In 2014, marketing becomes the “Giving Tree” for the C-Suite

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"Marketing is everything." I hear that phrase - or a variation of it - a lot these days. I agree with the sentiment given how brands can turn almost any moment with a customer into an interactive experience. However, while it’s easy to say “marketing is everything,” the truth is that marketing can’t do everything. That’s why I think 2014 will be the year that marketing leaders must become givers: providers of insight, creators of connections, deliverers of performance improvement. Succeeding in this kind of giving will be critical if marketing is to drive above-market growth.

Let me explain. As companies become ever more responsive to and informed by their customers, their range of interactions will continue to expand. Those customer interactions hit many different parts of the organization (call center, sales staff, web sites, mobile apps, etc.). Since those interaction points are often owned by many different parts of the organization, the customer experience is often disjointed, inconsistent, and unfulfilling. Those experiences need to be integrated into consistent customer journeys. That’s where marketing comes in.

Here are three areas where marketing can really make a difference:

Provide relevant insights: Big Data and analytics have opened the door to mind-blowing insights about customers – how they behave, what they like/don’t like, what they’re interested in, etc. While carefully staying within the bounds of privacy parameters, marketers can know so much more about their customers than was possible even two years ago. Marketers need to identify, bundle, and serve relevant insights to the various parts of the organization. Insights are the foundation of any commercial strategy. Those insights, in fact, provide a vocabulary that the organization can share across silos. Data – and the insights derived from them – become the lingua franca of the organization.

Create valuable connections: CMO's know their effectiveness will increasingly lie in a brand's ability to make the execution happen at the front-lines of interaction with a customer. But marketing cannot control them all. What that means is that marketing will need to tighten their partnerships with sales, service, and product development around all sorts of things, such as how the brand should handle personalization and privacy. Service organizations, usually under the COO, now need to also coordinate with marketing as the volume of requests coming in through social media blurs the lines between what is remediation help and selling support. CMOs will need to increasingly guide IT on what their priorities should be for investing in new technologies that drive personalization and new experiences. Marketers are helping CFO's understand that "working media spend" ratios no longer define the efficiency of marketing operations when more investment has to go into content for owned and earned media.

Deliver performance excellence: Beyond creating tighter relationships, CMOs and marketing in general will need to help various other parts of the organization connect with each other. Product design should be working closely with sales. Marketing can be the glue to help bind these groups together around a vision based on deep customer insights and a clear go-to-market strategy. That growth comes from having balanced and connected marketing and sales capabilities. We have found that companies with that profile perform 2x to 3x better than the market in terms of revenue growth. And while only 14 percent of companies in a separate survey believe they have the right investment levels across their capabilities, almost 2/3 of that group has much greater confidence in their ability to beat the market compared to those that aren’t investing effectively. When the organization can effectively work together better, marketing becomes a “performance multiplier” for the entire business.

These are all fundamental acts of giving. But unlike ending of “The Giving Tree” (a great book, by the way, as any parent knows) where the tree wilts away after giving away so much, the marketing version will enhance marketing’s influence. If marketing can really deliver on insights, design great experiences by pulling together the right parts of the organization, and then deliver those services and products at the right place and time to the right person, then marketing will see its influence increase significantly. I’ve seen it happen at a number of clients already. In 2014, I expect to see that giving role for marketing expand.

This piece originally appeared on LinkedIn