Buyer Centricity / Change Management / Digital Transformation / Strategic Planning

They, Not It

portugesemanowarThe Portuguese Man-of-War is not a jellyfish. It is not even an “it.” To paraphrase National Geographic, the Portuguese Man-of-War is a “they.” They look like a single “thing” but they are really a collection of individual things that all work together under that umbrella of a gelatinous film. In the same way, an organization is a collection of departments that have to work together in order to flourish. So, when you come along with your clever marketing transformation ideas, you have to think of all the separate parts.

Tech Savvy Buyers Know What’s Possible

Buyers interact with a brand. They don’t have the time or interest to determine which department is responsible for creating the content they’re interacting with. Buyers are also much more savvy about what technology can do for all departments within an organization. They know how easy it is for you to collect their data use it to recognize them and even predict what they will need, as we discussed in a post about how to get customers to repeat purchase.

These buyers can tell when a piece of content is not as finely tailored – or even relevant – to them, as it could be. They know when you didn’t use the latest application to tailor the website to their preferences when they sign in, when emails are sent to them without a clear understanding of what content they’ve already interacted with, and so on.

When the marketing has disjointed messaging, inconsistent look and feel, and so on, buyers wonder what they can expect once they’ve handed over their money and the brand no longer has a real incentive to focus on their needs. However, they can and do (as I did in that blog post) also think about how technology allows organizations to use the same data in other departments. After all, if marketing knows I’m a repeat customer, why can’t the finance department?

This means that the entire organization has to coordinate efforts and be consistently buyer-centric at all touchpoints. Fortunately, client journey mapping and personas are increasingly being adopted by customer service and support organizations. This means there are great examples of work done in that area by other organizations. You, as a member of the marketing transformation process, may be called upon to help your counterpart in other organizations to get started and provide these examples and other education – but this extra work is worth it for marketers.

First, if the purchase contracts, payment or financing process, and other client-facing materials are written in clear language rather than legal gibberish, the buyer will see a consistent focus on their needs and be much more confident in a repeat purchase later in their customer lifetime. And, equally important to each of these departments, happy customers are much more likely to be surprised and delighted enough to share their positive experiences with your organization, compared to departments that are much less customer-centric in most organizations. And what manager wouldn’t want repeat business and that sort of feedback?

This really is a case where the organization’s various departments need to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ in other organizations but getting started is easier than you think. To find out what specific elements your various departments can change to be more client-centric, get customer input via focus groups, surveys, anonymous input forms, or whatever other means you have. Then, continuously improve based on metrics and customer feedback. Once the changes have actually been made, make sure to promote the news to customers who may not have heard about the changes as well as other potential customers.

Getting Buy In

Knowing that you have to coordinate your organization’s touchpoints because customers understand technology and expect responsiveness is the first step. The bigger challenge you’ll face is the feeling that “the marketing department’s transformation” is pushing other departments to do things they’d like to but don’t have time or money for.

At the beginning of your transformation, the chief executive officer (CEO) (or whatever the senior-most title in the organization is) needs to communicate to the leaders of all departments that the organization is looking to interact with buyers differently and that this means changes across the board, though the biggest changes will be in the marketing department. Then, the CEO needs to ensure that all department heads have the same understanding of what it means to move to digital, data-driven, customer centric or whatever combination of changes the CEO wants to make.

If you’ve been tasked with leading the transformation overall, or even part of that team, you might need to be the one(s) to suggest the CEO take the steps listed above. Even if you’re not, it’s probably in your best interest to set up a meeting every other week (or more often) with your counterparts in the other departments and ensure each group is coordinating and using best practices from the other groups. This also gives you the opportunity to work that change management process with your colleagues in other departments, the same way you’re doing with your marketing employees.

A lot of the elements above are thankless yeoman’s work. However, the efforts of other departments will only amplify the work you do in marketing. In the end, the customer will have felt the brand’s efforts are consistent and genuine and will remember it the next she speaks to others and even when she needs to purchase again.

Comments are welcome, especially if you have examples of how your organization dealt with changing company-wide.

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