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5 Ways to Become a Marketing Torchbearer

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by: Ellen Valentine (@EllenValentine)
15 March 2016

Marketing TorchbearerAs a strategic marketing evangelist, I’m always looking for new ideas to help marketers further their personal growth and achieve their goals. So, it was with great interest that I read the results of IBM’s latest C-Suite CMO Study, “Redefining Markets.”

Like the predecessor C-Suite studies, this one has valuable insights that could be the springboard for some critical team meetings focused on go-to-market approaches, business strategy and digital marketing models. This study should also facilitate deep discussions about your company’s future, whatever your role in your marketing group.

During the last decade, and to an increasing extent lately, we’ve read about and experienced the impact that digital disruptors such as Amazon Prime, Uber and Zappos have had. To help marketers understand the attributes that these leaders share, IBM’s latest study identifies a small group of organizations that have both strong reputations as leading innovators and superb financial track records. These are called “Torchbearers.”

If you want to follow the lead of these innovators and drive improved performance, here are five tips for becoming a marketing torchbearer:

1) Look for new ways to create compelling customer experiences.

Take a random sampling of recent customer engagements, map out the exact customer journey for each customer and note all the channels used including mobile devices, tablets, desktop, phone and more.

At this point, take a clean-sheet approach to imagine how the journey could be simplified by automatically anticipating customer and prospect needs. How can you create a streamlined customer journey that delivers transparency, self-help and social integration?

2) Take steps to unite sales, marketing and customer service.

Nearly all the innovators have created highly transparent, mobile-centric ways of communicating. If I want to reorder something I bought last summer, I can do it with just a couple of button clicks. I don’t have to call anyone to look up my account history, I don’t have to wade through paper files, and I don’t have to dig through my email account to try to reconstruct the make/model/size of my last purchase.

So how are you making it easy for your customers to buy, repurchase and get questions answered? In Jay Baer’s new book, Hug Your Haters, he outlines how self-service is the optimal customer service. How are you making everything easy for customers to help themselves? 

If you’ve got too many questions coming in to your call center, then chances are you haven’t made things easy enough for your customers. If that’s the case, how can you change your website or enablement processes to eliminate questions before they even arise?

3) Take advantage of new technology capabilities.

Lately we’ve seen some exciting announcements about common everyday processes reimagined with new technology. Consider the examples of Medtronic, Softbank and Under Armour, which are leveraging cognitive technology.  And then there is Whirlpool, which is stepping up innovation with their Smart Kitchen Suite. How could your business be reimaged with cloud, real-time personalization or even newer technologies such as cognitive computing?  

4) Use data to make decisions.

The 2013 CMO study found that 88 percent of CMOs were unprepared for the data revolution. The 2016 study reports good progress, with 74 percent of Torchbearer CMOs more likely to feel prepared to deal with the data explosion.

Next time you find yourself making a decision based on instinct, look to the black-and-white facts of the data to guide your answer. You might be surprised at what the data suggests, but you’re likely to make better strategic decisions if data is factored into the equation.

5) Continue to learn.

For years I’ve been a strong advocate of stepping up the skills of the marketing team. Today, marketing is no longer a creative-first discipline. To drive success, you’ll need to understand databases, rule-based communication and advanced query logic to determine the who-what-when-why and how of reaching their customers and prospects.

This means marketing departments need team members with more technical skills like data analytics, mobile app development, and data integrations. Even if your organization has made the smart decision to add specialists in these areas, you’ll want to increase your understanding of these topics so you can orchestrate a more integrated marketing approach.

The Future

Hopefully you work in a company that actively explores new business models and ways to engineer improved customer experiences. If not, perhaps you can play a key role in bringing the leadership team together in order to kick-start these vital conversations.

IBM’s 2016 CMO study found that 67 percent of CMOs are assessing their strategic direction in light of technology disruption. Imagine the excitement of being part of a revolutionary new approach to delivering your company’s value and brand promise to your prospects, your customers and maybe even a whole new category of consumers.

Related Resources:

1) White Paper: “The New CMO Guide: A Handbook for Marketing Leaders

2) Blog: “6 Ways to Collect the Data You Need to Enhance Your Marketing

3) White Paper: “Customer Journey Maps and Buyer Personas: The Modern Toolkit for Marketers


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