According to McKinsey, when a B2B organization adopts a customer-centric strategy, great things happen. Think: higher margins, higher client satisfaction scores, reductions in cost to serve, improved revenue growth, and an increase in employee satisfaction. These compelling outcomes are a direct by-product of adopting a customer-centric marketing operations capability.

The charter for a marketing operations group is to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of marketing in terms of people, process, technology and data in order to achieve stated goals. I’ve talked with many marketing operations leaders and they would all agree with this basic mission. What differs in customer-centric vs non-customer-centric organizations, however, is how the mission is executed and the results achieved. This was especially true when I interviewed leaders of combined sales and marketing ops organizations. These leaders were much more obsessed with the customer, perhaps because of their sales lens now brought to the combined operations group.

This article explores the four characteristics of establishing a customer-centric marketing operations group and provides examples and benefits of this approach.

Customer Centric Marketing Operations

Begin with….An Enterprise and Marketing Adoption of Customer Focus

The key driver in a customer-driven marketing operations group is that it’s not a solo effort by marketing to be customer-centric. Nope, the hallmark of a customer-driven marketing operations function is that the entire enterprise has adopted a customer-centric approach. And, there must be evidence of this adoption, not just talk. In a recent podcast with Claudine Bianchi, CMO of Click Software, Claudine shared how they have adopted a customer-focus from the CEO (Tom Heiser) to every person in the organization. Claudine presented the following evidence of an operationalized customer-centric strategy:

  • A set of corporate-wide KPIs based on the customers baked into MBOs (management by objectives) for every person in the organization
  • Senior management taking responsibility for sharing why a customer-centric approach works for every person in the company
  • Decision-making in terms of delighting customers driven down and across every person in the company
  • Peer-to-peer recognition and rewards for individuals who delight the customer
  • Obsession around customer NPS (net promoter score) and customer sat scores

1. MarTech Stack

A few-weeks ago my client asked, “Does it make a difference to the marketing operations stack if marketing and the company have adopted a customer-centric strategy?” I have to tell you this question stopped me dead in my tracks. I paused, then replied more to myself than even my customer – YES! It was certainly a central thread of conversation at the MarTech conference last month. Many of the Stackies (pictorial renderings of your MarTech stack) were based on the customer journey (see Microsoft’s). Many of the presentations were predicated on a customer-focus. And thought leaders were discussing the blending of marketing operations, sales operations and customer operations. A customer-centric strategy becomes the bonding agent for selection, implementation, use, integration and optimization for the MarTech stack.

2. Skills and Capacity

Every marketing operations organization requires skills in data, analytics, technology and process. As marketing operations grows as a capability in an organization these skills may at first be outsourced from other departments or external agencies. Over time, these key skills are taken fully in-house in the marketing ops group. A customer-centric strategy calls for an additional skill – obsessing and optimizing the entire customer life cycle. Yes, I said life cycle, not just the stuff that happens at the beginning of the journey before you flip MQLs over to sales. This holistic approach crosses departments in your organization including other parts of marketing, sales, engineering, R&D, customer support, etc. Marketing is no longer concerned with “their part” of the customer life-cycle. They are responsible for understanding, interpreting, and optimizing the entire life cycle.

Capacity has to do with having the right resources and a sufficient number of resources to fully operationalize a customer-driven marketing operations strategy. It’s a larger, more important and more transparent responsibility and having capacity to deliver is key.

An interesting observation from Claudine Bianchi is that she uses a mix of hard-core techies, more traditional marketers and millennial generalists. Claudine finds that the millennials are more apt to be innovative, work with new ideas and technologies, and are less afraid to fail. She believes having this mix of skills and attitudes is critical to a customer-centric strategy.

3. Data Insights

Last year I developed a model called “What Kind of Datanista are You?” It looked at the relationship between marketing, data and what marketing does with that data. There are four types of Datanistas – 1) Dependent 2) Rookie 3) Analytic and 4) Predictor. The Dependent gathers customer data by word-of-mouth from others. The Rookie gathers very basic customer data such as website visits to improve campaign performance. The Analytic accesses data about customers to improve marketing performance. The Predictor provides data insights from every part of the customer life-cycle to every part of the organization. If you are a Predictor, you can forecast the impact of marketing on revenue and on the business.

Noncustomer-centric companies never have a reason to move past the Analytic stage as they are only concerned with what happens in marketing. Companies gain huge competitive advantage when marketing becomes the Predictor and provides real-time insights that help shape key decisions about the customer.

4. Alignment

If it isn’t evident by now, alignment is a key component of operationalizing a customer-centric marketing operations group. Adopting a customer-centric approach forces a horizontal framework and marketing now works with every part of the company to optimize the customer life cycle and help the company gain competitive advantage. This requires intense alignment and that can only be optimally achieved with the customer as the bonding agent.

The Future

The rise of the marketing operations function is a response to the tsunami of new technologies and the parallel change in customer behavior. It is a response to the requirement for a new skill set required for marketing to drive tangible and credible revenue results. But the MO function needs to be also driven by a customer-centric strategy in order to be fully optimized. B2B companies need to learn from our B2C brethren – customers matter.

Read more: It’s Time to Take A New Approach to Audience-Centric Marketing