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Tear Down the Silos: 5 Steps to Improving Customer Acquisition

Reaching and creating new customers can be difficult in today’s hyper-connected world. Marketers are deploying a myriad of programs, processes and technologies to deliver on their customer acquisition goals. Despite advanced tools and data-rich customer engagement and automated marketing platforms, this effort is often not effective because of long-standing organizational and data silos that create incomplete customer and program information. This disconnectedness, in turn, creates not only unpredictable results, but often a less-than-stellar customer experience. Not good.

No single technology will connect the mish-mash of programs, processes and technologies marketers are utilizing. However, when you look at marketing teams that are delivering exceptional customer acquisition outcomes, you observe that they have figured out how to make the “front-end” prospect and customer engagement effort fully integrated with the “back-end” systems and processes. In essence, they have focused on tearing down silos and they have developed a full view of what’s needed to create and delight customers.

Marketing’s Front- and Back-End Defined

The marketing front-end is defined as the strategies and tactics (media channels and budget, for example) marketers deploy to discover and engage prospective customers. It’s the customer-facing side of marketing such as demand gen, digital marketing, event marketing and social media efforts.

The back-end, commonly referred to as the stack, is the infrastructure through which all the available information needed by the marketing team (and other departments) is stored and accessed. This includes the technology and processes marketers use to track and manage customer data, report on and analyze campaign performance, transfer data between teams and departments, deliver unique experiences, etc.

By design, the front end team and back end teams have specific roles and often unique missions. It’s really easy for demand gen teams to fixate on the size of the media budget or the glitz of where content or ad messages are placed, for example. At the same time, your marketing ops team (data ninjas and tech types) can become enamored by the coolness of the latest technology. These conflicting views can perpetuate a divided, myopic focus that is good for them, but not necessarily for the company-wide customer effort.

Total customer acquisition and satisfaction results are what matter, not individual or functional greatness. Customer acquisition outcomes are simply better when these worlds are connected. So, how can marketing teams erase years of entrenched, functional thinking to improve results?

Here are 5 steps to take to become more integrated and drive better end-game customer acquisition results.

1. Start by visualizing your current environment so you know where to focus

To get things rolling, you first have to understand your current state and capture a complete view. One powerful tool is to use a marketing technology blueprint. This effort inventories your current marketing technology and the company’s front- to back-end processes and data flows. The goal is to identify gaps, silos, chokepoints and unnecessary overlap. This information is then all visualized in a simple diagram (or set of diagrams) to provide a complete picture. This blueprint also serves as an invaluable communications tool to get all stakeholders – including your external media and tech vendors – on the same page. You now have the complete picture to start making decisions, based on business goals and priorities, on how to achieve a fully integrated customer effort.

2. Let the data be your guide for change, process be your path to get there

Next, it is time conduct a thorough data auditing exercise to assess where your full customer acquisition effort stands. Pulling customer, program and system performance analytics – even if it is from multiple systems and sources – is a valuable source of your current reality to identify inhibiting silos and gaps and to use this data to make positive changes. Too often, this data audit effort is done at a functional level, masking the real issues and the single view of what’s needed. Once you understand both the critical and missing data you can now prioritize what changes (blow up or simple tweaks) need to be made in roles, tools and processes. In fact, many marketing executives identify process adjustment as the biggest impact to integrate front and back-end efforts to deliver much improved results.

3. Deploy a steering group comprised of stakeholders to drive tech investment

No matter the size of your company, one of the most effective ways to get all aspects of your marketing effort integrated is to pull together a working group represented by the core functions to help make decisions that benefit the collective business, first. For smaller organizations, it may be a handful or fewer people. For a global entity, it could be a dozen or so. This is not about size, politics or bureaucracy. Rather, it’s about getting a group of diverse people focused on delivering improved company results. This steering group leads the blueprint and data audit exercise and shares this transparently with all functions.

4. Marketing “role swap” so everybody gets the full picture

Many CMOs report using a “walk in their shoes” approach to help with change efforts to achieve the full view. Empathy (not just sympathy) is a powerful emotion that can power collaboration and integration, especially in marketing. For example, if the demand gen person experiences what has to be done by the back-end ops team to process, clean and upload the data generated from campaigns, you can guarantee they will be much smarter on the front end about how they generate and contract for data. This new level of true understanding can help bust silos and get all functions focused on what’s need to be done to achieve bigger, better outcomes.

5. Employ “if it doesn’t connect, don’t make the bet” rule

This is an important message for marketing executives who have to prioritize and make choices every day. Marketers often invest in a program, technology or new process because it is leading edge or cool or a competitor is doing it. However, it doesn’t matter how much potential that individual component has, if it doesn’t integrate with the rest of the systems, processes and data, it likely will cause challenges down the road that will bog down the collective effort to hit goals. This is not a message to not invest in innovative marketing stuff; rather, make working with what you’ve got or integration a key criteria for investment or deployment.

Customer acquisition and satisfaction is the core charter of marketing today. It is critical marketing executives gets serious about tearing down silos that are inhibiting the best performance possible. This starts with a front-end to back-end, integrated mind set and a game plan that taps into the current data, processes, tech and people to make needed changes that will determine your future success. 

A key element of this integrated approach to customer acquisition is marketing automation. Marketing Automation Simplified is your guide to thinking through the process for your business.

Author's Bio: Scott Vaughan is Chief Marketing Officer at Integrate.

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