Marketing Organizations Must Optimize, Or They Will Fail The Enterprise
Columnists Mary Wallace and Mike Samuels believe CMOs and their marketing organizations need to get better at what they do. How? It's all about aligning their processes, people and infrastructure.
This month, my article is written with Mike Samuels, director of Customer Experience Strategy at Oracle. He and I were partner vendors, or shared the same client, an experience that served as the starting point for this collaboration.
Long gone are the days when the sales organization was the primary revenue driver. Today, marketing is a critical piece of the business. Marketing is responsible for growing the sales pipeline and increasing revenue, and it plays a crucial role by finding the right leads and forming the initial relationship with those leads.
In fact, marketing engages with future clients for more phases of the buyer’s journey than the sales organization does. Marketing also has the challenging job of identifying the right prospect at the right stage of the buying journey in order to determine where to focus an organization’s sales efforts.
Add to that the CMO’s newfound seat at the boardroom table, and the pressure on marketing continues to mount. There are no options and no limits: A marketing organization must be at the top of its game.
Improvement of the status quo varies based on the needs of the business: to grow revenue by building out the sales pipeline, to decrease costs by doing more with less or to increase the velocity of converting leads into customers. Marketing’s relevance continues to become even more crucial in growing the business as customers disperse across more channels than ever before.
Focus On The Big Picture
In order to increase efficiency and squeeze even more out of your investments, marketing organizations need to get better at what they do. The focus of this improvement effort is strategic, not tactical.
Organizations often implement point solutions to try to address point problems: a tool for social media, another tool for monitoring, and even more as you look at the entire engagement landscape.
What makes this worse is when each group implements different solutions. Knowledge gaps are created, and funds are wasted on disparate technologies.
Organizations struggle without common standards, and people grapple with moving around because of learning curves to overcome.
In other words, concentrate on what to achieve. How you achieve it is part of the plan that’s defined once the strategy is in place.
Too often, the focus of optimization programs is on satisfying short-term objectives. This leads to organizations prematurely investing in point solutions that address immediate needs but are a costly investment to the business.
Optimization is a top-down, organization-wide effort — from the social marketing team to the automation, website and content marketing teams.
Sure, a given team can improve. However, if success is at the detriment of other teams, or the enterprise, there is no gain.
To track success, you must define and monitor supporting metrics. Metrics need to follow the “SMART” criteria: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.
If there is no measurement, there is no way to quantify the impact of the improvement effort.
Measurements should align with the needs of the business. While monitoring at a tactical level can help provide insights, it’s the sustainable and quantifiable improvements against the business drivers that are truly important.
To maintain clients and gain market share, the enterprise needs to align the strategy of the marketing organization with the business. This won’t happen overnight; it takes a very careful analysis of a business’s strengths and weaknesses compared with those of the competition.
Together, Process, People And Infrastructure Deliver Improvements
Three pillars are needed to support an optimally performing organization: process, people and infrastructure.
If one pillar is weak, the other two will fail. It’s kind of like a three-legged stool with one broken leg.
Take, for example, an organization that has undefined processes, a great technical infrastructure and amazing people. There’s much scurrying around and wasted effort, as those amazing people have to redo and recreate because a well-defined process hasn’t been set forth to ensure the right steps are followed.
On top of that, there may be people in similar organizations doing the exact same job, and you may not even realize it if you do not have a well-defined process or ability to measure the overall outcomes. To add even more insult to injury, the on-boarding process for new hires is even more crippling, as your organization tries to teach someone the nuances and politics of your organizational structure.
Process optimization occurs after processes are standardized and become repeatable. Only then can bottlenecks be identified and streamlined.
The increase in channels to reach the market creates an added need for standardization. Without standardization, engagement tracking, messaging and effort management (the time it takes to complete a project) are a nightmare.
Standardization doesn’t happen overnight. Maturation occurs over time, as subtle changes improve results (e.g., reduced costs, faster campaign delivery, mitigated risks, improved pipeline).
A highly tuned process needs to be supported by an underlying infrastructure. The infrastructure includes (but is not limited to) tools to communicate and collaborate, tools to manage content, software to store and manage lead flow and activity, reporting to measure progress and an engine to communicate with leads and clients.
The number of tools in the infrastructure isn’t important — only that they provide a framework for the processes and people. For example, a very large organization that has complex business goals might have 10 or 12 tools, while a small organization might only have a few.
Regardless of the tools used, there should be symmetry: first, in the integration between tools, and second, in the use of a single tool to perform a given function. For example, if one part of the organization uses Marketo and another Eloqua to communicate with leads, a ton of effort is wasted in maintaining both systems.
A strong infrastructure and a robust process can only be as good as the team with which it interfaces. For the marketing organization to function at an optimal level, all members of the team need the skills and knowledge to perform their assigned tasks.
With limited training and understanding of systems and processes, marketers struggle to use tools. Many times, they adapt incorrectly to using them.
This can create malformed processes that further inhibit your team’s ability to produce results in a reasonable time frame.
As a result, the tools are not used to their fullest capacity, and mistakes frequently happen. Even more exasperating are duplicated work efforts and additional steps in an already complex process, reducing an organization’s ability to go to market sooner.
There are two solutions to address the issue: upscale existing resources, or bring in additional resources that already have the skill.
Commitment To Optimization
CMOs must own and communicate their optimization efforts — what they are doing, why they are doing it and what is measured. Communications must be clear within the marketing organization, as well as to the entire enterprise.
Shout the goals of enterprise alignment. Discuss the metrics of success measurements. Putting the optimization effort out there will shine a light on accomplishments and drive home the commitment to improvement.
The reality is, if marketing organizations do not optimize, there will be a negative impact on the business — from wasted effort and unnecessary use of sunk costs to ultimately (and most importantly) lost revenue.
With the pressure on, CMOs and their marketing organizations don’t have a choice: They must align their processes, technology and people to produce results.
Mike Samuels is director of Customer Experience Strategy at Oracle. He has more than 15 years of experience in management and technology consulting, where he has focused on improving customer acquisition and retention strategies, big data analysis, predictive analytics, business process optimization, business intelligence, systems integration and customer relationship management.