Modern Marketing B2B Marketing Data & Privacy

From fragile to agile: embracing the customer for sustainable success in a changing world

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By Jenni Baker | Assistant Editor

January 23, 2023 | 7 min read

As part of The Drum’s Predictions Deep Dive, leaders from Salesforce and GFN discuss why authenticity, agility and balance will be key for marketers to adapt in the face of so much change. Watch the full session here.

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In 2023 marketers must ensure they are set up with the agility and flexibility to fully embrace the customer

Change sells. Every marketing and media leader knows that they have got to at least be in the race on what’s trending right now, but that shouldn’t come at the cost of the longer-term gain.

Balancing the ability to be able to listen and react to what’s going on in the current environment while having an eye on the future requires significant change in the operating model of an organization, to ensure they are set up with the agility and flexibility to fully embrace the customer.

“Sometimes we overestimate the amount of change that’s going on in the near future and underestimate those market moving changes in the next decade or so,” says Neil Robinson, customer transformation, senior director at Salesforce. “Marketers must be careful not to overestimate the impact of predictions and keep an eye on the mid- to longer-term gain, because what you do now is going to affect your ability to compete in the longer game.”

Watch the full 'Fragile to agile' Predictions Deep Dive discussion on-demand here.

Embracing the customer

Talent shortages are creating friction in the operating rhythm of major businesses, experiences are changing, and data has become the differentiator to create meaningful value for the customer and the business. Added to that, the fragmentation of platforms and audiences, and the desire to embrace the customer at every touchpoint becomes more difficult to navigate.

“There are lots of changes and lots of different platforms [out there today], but you have to go with what you feel is going to suit your customers,” says Robbie Lyle, founder and group chief executive officer of Global Fan Network (GFN). “Companies need to be open to change and new ideas, but they have to be authentic and learn to be a bit more agile.”

The need to embrace the customer might sound blindingly obvious, but to be able to do that authentically and embrace all the different platforms, first there needs to be clarity around who owns the customer and who is accountable for that full customer experience.

“A large proportion of our customers are made up by chief marketing officers, who technically should hold the mantle for owning the customer, because they own the experience, they own the brand, they own the data,” says Robinson. “But invariably in organizations all these functions are split in silos and it’s really hard to cut through the silos and have one person solely responsible for embracing or owning the customer across every touchpoint.”

It’s the marketers who have the one-to-one relationship with the customer and it’s as true for any business as it is in the football world. Lyle explains: “There are a lot of companies that say ‘oh we’re fan centric, we’re all about the fans’, but they’re not and fans see straight through it. You have to find ways to embrace them in an authentic way using influences that are already connected to them. Involve the customer in what you’re doing and have a one-to-one relationship, so they feel part of [the experience] and that is an easy win.”

Automation for agility

For media and marketing businesses to embrace all this change happening around them, they must focus on the customer data to inform better decision making. And that requires agility.

“When conversations are happening, you have to be agile and quick enough to make sure that you’re involved in that conversation – because things move on very quickly,” says Lyle. “If you’re not agile enough to deal with it, you miss out on big opportunities to be relevant.”

And spotting those trends isn’t driven by an algorithm, it’s enabled by people who can determine what’s hot or not. Yet many teams are set up in such a way that the talent is so wrapped up in mundane basic tasks which could be automated, instead of being able to focus on seeking out new channels, audiences and opportunities to deliver value for the customer and the business.

By finding ways to reduce friction in the operating model, teams are empowered to work more effectively, as Robinson explains: “There are quicker tools to communicate, collaborate and move at speed. There’s automation in analytics and better ways to remove friction so that people have more freedom to grow and scale by getting under the skin of a psyche or a culture to bring audiences in.”

The solution is simple. Technology brings this agility to organizations, so that people can focus on what actually creates value. “Sometimes we complicate technology, for the sake of complicating it, but certainly at Salesforce, we’re far more people centric in our approach to business agility. And that’s going to make sure profitable businesses remain profitable,” says Robinson.

As a final word of advice to media and marketing businesses in 2023, Robinson says: “I urge marketers to rip that slogan off on the wall about how we’re a customer-centric organization and start prosecuting that value statement to make sure it’s not just espoused but acted on by making sure the organization around you and your endeavours are really aligned to embrace the customer.”

Robinson and Lyle were discussing all of this as part of The Drum’s Predictions Deep Dive. You can watch the full session in the video here.

Modern Marketing B2B Marketing Data & Privacy

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