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Customer centricity rules in B2B marketing

The modern B2B CMO must act as a tech integrator, customer oracle and cross-department orchestrator, says Kristin Gower of WPP’s EssenceMediacom

It’s all there in EssenceMediacom’s report: The CMO Coming of Age Story: How Digital Transformation Has Elevated Marketing to a C-suite Growth Driver. Today’s CMO – to succeed – must put the customer at the centre of everything they do, and they must take their organisations with them – without having the authority of the CEO. It’s a tough ask. But the CMO of yesterday – who delivered brand identity and lead generation – will no longer do.

And the customer has changed too. The B2B buyer is now much younger, digital-first and there is probably very little physical relationship between the CMO and the customer. The days of the golf course are over

Today, golf has been replaced by research, and transactions are now largely online. So, the CMO must understand the B2B buyer even before they become a buyer, and the experience must be a good one from the first touch point, through acquisition, and then beyond acquisition into retention and loyalty.

And it is even more complex than that. B2B buyers are not just individuals; B2B buying decisions are made by buyer groups, anywhere from 4 to 20 people. Then there is the very long decision-making window to navigate – anything from nine to 36 months – and the number of touch points for each person has risen from 17 to 27. The data generated from interacting with 20 people over 36 months across 27 touch points is both numerous and disparate.

Then all that prospect and external data must be synthesised with internal customer from CRM, customer service calls, and more. Orchestrating all this data – on which customer centricity and business growth depends – cannot be siloed to any one department. The CMO must be front and centre; after all, they are the voice of the customer.

Collaboration goes viral

Today, collaboration is about orchestrating every function in the organisation to get behind this idea of customer centricity. And CMOs must be at the centre of that collaboration – across data, technology, customer success, customer experience, customer acquisition to subscription management. The marketing job never stops.

But this is not how companies and other organisations are traditionally structured. As much as we say silos are bad, they are still a reality in most businesses because of hiring, budgeting and reporting processes. But if the CMO is to be responsible for top line growth, retention and profit, the CMO must be responsible for data and technology – and all the associated functions. This is what will give them the 360 ̊ view of the customer they need.

If CMOs are the growth engines of modern organisations, they must orchestrate an organisation’s functions behind this concept of customer centricity.

Impact on governance

Over a relatively short period we have seen the marketing leadership role evolve from ‘marketing director’ to CMOs, reflecting our research finding that 72% of the marketing leaders we interviewed believe other functions see marketing as important partners in driving growth. But a similar number of respondents said that the most challenging part of their job was collaborating with and orchestrating those other functions. We are now in an age when CMOs are being called on to comment on customer success programmes, people programmes and so on. This all adds complexity and pressure to the job

If CMOs are expected to drive growth and to prove the marketing-driven incrementality of every deal, that requires a business-wide alignment behind goals and unified data from across the organisation. The question is: are organisations ready for this?

The right technology to collect the right data from across an organisation is what is needed now, especially if client acquisition takes 36 months and the collection of data from across dozens of people. But processes must change too to make sure everyone's pulling in the same direction and reaching for the same goals.

Is customer centricity really new?

Today, customer centricity dictates how you should structure your organisation and go to market. This is a far cry from ideas about customer service of yesteryear. Today, it is not a question of customer service; it is about growth.

This makes knowing who the customer is and the needs they are seeking to address key. Organisations can no longer start with their need to sell their product or service; they must start with meeting their customers’ needs. That is an about face.

In the B2B world, with the one-to-one, in-person relationship on the wane, it is essential that B2B marketers deliver on the personalisation promise of customer-centricity. This means understanding the customer needs, but also having engaging content, driven by creativity, informed by behavioural science, with commitment to experimentation and testing – putting the client at the heart of everything.

Kristin Gower


published on

13 October 2023


Technology & innovation Communications

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