Marketing’s role in building a customer-centric company

Business & tech

This article was originally published in Forbes.

Digital technology and access to customer data are constantly reshaping the role of marketing, and as more and more businesses are reorienting toward a customer-centric focus, this extremely valuable customer data becomes a big part of that shift. Marketing is now a research hub, a creative lab and a growth engine—all in one. Marketing’s ability to make data-driven investments and accurately measure and analyze the success of those investments in driving sales and revenue has earned marketers a strategic seat at the decision-making table.

Yet, so many businesses are still struggling to determine where exactly and how much to invest in marketing, and how to measure the success of those dollars. As the CEO of a tech startup, I have my own perspective, which considers three major forces that shape the role of marketing today: leadership, technology and strategy.

Leadership & team alignment

While technology allows us to constantly push marketing boundaries (marketing automation, customer and behavior analytics, social media, etc.), it can quickly become overwhelming and costly. On the flip side, the delayed adoption of marketing technology can cost you customers and revenue. That’s where leadership comes in. When you make marketing technology decisions, hire staff and set expectations, think about it as an investment in growth. With marketing automation, including built-in customer and behavior analytics tools, marketing now owns a significant part of the customer journey and can provide strategic insights, such as brand sentiment, buyer intent and customer satisfaction levels, to sales and customer service. So instead of treating your marketing as mainly a lead generation machine, use its insights and capabilities to amplify efforts, iterate and pivot when needed.

Your customers see you as one brand: whether they get a marketing newsletter or talk to a customer support rep, they might form an opinion on your entire business based on one interaction at any point in their journey. Align your teams around the customer journey and your brand to ensure your marketing investments pay off. Just one bad customer experience or off-brand communication can ruin a brand image much faster than your team can build it.

It’s easy to spend money on marketing, but today you have the ability to plan, track and measure marketing’s contribution to revenue. Develop key performance indicators (KPIs), which can cover everything from email click rate to cost per lead to conversion rate (the ultimate performance indicator). Monitor results and use data to make decisions.

Marketing automation technology

It seems like every day there’s a new marketing tool or platform that promises to engage your customers like never before and set you apart from your competitors. Stay focused. Broadly speaking, your marketing technology should help you to address two needs: customer acquisition and marketing performance measurement. Customer acquisition encompasses everything from email marketing to advertising to content marketing, social media and more. In order to know what works and what doesn’t, you need to be able to track and measure the performance of each channel and individual campaign. The right marketing automation tool can help you to do that.

There are a number of modern marketing automation tools that are easy to use and more affordable than legacy systems. When evaluating a marketing automation system, make sure it addresses all your key requirements and easily integrates with sales and other business tools you use. Remember, you can’t unify your teams without the technology that allows them to coordinate activities, centralize and share customer data, and track performance. At the heart of your marketing and sales integration is lead disposition, or the process of moving a sales qualified lead (SQL) to an opportunity, disqualifying it as inappropriate or returning it to marketing for further nurture. Use marketing technology that allows you to set up a proper lead disposition process. This way, you can make the most out of your marketing dollars spent on lead acquisition and accurately measure marketing’s contribution to revenue.

Go-to-market strategy

With the ability to measure everything from customer sentiment to revenue contribution, marketing is no longer a creative function or an expense. Marketing is now your growth engine, with a goal to attract the right customers through the right channels at the right time with the right message. To make sure marketing serves its purpose, create a go-to-market strategy. Your strategy should define your target audiences, problem-solution fit and messaging. It should also outline channels and tactics you’ll use to reach your buyers and align sales and marketing around your business goals.

The strength and success of your strategy depend on the data you use and your ability to execute as a team. It all comes together here—team alignment, technology and leadership. A go-to-market strategy is your map and framework to address all the moving pieces, including your marketing investments. There’s a lot more to developing an effective go-to-market strategy, but the key point here is to show the extent to which marketing today can inform, guide and help execute your business goals.

Marketing technology can help collect data to build a picture of each customer and their interactions with your brand, allowing you to become a far more customer-centric company. Modern marketing is a lot more than a lead generation machine; it is now a more holistic revenue growth driver across the entire customer life cycle. I hope this article provided you with a renewed perspective on marketing and how it can best contribute to your business success.

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