Whose Customer Is It Anyway?

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Public domain image from pixabay.com

“We own the customer,” announced Bruno Hourdel on behalf of his fellow marketers.

Speaking on a marketing practitioner panel at ITSMA Marketing Vision 2016 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, earlier this month, Hourdel—Global Head of Field and Partner Marketing at financial software vendor Misys—said that the sales department’s traditional “ownership” of the customer since the 1990s must change.

“We really have to start to [get the] ownership back,” said Hourdel.

“The best companies on the planet are led by marketing. They’re brand led. They know that customer; they know what the customer wants; they have the data to back it up,” added panelist Ryan Lester, Director of IoT Strategy for IoT platform Xively. “I think now that marketing shapes and drives businesses.” 

Nonetheless, the major takeaway from the conference was that, to do their job properly—most efficiently and most valuably—marketers must proactively integrate themselves with their sales teams.
 

“Everybody has a certain visibility into how that customer is doing—whether it’s from a marketing perspective, a sales perspective, or a service perspective,” offered Jeff Kaplan, Managing Director of digital-transformation consultancy THINKstrategies,moderating the marketing-practitioner panel. “Marketeers [have] talked about the term ‘omnichannel’ for a long time. In most cases it means something online…but we’re talking ‘omnichannel’ in terms of business units: Who touched that customer?” 

“Marketing is [but] a function in our organization. It’s really the job of inspiring people, and ‘people’ is an important word for us,” said Laura Whipple, Senior Vice President of Segment Marketing and Strategy for health services tech vendor Optum, in a separate presentation. “[W]e work everyday with our sales partners to figure out: ‘How do we become more relevant to clients?'” 

Whipple advocated that marketers should begin “monitoring competitive activity, rather than wait for business units to request” that information. Still, Whipple insisted that marketers must ultimately stand in a governance role, above sales teams, to drive data consistency—ensuring that all data and data sourcing throughout the organization (sales included) is consistent and is affirmatively approved by the marketing department (even if not actually originating from the marketing department).
 

Enter IBM: Chuck Stern, Global Marketing Manager of IBM Global Technology Services, delivered a best-practice case-study presentation on “driving transformation and growth” by balancing marketer-driven data and directives with marketers’ needs to work collaboratively with sales teams.
“In organizations—especially large, public organizations—you can be all consumed by current quarter-close activity,” said Stern, “and often that comes at the expense of future pipeline development.”
To this end, Stern described the “transformation agenda” that his team launched last year—seemingly successfully (Stern reported that, after the program initiated, IBM Global Technology Services saw revenue growth for the first time in three years)—to align sales and marketing teams so both can be “100 percent focused on next-quarter pipeline development.”  

The program, concentrated on unifying customer messaging throughout all sales and marketing teams, is driven by frequent interdepartmental touchpoints—including constant feedback from salespeople on the front lines as to what is and isn’t working.
“The communication has now evolved to sharing best practices. ‘What have we learned?’ … When we develop a sales tactic, we make sure that we have the right campaigns where there’s similar messaging, the right audience to support those sellers, and then finally the governance and analytics,” explained Stern. “There’s a lot of activity here, and it requires close collaboration among the teams.”  

“Collaboration” or no, however, must marketers take charge of the customer as a matter of sales enablement? For Adam Needles, Chief Strategy Officer of demand gen strategists ANNUITAS, the question is a red herring.
“I cannot stress [enough that] the enemy is our inability to be part of a team in optimizing demand. We’re not just doing this as a marketing organization. We need to be on the same page as sales; we need to be on the same page as finance; we need to be working tightly together…[and] your review process for KPIs is also an opportunity to constantly educate sales people onwhat’s working for them,” urged Needles, discussing demand optimization. “You may think you just need sales to close the leads you’re sending them, but we all know you really need them to be partners.” 

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