Silos in a Customer-Centric World

The concept of “silos” has become somewhat of a punchline in today’s corporate world.

I commonly hear phrases like, “That’s because our company is so siloed” and, “That department operates in their own silo.”  It’s almost like people chuckle and chalk up problems inside their own company to “those darn silos got us again.”  It is another way of saying that departments inside the company are only focused on their own responsibilities and don’t prioritize collaboration.  It is an excuse or a way to assign blame when results are poor.

Marketing is one department that can’t afford to tolerate this tired excuse anymore.  Companies are shifting toward a more “customer-centric” approach to product and service offerings.  This means companies are learning everything they can about their buyer and organizing their operations – sales, production, product development/management, etc. – around meeting customer needs.

The marketing team’s has responsibility throughout this process.  They are responsible for knowing what the customers’ needs, preferences and habits are to inform the company strategy.  They are also responsible for monitoring satisfaction and loyalty to see if the company is serving customers successfully.

This means marketing must lead the charge in uniting the silos around the customer experience.  Here are five ways marketers can accomplish this:

  • Make a customer impact mapCustomer journey mapping has become a popular way to understand buyers and to improve the overall experience. Marketers should leverage that thinking to communicate with other departments.  Highlight specific ways each department can use their expertise to improve the customer journey.  If people understand how their role adds value, they will be more deliberate in holding up their end of the bargain.
  • Share customer input – If the customer’s voice is the most important, it is critical that everyone inside a company can hear it. That means marketers need to regularly share the information they have about the customer internally.  This can include market research around buying habits, to customer survey results.  While that data has some very specific value to the marketing department (build customer segments, develop messaging/campaigns), sharing it can help keep other departments aligned to a single view of the customer.
  • Listen internally – Marketers should seek input from internal partners with the same discipline they use to gather it from customers. This does a few things.  First, it builds trust with other departments.  Listening to understand their point of view demonstrates a willingness to find common solutions.  Second, it will uncover new ideas and/or blind spots that can lead to better outcomes for the customer and company.
  • Establish the vision – While collaboration is key, sometimes marketers need to show the rest of the company what they do best – tell stories. Marketing is responsible for communicating the company’s value to customers, but they have an opportunity to tell the story of “how” and “why” internally.  Building an inspiring vision of how the company will meet customer needs is an excellent way to build alignment and a sense of common purpose.  The vision should feel aspirational, it should feel bold.  It should also be achievable enough, so people are motivated to try each day.
  • Review results – The marketer’s dashboard of performance metrics should be the company’s dashboard. In siloed organizations, departments look at their own sets of metrics to see if they are doing their job well.  Marketers can lead the way in sharing customer metrics that matter – sales performance, conversion, satisfaction, loyalty – and having discussions around what is working, what isn’t and why.

This might seem like a lot to ask of the marketing department.  However, no other department is in a better position to take on this leadership role.  Marketing knows the customer best and they are trained to communicate effectively across various audiences (internal or external).  Marketing also has the most to lose if the company can’t meet customer expectations.


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