Where does marketing end and sales begin? Increasingly, the answer is that marketing doesn’t end at all. According to a new study conducted by my colleagues at the Economist Intelligence Unit, the most progressive marketers are taking up the challenge of winning over their customers at any and every point in the customer journey.
And with that challenge, they see the need for dramatic changes in how marketing operates.
In a customer-centric world, one where the traditional sales funnel has given way to the 24/7 customer experience, more and more marketers are taking the lead in developing and nurturing customer relationships, wherever and whenever. For the most progressive marketers, the job has moved beyond branding to fostering engagement, an activity that is measured in sales. More than 60% of marketers surveyed said that engagement is realized in customer renewals, retention, and repeat purchases. What’s more, three-quarters of those surveyed see engagement occurring in the middle or late stages of the classic sales funnel, while less than a quarter view engagement in terms of marketing’s traditional role of building brand awareness.
As a result, more than 80% of marketers surveyed said they need to restructure to better support their businesses, and 29% said the need for change is urgent, according to our survey of nearly 500 high-level marketing executives worldwide.
The growth of marketing into a more central role within the organization has wide-ranging implications, and is driving increased investment in technology and personnel. Our study, sponsored by Marketo, highlights several closely connected ways the most forward-thinking marketers are increasing their impact:
• For those for whom engagement is paramount, marketing must lead the customer experience. At two-thirds of companies, marketing is responsible for managing end-to-end customer experience; less than five years from now, that number will be up to 75%.
• As marketing gains more responsibility for the customer experience, it moves from being considered a cost center to a revenue driver. While marketing may not be treated as a business unit with its own P&L, it is increasingly being credited with having significant impact on sales–and those marketers who believe most strongly in the need for change are finding ways to claim credit for their contributions.
• In order to better meet their customers where they live, marketing departments are building new capabilities that focus on digital engagement, marketing operations, and technology. They also are seeking significant investments in technology that facilitates both smart engagement and the analytics to understand and optimize the customer experience across multiple channels.
As technology enables customers to make better-informed decisions without the aid of sales people, the idea that sales owns the relationship while marketing owns the messaging becomes less and less useful. Rather, participants in our study cited the need for a more holistic marketing function–one that blends brand building, customer experience, and transactions.
Technology continues to give consumers more choice and marketers more information about their customers, making the interplay between the two even more delicate and complex. Our survey shows that while marketers are already struggling to meet growing internal and external expectations, those who strongly believe that marketing must rethink its approach–roughly a third of those surveyed–are already fomenting for change and building the skills and experience to lead the way.
You can download the full report from the Economist Intelligence Unit here.