A great article in Direct Marketing hits several nails very firmly on the head, and in the process effectively articulates what plenty of CMOs are almost certainly thinking. It also reminds us in passing just how much of a shock mobile has been to the marketing ecosystem:

“Not only are shoppers researching purchases on smartphones, they’re increasingly using their devices to consummate them. Research company eMarketer forecasts mobile payments in-store will nearly triple next year to $27 billion. “The mobile thing terrifies me. You have to figure out how it cuts across social and other channels, not to mention known and unknown visitors. It adds more questions than it provides solutions,” says Liz Miller, SVP of marketing for The CMO Council. “So we’re automating, and we end up going from a pistol to an automatic weapon. Often, all we end up with is automated random acts of marketing.””

What comes across most clearly is what I would see as a two-fold challenge:

  1. A desire to create a single source of customer data (coupled with an uncertainty around how to do that in a crowded marketing tech marketplace)
  2. The need to think clearly about what the go-to-market strategy wants to achieve, and then find the tech to make it happen. Rather than doing things the other way around!

What’s interesting about this is the feeling that these two points are to some extent related. I’ve been directly involved in a number of B2C organizations and advised dozens more, and I’d suggest that too much focus on point 1 is sometimes a result of not fully coming to terms with point 2.

What do I mean by that? Well, in the spirit of the founding fathers let’s work outward from a few truths that are self-evident. Firstly, it’s never possible to have a single customer view that encompasses everything we could ever know about an individual. Any single customer view is in fact a compromise. On that basis, chasing a ‘perfect’ single customer view is, in fact, a classic example of an organization that has allowed technology to become more important than what actually counts: building relationships.

It’s far more effective – and far less scary – to ask yourself what conversations you want to have with your customers, and then ask what information you need to hand to make them happen in a way that is as personal, relevant and timely as possible. Start from what you want to achieve, and put the tech in place to make it happen. At Swrve we work with leading mobile organizations, and we’re right on the front-line when it comes to delivering those campaigns. In our approach, we see the challenge as creating a single customer view in the moment. Data from multiple sources and multiple channels, available in real-time and coming together in that moment to deliver the perfect mobile touch.

So a single customer view in one sense – but not a huge, unwieldy multi-year project to create a ‘unified marketing ecosystem’, but rather an agile, dynamic and responsive environment that puts the right data in the right hands at the right time in direct support of what the go-to-market strategy needs to achieve. We expect to see that function move away from monolithic solutions and towards our approach. In fact that process is already very much underway!