Insight with Experts: The Evolution of the Customer Experience with Jake Sorofman, part 1

Mark Nardone

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A customer’s experience is now being judged on their loyalty, engagement level and whether or not they will continue to be an ambassador for your company. This in turn results in new growth and responsibilities for the Modern Marketer and a higher set of expectations.  

PAN EVP Mark Nardone (@MarkCNardone) sat down with Jake Sorofman, research vice president of Gartner, to discuss how the customer experience is evolving and how that will impact the role of the CMO.

What’s the personality of today’s CMO?

The best CMOs think like CEOs. They understand the economics and mechanics of the business and they focus on attributable impact on business outcomes. They’re also very data savvy. In a sense, the Mad Men have become the math men. Marketing will never again be mistaken for the department of arts and crafts.

How has the role of the CMO evolved over the last several years? With the importance of marketing on sales/revenue – what’s today’s marketer facing?

The CMO isn’t just the bullhorn for the business. In fact, CMOs who focus on promotion alone will find themselves increasingly vulnerable when the expectation is for direct and material contribution to profitable growth for the business. Our research consistently tells us that over 70 percent of CMOs now own or share P&L responsibility. They’re often responsible for the design of the overall customer experience—which, of course, extends well beyond touchpoints marketing owns and controls—and making a significant contribution to product, experience and even business model innovation. There’s a lot laid at the CMO’s feet these days.

I’ve heard you talk about customer experience as the new marketing? Are we facing yet another change of the role/department?

I borrowed this from Steve Cannon, the former CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA, who I interviewed last year. He couldn’t be more right. I think his point was that it’s the customer’s experience that earns loyalty and advocacy over time—and when there’s a disconnect between what your brand promises and what it actually delivers, customers will notice. In an age of hypercompetition and abundant choice, the customer experience is the competitive battlefield. You absolutely have to get this right. Customers judge you, not based on their next-best alternative, but their last-best experience. They expect a lot! Marketers that don’t get the experience right find themselves swimming against a tide. Those who nail it are able to ride a wave.

With so much emphasis placed on customer experience, does the marketer lose sight of innovation? Are they actively playing a role here? 

The CMO plays an important role here. In fact, innovation is one of the top areas of increased expectation of the CMO by the CEO. The impetus is the rise of native digital disruptors that seem to upend industries overnight. That’s an existential threat to incumbents. In many cases, in addition to their day-to-day operational responsibilities, CMOs lead teams focused on looking around corners and testing and learning from experimental investments in new innovations. Incidentally, this innovation often focuses on the customer experience, but it can also relate to more products and new business models.

Now that we’ve discussed how the customer landscape will continue to change along with the role of the Modern Marketer, it’s equally important to address what CMOs should be expecting in upcoming years. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series where Jake Sorofman will reveal his 2016/2017 forecast along with what to expect in terms of how we will be using our data in the future.

About Jake: Jake Sorofman (@jakesorofman) is the research vice president of Gartner. He analyzes digital marketing strategies, trends and practices. He focuses on customer experience and content marketing and helps clients use these techniques to engage customers, evangelize their brands, grow revenue and transform their business.

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