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Chief marketing officers (CMOs) already have a lot on their plate, and now it looks they can officially add creating a customer-centric culture to their job description.

The CMO Council and Deloitte recently released results of a study that found over the past 10 years, CMOs have asked to expand their responsibilities beyond brand and marketing plan management to being an “enterprise-wide revenue driver that taps into the hearts and minds of their customers.”

Driving customer-centric transformation is a strategic undertaking, but the report found tactical execution of building a brand still monopolizing the focus of many CMOs. Deloitte urges them to “relentlessly pursue customer expertise,” but it’s a big ask.

CMOs wanting to meet the challenge of becoming more customer centric must focus on three key things.

1. Demonstrate customer centricity in your decisions

A top-down mandate won’t help CMOs achieve the cultural change needed to be more customer-centric. Although a C-level exec can demand compliance, optimism, trust, conviction and creativity most be fostered, not dictated, write Bryan Walker and Sarah A. Soule the Harvard Business Review.

Simply declaring the cultural shifts CMOs hope to see won’t work. Instead, marketing leaders need to showcase examples of the actions they’d like to see within the company culture to make it more customer-centric.

Sometimes the examples are already there, but often they need to be created. To get employees on board with this transformational shift, Walker and Soule said leaders must make them feel a strong desire and responsibility to change by incorporating it into organization’s core purpose. This purpose should call for the pursuit of greatness in service of others, and ask employees to be driven by more than personal gain. 

2. Ask, don’t tell

Not surprisingly, becoming customer centric involves your customer. More to the point, it means doing more listening, according Vision Critical’s very own CMO, Tyler Douglas.

“Oftentimes, marketers only reach out to customers when they have news to share,” he wrote recently for the Salesforce Canada blog. “But when customers are continuously bombarded with self-serving messages that lack personalization, they eventually stop reading and often end up unsubscribing from them altogether.” In fact, Adobe found that 40% of consumers want to receive less promotional content and half want fewer emails.

"Reaching out and asking customers for their opinions makes them feel appreciated, valued, and special - three key qualities to nurturing any healthy relationship."

Douglas said brands must remember that “it takes two to tango.” Being customer centric recognizes that any relationship requires mutual, two-sided engagement. CMOs must create programs that are more than talking at customers about the latest promotions and spend more time asking customers what they think about the brand.

And it’s more than just asking customers what they think—customers want to see that their feedback is guiding how brands conduct themselves, whether its through the business decisions them make or tangible enhancements to the customer experience.

3. Prepare for a long-term transformation

Just like the crew of the starship Enterprise, CMOs who want to create a customer-centric organization need to be ready to embark on a five-year-mission.

Analysts at Forrester caution against thinking this cultural transformation can be done quickly . They advise leaders to set up clear expectations with their team. Everyone, especially executives, must understand that they’re in for the long haul.

Forrester analysts suggest creating a customized timeline to serve as a high-level roadmap that highlights major milestones of the transformation. Leaders must also be transparent about which metrics should be used to gauge the success of the change and what degree of improvement is expected from those metrics.

CMOs can help paint a picture for their team by citing other companies that have successfully transformed into a customer-centric organization. This helps employees feel that the goal is achievable.

Customer centricity is a journey, not a destination

Transforming into a customer-centric organization obviously requires more work than just following these three tips, but it provides CMOs with a good starting point to begin the journey. Creating a customer-centric culture means consistently building and maintaining valuable authentic relationships with customers, and always being willing to listen and adapt accordingly.

Forrester: A $1.2 trillion opportunity - The rise of insight driven businesses

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Kelvin Claveria

Kelvin Claveria was the former Content Marketing Manager and was responsible for Vision Critical's blog and social media marketing program. Before joining Vision Critical's global marketing team, Kelvin worked at Dunn PR, a Vancouver-based public relations firm. His experience includes working with lifestyle, real estate, and non-profit clients to develop social media marketing and PR strategies. Kelvin has a Bachelor of Business Administration from SFU's Beedie School of Business.
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