I have been engaging with Clubhouse, a social networking app where people can chat about shared interests. One of the great things about Clubhouse is you can have exciting debates. For example, one of the recent debates asked the question, is Customer Experience the new marketing?
We had a guest on a recent podcast, author and keynote speaker Stacy Sherman, to discuss this issue. Sherman is the Director of Customer Experience and employee engagement by day and the founder of DoingCXRight.com by night. Sherman describes the purpose of Doing CX Right as helping people understand how to differentiate their brands through their experiences by making real human connections.
Sherman and I have different ideas about the relationship between marketing and the Customer Experience team. In my view, I do not think Customer Experience replaces traditional marketing. Sherman thinks it does, by blending in and taking over. Let’s take a closer look at what we mean.
- My Position: We have a lot of evidence showing that if you improve your Customer Experience, you will gain more customers. But does that mean you should take the marketing budget and spend it on improving the Customer Experience? No. While I agree that improving your Customer Experience is essential to gaining more revenue, there is still value in traditional marketing channels. Customer Experience, therefore, shouldn’t replace traditional marketing, but work alongside it.
- Sherman’s Position: Sherman agrees that the marketing and Customer Experience champions have to work together. However, she says that what marketing does sets the stage for what Customer Experience will do. Sherman says marketing has been about creating a brand with consistency in feelings, colors, the logo, and messaging. Customer Experience takes that brand awareness to another level, beyond awareness as a concept but manifesting that through the actual Customer Journey, from end-to-end. The actions started by marketing are finished by Customer Experience, which is why it is the “new” marketing.
- So, before we go any further with this discussion, let’s define what we mean by Customer Experience and marketing. As I have written before, a Customer Experience is an entire interaction that a person has with the organization, including the rational, emotional, subconscious, and psychological aspects. It could begin with passing a billboard (designed by marketing) or seeing an article about the company (placed by marketing). The point is, it starts long before a customer goes to a store or calls into the call center. To define marketing, I looked it up. The American Marketing Association says that “Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering and exchanging offerings that have value to customers, clients, partners, and society at large.” I would add that marketing also delineates the marketplace and, therefore, should work out the features and benefits of the organization’s offer along with the brand promise that shapes the desired experience. So, if you imagine that you started a company, the initial activities of marketing would provide the framework to determine the experience that the organization gave to the customer.
Sherman disagrees. She doesn’t see marketing breaking silos across the organization or designing that end-to-end experience. She says the reality is that while marketing is instrumental to the Customer Experience team, it is the Customer Experience team that brings in the other (siloed) departments like marketing, finance, and other operational departments to own the experience. Thus, Customer Experience brings the organization together. She says CX is bridging the gap between theory and what is happening in experiences.
I am glad that Sherman introduced the concept of theory, because theory is interesting to discuss. In theory, I see Customer Experience as a subdiscipline under marketing. The marketing team sets the theory by defining the target customer, segmenting the market, and positioning the offering. You can’t express the Customer Experience before you set the target customer and the offering in my mind. Therefore, in theory, Customer Experience can’t replace marketing because it’s a subset of it.
However, once you get out of theory, it’s Customer Experience that does anything with these definitions. So, in practice, Customer Experience is not a subset of marketing but a separate entity with the same goals and mindset as marketing for customers and the offering. From that perspective, it is as if marketing is the theory and Customer Experience is the practice. In other words, marketing defines what they want for customers at a conceptual level, but Customer Experience teams actually do it.
Sherman disagrees, saying that there is a difference, and while the two departments blend, Customer Experience takes the feelings marketing seeks to evoke and takes it to the next level. Customer Experience evokes emotions, measures the feelings, and whether customer expectations are met. Sherman says that continuous measurement and fixing and closing the loop make Customer Experience the new marketing. Marketing alone doesn’t do all that.
For example, organization’s want to create a positive first impression during customer onboarding. So, while marketing will develop the collateral, the onboarding message and process content develop in partnership with the Customer Experience team. Sherman says the Customer Experience team is at the forefront of understanding what customers want and what they need to have a great experience and elicit positive feelings. Customer Experience brings that outside view into designing the onboarding experience and then putting it to market and measuring that. The marketing team then creates the messaging to solicit those feelings and enforce that desired brand image. This relationship between the experience and the messaging is why Sherman thinks the Customer Experience and marketing teams should blend. However, Customer Experience replaces marketing in the delivery of the product and offering.
I think she might be right…
So, What Do We DO with This Information?
There are differences of opinion here, but ultimately, the ideas are not as far apart as we initially thought. The main difference is the idea of what could be and what actually is. So, if we were to say that Customer Experience is the new marketing, here are some practicalities that you can use in your organization.
Have both entities represented at your organization. Some organizations only have a marketing team. Others have both. Both Sherman and I would like to see the awareness and understanding that both skill sets drive value for customers and, ultimately, the bottom line. Maybe that’s a person with a diverse skill set, or maybe two teams, but both should be present in a company, and their work should merge. Traditional marketing isn’t enough. There has to be a collaboration between Marketing and Customer Experience to win as a company.
Don’t have an either-or mentality. For my part, I would have organizations avoid extremes. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. Customer Experience does not need to replace marketing, and not the other way round either. Improving experience helps you gain more, but Customer Experience efforts should be in conjunction with the marketing team instead of the marketing team. I would advise clients to think of Customer Experience as Marketing 2.0. Another way to think of it is that marketing can’t be done now without Customer Experience.
Have your executive team reflect on the collaboration. In addition to blending the activities of the two departments, Sherman would encourage organizations to have equal representation for both ideas at the c-suite level. In other words, if you have a CMO, then you need a CXO in the office next door.
These discussions are fun. We use a principle at my global Customer Experience consultancy, Beyond Philosophy, which is that none of us is as clever as all of us. So, if none of us are as clever as all of us, it stands to reason that no one has all the answers. However, these discussions are great because they bring up the level of everyone’s game, whether you win the debate or (ahem) lose it.
There you have it. No promotions, no gimmicks, just good information.
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