The objective of this series is to share insights, experiences and ideas for passionate marketers who want to grasp what it takes to be in charge of marketing, especially in these amazingly progressive times where marketing has attained a more strategic role.
The series could be seen to be oriented towards B2B, but many marketers see the lines with B2C blurring. So grab a coffee, put your feet up and read on.
Digital and the big picture
Let’s first stand back and explore how the emergence of digital channels, technologies and practices have changed the business world in general. After all sometimes it is difficult to see through the smoke when in the midst of a revolution.
Thanks to the evolution and adoption of online communications, businesses are fundamentally changing the ways in which they operate. The number of mechanisms for connecting, collaborating, sharing and executing business has become richer and more powerful.
Immediate access to information, conversation and opinion has created new opportunity for organizations to create value. If organizations can embrace digitally oriented business models, they stand to gain far more than they lose.
Online communications, especially in the form of social networks, are creating a means of interaction within and between businesses that can vastly improve productivity, performance and organizational effectiveness. The biggest risk is not modernizing your business, particularly your increasingly strategic marketing function, as more agile and sharper organizations are leapfrogging competitors in the land grab for digitally savvy customers.
For businesses, digital adds both complexity and opportunity. Thanks to search engines, businesses can actually be found rather than continually having to go out into the market and hunt for customers.
Of course it takes planning, experience and expenditure to maximize the quantity and quality of visitors who reach your business via search, but it is now one of the fundamentals of today’s business to be able to be found online, 24 x 7.
Search engines also contribute to the planet’s global knowledge-base, providing pinpoint access not only to your information, but your competitor’s too. So being able to consistently position and differentiate your business when a prospect is researching your industry segment adds an ongoing challenge to marketers.
Additionally, social media and professional networks allow people to break down barriers to knowledge, which means that it is no longer possible to have a gap between what you say and what you do.
Businesses must avoid damaging reviews and negative online sentiment at all costs. It has never been more important than to monitor and manage the reputation of your business online, as this genuinely influences whether prospects and existing customers will conduct business with you.
Over time, as decision makers become used to searching for goods and services online in their personal lives, so they are naturally inclined to bring the power and convenience of online research into their business lives.
Decision makers are open to influence from multiple online and offline information sources. Word of mouth is also important on the internet, not only for online retailing but for all types of business where conversations are occurring.
In many businesses, prospects are not connecting with sales personnel until much later in the decision cycle. Sales has lost the control of acquisition and retention that it once had.
The internet is gradually enabling the establishment and enhancement of relationships via more convenient research, networking and online collaboration, which in turn is gradually displacing face to face interaction.
Social media, content marketing and online search are turning traditional customer acquisition and retention practices on their heads. As Internet marketing accelerates and old techniques begin to falter, firms that ignore these trends will certainly be vulnerable.
As a CMO, it is imperative to fully understand and continually manage all the market dynamics and business variables in play here, of which there are many.
For campaign marketers, the absolute execution baseline is being able to accurately monitor target markets, understand customer preferences, present a water tight value proposition, attract/engage in meaningful and relevant ways, provide purposeful content along the lifecycle and interact on customers’ terms.
I believe Peter Drucker once said that the only two functions of any organization are innovation and marketing, and that was before the internet!
Marketing’s increasingly strategic role
What we can reasonably conclude is that marketing is central to the remarkable recent change in business models and practices. Given marketing’s understanding of the customer, the modern buying cycle, competition, and market dynamics, it is now most important that the board has a representative from marketing.
Due to the empowering nature of digital business, the customer is way more in control of the initiation and ongoing desire for any business relationship. Organizations must become truly customer oriented and operate every aspect of their company with the customer in mind.
The CMO needs to play a crucial role in constantly updating the boardroom and the CEO about the latest customer preferences and market trends, and how well corporate resources are aligned to meet those evolving customer needs.
Marketing can become the glue that bonds any customer oriented business together, by internally nurturing a culture of information transparency and sharing of customer insights.
Employees will feel more connected to the business, and a more natural collaboration between sales, marketing, customer support and other functions will occur as overall customer intelligence increases.
Some execs will be skeptical about this next comment, but over time when it comes to identifying the sales forecast for next quarter the CEO will approach the head of marketing, not necessarily sales.
This will be because marketing is assuming greater control over more of the marketing and sales funnel, to the point where the ratios of targets-to-prospects-to-leads-to-sales become so scientifically predictable that forecasts and future growth will ultimately depend upon the number of prospects (new or repeat) delivered to the top of the funnel.
Do you have the desire and ability to run marketing?
Make no mistake, to be a successful CMO or head of marketing is a tremendous challenge. A past history of juggling should help with the mindset needed as there are way more variables to understand and manage than in previous eras.