You have no doubt heard many times already that your role as a marketer needs to change. In fact, your role as a marketer has always been about change, so this is nothing new really. What you cannot ignore is that the customer world has changed dramatically in the last five years, and the pace of change is accelerating.

As up-and-coming marketers we were taught all about the 4 Ps – Product, Price, Place and Promotion – and in some industry sectors these still hold true as the foundation elements of a marketing strategy. However, the biggest shift away from this has been the customer especially when it comes to the way that they engage with companies and what they want from you. Now, 96% of us research online before any major purchase and 70% of consumers prefer getting to know a company through articles as opposed to through ads.

We saw this shift start to happen in the 1990s as CRM systems started to become prevalent. These implementations focused on processes and a “single customer view” and not actually the customer and their journey. As marketers though, we saw the benefits of the CRM systems allowing us to manage direct campaigns and have “closed-loops” on our campaigns so we could see who responded. We also developed segmentation strategies to varying levels of success. These segments allowed us to gather some “insights” on how groups of customers would behave.

There are famous examples where this helped with product development such as the detailed study by Howard Moskowitz of the types of spaghetti sauce and horizontal segmentation. By providing a large number of options for consumers, Moskowitz pioneered the idea of intermarket variability as applied to the food industry.

But the way people behave and buy has changed so fundamentally within the last five years due to digital enablement that it requires a complete rethink of our approach to customers and to how we achieve our commercial goals. Coupled with that are the possibilities of what we can do with technology to manage our marketing strategy and align it to the customer behaviour change.

The key changes are these:

  1. 96% of us research online before making any major (and sometimes minor) purchase. (Econsultancy research)
  2. It is possible to track an individual’s content consumption and generate a wealth of insight data from this.
  3. It is possible to track a whole audience and map this to your sales funnel.
  4. It is possible to create content that takes the audience purposefully towards a commercial goal.

What this means to your organisation as whole is that you need to make the following changes:

Break your communication silos. Marketing, Sales and Customer Service must be integrated in the communications that customers receive. This means that the Audience Engagement Strategy must span all these areas and not just marketing. Your audience only see you as one organisation, but if you do not join up your communications that is not what they will experience. Bad experiences with communications will lose you customers.

Integrate your new insight across sales and customer service through a central data source for your customer data.For those of you who already have one, expand your single customer view. You will need a close working relationship with Sales, Customer Service and IT to achieve this. As well as your communication silos you will have insight silos. By making sure everyone has the same insight you can create a seamless experience for your customers.

Rethink your segmentation strategies with new insights and use this to build new audience engagement maps. To be continually learning and improving is usually a goal in many organisations, but segmentation strategies have not caught up with this. The reason is that segmentation exercises can be expensive and organisations want to maximise the value out of this work. But this does not have to be an expensive exercise, it can be a continual process that then feeds and improves your engagement maps and creates loyal customers.

Reorganise – Create organisation structures and processes for the ongoing management of your Audience Engagement Strategy. To achieve all of the above you have to move away from product silos and communications silos. Inevitably this means your organisation structure has to change to match that.

The opportunity you have as a marketer is to “own” the audience journeys – own the customer. The benefits to you as a marketer are many, but the top one will be that you will get to deliver a marketing strategy that has significant return and you will be able to prove it. With the wealth of data and insight that you will have, your role becomes much more powerful. Look at your colleagues in Finance. They have had good (we hope), management information for years and this has meant that Finance has a significant position of power on the board. But if you have the data that proceeds the final numbers and the ability to improve and change those numbers then this makes your role more important and more significant to your organisation. For now though, you need to be a visionary and change manager to help your organisation through this period of immense change.