I had a very insightful CMO 2.0 conversation with Christa Carone, the CMO at Xerox. As with many other CMO’s I interviewed on this site, Christa has had a pretty long tenure at Xerox – 14 years to be exact, with the last 1 1/2 years as CMO.
Being the CMO at Xerox is a unique position in that the company is in the business of helping its customers market themselves better. So not only do you need to market your company, you also need to serve as a best practice for your customers – you need to walk the talk.
Early on in the conversation we talked about the dramatic changes that social media brought to customer communications and go-to-market strategies. Christa described how Xerox is very active in social media and how they have a real cross-functional approach to social marketing. They found that the cross-functional team that they put in place, which consists of existing social media enthusiasts, is keeping a much higher level of energy than typical cross-functional teams. Part of the reason for this is that they enlisted people who had a personal passion that they could now put to work on behalf of their company.
They obviously listen to what is being said about themselves, and they pay a lot of attention to what conversations to participate in, and perhaps more importantly which ones to stay away from – realizing that sometimes participating in conversations can hinder more than help. An interesting problem that they face in listening to what is being said about them is that the term Xerox is often being used as a verb and returns a lot of content that isn’t relevant to them. They also get the fact that sometimes you can start a conversation on your own platform, but that often times conversations already exist somewhere else and that in these cases it is better to engage people where they are rather than try to attract them to your own environment. As Christa said, you can build it, but if nobody shows up, you are not getting any return on your investment. Unfortunatelly, and according to the results of our yearly Tribalization of Business Study, most companies do not realize that – resulting in many dead company-sponsored forums and communities littering the web.
At Xerox, they encourage every employee to become part of the voice of the company. They developed friendly guidelines that empower employees and encourage them to use social media on behalf of the company. By tapping into employees’ passion they are achieving a level of virality with new product launches that they never saw before. In order to do this they had to give up some control, but the benefits are tremendous.
Next we switched the discussion to some more traditional marketing issues – including how to deliver a consistent brand experience through a complex distribution channel, and the impact of the economic downturn on the marketing mix.
Xerox has over 10,000 resellers and more than 6,500 authorized sales agents – making for a lot of customer touch-points. While they are incredibly disciplined on branding, they, like everyone else, are losing some control of how the brand is being perceived by the customer. What perhaps keeps the brand perception across all those touch points the most consistent is a shared passion for the brand by both employees and channel partners.
The economic downturn and the associated reductions in marketing spent has had three major effects on Xerox’ marketing mix. First they doubled down on cross-media customized content (one-to-one) as part of their direct marketing campaigns – dramatically improving their rates of return from their target markets. Second, they redefined marketing programs for which they had long standing contractual obligations like sports sponsorships – turning them into business functions where the customer hospitality actually has a business purpose. Not only did they get business value from it, the hospitality piece allowed them to strengthen the relationship with their customers. Third, and they are still working on that, they developed an integrated communications/messaging platform that has tentacles across all lines of business and that is more than just a tag line or ad campaign for the company.
Another interesting part of the conversation was when we talked about how Xerox transitioned from being a research lab-driven bastion for innovation to a customer-driven innovator. They still have their research centers, but even the researchers get out of the labs and participate in the periodic “dreaming with the customer” sessions that are now at the core of the Xerox innovation process.
We closed the conversation by talking about the need for new marketing metrics in this new socially-enabled business world. As some other CMOs said in previous CMO 2.0 Conversations, Christa reminded us that there is a certain level of subjectivity that goes into what we do in marketing. There is this gut check that says that something’s working, especially when you are looking at brand based marketing that is not intended to have a direct and short term revenue-generating objective to it.
Other things that we discussed include:
- The role of one to one communications in marketing
- The challenges associated with shifting marketing resources to social media marketing (discretionary budgets vs. headcount)
- How to use Facebook as an extension of your employee communications strategy
- How to strike the right balance between being taken hostage and spending the right amount of energy with those people who have the largest social media megaphones
- The importance of surrounding yourself with people who can make good judgment calls on behalf of the company
- The changing role of market research in defining the marketing mix
- The importance of employee passion in getting things done
As usual you can listen to the full podcast of the CMO 2.0 conversation on the CMO 2.0 site.