Some things are undeniable: Death and taxes. Pitching wins playoff baseball. Dessert is spelled with two s’s, and I know I will want seconds. Customers want more.
That final imperative requires us to deliver solutions and not just point products.
The digital revolution has changed the way customers and prospects are engaging. Securing repeat customers requires us to prove value for the solutions that we deliver. These statements are no longer debatable. So why are so many marketing organizations missing key ingredients for effective solution marketing?
The most recent IBM Global CMO Study reports that more than 50% of chief marketing officers feel underprepared to address the following market forces:
- data explosion (Big Data),
- prevalence of social media,
- growth of channel and device choices,
- shifting customer demographics,
- demand for ROI accountability, and
- increased customer collaboration and influence.
CMOs also responded that they believe these factors will significantly impact the marketing function. It’s my point of view that these forces are more than affecting marketing; they are redefining the marketing function. Are you prepared to address the undeniable? Are you nervous?
As marketing leaders, we must establish confidence in marketing's ability to address these forces. Based on my engagement with established and emerging marketing leaders, I have observed some common approaches:
1. Leaders are transforming their marketing approach, and their organizations, to a customer segment orientation. They’re transitioning value-proposition definition and marketing budgets from product marketers to segment marketers. Customer dimensions that define the offering also define these segment teams: The most prevalent are industry/vertical and customer size.
By taking a customer orientation, marketing leaders are able to address shifting customer demographics and customer collaboration and influence by developing better insight and a deep understanding of the customer’s business needs and requirements. Making the shift sounds obvious and easy, but it’s hard. Why? Primarily, organizational inertia.
The change requires strong marketing leaders who are willing to shift the balance of power (and budget) from product to segment. Changing processes and the organizational structure is a good start. However, if the budget doesn’t shift, we will continue to see marketing based on product features and benefits.
2. Customer insight at the individual and audience level has become a priority for market leaders. In B2B markets, companies buy, but individuals make (and influence) buying decisions and determine if proposed solutions provide value, or if value is realized. Without deep customer insight, the solution marketer is ill equipped to define a winning value proposition.
The IBM CMO study points out that 80% of CMOs still rely on traditional methods of gaining insight: market research and benchmarking. The study goes further to state that these traditional methods are valuable for understanding markets, but don’t reveal what individual customers need or desire. What are leaders doing? Leaders are implementing comprehensive customer insight programs. (Which is the subject of my colleague Raj Sivasubramanian’s post.)
3. Leaders are developing a new set of marketing capabilities to gain improved customer insight—and act upon it. Many marketing organizations don’t have a strong understanding of the available marketing platforms nor do they have the capabilities to deal with Big Data or execute advanced customer analytics.
The leaders are investing in marketing operations. According to IDC, marketing operations is the fastest-growing marketing function. Leading CMOs are investing in skilled professionals to deploy and execute new tools, integrate and manage data, and develop and implement advanced analytics. When CMOs are not able to build the teams internally, they are finding strategic partners to supplement their capability.
Death and taxes, and my second helping of dessert … inevitable. The forces shaping B2B marketing today are also undeniable, but addressable. Market leaders are revamping their marketing functions to use these forces to their advantage. Is your organization’s ability to become effective solution marketers undeniable?