In this post, for The Economist Group Lean Back blog, Rich Bryson argues that marketing departments need to organise themselves differently to deliver the customer experience. For his full perspective read our white paper.The customer experience engine: How to organize marketing for outstanding customer experience

In our rapidly changing world, it’s the customer experience that matters above all else. It’s what builds relationships and drives growth. This customer experience is enhanced or impaired through every interaction a customer has with an organization. As Simon Lowden, CMO for PepsiCo North America, has said: “in today’s world, partnering cross-functionally is everything.”

Continuing to organize marketing in outdated structures while calling to break down silos will no longer suffice. We need a new approach that focuses also on marketing working with other functions as a “Customer Experience Engine,” shaping outstanding customer experiences that drive business growth. There is no one-size-fits-all, but there are principles for success.

Define a shared brand purpose centred on customer needs: Functions have different agendas, so marketing leaders need to engage cross-functional leaders behind a shared purpose for customers. P&G is an organization in which multi-disciplinary teams are galvanised in this way behind inspiring brand purposes, such as Pampers’ “helping mothers care for their babies’ and toddlers’ healthy happy development.”

Establish marketing’s ways of working in a Customer Experience Engine:  Avoid the pitfall of jumping to design a marketing organogram before establishing principles for how marketing can work most effectively with insight, sales, operations and R&D to create outstanding customer experiences.  This means mapping all the processes and activities needed for this customer experience, and then together clarifying which groups will do what, how they will interact at key points, and how and when decisions will be made.

This is not about creating a cosy consensus where everyone agrees, rather recognising natural tensions and agreeing principles to harness these positively. For example, AstraZeneca Japan established a One Brand Team model which brought together cross-functional brand teams through joined-up business processes, led by brand leadership teams comprised of heads of marketing, medical, sales and R&D.

Organize marketing to shape a fluid approach to Innovation:  Within this Customer Experience Engine, marketing needs to be organised to drive innovation through an operating model that brings together internal (e.g. R&D) and external talent (e.g. customers) to share and co-create innovation focused on the customer experience.

These multi-disciplinary groups could be organized as SWAT teams to achieve incremental innovation goals rapidly. Jill McDonald, the CEO of McDonald’s UK, referred to “little hit squads focused on a particular opportunity you want to land quickly.”

Alternatively, more radical innovation may require a rethink of traditional models, such as Pernod Ricard’s Breakthrough Innovation group, a startup-style unit of 10 senior people outside the traditional organisation.

Marketing must drive in a spirit of partnership: To drive performance in practice, marketing needs to take the lead in building stronger relationships with its partners in the Customer Experience Engine. This means marketers being constantly curious about the needs of other functions, adopting a more commercial mindset and finding a common language. Sales teams aren’t interested in brand equity, but they may be, if you demonstrate how this equity has improved sales performance.

When human beings are uncertain, we retreat and want to protect our turf. If marketers want to drive outstanding customer experiences, they need to take the lead in finding the common ground.