Bringing the consumer to the top table: focus on your ‘market-a-bling’

Pip Stocks, founder of Brandhook, examines how marketers can bring the voice of the consumer to the top table.

 

A study by Accenture in 2013 called Understanding the Changing Consumer uncovered that CEOs have little understanding of customer behaviour. In fact, 74% of senior executives in 10 countries say that their understanding of consumers behaviour is incomplete.

Infamously, Jeff Bezos uses the empty chair in his board meetings at Amazon as way of reminding them all that the consumer really is the boss.

But really… the chair is empty? How can the board be informed by an empty chair?

His requirement that everyone in the business must work in the call centre at least gives the consumer a real chance of being heard.

So in lieu of the empty chair, whose job is it in the organisation to bring the consumer voice to the top table?

Well clearly, it is the marketers – the people who know the consumer and talk to them regularly.

Unfortunately many marketing departments are still viewed as little more than cost centres by the accountants and financiers who run most businesses and until marketers can prove their ROI, the top table will remain elusive.

We recommend doing these two things:

  1. Starting with mapping the customer experience or as we call it ‘plotting the customer’s wanderings’. My experience of running the Virgin Energy Marketing Department in the UK was after we were clear about what our brand story was we then went on to map the customer’s journey to us. The path to purchase was simpler then and there was a more obvious route to your brand. Now there are a variety of ways that the consumer can hunt you down or you can find them. Because of that it is even more vital to understand how they make their journey to you.
  2. The next thing CMOs must do is look for ways to prove that the marketing activity they are investing in is directly affecting sales – find their ‘market-a-bling’. It is still too hard today to quantify the whole customer experience as in reality we cannot track our consumer through the myriad of channels. But there are discrete pieces that we can measure and through trial and error we can build up systems to prove that marketing is driving brand growth.

Linked to creating big data, the Walt Disney World ‘MagicBand’ bracelet launched in 2014 provides the customer with the ease of navigating the park as well as pre-planning – a great addition to their customer experience.

But more importantly it gives Walt Disney World a view of how consumers are interacting with the park – what people are using, how and when. They can then go onto measure the effectiveness of certain ‘in park activities’ to see which things are influencing behaviour and sales.

Marketers are unfortunately feeling the heat when it comes to proof setting their activities and many are not feeling confident that they have the skills to drive transformational change. Nor are their bosses.

The Fournaise Group in the UK conducted a study in 2012 which found that 80% of CEOs admit that they do not really trust and are not that impressed with the work of marketers yet in comparison they found that 90% of the same CEOs trust and value the opinion of CFOs and CIOs.

The power is shifting to the CIO or the head of innovation, and CMOs need to fight a bit harder to keep ownership of the customer. Plotting the customer’s wanderings and then monetising a proportion to find the ‘market-a-bling’ will go on to convince the CEO and the board that the marketing team is in touch with the financial realities of the business.