When it comes to digital transformation, each organization faces unique challenges. But some of the biggest roadblocks are common across the board – from C-Suite misalignment to personalization paralysis to the content crisis. Fortunately, we’ve learned some ways that marketers, in particular, and companies, in general, can push through them.

In the last 10 years alone, great customer experiences have gone from a nice-to-have, to mission critical.

During my keynote at our first ever Sitecore Experience in London this April (2019), I was happy to be joined by digital transformation leaders from Volvo Cars, Carter Jonas, and the British Red Cross. Each leader offered unique examples of how they dealt with these obstacles during their successful digital marketing transformations.

While I wish everyone could have joined us, I realize the reality of limited resources. So, I want to share my keynote presentation in written form with you here. It represents some of the insights I’ve gleaned from my work with our clients, as well as the lessons learned by the leaders who joined me on the stage at Experience.

I have divided it into five installments, each tackling one hard truth that must be faced. In this first installment, I’ll introduce the differences between the CMO and the rest of the C-Suite, based on different ways of measuring impact and a lack of understanding and empathy between different areas of the business, which need to be challenged. While examining this hard truth, I provide examples from the keynote that illustrate how Volvo encountered and overcame this challenge.


The modern marketer’s struggle, by the numbers

The way customers buy goods and services, and the way companies interact with them, has fundamentally shifted in a remarkably short time. In the last 10 years alone, great customer experiences have gone from a nice-to-have, to mission critical.

According to research carried out by Sitecore and our partners, 9 out of 10 companies see customer experience (CX) as a competitive differentiator, and 89% linked it directly to commercial success. However, 95% say their customer experience is in critical need of improvement, and only 11% of businesses have achieved a Net Promoter Score (NPS) of “Promoter” – the highest level. All of this has a direct impact on revenue: 61% of businesses say they're losing revenue because they have a disconnected customer experience.

In the UK alone, this lost revenue equates to roughly $48.4 billion (USD) each year. Worldwide, the figure is around $131 billion (USD) each year.

One key issue is that brands struggle to leverage the data they have and are therefore unable to apply personalization adequately. This problem is compounded when you consider that around two-thirds of businesses say they don't feel “very mature” when it comes to understanding what their customer base actually wants.

The CMO’s growing role in driving CX

The CMO always had a stake in the customer experience, but that stake seems to be growing. In fact, 40% of company executives say the CMO is now directly responsible for driving CX, and a further 66% agree that the CMO is heavily involved.

80% of CEOs either don't trust or are unimpressed with their CMO.

For me, these stats lead to an obvious question: what do we as marketers need to know to lead the CX charge?

Sitecore’s research has uncovered a set of key themes and trends that make what we’re calling the five hard truths that CMOs and marketing professionals need to come to terms with in order to move their respective customer experiences in the right direction. With this in mind, it’s time to introduce the first of these truths.

Hard Truth #1: The C-Suite is just not that into you

Here’s a hard-hitting statistic: 80% of CEOs either don't trust or are unimpressed with their CMO. That’s an eye-opener.

In light of the stats we just saw above, if the CMO is in charge of CX, can they really drive it and develop it when the level of distrust from the CEO is so high?

Sitecore’s research shows that just 11% of CMOs have the budget authority required to authorize CX investments. And 80% of marketers say they can't get the executive sponsorship required. They’re also concerned that the rest of the C-Suite might not understand the importance of their proposed CX investments.

This picture gets worse when you consider the split between marketing and IT – 73% of company executives say there's a lack of collaboration between the two groups. The data provides insight into the argument of each camp: 71% of marketers say IT doesn't have the insight into the digital marketing tools they need, while 68% of IT professionals say they have better things to do than worry about the martech stack.

How to drive C-Suite alignment

Clearly, we have more work to do when it comes to aligning the C-Suite, as well as aligning the C-Suite’s and organization’s overarching goals.

For the first step, CMOs and digital marketers need to build trust by being honest, realistic, and upfront. It’s our job to set realistic expectations about the required investment, the timeline, and the expected results. It can be uncomfortable to have these conversations. I know; I’ve had them. But having them is part of what got us to where we are today: most of the way through our own transformation and looking forward to the months ahead.

Step two is to document a clear strategic approach. This includes developing success metrics that are tied to business goals. Write them down. And make sure they're aligned with the strategy for digital transformation that the C-Suite, and maybe even the board, has agreed to.

Step three is tied to step two: know what's important to the rest of the C-Suite. As marketers, we must learn to speak the language of our colleagues, which requires knowing what they value. From there, we can articulate the benefits of great customer experiences in a way that appeals to their values and goals.

Volvo: Driving digital cohesion

I invited Rowan Holloway from Volvo Cars to join me not only because he’s a Sitecore customer, but because his leadership in helping align Volvo Cars’ C-Suite is a great example of what’s required for successful digital transformation.

“[The changes were led by] our CEO,” Holloway said, “who played the role of a Chief Digital Officer, with the CIO and CMO reporting to that structure. That really brought the alignment between marketing and IT.”

Another way Volvo addressed the split between marketing and IT is by considering the entire customer journey and “getting teams to focus on certain sections.”

“We've set up our teams to focus on each different stage of the buyer's journey,” Holloway went on, “and work together in a cohesive way. That was a big change from the traditional waterfall [methodology], where things get passed over the fence and one team says, ‘That’s not my problem anymore.’ Instead, you’re focusing on just working together to improve the customer experience.”

The results? In 2018, Volvo experienced a “massive increase” in online sessions, up 58%, bringing them to around 30 million web visitors globally. They also saw a 13% growth in sales.

One hard truth is just the start

The simple truth is, it doesn’t matter how good you and your marketing team are, if the relationships you have with the rest of the C-Suite aren’t strong enough to foster support. By working on improvements to measurement, so you can provide tangible benefits to other departments, you can quickly start speaking their language and get the buy-in you need to get you on your way.

Taking the necessary steps to align with the C-Suite isn’t easy. To help you determine where the disconnect lies and how to bridge the gap, we’ve created an eBook filled with practical advice from Sitecore. Read it now to get communication flowing with your C-Suite and take the next steps toward digital transformation.

Download the CMO Truth #1 The C-Suite is just not that into you eBook.

Paige O’Neill is the Chief Marketing Officer at Sitecore. Find her on LinkedIn.