Chief Strategy Officer: Companies Must Innovate Around The Customer

What do you need to successfully build a long-lasting relationship with your customers? As the Chief Strategy Officer for, the #1 most valuable cloud company in the world, Micheal Lazerow spends most of his time trying to answer this question. By spending time with customers, Lazerow is able to better understand and communicate his customer's needs back into his organization. It has been said that regardless of the size of your business, there are always more smart people on the outside, than on the inside, of any company. Successful business executives like Lazerow fundamentally belief that thought leadership exists in the field. "Historically, much of the innovation in the technology industry has been in the back office and behind the scenes, but if we are going to connect with customers in a whole new way, we need to innovate around the customer," said Lazerow.

Michael Lazerow (Twitter: @lazerow), Chief Strategy Officer at

Lazerow, a serial entrepreneur who has founded several successful media companies, is right at home at, which began as a start-up by entrepreneur and CEO, Marc Benioff, 15 years ago and has been named the most innovative company in the world by Forbes since 2011. With over 13,000 employees and over 100,000 customers, Lazerow says it still feels like a start-up to him: "We don't think of it like we are part of a big company, we think of it as a company where we are allowed to innovate. is run by entrepreneurs who still have that spirit for creating a vision for the future and getting there faster."

Coming out of the marketing industry, Lazerow offers marketers advice on how to connect with customers in a whole new way by rethinking what marketing really means based on data, analytics and the evolutions of expectations on the part of brands and their customers.

Use technology as a mean to bolster customer intimacy - has the number one marketing cloud that helps companies connect with their customers, but Lazerow says that while has best-in-class email, social, social ads and all of this technology, they realize it's not just about tools. "It's about how we connect marketing to sales and how we close that gap so sales people can be empowered with leads and pipeline so they are productive and making the right calls each day. It's about how we connect to service; we are seeing a big use-case behind customer service with the service cloud and companies are seeing that a large percentage of customer inquiries are being handled by the social community," says Lazerow. Organizations need to have a vision of marketing that is much broader than just doing digital marketing. Marketing needs to take on a much broader consumer proposition where they will connect you to your sales and service teams, help you build apps better and understand things better with data and analytics.

Organize your company around the customer - We are in a world where it's not about the company anymore, it's about the customer. It used to be that you organized your company the way you wanted to, but now the company organizes around the customer. Lazerow asks, are you providing a benefit to the customer, are you helping them, are you providing for them when they need it, are you doing it how the customer wants it? You can have best service at the best price but if you're not delivering it in a way that the customers want, they are going to go somewhere else.

Use analytics to move the customer journey forward - Moving to market more effectively to help grow a business is manifested by customer journeys. Because of the mobile phone that we have with us 24-hours a day, there is so much data - location, usage, social data, and according to Lazerow, if you are not intelligently using data to push customers along you are going to get crushed, because we live in a world where every message is customized and personalized. Lazerow recommends using data to do 1:1 marketing aimed at push customers forward in their journey with your company. Use of marketing and sales analytics is key to delivering quality content, at the right time (buyer's journey), across the right channels (web, social, community, in-person), to the right target audience (buyer's persona).

Build customer relevancy using precision, personalized marketing - Many people think it's all about the data but Lazerow says it's not, "The data helps you target better and build relevancy to personalize messages for customers' specific tastes to help drive business results, something we are seeing the best marketers doing." He points to Kimpton Hotels who just launched their Karma Rewards program, new website and new branding as a great example of a service company taking service to the next level using data. Every message is personalized which helped to earn Kimpton Hotels a 93% customer satisfaction score - the top rated hotel in customer satisfaction among all hotel groups.

The product you are selling is no longer separated by how you market - We are seeing the emergence of the CMO as the customer journey officer and Lazerow feels that the CEO/CMO partnership will drive the business because the technical innovations that are in products and how companies connect to customers through products is what goes into their advertising. He says the reason why Uber has fascinated everyone is because the product innovation and the marketing is the same. You look at the product and tell your friends about it. "We used to create products and not realize there is a person using it. Now we start the building of every product and app with the premise that there is a person who has to figure out how to get some value out of this. It fundamentally changes how you build products," says Lazerow.

Invest in social collaboration technologies - In their 2015 State of Marketing Report based on the input from 5,000 marketers, asked what the biggest focus was for increase in spending and Lazerow found it interesting that the top three were all social related (mobile was number four). On the social side you have social engagement which is engaging through social channels and social marketing which is outbound marketing through social channels. Lazerow says that the social engagement piece is growing fast. "There is such huge value in getting phone calls and emails out of the customer service center and into the more cost-effective, faster channels. Overall, it's not just social anymore, it's now business. It's social selling in that you are landing business out of it. Social, mobile, video; that is the new TV experience, the shift of the dollars is going from TV to mobile apps to mobile advertising," predicts Lazerow.

Stay focused on your top priorities - Lazerow's most important advice to marketers for improving an organizations ability to build meaningful relationships with customers is to avoid the lure of trying to think big and instead to focus on figuring out what are the top three things you need to do to connect with your customers this year to propel the organization forward. "Focus on stuff that matters. You may not do a lot, but what you do you are going to hit out of the park. It's all about focus and figuring out, at the end of the day what are you going to do that's important this year," advises Lazerow, who shares that at there is nothing more important than the mobile phone, so they are focused on making sure everything their customers access is connected and enabled by their mobile phone. The other thing they will spend a lot of time on is customer journeys and understanding where customers are and what their business problems are and where they need to go with them to help them get to their future faster.

You can watch the full interview with Micheal Lazerow here. Please join me and Michael Krigsman every Friday at 3PM EST as we host CXOTalk - connecting with thought leaders and innovative executives who are pushing the boundaries within their companies and their fields.

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