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Insight/ Strategic Planning

What It Takes To Be A Customer-Centric CMO


by Blair Lyon
Vice President, Marketing

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Article Highlights:

  • New customer expectations require a new marketing mission and approach.
  • The solution to customer-centric marketing can be found in data.
  • Marketers should target segments by creating relevant experiences.

Now is the time for CMOs to shed the mass-marketing techniques they have relied on for decades. In this new age of the customer, previously successful practices are likely to generate negative results and alienate your customers.

Whether you want to call it personalization or customer-centric marketing, the message is clear: Customers now expect intelligent, personal interactions with your brand, across all touchpoints. If you don’t provide a relevant experience, then you risk going the way of the dinosaur. Conversely, those brands that are able to adapt to these consumer expectations will gain a competitive advantage and loyal customer base.

Need further convincing? Consider how consumers experience personalization in their digital lives every day. Smartphones, for example, intelligently react to us, automatically providing new service and information without ever being requested. For example, travelers who land in Phoenix from an East Coast flight find that their smartphones already have the local time and weather updated without having to do a thing. Consumers expect this level of intelligent engagement and reaction from every brand they interact with–every time.

These new expectations require a new mission and approach. In fact, according to Accenture, 75 percent of online shoppers prefer that marketers use personal information to improve the shopping experience. CMOs have to enact strategies and technologies that will allow their brands to react to customers in-the-moment, across all digital channels.  

Move Beyond Mass Emails And The Retargeting Chase
Despite the evolution of the consumer, many brands are still executing on the same tiresome marketing techniques across the digital landscape. In many cases, these tactics are not only inefficient and expensive, but they can be damaging to your brand.

One example is retargeted advertising. We’ve all experienced the persistent advertising for a product or service that we might have searched for once online, and then follows us around on every Web page regardless of whether we have any intent to make a purchase. The risk of retargeting is it attempts to capitalize on a glimmer of information, not the full customer profile. This approach can annoy the customer and make the brand look impersonal and mechanical–i.e., at the other end of the customer-centric spectrum.

Another example of worn-out tactics is the continuation of “shock and awe” email bombardment. Yes, email does still work–and I’m not suggesting that every email campaign be put out to pasture. But ever-declining response rates are a result of consumers being selective and responding only to email offers that are specific to them. Even worse is the response (or lack thereof) to the increasing size of an unsubscribe database that simply gets chalked up to the cost of doing business. Instead of getting smarter, marketers just pour additional effort into getting more email addresses using the same product-centric techniques. It’s a race to the bottom that abuses a core asset of customer addressability.

Moneyball For Marketers
The solution to customer-centric marketing can be found in data. The baseball season rekindles, for me, the oft-cited story of "Moneyball," in which Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane turned baseball team-building on its ear when he decided to dive deep into the data that had been collected for years on players and analyze it in different ways to construct a winning team. Online marketers can do the same, creating interactions that capitalize on what is known about a customer through data, target those segments with content, and learn from wins and losses. The result is a more engaged customer with stronger loyalty to your brand.                                                                                                                       

Clothing retailer (and Monetate client) Destination XL, for example, relies on weather targeting to make sure it highlights the most relevant offers and products to Web site visitors. When the temperature drops below a certain degree in a customer’s geography, Destination XL displays cold-weather products,  rather than making customers click through categories to surface those products.  It does the same when the temperature heats up, displaying t-shirts and polos. As a result, the personalization made it easier for customers to find and buy the products they needed in real time, improving performance and providing a more relevant shopping experience.

Telco provider Windstream, also a Monetate client, is another company that leverages customer data to improve the customer experience, serving relevant promotional messaging based on the customer’s situation and preferences. For example, using what it knows about a visitor’s past purchases, Windstream serves a  current customer one set of messaging, while for a new visitor or one who is eligible for an upgrade, the company dynamically changes content to display current offers or upgrade options relevant to that visitor. This approach allows it to find out what’s most important to its customer base online and to serve up personalized experiences to each visitor. 

Find Your Segment, Apply Your Data
Keep in mind that it’s best to start by identifying a goal, such as improving results from one or two underperforming customer segments. Simply digging through data to find a trend that applies to all customers can be counterproductive and subvert your efforts. Rather, marketers should target segments by creating relevant experiences that immediately put customers’ needs and wants at the center of their business.

Companies that don’t move toward becoming more customer-centric through personalization will slowly attrite in their marketplaces. The stragglers will struggle against competitors, which are continually improving how they interact in real time with well-defined customer segments and generating stronger brand loyalty and profitable relationships.

About Blair Lyon

Blair Lyon has 20 years of international and domestic experience launching high-tech startups and delivering award-winning hybrid marketing solutions for the Fortune 500. Prior to joining Monetate, Lyon was founder and CEO of TMX, an interactive agency that won the IAC Agency of the Year Award four years in a row and secured a breakthrough U.S. patent for rich-media delivery and tracking technology