CMOs today are increasingly asked to help their firms adapt to increasingly powerful customers. Those who fail to do this risk affecting their company’s long-term viability. To cope, CMOs must lead the transformation of their firm’s strategic planning process to an outside-in perspective focused on the customer. High-performing companies have learned that as customer behavior adapts, so must their business strategy — and have moved from a yearly strategy exercise to a continuous process with a focus on customer value and loyalty. To succeed, CMOs must effectively harness outside-in intelligence and simultaneously collaborate with key C-suite peers to build unified strategies and a shared business technology agenda to win, serve, and retain customers.

In our view, CMOs have a new weapon in their marketing arsenal to achieve this goal: the digital command center. Digital command centers are intelligent nerve centers that let brands quickly track digital moments and respond appropriately to manage their reputation, retarget display ads, drive new sales opportunities, and provide customer support. Beyond listening to social chatter on digital channels such as online forums and analyzing brand relevance, product discussions, and customer viewpoints, it also pulls in unstructured information that is rapidly shared with other departments in the company. For an increasing number of CMOs, such a center delivers actionable insights to improve market research, better support customers, and drive sales.

However, setting up a digital command center is not for the faint-hearted. CMOs who have built one are now beginning to extract business value from their investment by delivering business results quickly, aided by other organizational functions such as customer care and product development. In my latest report, I discuss how some of these are being realized. For example, the command center needs procedures it can follow in case of a crisis and streamlined connections across the organization so it can act quickly. CMOs must ensure that insights gleaned from digital channels, such as online discussions, go to the places in the organization that can use them.

Do you plan to build a digital command center? Or have you already started on one? Please leave a comment below; I’d be happy to hear about your journey.