December 08, 2022
Identity busting, deep customer conversations, experimentation, marketing simulation, and team engagement. These strategic themes shaped discussions at the recent CMOs Leading Innovation Conference (CLIC 22) in Charleston, South Carolina.
The sixth annual conference this year helped marketing leader attendees discover fresh ideas from peers in other industries, reinvigorate their careers, and accelerate their organization’s growth agenda in an intimate setting.
Unlike prior years, the group expressed an unprecedented desire to build meaningful and trusting connections, both internally and externally. Also, nearly every participant owned a piece of the revenue equation. This was in stark contrast to 2018 and 2019.
CLIC ’22 welcomed leaders from cybersecurity, commercial real estate, hospitality, software, manufacturing, CPG, and nonprofit sectors. Here’s what we learned:
1. Questioning your identity creates breakthroughs.
During our fireside chat with Sandboxx CMO Shane McCarthy, we explored how customers and COVID have triggered existential conversations. Sandboxx offers a platform that helps service members and their supporters throughout their military journey via content and products.
In 2021, McCarthy and his team noticed the primary Letters product was reaching maturity. The Sandboxx team began experimenting with a blog, then a video series containing paid ads from the military ecosystem. The video series offers a unique channel where brands can tell their honest, high-impact stories to service members. Before long, Sandboxx attracted Fortune 100 advertisers, 150,000 YouTube subscribers and 5 million monthly impressions.
According to McCarthy, “Our conscious shift from a one-product Sandboxx Letters company to a media platform was instrumental in Sandboxx’s 500% growth in valuation over the past four years. It is also fueling several new product ideas.”
2. Budget obsession undermines growth.
During these precarious times, it’s tempting to obsess over boosting the balance sheet. In fact, many of marketers say they are following Google’s ambition to become 20% more efficient. The Wall Street Journal broke this story in September.
Here’s the downside: an obsession with efficiency leaves companies vulnerable to competitors who are laser-focused on customer and brand boosting. CMOs may be losing budget to analyze new customer segments, launch powerful competitive strategies, and fortify customer retention strategies.
Our cohort agreed. One CMO shared how the CFO of his company asked every executive leader to cut at least $1M in expenses. Here’s the challenge: the company’s market cap is one-tenth of their nearest competitors. And the company sometimes struggles to differentiate itself in a crowded marketplace. Cutting their way to growth to satisfy investors is a flawed option.
Over the ensuing weeks, the CMO convinced the CFO to increase the marketing budget. Funds were used to dramatically improve the company’s ecommerce platform, sales operations, and account-based marketing programs—with a goal to contribute at least 25% of company revenues in 2023.
3. Traditional segmentation strategies are obsolete.
For many years, creating sophisticated customer journey maps and customer experience (CX) teams were treated as segmentation table stakes. Things are different now. Customers often prefer making buying decisions with minimal help from salespeople or business developers (aka SDRs, BDRs, etc.). They can change brand loyalty on a dime, and they expect value and speed at most touch points.
Customer journey maps and traditional marketing research struggle to keep up with these changes. Well-polished customer journey maps and multi-year CX plans become obsolete within a flash.
At CLIC ’22, the Chief Digital Officer (CDO) of a large nonprofit shared how her organization is adapting to these new customer and membership realities. For example, the number of daily active unique consumers jumped from 120,000 to 800,000 between 2020 and 2022. The percentage of ecommerce users more than doubled. In response to changing customer needs, the CDO’s team learned how to conduct 800 concurrent low-cost email experiments. The team used these experiments to test campaign engagement and ROI.
The CDO shared: “Why wait 12-18 months for the member to renew? Rapid experiments and simulations with actual customer data can help us decisively predict the value our consumers want to receive, their preferred channels, and how quickly they want value delivered.”
4. CX without EX delivers much lower ROI.
In private breakouts, we heard conversations around the costly attrition of top people, priority overload, and team burnout reaching all-time highs. Today, top brands are leaning on CMOs to restore cultures to health using their strong communications and change leadership toolkit. And the numbers are beginning to show that CX, marketing, and Employee Experience can form an unstoppable brand.
Salesforce recently teamed with Stanford and Columbia Universities to publish The Experience Equation study, where they explored this dynamic in greater detail. They surveyed over 4,000 executives to explore possible connections between higher employee experience and engagement, customer experience, and revenue growth.
The study found that only one in three companies have designed a seamless integration between their CX and EX initiatives. When they’re aligned, the research team suggests that companies may be missing out on as much as a 50% revenue bump. Yet, here’s the disconnect revealed in The Experience Equation study: nearly 9 out of 10 C-level executives say that employees are encouraged to focus on the customer’s needs above “all else.”
Catherine LaCour, CMO of Blackbaud, treats team engagement as one of her top four growth levers. She played a key role in Blackbaud’s shift to an innovative “remote first” business model in response to the pandemic.
A first step involved launching new operating norms. The leadership team announced a series of gatherings, including monthly executive leadership “Connect and Engage” virtual Q&A sessions, and weekly Monday huddles with Blackbaud’s top 150 leaders.
During team and individual review sessions, LaCour requests reporting across three areas – Progress (against metrics), Purpose (where someone positively impacted stakeholders), and Potential (recommendations to delight customers in the future). These approaches have created stronger commitment and engagement scores, and fuel Blackbaud’s social mission.
We define innovation as applying creativity to significantly improve or transform the stakeholder condition. As our CLIC ’22 cohort has proven, 2023 presents an opportunity to transform much more than the bottom line.
Lisa Nirell helps mindful marketing leaders and CEOs cultivate healthy companies. Her clients typically experience double-digit revenue growth and higher team engagement scores after working with her. Clients include AARP, Clutch.co, Hilton, and Qualcomm. A seasoned author and adviser, Lisa recently celebrated five years as an e-learning instructor with Skillsoft, LinkedIn Learning, and EBSCO. Lisa’s acclaimed books include The Mindful Marketer and EnergizeGrowth NOW. You can also listen to The Mindful Marketer wherever you get your podcasts (voted “Top 10 Podcasts for CMOs”). Download her insights at www.themindfulmarketer.com
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