Marketing to the Future: A CMO’s Roadmap to Digital Transformation

I recently had an article published in Alphr (pretty much The Economist for Millennials, if that’s a thing) where I talked about the roadmap to marketing transformation, and marketing to the future. I’ve  included the full text of the article below … plus a BONUS FEATURE of great books to read from each Era of marketing. If you are a regular reader of Copernican Shift then this list should look familiar … but if you haven’t read these books, get out there and get it done!

Modern Marketing



Marketing to the Future:

A CMO’s Roadmap to Digital Transformation
Grad Conn, General Manager, Microsoft USA Marketing

My father was a “Mad Man” – he worked on Madison Avenue in the ‘60s and ‘70s for Young & Rubicam, one of the world’s great advertising agencies. In between three-martini lunches and water balloon fights, he somehow managed to produce some great advertising and work with legends of the business.

I followed in his footsteps – but on the client side. However, like my dad, I consider myself a student of the science of human persuasion. I’ve been in this business for a long time – I did my first decade selling soap at Procter & Gamble and I’ve been selling the Cloud at Microsoft for the last 11 years. However, I firmly believe that now is one of the most exciting times in marketing history … and potentially the most exciting time in marketing history.


This the most exciting time in marketing history because we are finally uniting the two warring disciplines of our craft – that of direct marketing and that of mass marketing.

Specifically, the marketing industry is entering its 3rd era – the mass-direct era. This era is unique in that it combines the measured and scientific approach of the magazine/newspaper-based 1st era – the direct era (1920 to 1960) with the television-based mass persuasion techniques of the 2nd era – the mass era (1960 to 2000). Today’s new communication platforms and marketing technologies are enabling highly personalized stimulus-response messaging on mass scale.

The early-innovation stage of the 3rd era has been characterized by an explosion of MarTech point solutions. As a result of this great wave of marketing innovation, there are now more than 7,000 marketing point solutions (Source: Scott Brinker, and the average CMO is juggling 24 point solutions in their marketing stack. That’s 24 databases … 24 UIs … 24 customer IDs … and 24 logins.

We all know that the current situation is unsustainable, but more importantly we all know that in order to really create a relationship with a customer, you must have full visibility into all the touchpoints with that customer. That’s pretty tricky in a system with dozens of point applications, and with marketing next actions only predicated on previous marketing actions.

So, what’s a CMO to do? Well, to quote Winston Churchill: “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

Our next stage in the 3rd era must involve a fundamental re-orientation from multiple disconnected point solutions to a single, end-to-end Customer Experience Management (CXM) system. This CXM approach must take into account all of the interactions between a customer and the organization – including customer care experiences, sentiment, behaviors, interests, memberships and subscriptions, industry interactions, and even stock ownership … in addition to all of our usual marketing touchpoints such as web site visits, content views and downloads, and event attendance.

In a CXM-powered organization all employees must think of themselves as Sellers; all employees must think of themselves as Marketers; all employees must think of themselves as Customer Care Reps; and all employees must think of themselves as being in Research. To achieve this, an organization must have an integrated set of nurture systems spanning advertising automation, marketing automation, sales automation, commerce services, and customer service software with underlying planning and project management and BI and insight clouds which enables real-time collaboration. I think of it as the Disneyland model of customer service – all “cast members” in the park lean over and pick up garbage, regardless of the uniform they wear, in an integrated effort to create a magical guest experience.

We like to say “customer-first mindset,” but if we don’t give our employees the tools to actually deliver against the whole person, we’re just fooling ourselves and creating employee cynicism due to a hypocritical embrace of slogans over real change. We’ve got to walk the talk.

In order to actually deliver a true CXM system, there are five requirements:

  1. A common customer ID which is used by all systems (eg: Dun & Bradstreet’s D&B D-U-N-S® Number)
  2. An integrated Cloud Platform on which all applications operate (eg: Microsoft Azure)
  3. The ability to incorporate and analyze 1st party data (eg: Bing, Web site; Databases, CRM) and 3rd party data (eg: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)
  4. Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) capability to correlate customer experiences across trillions of data points in real-time (eg: Microsoft Azure ML), and
  5. Secure transaction capability across distributed networks for everything from transactions to media buying (eg: blockchain).

It’s going to be an exciting future – it’s time to embrace a Customer Experience Management (CXM) approach, and ditch our point solution soup!


Want to read more?

It’s pretty obvious that things are changing in some pretty fundamental ways. These transition points always feel uncomfortable and unsettling – it’s a bit disconcerting to hear everyone constantly using the word “transformation” without any specifics about what one is transforming into… will I transform into a butterfly? An alien? Or a robot car? So many questions!

As we’re marketing to the future, the new mass-direct discipline demands constant learning; constant willingness to fail; and a willingness to transform from being a “Mad Wo/Man” to being a “Math Wo/Man.”

It’s a great time to be a marketer if you’ve got a “learn-more” growth mindset! To have a “learn-more” mindset, you have to first study the masters – start with the people who were the first to lay out the principles of mass persuasion. Most of these books are still in print, which is a great testament to the timeless nature of their messages. We’re marketing to the future by leveraging the wisdom of the past.

Must-reads from the Direct Era include:

Some of my favorite books from the Mass Era are

Today, you should have a daily habit of reading Scott Brinker’s and watching Gary Vaynerchuk’s #AskGaryVee Show.

As well, there are three books which I recommend every mass-direct marketer read: