Automation can transform sales

Today's highly digitised buyer-seller relationship is in danger. Marketers are proving that customers are one click away from competitors - it's the difference between being a market leader and going out of business.

The good news is that marketing executives are striving to develop new customer-engagement models to optimise multiple channels, which were formerly in conflict, and generate new revenue streams. They now have access to world-class marketing automation tools, which have the potential to keep more prospects from making that one-click jump to a competitor.

In today's Twitter/Facebook/Instagram era, a lot of people now expect and in fact demand more personalised and authentic levels of connectedness and engagement. They demand a highly responsive, real-time experience with access to information whenever and wherever it's convenient for them.

Marketing leaders will need to:

> Reach and understand consumers across multiple platforms, on their terms, and in real time

> Learn how to use data to drive customer engagement and marketing performance with levels of precision and timeliness never before imagined

> Become much more engaged in technology decisions and investments, in partnership with your IT leadership

The winners in this new era of "customer-obsessed marketing" - where the vast majority of buyers with handheld devices are often as tech-savvy as or even more tech-savvy than the companies trying to sell to them - will be those who master the art and science of such innovative marketing practices.

As marketing morphs into the front-line force tracking and engaging consumers' changing behaviours, CEOs must give it the enhanced support it deserves and the CMO needs to be able to demonstrate to the CEO why this is a strategic necessity. Pulling it all together, here are five key tenets marketers must embrace to stand out and succeed in a world where many businesses are in danger of becoming overwhelmed by the relentless impact of consumerisation:

> Marketing has a greater responsibility for customer relationship than ever before. According to a survey by Forrester and the Business Market Association, 76 per cent of marketing leaders said they're doing things no one thought they'd be responsible for three or four years ago. The same percentage reported that corporate leadership judges the return on investment of marketing initiatives faster than ever. Eighty-nine per cent said while they're doing more, they're not getting any additional budget or resources, and that technology thus had to become the force multiplier.

Marketing must own every digital interaction across all touch points from initial interest through sales, service, and support. It's also important to understand exactly what it means to be customer-obsessed, so that you can use those communications wisely. It's not so much about pitching and influencing anymore as it is about supporting a great customer experience. Make customers want to connect with you not as a vendor of products, but as a source of intelligent information that will help them succeed.

> It's all about the data. "Big data" isn't going to solve all marketing problems. What businesses really need are solutions that intelligently apply all the information gathered on their customers. Gartner foresees the volume of business data increasing twenty-fold between now and the end of the decade. According to IDC, 75 per cent of all digital information is being generated by individuals.

Marketing needs to play a bigger role in harnessing all the data and, more importantly, determine how to use it to drive customers through the purchasing life cycle. Customers are happier when problems are fixed proactively and better services are offered. And, the business will be in a position to take some serious market share.

> The separation between marketing and IT has vanished. Manipulating data is by definition an IT task. The fact that marketers need to have a window into that data means, for one, that they must become more tech-savvy. They've got to learn to talk the CIO talk, so that marketing and IT can strategise and collaborate on technology required to drive your business forward. According to Gartner, 88 per cent of CMOs say they don't have a real-time view of customer interactions across their company. They'll have to partner with their IT teams to secure the technology and put in place the business processes required to support this integrated view. Without that real-time perspective, it's just not possible to stay in step with what customers want and need.

> Automation can transform sales and marketing to deliver more leads faster. Most traditional marketers have focused on brand advertising and lead generation. But, leads need to be better. A week-old lead used to be fresh. Now it's not. Marketing automation tools, which can generate emails tailored to individual customers' buying patterns, are ideal for identifying and routing prospect names through to marketing quicker.

> Customer-obsessed marketing is a team effort. No single leader can embody all the required skill characteristics. The solution is to build a complete team, which can touch all the bases and execute the holistic nature of the customer-obsessed marketing task.

To be best positioned for success, the CEO should must the belief that marketing is critical, and support its leadership role.

Shailender Kumar

Managing director, Oracle India

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