Marketing transformation has to start not with the technology, or even the organization, but with the company’s business model and customer experience. Sometimes digitization can seem like an independent force, gradually reshaping our environments and relationships. But within a company, delivering on digital requires a lot of advance work – especially to handle the convergence of channels, purchasing, and lifestyles. Without well-thought-out processes, supported by the larger organization, digital customer journeys become hopelessly complex and inefficient. Marketing content isn’t generated or repurposed, or delivered when it has the most relevance. Customers don’t steadily progress in the buying and post-buying cycle. They won’t be satisfied with the social media flavor of the day, when they know of competitors with a more reliable experience.
The following is an excerpt from Freedom Within a Framework. See eBook for additional information.
Accordingly, marketers need to take a step back to formally define their role and authority in the company. From the business model, the desired customer experience will shape the operating model for the marketing department. The marketing operating model is not about the organization of people or technology, but is a framework for developing the key capabilities for delivering that experience. It defines the foundational structure within which marketers can rapidly adapt to changes in customer behavior and technology, permitting marketing leaders to adjust their organization and technologies without major disruption.
The operating model should be designed without regard to traditional functional groupings, which have little to do with how customers truly interact with brands nowadays. Separate silos for advertising, merchandising, sales, and store operations will hinder the all-important integration necessary for a unified experience. What matters is how well the operating model addresses the elements of the customer experience, including all of the tactics, messaging, calls to action, incentives, and other ways the brand will interact with customers.
Only after putting forth the operating model can marketers generate the organizational structures and technologies to deliver the intended experience. Up to now, few marketers have thought through their brand’s operating model and how well it connects to their target customers. Politically and budgetarily, it’s much easier for marketers to build incrementally, working with existing structures and roles. But a decade into the adtech and martech soup, we’ve learned that’s an expensive path for bolstering the status quo.
Figure 1 describes the top down path of marketing transformation.
While operating models will vary enormously across industries and even among companies, depending on their strategies for attracting and segmenting customers, they should all address these questions:
Often represented with a graphical depiction of capabilities, the operating model states the scope of marketing’s activities to be carried out by teams at headquarters and elsewhere. It is a shared blueprint of record for the capabilities that, when enabled by process and technology, will deliver the intended customer experience. And with this capability view, marketing will have the freedom to change incrementally over time as the environment changes.
Figures 2 illustrates basic operating model capabilities (sub-capabilities not shown).
Once these capabilities and sub-capabilities are specified, marketing can design planning processes to create the necessary content strategies and other ingredients. It can define the key planning inputs and milestones, along with structures and tools for collaboration across teams. Insights need to be synthesized and incorporated in workflows. From there, planning should lead to clean and accountable handoffs with the creative teams and production, with oversight to ensure that the work supports the marketing leadership’s goals.
These processes need to specify the contributions of colleagues outside of marketing, especially in providing the rich marketing content needed for distinctive messages. Making that work will require some negotiation and expectation-setting, to ensure ongoing cooperation.
Marketers will need to formalize processes, but they should be wary of process engineering such as Lean and Six Sigma, at least for many of the creation and production processes. That can work well for repetitive, predictable processes such as basic content production, but their use in upstream campaign planning and content ideation should not drive process design. Both on the planning side and in execution, marketing will always rely on non-linear creativity and collaboration. A tight-loose-tight approach is best, where output aligns to leadership’s goals, teams are freed to generate innovative and creative output with minimal structure, and then output is executed efficiently across the touchpoints.
Only with the underlying processes in hand should marketers assess their teams and design the actual organization that can best deliver on the operating model. That includes reporting relationships, decisions on hiring and training, what to outsource, and how much autonomy to grant each team. A key challenge is to resist the mindset to cluster the activities into traditional silos.
From there, marketers can design technology. A major challenge is to connect marketing’s back end – the customer databases, brand assets, project and financial management – with the front end of marketing automation, web content management, social listening, and other tools. The front end of marketing technology tends to receive the lion’s share of investment and prestige, but that disparity gets in the way of integrating the two ends to ensure a smooth delivery. In the finely tuned, low-tolerance digital age, marketing is only as effective as its capabilities act in concert. Content may be king, but the back end is essential to delivering the content where and when it packs the most value.
Also important is to link the marketing technology with the overall enterprise technology as managed by corporate IT. Instead of a dispersed collection of tools working in pockets, marketers need to think of a dynamic ecosystem of information.
Looking ahead, the front end tools of engaging with customers will continue to evolve rapidly, while the foundational back office tools for planning and generating the content are more mature. But fortunately, the front and back ends are converging to single platforms. The key, here and throughout, is to structure the technology around the main processes for delivering a good customer experience, not around the traditional organizational roles.