Digitization or Integration: What’s Marketing’s Holy Grail?

May 11, 2017

by Carla Johnson

One of the primary drivers of change for businesses in the last decade has been digital transformation. But with the shift to a heavy digital-first experience, marketers have neglected the bigger picture: creating a connected, integrated and seamless experience for customers who bounce between online and real-world interactions with brands.

When we look at business under the lens of an ever-more sophisticated customer, delivering transformational digital experiences is no longer enough. Instead, argues Xerox CMO Toni Clayton-Hine, we have to deliver transformational experiences.

Toni Clayton-Hine, Chief Marketing Officer, Xerox

I had the opportunity to visit with Toni and dig into her thoughts about the intersection of physical and digital experiences, why marketers need to reimagine the business – not just our role – and how Xerox is evolving its brand narrative.

There’s a lot of talk about ‘transformation’ in business, especially with digital transformation. What does transformation really mean?

In today’s marketplace, transformation means moving beyond the idea of digital transformation and toward delivering transformational experiences. People used to buy great products and now they care about buying great experiences. We see this in B2C and B2B, from Amazon to Apple to Salesforce.

A great experience is one that connects the seller, buyer and user. In the tech space, we talk to the buyer about how they use something. But the problem is that the buyer isn’t always the ultimate user. The buyer may be the CIO and the user is the person interacting and using the device and the data every day. Think “David the data analyst” or “Sally the sales rep”. As sellers, we think about the CIO, who ultimately gives the green light, but we don’t always take into account the users, who think completely different from the CIO.

We also have to think about the person who uses our customer’s product or service. For example, if I sell to a bank and can’t make the experiences of the bank’s customers better, I’ve failed. If I’m selling to a real estate company, I have to look at how I can create a better experience for the homeowner. In B2B we often stop short of taking users into account with the experiences we create. We need value propositions that end-user driven not just value driven from an IT Perspective.

As a B2B marketing community, we should appreciate and lead the way in integrating a buyer and user experience. We can’t cheat and say that it’s a B2C issue. That doesn’t work anymore.

This is how we come back full circle. Businesses shouldn’t be talking about only digital transformation – that makes you look like you’re playing catch up. Being digital is table stakes in today’s world. Instead, we have to look at the intersection of digital and physical experiences and what that means to customers and end users.

Tell me more about your view of an integrated experience.

I was listening to a story about Warby Parker, a company that was born online, and how they’re adding physical retail locations. They think that’s a major growth opportunity for them. The irony was that the owners of the company were signing retail leases for longer than the company’s been around!

At Xerox, we spent time talking to companies born before 1990 and helping them transform from the physical world into the digital space. But all the companies born after the ubiquity of the internet are online and the only way for them to grow is to go physical. Both are moving into spaces that are new for their companies. It’s not a point of saying that digital is where we should go or that physical is the right decision. It’s not about migration, it’s about integration.

At Xerox, we’re transforming our brand narrative so that it reflects what we see in the market, which is the integration of physical and digital. We’re driven by wanting to deliver a better experience, not just a better product.

What prompted Xerox to focus on the integration of digital and physical experiences?

At the Xerox open-innovation lab PARC, we have a discipline called ethonography, which is the study of human behavior and how people work. For us, it’s not about forcing people to fit the technology, but about the technology fitting the people.

For example, researchers will look at work processes and say, “What if we could take these 37 steps and turn them into 3? What would the impact on a business be?” We start with the user experience and walk backward, taking what’s most time consuming and automating those steps.

When we invented the photocopier, we were responding to people not wanting to copy things by hand anymore. Then we looked at how to speed up a process that still took an inordinate amount of time, which led us to high-speed laser printing. Now we’re looking at apps and workflows that allow you to put your finger on a picture on your phone and the app will automatically do what your pre-set work process is set up to do.

When people hear the word ‘transformation,’ it prompts feelings of both excitement and fear. How did you harness the excitement while managing the fear keep it from holding back progress?

With transformation, it’s not one person or department’s job to do the work, but it’s everyone asking, “What can I do in my function to improve the experience?” You don’t have to work in research and development to make a difference to a customer. An employee in marketing can learn what R&D is doing and promote it in a way that makes sense to their audience, whoever that might be. How can the person who runs the e-commerce section of the website can look at ways to make it efficient and easy to put a printer in a shopping cart? Everyone can do their part to impact the experience.

I’ve heard you talk about the Xerox story and how you tell it, by both keeping the essence of the historic brand while moving it forward into a new world of business. Tell me how you blended that narrative.

I came in and saw all this content around digital transformation, but that’s only half the story. Apple and Uber didn’t just create a digital experience, they reimagined the experience entirely. If we only celebrate that we help digital transformation or deliver on that promise, we’ve solved only half the problem. We want to ask, “What can we do that takes business one step further?”

For marketing, we’re looking for the people who help us transition into a story of providing a better world. We’re in the first stage. Now we need to activate that internally and externally.  The next phase is actually having the story come to life in everything we do. It’s integrating that narrative through social feeds, events, content and web experiences. My goal is to figure out how to get 35,000 people to tell the same story and be passionate about living it.

Sometimes I feel that there’s this view or attitude within companies that creativity is something we do once in awhile. But I see it as a requirement. When I have teams come to the table I tell them there’s no crazy ideas and they need to steal shamelessly from outside our industry. Look around much broader than technology. What’s the concept we can make our own? What are others doing that could get us to move faster?

That’s why conferences are so valuable. It’s a way to hear from other people about what they’re doing, what’s working and what they’re learning.

Learn more about how Toni Clayton-Hine is transforming B2B marketing and the Xerox business by registering for the ANA Masters of B2B Marketing Conference, May 31-June 2 in Chicago.

Photo credit: Flickr user El Freddy

     About Carla


Carla is a world-renowned storyteller, an entertaining speaker, and a prolific author. Having lived, worked, and studied on five continents, she's partnered with top brands and conferences to train thousands of people how to rethink the work that they do and the impact they can have. Her visionary expertise has inspired and equipped leaders at all levels to embrace change, welcome new ideas, and transform their business.

Her work with Fortune 500 brands served as the foundation for many of her books. Her tenth, RE:Think Innovation, is a #1 new release that busts the myth that innovation is something that requires a specific degree or special training. In fact, Carla explains why, to be a successful company in today's hyper-competitive, customer-driven world, innovation must be everyone's business. Her goal is to teach one million people how to become innovators by 2025.

Consistently named one of the top influencers in B2B, digital and content marketing, Carla regularly challenges conventional thinking. Today, she travels the world teaching anyone (and everyone) how to cultivate idea-driven teams that breed unstoppable creativity and game-changing innovation.