How Xerox CMO Toni Clayton-Hine Anticipates Customer Needs

Blake Morgan
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Key Takeaways

What? Modern CMOs need to constantly be aware of what the customer will want in the future.

So what? A short-term eye on investments, acquisitions, branding and positioning are very important, but an awareness of the future keeps the CMO and company on top.

Now what? CMOs should consider where the market is headed, tomorrow's value proposition, what perceptions to capitalize on and how this all is manifested in the brand.

​May 9, 2017

Today’s CMOs need to be aligned with the customer’s current needs, but constantly identifying what the customer will want in the future. How does the modern CMO balance those two requirements?

Toni Clayton-Hine, senior vice president and CMO of Xerox, uses unique strategies to focus on current needs and future opportunities. 

“Coming up from the business side, I understand the business priorities," Clayton-Hine says. "From a bottom-up approach I look at the geographies, the segments, and I marry this with a top-down approach.” 

Specifically, Clayton-Hine is looking at :

  • Where is the market headed?

  • What is the value proposition we’re delivering today and tomorrow?

  • How does that manifest itself as a brand?

  • What perceptions do we want to capitalize on or change from the audience’s perspective?

Clayton-Hine is always considering the horizon and looks at where the market will be in three to five years. Today's CMO must focus on the short term with an eye toward investments, acquisitions, branding and positioning. When it comes to positioning at Xerox, Clayton-Hine looks at overall trends. "If printed pages are going down, but information, analytics and the flow of information continues to grow, we [Xerox] have a great place to play there,” she says.

Xerox is continuously looking at what customers need today with an eye on where the market is headed. For example, Xerox has provided the copier; however, according to Clayton-Hine, there now could be a need for scanning, mobile devices, cloud and workflow. Consider the health care environment and invoicing, she says. Health care finance sends multiple invoices, perhaps one invoice to the doctor’s office, one to radiology and one to accounting. In the future, Xerox might support a voice-activated environment working with Alexa, Google Home or another platform to help send information.

“As a CMO, my job is to make sure we satisfy the needs of what we’re selling today, the copier,” she says, emphasizing the importance of simultaneously looking to the horizon. It might seem strange that the CMO is so involved in product ideation and creation, but the CMO is the closest member of the C-suite  to the customer.

A Day In The Life Of The CMO: What Needs Fixing, Upleveling or Immediate Addressing?

Clayton-Hine doesn’t sit around doing big-picture thinking as we might imagine of leaders.

“I spend most of my time on the things that need fixing, upleveling or addressed at that moment," she says. "I break my week into what’s short-term and what’s long-term.” Clayton-Hine focuses half her time on ensuring the sales team has what they need for that quarter, such as promotions and related material. The other half she’s looking at the broader world audience. She spends time framing what Xerox stands for, and this creative piece is one of the reasons she loves her job as CMO. She works with her agency on branding and messaging, getting the larger world intrigued by Xerox.  

"I’m drawn to the creative side because it’s fun for me," she says. "I tell my team I have 100 ideas in any day, 98% are terrible and I’m ok with that. I’m constantly focused on what’s new.”

She focuses on how to frame a message, something every CMO must be a ninja at today. She enjoys using the right side of her brain to cast a story and make it compelling, intriguing and believable. 

Clayton-Hine also looks at other industries to determine what Xerox can learn. She says she’s obsessed with Subaru commercials and mentions how inspired she is by the Domino’s Pizza web experience. “How do they simplify their web experience to get you in and out as fast as possible?” she asks.

Xerox also has a thriving innovation hub called PARC. The employees of PARC are ethnographers studying how work gets done around the world. The innovation hub can be a good answer for old, large companies that want to keep up in a world that is constantly being disrupted by new technologies. Top companies today have innovation hubs, including Cisco and AT&T.

"We are lucky at Xerox because we have research departments in Canada and France," Clayton-Hine says. "Their whole job is to identify the future.” 

She mentions a quote by American computer scientist Alan Kay: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

The role of the CMO is changing. They must be a key part of the strategic decision making of the company, a role with a lot of visibility with the board. If empowered and leveraged correctly, the CMO can be an influential change agent and leader within the organization. 

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Author Bio:
Blake Morgan
<a href="" target="_blank">Blake Morgan</a> is a customer experience futurist. Her first book is <a href="" target="-blank">More is More: How The Best Companies Work Harder And Go Farther To Create Knock Your Socks Off Customer Experiences</a>. She is the host of The Modern Customer Podcast and a weekly customer experience video series on YouTube. She’s been ranked as ICMI’s Top 50 Thought Leaders To Follow on Twitter In 2016, Clarabridge’s #1 Social Customer Service expert to follow and Customer Gauge’s top 20 customer experience experts in follow in 2017.
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