Five years ago, I, along with a friend, was conducting marketing workshops for start-ups and small-medium organizations as an extension of our marketing consulting business.
The initial few years were a tremendous learning process for us as we witnessed, up-close, the rise and fall of several marketing managers at our client organizations, especially those in inbound marketing.
Quantifying marketing campaigns has always been an enormous challenge, specifically in relation to how they impact an organization’s growth.
In a quarterly meeting at one of our software company clients, the marketing team presented a report showcasing their increase in market share compared to their competitor. All that the country manager asked was “Have we grown by brand value or sales volume?”
That was a big lesson for all of us. Expectations for the marketing team are different in different organizations. Marketing professionals need to understand that while the marketplace was once full of brands that flourished as a result of exclusivity, technology is quickly destroying that business model.
Production, communication, and metrics have allowed the source and the buyer to share the same mind space. They have also allowed producers to easily create exactly what people want.
Years ago, smaller organizations could not access parts of the market because they lacked the financial and creative resources necessary.
Technology has completely ended that.
Form and function are moving closer together. The buyer does not have to choose. The product space is becoming more crowded because more people can deliver newer products in every category. The lines that distinguish one product from another are blurring. There are still differences in quality, but as technology advances, that will also change.
The only thing that will remain is price and customer experience.
Marketing is transforming on a large scale by becoming more scientific than ever before. It has transcended from “messaging” to “communication.”
It is also becoming metric based, and every activity is now equated to the outcome and return on investment (ROI). It is no longer about improving the 1% with a massive marketing spend, but instead about building products and customers in a scalable and efficient manner out of almost nothing.
Metrics are important not just because they give direction, but also because they provide the most current information available. The significance of real-time data will vary with each industry, but there is no dismissing the importance of current information, especially if it reveals a dramatic change.
However, metrics are nothing without sound interpretation.
A pile of data is meaningless unless you have an intimate understanding of the market and know which metrics matter most. For instance, how many units are sold may not be important because the business may be selling services for those units.
Imagine your CEO wants to see a sales opportunity generated for every dollar spent, and you present a report showcasing the increase in brand presence. Will it appeal to her?
You are measuring with the most sophisticated tools, but are you measuring it in the context of your organizational goals? This is exactly what I’ve addressed in my recently released book, titled “Is your marketing in sync or sinking?” Feel free to check it out.
By virtue of my own experience consulting for several organizations, I can confidently say that there are no right or wrong marketing models. However, it is always wise to choose the model that fits your organization in terms of its vision, goals, and strategy.
Described below are some of the models that I’ve observed across the organizations I’ve been closely associated with.
This model is generally followed by companies that are socially mature, focused on building and renewing brand equity, and interested in deepening their customer engagement.
These companies consciously move away from traditional advertising models and mediums and are more active on social media, and forums. They build communities to connect with their consumers in newer and more innovative ways.
Their primary goal is to get new customers and increase loyalty among existing ones by offering better experiences with their brand.
The companies that believe in this model are often driven by customer data, analytics, and insights based on customer interactions.
There are several tools in the world of digital marketing, from open source tools like Google Analytics to premium web analytics tools, which offer you a complete understanding of your typical online customer.
They give the users insights about consumers’ behavior, the effectiveness of the marketing program, and much more, thereby allowing users to understand the perfect buyer persona for their product or service.
Thanks to this vital information, this strategy boils down to what kind of marketing organization one needs to build for the customers.
Based on this information, you can try to “wow” the customers at every possible touch point.
The primary goal here is to drive better customer experience and have an ongoing dialogue with a loyal customer base.
These companies are sales-driven organizations. They are not among the pioneers in digital marketing.
They don’t want to be left behind and are therefore trying to catch up.
The primary focus for these kinds of companies is on driving online traffic and converting as many sales as possible across various channels.
They want to maximize their marketing efficiency and increase their wallet share among the competition. Their website design, search engine optimization, mobile apps, and social media engagement are aligned towards this goal.
They would, at some point, like to drive customer engagement, but it is not their major focus for now.
Many organizations believe that marketing is at the root of lackluster sales or entirely responsible for sales improvement.
Sales and marketing have a complex relationship that requires them to complement each other. That relationship is best defined by the sales funnel. It is the mechanism that joins the efforts of each department, and it is the most important reason for alignment between the departments.
Let us do a quick dipstick to understand where you stand today. Try answering these questions. For best results, write them down on a piece paper rather than typing it out on a notepad or MS Word.
It might be easy to systemize all of your marketing activities or set them on autopilot without many dependencies, but they won’t be successful unless you know the purpose.
Purposelessness can only lead to the marketing department becoming a liability. Hence, it is important for you to have precise answers to these questions. To have a clear strategy, you need to understand your organizational goals at the corporate level, the business level, and the functional level.
There is always a temptation to adapt an industry best practice to keep pace with others or to appear trendy. Every time you are tempted, try to answer these three questions.
One of my customers, who is a CEO, once said, “A CMO cannot read minds, but that is part of the job description and I would expect my CMO to do that.”
As blunt as the statement is, it sends out a clear message: the foremost thing that today’s CMOs need to understand is that they aren’t hired to maintain or preserve the status quo. CEOs are not going to be pleased with it – they are looking for a change, nothing short of a surge. The expectations are high, and with great expectations come great responsibilities and newer roles.
The expectations of the role are far beyond just marketing, communication, and advertising.
They are expected to be strategic drivers of growth, collaborating closely with the CEOs and chief financial officers (CFOs) by bringing to the table an ability to connect consumer insights with strategy while creating plans that translate to business growth.
During one of my conversations with Christian Fictoor, the Chief Innovation Officer of L’Amp, an innovative marketing agency based out of the Netherlands, he said, “In a few years, expect the CMO title to fade away. Today, a typical CEO expects the CMO to step up to a leadership of integrated cross-functional customer experience.”
The CMO must be able to offer input to the CFO, take strategic input from the CEO, and share design responsibilities with the product development team to ensure the design and delivery of consistent and positive cross-functional customer experiences.
He has to know the pulse of his buyers. He has to “speak their language.” He has to relate. If he lacks this fundamental understanding and ability, he has already failed.
Often, when there is something in life that you want to accomplish, you just go ahead and do it. You check it off your list. But then, there are others that you always wanted to achieve but just haven’t gotten around to.
All that you go ahead to fulfill are goals, and all those you aspire to are dreams.
In simple terms, a goal is an objective with a deadline—it comes with accountability. Successful organizations that chase goals have a strategy in place to get there.
They are then translated into smaller marketing and other functional goals. You are accountable for your goals, and you are going to be measured based on outcomes.
All of the metrics in the world are useless without the ability to interpret them. In the current age of marketing metrics, we have to consider the entire body of the business and the relationships between every element: the context.
A marketing professional has to understand every aspect of how their organization works. She cannot be effective in her role if she is ignorant about the overall goals of the company and how it functions.
How can professionals market something that they do not know anything about?
How can they set RoI expectations if they do not know the financial condition of the organization or what the objective of the organization is?
Metrics only tell what happens after the product launches. They only show what people bought or how many people migrated. What they do not tell is why those people made those decisions.
Marketing operations are only part of the picture. They contribute to the goal by aligning to achieve it.
Are you in sync or sinking?
Yaagneshwaran Ganesh is a marketing enthusiast, speaker and the author of "Is your marketing in sync or sinking?". His mission "One globe, one experience" is to explore marketing practices at organizations of different sizes, industry and cultures across the globe and help align marketing operations to organizational strategy. He has an MBA from Jansons School of Business and a certificate in strategy management from Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode.