when every person in the company from sales and marketing to customer support understands and gets behind those beliefs fully. In other words, they must be baked into your company culture.

These companies will continue to have huge success without relying on traditional marketing techniques. Apple, for example, barely has an official presence on social media at all. They don’t need one – their brand presence is so strong that it essentially does their marketing for them.

This coming year, the lines between branding and corporate culture are blending, and in the future, they may disappear completely. In other words, your brand is your culture – at least in terms of how the outside world sees it.

The growing number of eco-friendly and sustainable businesses is one example of this at work. Having a “green” business culture is a great marketing tactic these days. Climate change and our impact as humans living in the world is a huge concern for many people. Demonstrating a commitment to sustainable sourcing, low-impact manufacturing, and producing recyclable products is a key part of the culture of many organizations.

But being authentic is absolutely key here. If you’re throwing in a token recycling program and touting your products as being “green” just to try and win more customers, they’ll see through you in an instant. Your actions must connect with the real values and beliefs that drive your business.

You don’t have to build your business culture around being eco-friendly. You might decide to focus on spreading joy and happiness to both your customers and your employees. Or maybe you want to promote a culture of great design and innovation. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s a true representation of your core business values and that it is communicated throughout all your marketing and customer interactions.

3. Make Fantastic Customer Experience Your Ultimate Goal

Hopefully, you’re starting to see that successful marketing now and in the future goes way beyond the marketing department’s remit.

Every person in your company has a part to play in creating a great customer experience and in the ultimate success of your marketing strategy. But it makes sense for the CMO to have overall responsibility for bringing together all these different departments and individuals with a common goal. 90% of organizations now view their CMO as a collaboration-leader who connects different departments.

The role of the CMO is changing, and it’s no longer all about advertising and brand management. As the capacity of marketing is becoming broader, so must the tasks and priorities of chief marketers.

Going forward, companies must support their CMOs in having a significantly bigger influence on human resources, talent sourcing, and retention than they have had in the past.

In order for every employee in a company to represent the brand values and company mission, they need to have a real connection with who and what they’re working for, and this means investing in employee engagement.

No business can rely on its employees to get behind its marketing messages and be brand culture ambassadors when those employees don’t really believe in what the business stands for and would leave for another company at the drop of a hat if they were given a better offer.

It’s critical to work on a strong base of employee engagement and drive meaningful change in your company culture from the top down. Make sure your business leaders really understand and express your business values with a positive and supportive management style. Be aware that these changes take time – culture change doesn’t happen overnight.

CMOs must work together with marketing, HR, PR, corporate affairs, and customer-facing departments to bring together these different teams, find common goals against differing priorities, and solidify the ultimate goal of delivering a great experience across every stage of the customer journey.

4. Use Data to Inform You About What Works

As we look to the future, the CMO must hold ultimate responsibility for understanding the customer and understanding the business. And this understanding will be driven by data.

We’re already living in a world of Big Data. 90% of all data in the world was generated in the last two years, and we’re currently generating over 2.5 quintillion bytes of data on a daily basis.

Businesses have more intelligence data on which to build a marketing strategy than ever before, but the value lies not in the data itself, but in what you do with it.

Data has many uses in marketing, from enabling micro-segmentation and personalization to identifying emerging trends. One of its most valuable uses is to figure out exactly which of your marketing activities are working, and which aren’t. Once you have this information, you can optimize your processes by doing more of the things that do work, and either abandoning or figuring out how to improve what’s not working.

There’s no point wasting time and resources on ineffective marketing campaigns, so the sooner you can figure this out, the better.

Data-driven marketing uses insights from data to deliver better, more personalized and relevant marketing campaigns. It also helps marketers to discover the most effective channels and analyze the success of campaigns.

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Put another way, data is invaluable to the modern marketer. And yet over 80% of marketers say that they find it complicated to implement a data-driven strategy.

With increased data also comes increased complexity. To achieve optimal efficiency, the marketing leaders of today must craft strategies that cater to a greater number of customer segments and channels than ever before. Juggling hundreds or thousands of different micro-campaigns is quite a task. While technology can certainly help out here, marketers who don’t update their skills quickly enough may find themselves drowning in data.

Difficulties in gathering, updating, sorting, and analyzing data are commonly cited stumbling blocks, along with poor data quality and managing data across different departments and silos. A 2017 survey of B2B and B2C companies found that only 8% had a single source of unified data.

To overcome these challenges, businesses first need to set common standards and procedures for data collection, storage, and sharing. Collecting quality data from every possible source should become a part of business culture, just as marketing must.

Secondly, good marketing analytics software is a vital tool for pulling in information from several sources, displaying it in an easy-to-understand format, and helping you to actually make sense of all the data.

5. Use Analytics to Demonstrate the True ROI and Business Value of Marketing

Once you’ve tackled the challenge of collecting, formatting and storing data in a single central repository, the next step is to analyze it. This not only gives valuable insights to help improve the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns but also enables you to measure the ROI of your marketing efforts and demonstrate all the other ways it has added value for the business.

While a decade or so ago, around three-quarters of CEOs believed that marketers lacked credibility because of their failure to demonstrate business value, the tide is turning. Recent research suggests that many CEOs now believe in the value of marketing to drive business growth.

Improved data collection and analytics software have a big part to play in this shift. As one CEO notes: “Marketing and data, in particular, are first-class citizens in a way they were not four to five years ago.”

Marketing is no longer considered just another expense to work into the budget. Today, most executives realize that effective marketing is the key to developing great customer experiences, driving innovation, and increasing the business bottom line.

Increased measurability of marketing ROI has meant that marketing strategy is now an integral part of the overall business strategy. However, it’s still critical to demonstrate how marketing investment drives profitable business growth.

Marketers should prove their worth within the organization by communicating regularly with other departments, as well as C-suite, about their successes and failures, and how each campaign relates to business goals.

When it comes to speaking to directors and other non-marketing co-workers, remember that they don’t speak your language. Don’t assume that they understand the value of X increase in website visits or an X% increase in engagement on social media. Instead, translate these into what they really mean for the business in terms of revenue and ROI.

Showing real numbers is important, and marketing analytics software can help you to display them in easy-to-understand charts and graphs. You can also demonstrate how each marketing campaign ultimately leads to sales by tracking the customer journey through the sales and marketing funnel.

And don’t forget about demonstrating marketing’s effect on other KPIs as well as increased revenue. Key metrics you can track might include:

  • Brand reputation
  • Brand mentions on social media
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Customer loyalty
  • Cost per lead
  • Customer lifetime value.

It’s vital to not only measure these metrics but also to demonstrate how your marketing activities directly led to positive change in their numbers. Again, this is something that good marketing analytics software can help you with.

By making your marketing activities more transparent and visible, and building marketing into your culture, in time all areas of the business will start to understand the true value of marketing

Get a Head Start on Your Annual Content Marketing Strategy

While I don’t have a crystal ball I can look into to discover what marketing will look like a decade from now, one thing I’m sure of is that content will still be the foundation of your entire marketing strategy.

If you are ready to get more traffic to your site with quality content that’s consistently published, check out our Content Builder Service. Set up a quick consultation, and I’ll send you a free PDF version of my books. Get started today and generate more traffic and leads for your business.

Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner  is a Top CMO, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Influencer, an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula" and he is the CEO and Founder of Marketing Insider Group, a leading Content Marketing Agency . He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael helps build successful content marketing programs for leading brands and startups alike. Subscribe here for regular updates.