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Gartner Says Marketers Must Re-Establish and Fortify Connections with Customers, Business Partners and Employees

Gartner Analysts Discuss the Vital Role Marketing Plays in Helping Organizations Flourish in Challenging Times at the Virtual Gartner Marketing Symposium/Xpo, Aug. 31-Sept. 2

Marketers play a vital role in re-establishing and fortifying connections across the stakeholder landscape—from customers to business partners and employees, according to Gartner, Inc.

During today’s opening keynote at the Gartner Marketing Symposium/Xpo, taking place virtually through Thursday, Gartner analysts discussed the steps marketers should take to align day-to-day activities, decisions and connections with customers, business partners and employees to drive long-term organizational goals and values.

“Now is the moment for marketing leaders to recognize and assert their role as the chief stewards of these vital stakeholder connections,” said Carlos Guerrero, senior director, advisory, in the Gartner Marketing practice. “Marketing leaders must explore new pathways to revitalize these stakeholder connections – for example, solidifying brand purpose by leveraging partners across and beyond the enterprise to create ties with like-minded external brands. Marketers must also find ways to engage with their customers beyond transactions.”

Strong Connections with Customers Drives Loyalty

Marketing’s ability to gather significant amounts of customer data has helped build more sophisticated ways to develop products and services, build journey maps and experiences, and target timely, relevant messages to customers. However, data and insights alone don’t build strong, symbiotic connections with customers.

“Lately, marketing leaders have been guilty of conflating ‘what we know about our customers’ with truly knowing their customers,” said Guerrero. “’What we know’ gets to all the data and information marketers have been able to gather about their customers. But truly ‘knowing’ the customer requires a connection and establishing two-way channels through which valued information flows.”

Marketing leaders must reset expectations that data collection alone means they know the customer, and instead they should use that data to understand why customers make the choices they do and find meaningful motivators that build strong connections with those customers.

“Building connection means understanding what your customers care about, not just what they need to get done. This means understanding them as a whole person, not just as a consumer of your products and services,” added Guerrero.

Strong Connections with Business Partners Powers the Organization

“Marketers are the voice of the customer. They have the digital expertise, and they see how organizational workings contribute to the customer experience or detract from it,” said Mike McGuire, vice president analyst in the Gartner Marketing practice. “Marketers are uniquely positioned to gather, interpret, analyze and act on customer insights. This is their superpower, and it needs to expand beyond serving marketing to empower those they collaborate and work with.”

However, more than a third of digital marketers say that cross-functional relationship building is the most difficult activity they face. Building and maintaining strong connections with business partners is a two-way street—one that focuses on sharing challenges, listening to the challenges of partners and applying collective strengths to solve problems.

To do this, marketers need to shift focus from solely demonstrating and showcasing the value and contributions the marketing organization makes to the bottom line, and incorporating their partners—both internal and external—into that success.

Strong Connections with Employees Leads to Advocacy

“The vitality of the marketing organization is grounded in their own people,” said Dorian Cundick, vice president, advisory, in the Gartner Marketing practice. “The degree to which marketers cultivate those employee connections can determine whether they’re investing their limited energies and resources in nurturing a thriving brand, or staving off threats from within.”

Gartner’s Consumer Behaviors and Attitudes Survey of more than 750 consumers in September 2020 revealed that 36% of employees had spoken out against their own employer over the past year. In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2022, 30% of crisis communications budgets will be used in response to employees speaking out against their organization. Marketing leaders must play a role in helping employees feel more grounded, in control and part of something bigger in order to invigorate performance, loyalty and brand advocacy.

Marketing leaders should address change fatigue with their own teams by building the team’s confidence and capability. In addition, marketing leaders must steer employee activism towards advocacy by offering employees something valuable and empowering.

“To forge stronger connections, marketing leaders need to shift their emphasis from trumpeting authentic commitment—telling the world about all the good their organization is doing—to emphasizing personal fulfilment—enabling their audiences, including their own people, to be part of all the good they’re doing and to tell their own stories of making the world a little better,” added Cundick.

About the Gartner Marketing Symposium/Xpo

Gartner analysts discuss the key issues facing CMOs during the Gartner Marketing Symposium/Xpo, taking place virtually August 31 – September 2. This conference provides marketing leaders actionable advice about the trends, tools and emerging technologies they need to deliver business results. Gartner analysts address the biggest opportunities, challenges and priorities marketers face today, including data and analytics, customer experience, content marketing, customer insight, marketing technology (martech) and multichannel marketing. Follow news and updates for the event on Twitter at #GartnerMKTG.

About Gartner for Marketers

Gartner for Marketers provides the objective, expert advice, and proven tools that CMOs and other marketing leaders need to seize the right opportunities with clarity and confidence, and to stay ahead of the trends that matter. With in-depth research and analysis, Gartner for Marketers helps you focus on the opportunities with the greatest potential to deliver results. More information on Gartner for Marketers is available online at Follow news and updates from the Gartner Marketing practice on Twitter and LinkedIn using #GartnerMKTG.

About Gartner

Gartner, Inc. (NYSE: IT) is the world’s leading research and advisory company and a member of the S&P 500. We equip business leaders with indispensable insights, advice, and tools to achieve their mission-critical priorities today and build the successful organizations of tomorrow.

Our unmatched combination of expert-led, practitioner-sourced and data-driven research steers clients toward the right decisions on the issues that matter most. We are a trusted advisor and objective resource for more than 14,000 organizations in more than 100 countries — across all major functions, in every industry and enterprise size. To learn more about how we help decision makers fuel the future of business, visit


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