Integrated Experience?

I know many disappointed executives who mistakenly assumed that integrating the marketing department would revolutionize marketing and dramatically improve customer acquisition and relationship management.

More than a few of these executives (especially the ones on the hook for the technology ROI) are now fighting to keep their jobs.

Were they wrong about their investment in CRM tools? No, but that may not help much.

These executives are now steeped in the knowledge that truly integrated marketing can only be driven out of a truly integrated organization. Creating such an organization spans beyond the marketer's area of influence and control and stands in the way of improved experience and customer-centricity.

An integrated organization recognizes that Marketing may own the packaging, positioning and promotion of the brand, but the delivery of the customer experience is owned, controlled and managed by many contributors across departments. These include marketers, product managers, customer service representatives, service agencies, analysts, sales people, store managers, agencies, channel resources, IT staff, merchandisers and others.

The integrated organization creates an efficient infrastructure that coordinates these agents to strategically plan, develop and deliver positive customer experiences. Unfortunately, while many organizations have invested in delivery tools, most organizations do not have an effective people, process and technology infrastructure that effectively enables collaboration and integration.

Most commonly, an organization's “experience agents” are cloistered within organizational departments based on role. Each department may have unique process and/or priorities that may conflict, overlap or compete with other departments. Add common organizational problems such as a lack of accountability, inefficient process, poor standards and fragmented communication, you’ve got an infrastructure that won’t readily support integrated marketing.

As a result, even in today's most successful companies, it is common to find individuals who aren’t positioned to pull together toward the finish line. Many disagree on the direction of the finish line. Some aren't even in the boat. Sadly, a significant few don’t even know they’re in a race.

CRM tools are extremely valuable for the coordination, delivery and measurement of marketing and sales activities. However, traditional CRM solutions rarely help coordinate, facilitate and help track or manage cross-departmental strategic planning or the development of the integrated experience. Planning, integrating, coordinating, managing and tracking these elements is critical to driving integrated outcomes.

This is part of the reason Marketing Resource Management ("MRM") (otherwise known as Marketing Operations Management) tools are increasing in popularity. Executives are realizing that in order to establish truly integrated, customer-centric outcomes, change must occur. For change to occur, the operation itself must first become more manageable, accountable and measurable.

MRM solutions providers like Aprimo and Unica are sweeping in to transform and systematize organizations like GM, Time Warner, Bank of America and Dell with strategic planning, workflow automation, knowledge management and other robust features. These providers position a "foot in the door" by first identifying a core operational issue (e.g. broken process) that can be quickly resolved and then expand outward into other departments by taking on more agressive change (business process automation for core functions, strategic marketing planning and controls, etc.).

While the impact of these technologies has not been felt on a sweeping scale to date, MRM solutions are likely to repair many of the operational gaps that impede integrated marketing today. Case studies are being published, and early evidence and analyst coverage is very positive. At the same time, the sheer scope of these implementations, extensive integration time and the change curve these tools demand mean it may be a while before we see staggering results or fully integrated operations.

However, even when MRM tools make the operational environment more consistent, process-driven, collaborative, easy to monitor, measure and manipulate, an equally big challenge will remain: Companies must begin to transform business culture to drive truly customer-centric behavior. This will require process and organizational adjustments, departmental integration, development of new core competencies and methodologies, increased focus on strategic planning, improved communication, out-of-the-box thinking and a good deal of trial-and-error.

In the mean-time, we can preach marketing integration and customer experience all we like. If we want to realize the promise of integrated marketing, we’ve got a lot of work on our hands.

(Photo courtesy of the focused and goal-centered Syracuse University Rowing Team)


Anonymous said...


I'm interested in getting more information on MRM solutions for my organization. What other vendors are out there and who is the best? Who is experiencing the most success?


LivePath said...


Go to the Gartner Research web site, where you'll find good definitions of MRM, the Magic Quadrant 2004 report, and other helpful information about MRM. ;-) They even do some free webinars with several vendors.


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I’m Leigh Durst, a 20 year veteran in business, operations, customer strategy, ecommerce, digital & social media and marketing. Simply put, I’m a strategist that helps companies (start-up to blue chip) achieve business shift, create more compelling online and offline experiences. I also write, speak and teach about experience design and next-generation business. I’m a futurist, visionary, strategist, doer and connector with a passion for people and helping others. When I’m not on the road, you’ll find me in the San Francisco bay area, working, beaching it and hanging out with my family and dog.


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