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Chief Marketing Officers need to become the “Consumer SME” for their company and make business decisions based on consumer needs to achieve loyalty and repeat business.

Consumers are the most important asset to any business. Without consumers buying a product or service, there will no longer be products or services to sell.

Knowing the consumer is the key driver to business success. Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) need to take strides at becoming the “Consumer SME” for their company and make business decisions based on consumer needs to ultimately achieve loyalty and repeat business.

Becoming a Consumer SME 

Who is today’s consumer? Based on a recent Accenture report, today’s consumer is very digitally connected and demanding.

Compared to only three years ago, 73% of the consumers surveyed said they use the internet more to research or purchase products or services, and are using social media more as a tool in the purchasing process.

Also, approximately two-thirds of consumers said it is important to be able to buy what they want when they want it and also want to be able to customize the product or service to be exactly what they want.     

In addition to these traits, today’s consumer expects relevant and seamless experiences end-to-end across marketing, service and commerce from the companies in which they have transactions. No one likes their time wasted, especially consumers.

Loyalty can take time to be earned, but it can be lost at the drop of a hat or, more accurately, the flick of a touch screen.

With this in mind, it’s safe to say today’s consumer is a challenging and powerful being. Each consumer action, whether in-person or digitally, is leaving an impression on businesses pushing them to either quickly edit a strategy for today or use it to create a blueprint of the business in the future. 

When CMOs become Consumer SMEs they have the knowledge-base to make the right decisions to keep consumers in their corner.

Making business decisions as the consumer SME

Accenture Interactive’s latest CMO Insights Study indicated that 65% of marketing leaders noted consumers’ expectations for relevant, targeted experiences as having the greatest long-term impact on marketing strategy. 

Keeping consumer expectations top of mind, 70% of the executives surveyed also believe that corporate marketing will undergo a dramatic overhaul within the next five years and their organizations must establish a digital direction that will help them achieve increase market share and higher revenue.   

Specifically, the four areas marketing departments will pursue change in include: 

Adjusting the marketing model with the digital consumer in mind

When organizations are in silos, natural barriers are created that fight digital transformation and almost ensure a choppy consumer experience.

CMOs have an opportunity to help the business innovate and become agile by identifying the many dependencies and interdependencies which make it possible to deliver relevant and impactful experiences to consumers. And this goes way beyond technology.

Of course, tapping innovations in analytics, real-time decision engines, and social and mobile technologies are essential today, but it also takes addressing new operating models and organizational structures to break down those silos and put the consumer at the center of everything marketers do.

Moreover, the CMO needs to tap and team with the CIO, to better understand and engage the digital consumer. Together they can drive marketing and technology enablement decisions that will retain and grow the customer base at scale. 

It’s also important for marketing leaders to think beyond a single campaign and focus on establishing continuous experiences and dialogue with consumers while having the larger business objective in mind.

For instance, great impact can be achieved when a positive campaign or customer experience can be replicated and curated according to the changing needs and intent of a consumer over time.   

When the merger of the big creative idea with analytics, content and real-time optimization occurs, marketers can move from simply marketing to consumers for an episodic transaction to building lasting relationships. 

Building new digital and analytics skills

Businesses need to bring in the right talent to help deliver to today’s demanding and connected consumer. In particular, having digital or analytics skills at this juncture are hot commodities.

Mirroring the consumer’s move to digital and in support of the many digital interaction points – social, email, mobile, web, search, etc. – marketing leaders are placing a focus on digitally skilled talent, as 50% said they would begin an internal reorganization to become more digitally focused, and 52% said they would be hiring more people with the necessary digital skills or providing their existing staff with digital training.

Also, marketers are finding it is equally important to understand the impact of digital engagement on the full consumer experience – in both online and offline environments.  

This only emphasizes the importance of analytics to uncover new or more efficient consumer engagement options, making analytics professionals a highly valued and prioritized breed of talent that the marketing department is looking to bring into the mix more. 

Aligning with the right set of partners

Marketing leaders are currently experiencing a disconnect with their agencies and service providers due to the blurring of lines between marketing functions and capabilities, and the new reality that marketing is inextricably linked to technology.  

Also, as the purview and influence of the CMO expands to experiences across the customer lifecycle including marketing, sales, service and ongoing engagement, marketers struggle to find partners that can address end-to-end solutions – and more importantly deliver on new types of performance metrics.   

When it comes to expectations and actual results gained, marketers require new types of partner/service provider relationships that are focused on working with marketers to transform their businesses to meet the new demands of consumers.  

The goal is to establish broader partner relationships focused not just on the next best campaign or incremental improvement on marketing tactics, but one that will improve marketing performance, create a positive consumer experiences, and drive growth for the business.

Driving digital orientation throughout the enterprise

CMOs are committed to closing the digital gap by allocating budget to support digital marketing and adding headcount. According to the report, two-thirds (66%) of marketing executives are allocating at least one quarter of their budget to digital marketing this year, and nearly one-quarter (23%) say that more than half of their spend will be on digital marketing.

This echoes the findings of Econsultancy's Marketing Budgets 2013 report, which found that 71% of businesses plan to increase digitial spend this year. 

Also, acquiring digital and analytics talent will help to push the digital agenda forward as this talent will gain a greater understanding of changing consumer needs and better manage and integrate multiple channels.

When the CMO starts to make decisions as a Consumer SME and focuses on consumer brand engagement over just brand awareness, they’re heading down the right path for success.

Glen Hartman

Published 18 June, 2013 by Glen Hartman

Glen Hartman serves as Senior Managing Director for Digital Transformation at Accenture Interactive and is a contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow him at @hartmanglen or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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