2016 Planning for CMOs

It’s that time of year again—time to reflect on what worked this past year, what didn’t, and how to prepare for challenges ahead. 2016 is here, and with it comes a much different reality for digital marketers.

What will change in 2016, and how can you be ready? It all comes down to a shift in perspective: becoming customer-centric at all costs.

The Age of the Customer

Forrester Research’s annual market report predicts 2016 will usher in “The Age of the Customer.” What will that look like, exactly? In “2016: CIOs And CMOs Must Rally To Lead Customer-Obsessed Change Now,” Forrester’s Cliff Condon characterizes it as “a 20-year business cycle in which the most successful enterprises will reinvent themselves to systematically understand and serve increasingly powerful customers.” Condon provides 10 critical factors businesses will need to meet to thrive in this new era:

1. Disrupt leadership
2. Institute a customer-obsessed operating model
3. Connect culture to business success
4. Personalize the customer experience
5. Implement multidiscipline CX strategies
6. Operate at the speed of disruptors
7. Evolve loyalty programs
8. Convert analytics to customer value
9. Master digital
10. Elevate privacy as a differentiator

It won’t be easy, Condon says: “Years of uncoordinated technology adoption across call centers, marketing teams, and product lines make a single view of the customer an expensive and near-impossible endeavor. As a result, in 2016 companies will be limited to fixing their customer journeys.” Customers’ klout is growing and growing. Businesses’ understanding of and relationships with customers will need a major overhaul to win over and retain these power-consumers.

Moving to a Customer-Centric (Even Customer-Obsessed) Model

What will the coming Age of the Customer mean for CMOs in 2016?

Challenges and goals of digital marketing change rapidly. It used to be that web design and functionality was hindered by coding limitations, but today developers can build just about anything. There’s no question of what we can or can’t do anymore. Another, more recent hurdle for marketers was the rise of mobile; now customers and corporations alike have adapted and are beginning to truly thrive in the mobile marketplace. But that means new challenges are on the horizon for marketers and their CMOs in 2016.

Given the looming Age of the Customer, these challenges will include, first, offering customers the best digital experience possible; and, secondly, effectively tracking customer behaviors in order to guide those behaviors in a positive direction.

Quality Over Quantity

Ghostery CEO Scott Meyer predicts another (but related) 2016 trend in “2016: A Lean and Mean Year for Digital Marketing.” “The real people who buy real stuff drive the digital businesses. They are frustrated with the user experience, especially on mobile,” Meyer writes. “Consumers will become even more frustrated with web page bloat and the slow, battery-draining and data plan-eating mobile experience.” Accordingly, companies will pull back on ads that involve this kind of site-bloating tech in favor of streamlined ads (and fewer of them).

That means digital marketers will need to slim down and shape up their tech to improve the all-important customer experience. The principle of LEAN (Light, Encrypted, Ad Choice supported, Non-invasive) advertising was introduced by the IAB at its global summit just a few months ago, but will definitely come to the forefront in 2016.

As mobile continues to grow in prominence, creating LEAN, mobile-optimized sites and advertising must be a priority. “With mobile-dependent Millennials and younger generations the fastest-growing consumer segment, brands can no longer tack on mobile strategy secondarily. More than ever, brand engagement must start, not end, with the mobile platform,” writes Jennifer Rooney in “The Five Marketing Trends CMOs Can No Longer Ignore In 2016.”

Ads need to be smarter, more elegant—not flashier or more complicated. Put the customer experience ahead of bells and whistles and super-cool code, or risk losing them.

Tracking Outcomes, Not Impressions

As Duane Forrester pointed out at last week’s 2015 State of Search conference, impressions and views mean very little to your bottom line. It’s not enough to get eyeballs on your content; you need to guide customers towards positive outcomes.

And to do that, you need to be tracking the metrics that really matter: how customers are behaving on your site, how they’re moving through your sale funnel, exactly where the conversion path is breaking down. This will mean going beyond those vanity metrics of views and impressions, and it may not be pretty at first. But it’s worth it: armed with this information, you’ll be able to fix what’s not working in your sales funnel to increase your conversion rate—and your profits. You’ll also be able to connect with individual customers who haven’t completed a particular task and encourage them to follow through.

As the digitization of, well, just about everything continues, marketers will have more information than ever about how customers behave and what they expect, says Rooney. “Connectivity will become the new currency for competitiveness. Smart homes, smart cars, smart lightbulbs—they all present unprecedented brand-engagement opportunities from many angles. That means a whole new data deluge for marketers.“

CMOs who are willing to take a hard, close look at customer behaviors across many different platforms will be able to direct those behaviors in beneficial ways. This also means rethinking leads: breaking out leads by quality segments, then strategizing and prioritizing accordingly.

2016 represents, in many ways, a new marketing frontier, requiring new ways of thinking. The Age of the Customer will mean realigning philosophies about customers and relationships with them, redefining marketing goals, and restrategizing for this new reality.

Begin shifting your perspective now, as you plan your 2016 strategy, and set yourself up for a successful new year.