Are structure and process the glue that holds marketing, technology and creativity together?


Consumers like to feel a human connection to the brands they love. Whether it’s through empowering athlete endorsements like Nike or connection to an inspiring founder like Virgin, humanity is a critical element in successful marketing. That’s why it’s somewhat ironic that while a human touch in brands is more important than ever, the behind-the-scenes technology that makes marketing scalable has also exploded in recent years.

According to a prediction made in 2016 by Gartner, chief marketing officers (CMOs) would spend more on technology than chief information officers (CIOs) by 2017. Today, in more than 30 per cent of organisations, at least some aspects of sales, IT and customer experience now report to the CMO, suggesting that Gartner’s prediction is inching ever closer. The challenge is to ensure that the right technology is being used in the right way, in order to encourage marketing and creative excellence, rather than stifle it.

With consumers interacting with brands through an increasing number of channels, marketers are being held to greater accountability when it comes to measuring the performance of each. The level of customer targeting available today, coupled with the measurement capability of most marketing tech means marketers have the power to make an even more significant impact on the commercial success of the businesses they work for – and businesses are demanding aggressive tactics.

If you add into the mix a commitment to streamline processes within the marketing department, this perfect storm could prove a true game-changer for all marketers and the businesses they serve.

Process is not a dirty word

According to an article in Harvard Business Review, “firms with strong managerial processes perform significantly better on high-level metrics such as productivity, profitability, growth, and longevity”. Top performing teams are 75 per cent more productive and businesses that implement best-in-class management practices experience 25 per cent faster annual growth.

Typically, the biggest cost in a marketing team is people. As a result, the only way to drive efficiency is to cut out the cognitively routine, mundane work these teams are doing, in order to free up their time to do the real value-add stuff. Doing this requires visibility into the work that is being done and an approach to efficiency that is more akin to the assembly lines of old.

An “assembly line” sounds rather old fashion for a modern marketing organization, but giving workers the ability to execute work efficiently as it arrives to them should not be an outdated concept. There is a plethora of technology available today – from project management to collaboration platforms – to help marketers work in a more agile way and streamline processes. These systems can give CMOs the confidence to work in a demanding work environment, knowing deadlines are being hit and high-quality work is getting done.

How to build technology into the marketing discipline

An overview of the most recent marketing technology landscape highlights no less than 5,000 marketing technology tools. This makes it almost impossible for CMOs to know what technology tools to use, and when in a company’s growth to deploy them.

If CMOs are going to embrace their new role as one of the main technology purchasers/ users within an organization, it needs to be approached with a firm eye on the business needs. Here’s a quick head start:

  • Where are the problem areas? Take a long look at the way your marketing team operates today. Are you consistently hitting deadlines on time? Are you keeping over-service to a minimum? Do you track the ROI of your campaigns? And when you need this data, are you able to obtain it easily – or does it cost hours upon hours of time pulling reports together?
  • Are we working well together as a team and across the organization? The most efficient businesses have a high degree of interaction across teams. To deliver high quality of service to customers, it’s critical to examine how that interaction is occurring. While chat tools may be better in some respects than email, neither may be enough to bring organization to your workflow and collaboration behaviors.
  • How can I ask for more, without prompting burnout? Getting team members to take accountability for the work, and ensure they are working on the right stuff is at the heart of productivity. Ensuring your team has access to the right information and context will enable better decision-making at every level. Collaboration technology has the potential to add a layer of transparency to facilitate this decision-making. Finding solutions that empower the team can be a big boost to morale as well.
  • What challenges am I up against? The single most important step is to work out exactly what you do now and what you want the technology to achieve. Then you need to look at your organization’s culture around deploying new technology and think about how you can ensure that bringing in a new tool will genuinely enhance productivity.

Aim for operational excellence

Technology is having a transformative effect on the marketing industry as a whole, and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon. From audience analysis tools, sophisticated chatbots, to team collaboration platforms, marketers are embracing new technologies to improve their speed of delivery, quality of work and ability to provide customized offerings for each individual.

We mustn’t lose sight of the ultimate driver – business success. Pursuing a culture of operational excellence in every corner of a business’s operations in a managed, coordinated and seamless way will be an important key to that success.

– by Frazier Miller

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