CMO Exchange

When I was CMO at Dell, one question was always on my mind: how do I make us more customer-centric? CMOs constantly feel the pressure to bring their businesses closer to customers. For me, social data offered a way to do exactly that. Rather than guessing at what customers wanted, I realized that they were already telling us. Social media was a 24/7 focus group, allowing us to determine precisely what we needed to do to understand our customer and align our business for growth.

Making Dell more customer-centric, then, meant gathering as much information and feedback from customers as possible, distilling it into actionable insights, and distributing these insights to teams who could act on them.

I realized that in a perfectly customer-centric business, the team that best understands and distributes customer insights across the enterprise will soon find itself at its center. As the center of the marketing organization, the CMO then becomes a “steward of the customer,” the lynchpin that ensures the entire business is focused on satisfying customer needs.

CEOs already expect this customer stewardship from CMOs, expecting them to be “customer whisperers” who know what customers want – ideally, before customers even know they want it. But are we as CMOs meeting this expectation?

This question was on my mind when Bazaarvoice and the CMO Exchange launched a survey of marketing executives across Europe, to find out how European companies view social today. Forty marketing executives, most of them VP- or CMO-level, weighed in. Here are a few of the takeaways:

  • European CMOs are enthusiastic about the future of social data. 90% of respondents think meaningful customer insights can be extracted from social data. The study shows that CMOs want to make social data more central to their organizations, and believe it will bring them closer to customers.
  • However, they’re playing it safe with their social strategies. Despite their enthusiasm, nearly one-third (30%) of CMOs do not feel confident in their understanding of social media. Because of this, many aren’t maximizing the value of the customer conversations they collect. 80% of CMOs use social data to improve marketing and PR, while less than half (45%) use these insights to make decisions about product improvements. Respondents also discussed internal barriers to moving more swiftly with social programs.
  • As a result, CMOs aren’t realizing the full value of social data. CMOs are measuring marketing and ecommerce metrics with regard to social, like number of fans/followers, and effects on site traffic. But they’re missing an opportunity to consider the downstream benefits of social data throughout the business – in customer service, product development, sales, and other areas.

CMOs are under more pressure than ever to demonstrate the return on investment for marketing initiatives, and the full value of social data is massive. I saw this first-hand at Dell: every time customer insights were shared with another team, we were able to multiply our return on investment. First, marketing improved. Then our product development teams, customer service teams, and customer insights teams found value in the data. Dell has always been a direct business, connected straight to customers.  As a result, they have always understood the “what”.  But social enabled Dell to understand the “why”, which unlocked a whole new level of impact.  As you can imagine, teams were incredibly hungry for the insights that could make them better. I see the same happen for our clients at Bazaarvoice as we help them build their own social data equity.

Social presents CMOs with a huge opportunity to become the lynchpins of their organizations, but we’re not all there yet. By becoming customer stewards, and by communicating their needs to the entire organization, savvy CMOs can place their teams – and themselves – at the center of their businesses.

CMO ExchangeDownload our latest report to learn more: Are European CMOs “Playing it Safe” with Social Media?

2 Responses to “CMOs: How to become the lynchpin of your entire organization”

  1. Hi Jmac! There were many areas. Product development was key. Dell utilizes standard BV reports and the engineers/ product mgrs dig into them every day to understand consumer feedback (many times things they could not surmise through web analytics, quant analytics, etc).  The product team established goals on feedback requirements and instituted amazing processes to analyze/ improve when something missed.  Remarkably, average rating went from 3.7 to 4.5 in a matter of months because of the focus.  Merchandising was another area. Feedback would often highlight product positioning/ copy that needed to be improved, then it could be addressed and we’d see lift in response rate/ conversion.  Segmentation was another. Dell is able to ID clusters of consumers based on feedback/ interaction/ engagement, match it w/ CRM insights and improve targeting, seeing lift in response rates. Customer service was able to reduce contact rates because they were able to identify issues that consumers were asking about and provide answers proactively and in scale on the web.  All in all, an incredible 5 years of impact, and still going.  Would be happy to chat with you about more specifics or put you in touch with the architects of the outcomes there.  Thanks for the question!

  2. Erin,

    I’d be interested in hearing more about how you took those social insights at Dell and identified some actionable goals that then impacted Dell’s core consumer business. Thanks,


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