In today’s technology-infused world where customers are firmly in control, this is especially important for the CMO, who is charged with leading the pivot away from a product-centric to a customer-centric strategy. But many struggle to operationalize a customer-centric strategy because they are working with the wrong organizational structure.
Adopt a Customer-Focused Strategy First
CRM has been around since the 1980s. Adopting a customer focused strategy to create competitive advantage is nothing new. Reams of research from professional and academic studies prove a company with a well-executed customer-based strategy outperforms the competition and gains competitive advantage. What is different about the resurgence of a customer-focused strategy is that it is now being forced on companies. You simply cannot compete without one.
Any information about your company, your product or your customers is available in a few clicks. Today’s B2B buyers expect a personalized experience and if they don’t get it from you, they’ll get it from your competitor. The good news is we have all the necessary technology to achieve customer-centricity. What’s lacking however is the sales and marketing structure to support this strategic pivot.
Structure Follows Strategy
Historian and author Alfred Chandler wrote The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business in 1977 and created the infamous maxim “structure follows strategy.” Even in the ‘70s before the current technology revolution, Chandler touted the need to restructure as key strategies shift in response to new technologies or market changes. Sound familiar? This is a perfect description of the world in which we live. Still, many organizations are hampered by legacy siloes and structures.
Is it Time to Build a SMOPS Organization?
One organizational structure making a big impact on how today’s CMO performs against their new scorecard is the rise of SMOPS – a combined sales operations and marketing operations function. The emergence of the SMOPS expands beyond building a center of excellence and sales and marketing operations team. The charter of a SMOPS organization includes taking a holistic approach to optimize technology, process and data across the entire customer life cycle. This responsibility and approach is a game changer for any organization. Benefits include:
- Establishing ONE clear line of sight across the entire customer life cycle
- Sharing customer insights for real-time decision making across the organization
- Aligning sales and marketing into a revenue team
- Improving the customer experience
- Gaining competitive advantage
The Big Change in Operations
Marketers love buzzwords. As smart CMOs figure out they need a new way to organize, some new terms that describe new organizational structures have been born. Consider these:
- Smarketing and SMOPS – This evolutionary function combines sales ops and marketing ops, thereby creating a true line of sight to the entire customer journey that enables almost real-time response and shared insights.
- Revenue Operations or Rev Ops – Another transformational role, this function looks at all revenue points and sets up the operations to support revenue attainment across the entire customer life cycle. Rev Ops tends to include every part of the company that touches the customer from customer service to sales to marketing – any touchpoint that can help create revenue.
- Customer Ops – This is an expanded view of the more traditional customer operations job that provides a holistic and connected view of the entire customer life cycle.
To operationalize a customer-centric strategy, companies need to break down silos and reorganize around the customer journey. Think organizing horizontally vs vertically. Even the organizations that work extremely well across silos (verticals) will not be able to compete with the agility of these horizontal structures.
Five Steps to Customer Centricity
If want position your organization to compete in today’s customer-driven world, follow these five steps:
- Make sure the customer-centric strategy is really important to your company by asking “Where is the evidence?” Too many companies talk about being customer centric, but it’s all talk. You do not want to start this kind of re-org without a genuine passion for customer focus from all parts of the organization.
- Advocate for organizational change while times are good. While many org changes do occur as a response to poor business conditions or results, this kind of change works best when things are working well and when you can challenge the organization to go to the next level.
- Select a strong leader to run the combined function. This person must have credibility with both sales and marketing and must have great communication and collaboration skills.
- Align your technology stack around the customer journey. Be intentional. Describe every stage of the customer journey around the key milestones. Assign roles, responsibilities, outcomes and the associated technology to support every desired outcome.
- Share key data and customer insights with all parts of the organization so everyone can do their job better and improve alignment and responsiveness to