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Scary Stories Cios tell in the Dark, or A Lesson in Cross-Functional Alignment

Rosilyn Rayborn, Vice President, Brand & Creative Services, Associa
Rosilyn Rayborn, Vice President, Brand & Creative Services, Associa

Rosilyn Rayborn, Vice President, Brand & Creative Services, Associa

Black Friday 2018: J.Crew’s website goes down for five hours, costing the company more than 700,000 dollars, which is not too much when you compare it to the 11 million dollars Costco lost for the same reason on Black Friday, 2019.

Or consider my own Black Friday 2019 experience: the marketing team at H&M created some really compelling Black Friday ads and when I clicked on one of the ads, I was met with a landing page telling me that the site was at capacity and that I should keep refreshing my browser in hopes of eventually getting into the website. How long do you think I stayed on H&M’s site before closing the tab and visiting a site that could handle their Black Friday traffic?

Then, there’s Express, whose Black Friday issue crept up when the product images used in their email led to those items selling out quickly—as one would expect. However, what wasn’t expected was that those images were hard-coded in the email and could not be swapped out in real-time, which resulted in email recipients being directed to sold-out items, causing countless missed sale opportunities.

Alternatively, how about Disney Plus, Disney’s new streaming service backed by millions of marketing dollars. You no doubt heard about Disney Plus on every platform you use—television, radio, video, billboards—the Disney marketing team poured a lot of effort and funds into driving signups to Disney Plus, only to serve up an “unable to connect” error message when users attempted to log in and stream on launch day.

Now, I have effectively scared IT and sales with the stories above (I hope no sales professionals were harmed during the recounting of Costco’s 11 million-dollar Black Friday revenue loss), but what about marketing?

While these stories are not ideal, as marketers, they may not be the ones that keep us up at night.

One could argue that the marketers in the scenarios above used effective creative and drove users to a destination and that problems only arose because IT was not prepared. And sales, well, bless their hearts—they just got a raw deal.

But, the truth is when there’s a disconnect between the brand promise and the brand’s delivery on that promise—regardless of where or how the disconnect occurs—it creates a poor customer experience, and according to Walker Information, Inc., great customer experience is predicted to overtake price and product as the primary brand differentiator for B2B sales by 2020.

If the stories above did not scare marketers, here are three stats that will.

1. 73percent of U.S. consumers say that customer experience is a very important factor in their purchasing decision, so much so that even if they love a company or product, 59 percent will still walk away after several bad experiences and 17percent will walk away after just one bad experience. (PwC)

2. 48percent of all consumers have left a business’ website and made a purchase elsewhere because the experience was poorly curated. (Accenture)

3. 65percent of U.S. customers find a positive experience with a brand to be more influential than great advertising. (PWC)

These stats tell us that marketers can use all the tools in their tool kit to make customers love our brand, and still 59percent will walk away if the experience isn’t ideal—that includes not getting questions answered quickly, broken links, maxed out websites, rude, non-existent, or cumbersome customer support and more.

The customer who sees a compelling ad and clicks to a broken page does not say, “Well, I’ll give them another chance because the marketing was good.” They leave for a competitor who can serve up a better experience. And, 65 percent of consumers consider a positive experience to be more influential than our meticulously worded, compellingly creative advertisements. And marketers everywhere gasp.

Now, I do not have any purview into the inner workings of the organizations cited in this article—these stories are ripped from the headlines. But I do know that in many organizations when it comes to cross-functional collaboration, it typically comes after a big miss.

At least that is my personal experience that I will share for parity. After confidently deploying marketing initiatives in my silo and experiencing some near misses, complete misses and uncomfortable conversations with IT team members in the aftermath, I set up a recurring biweekly meeting with IT. The meeting had no particular agenda—it only served as an opportunity to align with IT and discuss upcoming marketing initiatives so that the IT team could offer insight or support or even recommend a current solution that the organization was already leveraging for a different purpose that could help us solve our problems. Because we all know when building our MarTech stacks, sometimes vendors can gloss over deployment criteria, minimize the impact their tech will have on existing solutions,or even omit to disclose a current contract with other teams in your organization that may save you from creating a new contract. These biweekly meetings allowed us to approach our responsibilities in concert, they led to more trust among team members, and a lot of efficiencies that would have been overlooked if these conversations hadn’t taken place.

No matter where you find yourself on your company’s org chart, great end-to-end customer experience is the ultimate goal. And while scalability may not be the most exciting conversation for marketers and PANKS (the very lucrative “Professional Aunts with No Kids” demographic) may not get IT professionals roaring out of bed in the morning, one thing we can all agree on is that success is what we all want.

And to achieve success, it’s imperative to work cross-functionally—that could be marketing, IT, sales, and depending on your organization, even legal—to ensure the customer experience is one that is well-planned and well-executed.

Otherwise, the next scary story you see in these pages could be about your brand.

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