By John Butler —

Marketing has long yearned for a step change from being limited to a sales support function such as generating leads for sales and providing distilled research as analytics to improve reach and drive customer engagement.

And rightly so. Marketing yearns to serve the role it was designed for – and that is to be the pivotal strategic guide for the organization. Other departments can improve the bottom line by ensuring revenue exceeds cost, but it is Marketing’s purpose to increase profitability by focusing the organization – including sales – on the most profitable prospects and retaining the most profitable customers. Marketing knows that the only real boss is a paying customer.

So, how can Marketing focus an organization when it is anchored by its legacy role? How can Marketing focus an organization when it is drowning in so many new digital channels – channels that change over time like Myspace to Facebook? It’s juggling Internet ads, email campaigns, more and more mobile apps, and an explosion in social media, all the while weaning off traditional media – which is really about weaning off the model of broadcast approaches in favor of more direct methods simply because digital is more direct than print or airwaves. It was a CMO that told me candidly, at best it’s “spray and pray.”

But again, how can Marketing focus an organization in the Age of the Customer – where customer feedback is more telling than a compelling campaign? How can Marketing focus an organization when the Internet of Things is driving Big Data – giving everyone either data indigestion or slick doughnut charts about aggregate groups far, far away from 1:1 customer intimacy. How many organizations do you know that hope to gain more customer intimacy by hiring a data scientist?

How can Marketing focus an organization when the tools available from the major enterprise software companies are a patchwork quilt of acquisitions by its vendors – a confusing collections of tools – neatly connected in architectural slides and designed to automate a current state, that is, apps that help do everything faster and cheaper but without clear sight of effectiveness.

Imagine a world where Marketing could automatically reach, engage, acquire and retain buyers. Imagine a world where Marketing was directly linked – directly connected – to customers and their needs and wants. Imagine a world where Marketing could focus an organization on acquiring the most profitable prospects and retaining the most profitable customers.

In a world of shiny objects, it is easy to be seduced by the promise of the future. Drones ready to deliver packages that contain items that Amazon anticipates you’ll purchase – a statistical gamble that may well be financially worth the cost, time will tell. Cloud apps that let you run your business on your phone with a swipe of the finger. Marketing Automation that connects everything in the enterprise, ahem, to give you the 360 degree, single view of the customer so that you can cross-sell, upsell and survey – better, faster and cheaper.

Thanks to Apple individuals can now pay with a phone, but imagine a world where active buyers could use their smartphones to handshake with company systems to obtain the best deals and through seamless interactions over time become loyal advocates because the organization is systemically attuned to their needs and wants. Imagine a world where active buyers – “smart-enabled” buyers – were more than just a voice, as in Voice of the Customer, but were actually helping Marketing steer the organization, focusing it on acquiring the most profitable prospects and retaining the most profitable customers.

In that new world – where Marketing is strategically positioned and leveraged – new tools and models are required, some yet to be invented. The good news is that the foundation has been laid and the visionaries have shown the way (just search YouTube for Doc Searls or Drummond Reed or read Customer’s New Voice by John McKean). Smartphones have given individuals the equivalent computing power of an employee using a CRM system. The rapid adoption of Public and Private Clouds has given rise to the Personal Cloud – a structured and secure lockbox of personal information. And we all know about the data breaches suffered by retailers and celebrities so, there are engineers hard at work at securing the network – our beloved Internet needs a security patch (see XDI).

So, the individual has the computing power, the data and the secure connection. What can they do with it? Where is their equivalent of CRM? Why do individuals have to be hassled by unsolicited emails, spooky ads in web pages simply derived from their ad hoc browser history, unwanted advertising interruptions to their online experiences, freemium trial apps loaded with annoying ads that eventually require some attention and evaluation before deciding to purchase the premium, ad-free app? You get the idea, after all, we are all living it and can all cite bountiful examples.

Imagine a way to leverage that data and power in the hands of 2 billion smartphone and tablet users in a win-win scenario – a win for the organization and a win for the individual. Imagine an individual dashboard that provided summaries of buying history with drill down to the receipts, warranties and terms and conditions – you can almost hear the savings in customer support costs.

Now, imagine that dashboard also showed activity conducted automatically based on an individual’s intent to purchase that identified the best deals on insurance, cars, homes, etc. Imagine the individual – through their intent cast – gaining sight of the optimal deal with a supplier that they didn’t even know existed and then selecting that supplier based on a respected connection and a trust contract. Customers need a home or car but what they really want is: Save me money, give me more precious time back, avoid hassles and exceed my expectations when using or maintaining your product or service.

That world is unfolding rapidly. Through Personal Cloud, customers are gaining VRM power. VRM or vendor relationship management gives individuals the equivalent power of an enterprise CRM user. Organizations that enable customer VRM connections to their CRM system through trusted handshake protocols (APIs) are able to compete in a way that the hamster in the social media wheel could never achieve no matter how fast they can make that wheel spin.

We’re not talking science fiction. Not at all. In fact, we’re offering to walk you through real-world examples and help you envision ways to leapfrog the competition using your existing instance of Salesforce.com or other Marketing Cloud to connect directly to Personal Clouds – directly to active buyers ready to spend money. If you want to understand the implications of this new personal data eco-system or you want to know how much it will cost to assess the ROI, we have the tools, experience, expertise and thought leaders to show you and help you lead the way in your organization. Beyond that, we can build prototypes of your CRM connecting to Personal Cloud apps or devices – and transfer that know-how to within your organization.

Contact John Butler, U.S. lead for Information Answers that connects VRM personal clouds to CRM as a Salesforce.com consulting partner and Respect Network integration partner.

Published by John Butler

U.S. lead for Information Answers that connects VRM personal clouds to organizational CRM marketing clouds as a registered Salesforce consulting partner.