Technology is disrupting our world at an alarming rate. The conveniences we enjoy today weren’t even fathomable years ago. Technology tells us when to wake up, where to go, what to do, who to meet, even when to eat. Our society is entirely dependent upon technology and is arguably lost without it. This isn’t going to change; in fact, it’s only going to build momentum. Marketers understand technology is our generation’s revolution and that it’s bringing about massive change amongst every single industry.
Marketers used to create broad campaigns and then “spray and pray” their efforts lead customers through the sales funnel. This linear approach was founded upon the belief that all customers are similar and have the same needs. Businesses marketed at you rather than to you. Vanilla marketing is bland and has minimal impact upon the customer experience. Technology has dramatically changed this, however. The customer buying process is now much more complex and consists of many erratic micro-moments. Marketers have shifted from pushing content to customers pulling content. Mobile allows information to be delivered into the palm of our hands instantly. Customers are now social searching and sharing before-during-after the sales process. Everything is public.
Doing business as usual simply will not hack it in today’s consumer-driven market. Just because something worked yesterday doesn’t guarantee it will work today. Marketers must fundamentally shift their approach if they want to be successful. One of the best ways to ensure success is collaboration.
Old-school business practices taught us to create individual departments that support specific functions and then build out processes and best practices to meet those needs. Under this structure, each department operates independently and often has little regard for its impact upon the customer experience or other departments within the company. Cowboys operate much like this- they work well on their own. This may have worked in the past; however, with the rate at which technology is changing, operating in silos is no longer a wise business decision.
Don’t get me wrong- individual departments are important components of any operation. IT, accounting, sales, customer service, etc. are all necessary. Each department plays a critical role in the enterprise’s success. Yet, the customer experience is impacted by EVERY. SINGLE. DEPARTMENT. If the left hand has no idea what the right hand is doing, there is little chance for continuity, momentum, and long-lasting growth. When departments make changes, big or small, it has a ripple effect throughout the entire organization.
I can’t stress this enough— collaboration is crucial to any organization’s success and longevity. It also saves money and creates efficiencies. Marketers must have visibility and impact across all departments in order to ensure customers have the best experience with a brand. Creating a collaborative culture takes time and doesn’t happen unintentionally. Leadership must be strategic about breaking down silos. Creating cross-functional teams within the organization allow more skill sets to be utilized. Products and services will go to market quicker because cross-functional teams are more agile.
Marketing is at the heart of every business operation. It directly impacts the success of business because it’s responsible for creating noteworthy experiences that drive customer acquisition and retention. This responsibility shouldn’t be taken lightly. Marketing is in charge of architecting the customer experience. To do this, marketers must form strong relationships with key leaders across the organization, especially IT, sales, and customer service. The more memorable and seamless the experience is, the more likely a customer will return with friends. It doesn’t matter if you have a phenomenal product or a brilliant advertisement- if the experience you provide sucks, your customers will simply go somewhere else. It’s not rocket science.
Bristlecone models this well. Although we have departments with designated responsibilities, we have many cross-functional teams that exist to serve very specific goals. Some employees are on a single team while other employees serve on multiple teams. Working horizontally allows us to move quickly and make well thought out decisions because multiple thought leaders are included. We will end 2016 with many notable successes, including launching brands in new vertical markets, incorporating new tech features in our existing products, and strengthening our customer base through tailored experiences. None of this would have been possible if we operated in silos.
As a Customer Experience Manager, I work closely with our marketing, sales and IT teams. I absolutely cannot do my job without them. I rely on their expertise and insights any time I want to enhance our customer service efforts. And vice versa they come to me before rolling out new campaigns or feature updates. Even small changes can impact the customer experience.
Collaboration does not come without its challenges, however. Having a clear understanding of company and department goals is important for your employees. Without vision and a sense of direction, success is challenging to achieve. Firefighters are great examples of this. In the book, Boom! 7 Choices for Blowing the Doors Off Business-As-Usual, authors Kevin and Jackie Freiberg explain how firefighters have no goal ambiguity when responding to a crisis. They all know their roles and everyone rises to the occasion at hand. Communication crushes goal ambiguity. Make sure your team knows what your organization is working toward.
Just as mapping out your customer experience journey is important, so is understanding what every department does and how each fits into the organization. Set aside time for your leadership team to map this out. Allow department heads to explain what they do, what projects they are working on, and areas they need help from other departments. Creating space for your team to understand what others do also encourages collaboration.
Thankfully, businesses are catching onto this fundamental shift and are making organizational changes to accommodate new market demands. Collaboration, with the help of IT, sales, and customer service, is giving marketers a clearer understanding of consumer habits and trends, which ultimately helps brands offer memorable experiences and stay ahead of the competition.
If you’re looking for a great read and interested in learning more about designing a marketing organization for the digital age, here is a fantastic read by the Harvard Business Review.
What do you think about this approach? Fan or critic? Leave me a comment below or send me a tweet!