There's a new growth imperative shaping the future of marketing: but has anything really changed?

A huge amount has been written about the changing business landscape, how as customers and consumers we are living in a new normal. A time in which our relationship with organisations and brands has evolved and the balance of influence has shifted. A time of constant flux, driven by a proliferation of channels and audiences, growing customer expectations and scientific and technological breakthroughs transforming the way we live, learn, communicate and collaborate. It is a time in which we are increasingly demanding of who and what we choose to engage with, and only build lasting relationships with those companies and brands that bring motivating experience and genuine value to our lives.

The transformation from an analogue to a digital world has proved a core catalyst for much of this change but it is now time for us to look beyond digital. That is simply the water we swim in. At Brand Learning we believe the winning organisations will be the ones that embrace change, thrive on the opportunities it brings and centre their organisation and activity around delivery of inspiring customer experience…that's what people expect, what builds relationships and ultimately drives growth.

How marketing needs to reinvent itself in the drive for growth

Typically, as the traditional owners of the customer relationship, marketing is best placed to act as the agents of change. Marketing must now grab hold of the reins, guide the business agenda and mobilise the organisation behind a shared purpose of creating motivating customer experience.

We believe the fundamentals of marketing remain unchanged. Curiosity, brand building, creativity and strategic planning are still critical in delivering great customer experience. What has changed is how marketing go about this, how marketers strategically drive the customer experience across the organisation. To do this requires a mind-shift in marketing practice and a change in capabilities.

Customer experience as an organisation wide responsibility driven by Marketing

The days of the siloed Marketing Department are numbered. Instead the opportunity is for Marketing to establish more fluid ways of working with cross-functional partners across the organisation to create customer experience that delivers growth. In practice this means leading the customer agenda within the business, having deep customer insight and drawing on expertise of other functions and external partners to manage discrete aspects of the customer experience for which they are best equipped. Brian Solis, Principal of the Altimeter Group, sums this up well, "The future of engagement lies in the connection of every customer-facing department. Collectively you are responsible for the experience. This isn't in your job description but it is your destiny".

Obsessive about insight into the entire customer journey

In a time when we are blessed with the ability to capture an endless stream of data about our customers interactions with our brands, our focus must remain clearly on how we turn this into actionable insight. The ability to connect information and create meaningful patterns and stories must continue to evolve as a key part of our armoury. This sentiment was captured brilliantly in a recent blog by author Seth Godin. He wrote "without a doubt, the ability to connect the dots is rare, prized and valuable. Connecting dots, solving the problem that hasn't been solved before, seeing the pattern before it is made obvious is more essential than ever before. Why then do we spend so much time collecting dots instead? A big bag of dots isn't worth nearly as much as your handful of insight, is it?"

Consider the customer experience as a strategic imperative not an activity plan

Having established that building meaningful relationships with customers requires us to re-invent the customer experience, the question becomes how do we go about that? Typically, in the past, we would have considered the interactions between the brand and the customer as an integrated communications task, part of the annual plan. Being truly customer-centred requires us to elevate the customer experience to a central part of our strategic thinking. Metro Bank, the first new UK bank to be authorised for over 150 years, is a great example of an organisation that is embracing this philosophy. They capture this clearly in their customer-centred vision.

"Amazing the customer means providing unparalleled customer service, making sure every transaction goes quickly and smoothly. It means fulfilling customer needs, even anticipating them. More than that, it means turning customers into fans. We want them to tell their family members, friends and business associates about the products and superior services we provide." Vernon W. Hill, II.

And of course, success must be firmly rooted in strong customer-centred leadership.

Marketers are the agents of change but they can't do this alone. They need to orchestrate partners both inside and outside their organisation in order to create integrated customer experiences that deliver value. This requires marketers to be strong leaders. For more on our perspective on customer-centred leadership, take a look at our latest set of blogs, films and tips.

We'd love to hear your views on how organisations now need to set about achieving customer-centred growth – and we'll be continuing the conversation in our blogs, @brandlearning and on LinkedIn. Sign up to hear the latest, and please do join in.

This post is by Mark Bullock, Marketing Edge Associate Director at Brand Learning