Winning Strategies for the Modern CMO
As a chief marketing officer, I’m obsessed with creating a great customer experience. From the moment someone discovers our brand, and hopefully continuing through a lifetime of loyalty, I want to build a unique, exceptional relationship with each of our customers.
That’s never been easy. But these days it’s more challenging than ever because the digital marketing tactics we relied on just a few years ago to attract, engage, and retain customers are losing their impact. Third-party cookies, for example, have been dying a slow death. Search engine optimization has become a frustrating, time-consuming battle with opaque algorithms. And ad retargeting? Not only is it easily thwarted, but, candidly, it creeps people out.
Meanwhile, customers are becoming ever more savvy—and skeptical. All day long, they’re bombarded with unwanted offers, ads, and spam. It’s information overload, and they’re tuning it out. They’re also growing more concerned about privacy and reluctant to share their personal information, thanks to a steady stream of data breaches and identity theft incidents.
Against this brutal backdrop—decreasingly effective marketing tactics, increasingly wary consumers—it’s no surprise that the average CMO tenure is at its lowest level in a decade. What’s the modern marketing leader to do? How can you delight customers, remove friction, and create loyalty that lasts, while respecting your users’ privacy, preferences, and time?
Start with a great story
To succeed in the market today, you need to start with a compelling narrative. What’s your company’s big vision, mission, and brand purpose? Who are the people behind it? How is it different from everyone else? A great story can answer all of these questions, inspiring the market and setting your brand apart.
This is nothing new, of course. Since the earliest days of advertising, companies have been crafting narratives around their brands, trying to make an emotional connection with customers through powerful storytelling. But there’s so much noise today—so much competition, so many sources of content, so many distractions vying for audience attention—that it’s even harder to stand out. Telling a great story isn’t just a nice-to-have; it’s crucial for your brand’s survival. And you have mere seconds to tell it.
Customer priorities are changing, too. As a recent study shows, consumers increasingly care about a brand’s values, weighing factors like sustainability and social responsibility when making their purchasing decisions. As a CMO, you should know your company’s core values by heart. How are you putting those values into action? And are you telling that story to the market? If not, you’re likely missing out on a huge opportunity to make your brand relevant.
Diversify your channels
So you’ve got a great story. Now you need to tell it. But how, and where?
It’s critical that you know where your audience is and how to reach them. Are they consuming content on a professional network like LinkedIn? Watching product demos on YouTube, or influencer videos on TikTok? Maybe they prefer subscribing to industry newsletters or topical podcasts.
In reality, your customers probably engage with many different channels on any given day, giving you plenty of opportunities to reach them with your brand’s story. That’s why more of today’s marketers are adopting an omni-channel strategy. They recognize that engaging across a variety of touchpoints can increase their chances of converting someone into a customer. It’s also a way to mitigate risk; if any one channel starts underperforming, you still have other avenues to reach your audience, and the business impact is contained. And if you’re actively monitoring all of these channels, you can adjust your spending across them to maximize overall performance.
Put customer identity first
Perhaps most importantly, you need to truly understand your customers: their challenges, their habits, their needs, their goals. That way, you can personalize their journey, customizing interactions so you can most effectively serve them.
To do so, you need an identity-first approach. That means knowing who the customer is across all of your channels—how they discovered your brand, which of your products they’ve used, what their experience has been—so you can serve them just the right information at just the right time. Rather than bombarding customers with ads in all corners of the internet, you’re building a curated experience they’ve opted in to.
This strategy unlocks a number of key benefits:
- A better customer experience. With an identity-first approach, you can create a seamless customer experience across your business because all of your teams have full context at every moment. You can avoid sending customers mixed or redundant messages, whether they’re onboarding with your products, engaging with your sales team, or getting assistance from customer success. Instead, you treat them as a unique person with a single identity, no matter where they are in their journey with you.
- A competitive advantage. Awareness of your customer’s identity gives you a headstart whenever they enter your ecosystem, letting you personally welcome them and offer them tailored solutions. For the customer, that means a more pleasant experience with less friction and faster time to value, giving you an upper hand over competitors.
- Long-term dividends. When you recognize your customer’s unique identity from their first interaction, it can have a positive ripple effect across your business. For example, you no longer have to consider which third-party login credentials they’ve used at any given entry point — a benefit that scales with your ecosystem. Instead, their identity stays consistent no matter how they interact with your products or people.
Bring it all together
When you combine great brand storytelling, a robust suite of marketing channels, and a modern, identity-first approach to your customers, magic can happen.
That’s certainly been the case for Major League Baseball (MLB). Founded in 1876, the organization has successfully established the sport of baseball as America’s pastime with powerful storytelling that evokes nostalgia, familiarity, and even patriotism. In recent years, MLB has also invested in multiple digital channels, engaging with fans via a website, streaming channel, mobile app, and dozens of social media accounts.
With so many platforms, MLB knew it had to take an identity-first approach to ensure a great customer experience.
“Our fans’ time is valuable and we want it spent watching baseball, not trying to figure out how to provide additional information or authenticate to a new service,” says Neil Boland, MLB’s chief information security officer. “Having a common identity framework to engage consumers, our fans, was critical.”
MLB chose Okta as its identity platform, creating a frictionless omni-channel experience that could scale to meet the demands of millions of users. The reaction from fans was swift and positive: they could now enjoy a streamlined and unified MLB experience across channels.
“What's better than that as a fan, when you don't have to think about identity again as you seamlessly move between these modes?” Boland says. “It’s win-win, powered by Okta behind the scenes.”
Keep the conversation going
These are just some of the key strategies I’ve used as a digital marketing leader. The first two may be familiar, but navigating customer identity can feel like uncharted territory, likely because it is for many of us. But customer identity is only going to become more critical as the modern user experience evolves. To learn more about how you can use identity to improve the customer experience, read our latest whitepaper, Why Your Customers Aren't Converting: A Global Study on the Role of Customer Identity and UX.