3 ways to align marketers to business outcomes

Is your marketing team overwhelmed with tasks? Here are three key steps to shift from tactics to impactful outcomes.

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Marketing teams have become the catch-all department for executing tactics, but we’ve lost sight of the most important factor — what business outcomes are they actually trying to achieve? Without this really important alignment, we’re seeing stressed-out marketers who can’t say no to anything.

If your marketing team is getting buried in an endless list of requests, it’s time to break that cycle immediately. Below are three actionable ways to turn outputs into outcomes.

1. Alignment on the marketing outcomes you need to achieve

If you ask most marketers why they’re doing the work they’re doing, the answer is typically because someone with a “VP” in their title sent in a request. This is a dangerous cycle because the people doing the work have lost sight of the outcome needed, so we start throwing tactics against the wall.

A great way to get started here is to align the team and the stakeholders on a Guidepoint, which is a clear North Star statement of what success looks like to them in the next few months.

During a recent consulting conversation, I was told, “But our stakeholders want everything they asked for!”

My reply was, “You’re still talking about tactics, not outcomes.” You need to rephrase this question differently and ask them, “What outcomes would you like to see from marketing this quarter?”

Ahh, now we’ve shifted the conversation. From here, I often get the pushback, “We have to support all of the stakeholders and they all want different things!”

Yes, that is a conundrum marketing is often faced with! My challenge is that they may need to be talking to people at a higher level who understand which business outcomes or KPIs are the most important for the company.

It takes some work, especially if you’re a large company, but someone, somewhere can (hopefully) get to that more strategic layer. Once you’ve been able to do that, aligning on outcomes gets a lot easier. 

After you complete this step, we suggest holding a Collaborative Planning Workshop where both the team and stakeholders get in the same room, discuss the Guidepoint and brainstorm executable ideas that will meet those outcomes.

If your team already has more work than they know what to do with and innovation isn’t your biggest concern right now, you can substitute brainstorming with a Collaborative Planning Workshop that focuses on bucketing existing requests into categories. One method for this is called MoSCoW. The acronym stands for: 

  • “Must-have”
  • “Should-have”
  • “Could-have”
  • “Won’t-have” (at this time)

The key to either format is to have everyone responsible for the strategy and outcomes and the team members doing the execution, working together in a shared space, either in a room or a virtual collaboration setting.

After the session ends, a Blueprint is a great output. This is a 3-month calendar of agreed-upon deliverables at a high level. It doesn’t list every task the team plans to accomplish but is a set of top priorities that directly align with the agreed-upon outcomes established in the Guidepoint.

2. A clear method for prioritizing work

The majority of marketing organizations don’t have an intake system that’s transparent or allows for flexible prioritization. The most common way of taking in work is that a stakeholder goes directly to a team member, asks for a marketing tactic (rather than outcome), and no one has any idea of the sheer volume of work the team is actually being asked to do. 

If this sounds familiar, you must immediately create a clear work-prioritizing method. In agile marketing, we call this the Marketing Backlog, which is a fancy way of saying “a single prioritized list of future work.”

When a client I worked with started agile marketing, they put together everyone’s work that they had committed to already and learned that it would take them five years to get through it all! 

While this was an alarming find, it allowed them to get a good picture of the situation and to have those difficult, transparent conversations with stakeholders. It forced them to make choices. 

And surprisingly, more than half of the work that marketers were going to do because it was asked of them was no longer even relevant or needed!

So even if you’re not officially practicing agile marketing, getting all your work together in a single place and seeing how important it is will save you a ton of work.

3. Data-driven decisions based on customer feedback 

In traditional marketing, we plan work and are expected to execute — no questions asked! With agile marketing, one of the biggest changes in how marketers work is testing and learning small campaigns and using the results to scale your efforts.

This method can be done by companies both large and small. We practice what we preach in our own small business. Here’s how we applied data-driven decision-making to a recent LinkedIn outreach effort.

The first micro-campaign was to contact a list of marketing leaders in the Raleigh/Durham area who worked for companies with more than 1,000 people and were my second-degree connections. Guess what? In a week, I decided to abort the mission. It fell flat. People weren’t responding. We knew that by doing, not waiting for perfection.

After that, I tested a new approach with a small outreach effort and people were responding! I decided it was worth investing more time in, so I created a micro-outreach campaign with the following Success Criteria:

  • 10% acceptance of connection. 
  • From there, getting five or more individuals to schedule a meeting with me.

I can watch this campaign in real time and if it’s going well, I’ll follow up with something similar. If the performance is way lower than my Success Criteria, mission aborted and back to the drawing board!

Conclusion

It’s time to stop doing endless tactics. By aligning on business outcomes, having a transparent prioritization system and using data to inform what to work on next, you’ll align your marketing organization on the right work at the right time. 

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.


About the author

Stacey Ackerman
Contributor
Stacey knows what it’s like to be a marketer, after all, she’s one of the few agile coaches and trainers that got her start there. After graduating from journalism school, she worked as a content writer, strategist, director and adjunct marketing professor. She became passionate about agile as a better way to work in 2012 when she experimented with it for an ad agency client. Since then she has been a scrum master, agile coach and has helped with numerous agile transformations with teams across the globe. Stacey speaks at several agile conferences, has more certs to her name than she can remember and loves to practice agile at home with her family. As a lifelong Minnesotan, she recently relocated to North Carolina where she’s busy learning how to cook grits and say “y’all."

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