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True CXM – Bigfoot, Unicorn, or Aliens?


Have you seen true digital CXM in the wild? And what I mean by that is – have you personally witnessed an organization deliver truly contextually relevant, customer-centric content across multiple digital channels, using both implicit and explicit attributes to target and deliver that content?

I suspect you haven’t.

I haven’t – and I cover this space relatively thoroughly. Sure there are glimpses of it. And maybe Amazon is close. But ask any marketing technology solution provider for the actual CXM case studies – and they’re just not there. Yet.

And – it’s not their fault.

Business Technology Doesn’t Pull Customers Forward

Here’s the thing. One of the true blessings of working with my colleagues at DCG is that I get to work with disruptive start-ups, mid-sized companies, and global organizations. And, guess what? Right now, CXM is the sexiest thing that everyone is demoing and no one is actually doing.

Now that doesn’t mean the technology doesn’t work. No, in fact many of the software companies have truly amazing capabilities to drive contextualized digital content experiences across channels. It just means that marketers aren’t ready for it yet.

In fact, a study of marketers by Aquent and the American Marketing Association backs this up. In their very recent 2013 Marketing Salary Survey, more than 50% said that they were not at all equipped to handle new trends in technology.

Interestingly, that same study found that a similar number (53%) don’t feel like they have the right people on board to deliver results. But then (my favorite), almost 70% said that marketing would “positively impact the organization.”

Um yeah, we’re all sure marketing is a good idea — we just have no idea how we’re going to do it.

See, in almost every case, the marketers at the companies we’re talk to daily are simply navigating this tsunami as best they can. They’re working fast and furious at managing change, internally and externally, for their company.  And they are, quite literally, throwing technology at the challenge. Today’s global 5000 company uses parts of Google Analytics with their Omniture implementation, and runs Hootsuite next to WordPress and Drupal, except for landing pages which are managed in Marketo. Then, the brochure sites are managed in their enterprise WCMS systems. Is it any wonder that Gartner says the CMO is the new CIO? Marketers are up to their eyeballs in technology that means nothing to them.

But as I said in June of last year – we all know marketing is fundamentally changing. But the difference now is that it’s just unclear what it’s changing into exactly.  As my colleague Tim Walters says, in today’s world,  “The More Things Change, The More Change Changes.”

And herein lies the challenge.  Digital marketing software companies (WCM, Marketing Automation, Email, et al.)  are all eyeing each other warily and trying to out “more” each other. Read the marketing materials. It’s all about more engagement, more measurability, more flexibility, more scalability etc., etc. What it adds up to is more software and more complexity.

But again, today’s marketers can’t even handle the technology they have.

Back in November, Scott Liewehr and I presented our Systems Of Engagement workshop at the Gilbane conference. In that workshop, I presented this graph about how businesses are currently buying content/marketing software.


And this is the key. As marketers, we’re not ready for all the cool new stuff – because we haven’t even figured out how to effectively use all the cool old stuff. And then marketers feel really great when they deploy technology and the new launch consists of the very small subset of “stuff on our wish list” that “our current product doesn’t do.”

So How Do We Really Prepare For CXM

Does this mean that marketers should throw up their hands and ignore this CXM thing until the hype wears off? Absolutely not. It just means that for those that are feeling late to the party – you should know that you’re actually right on time.

But it’s time to ask what true CXM means for your organization.

  1. Is it like Bigfoot?  Is it this large scary monster that we’ve heard campfire stories about, and we’re not quite sure we want to be true because it might totally disrupt our business?
  2. Or – does our organization look at CXM like a unicorn – as some mythical, magical thing with flowers and rainbows flowing from its hooves. Do we view it as something that only lives in fantasy – and therefore can never really exist?
  3. Or – do we believe that true CXM are aliens. In our gut we know they’re out there – but either we know we’re not quite ready for first contact yet, or we figure when they’re ready they’ll visit us.

My own take: true CXM is an alien.  We’re probably not ready for it, but we should be preparing our organization for it.  And the key is organizing ourselves around the ability to change to meet this unknown when its time arrives. In other words, it’s time for us in marketing to take the responsibility to document and understand how we’ll deploy a customer-centric strategy – and only then think about the technology needed to facilitate it.  The more we focus on building customer-centric systems of engagement that help us facilitate change more quickly and more flexibly, the better off we’ll be. Even though we may not know what’s coming, we should be able to quickly adapt to it once it arrives.

Oh, and software providers? My advice is this (take it for what its worth): There is an (as yet) unexplored opportunity for a company to truly differentiate themselves by making it EASIER for clients to actually take advantage of true CXM to adapt and change more fluidly. The days of product “scale” being a differentiator are over. Change – and enabling the ability to change – is the new differentiator for marketing technology.

The “appification” of the marketing department is slowly making it easier for marketing departments to roll out small, easy to use (yet very niche) solutions for managing CXM than it is to re-implement big, unwieldy software.

To be clear, I do NOT mean this is the end of suites or “stack” solutions.  In fact in some cases, these “all-in-one” solutions do the “change” thing better than some of the point solutions on the market.

But for those that aren’t watching disruptive technologies emerging in the cracks of their industry, watch out, lest ye too be disintermediated (said in my best pirate voice).

As always – if we can be helpful in helping you navigate the disruption, let us know.  We’re always glad to help you prepare for the alien invasion.

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