Marketing process improvement isn’t just for the tough times

At this time of year, many B2B marketers are focused on the end of their financial year or planning for 2022. Unlike their B2C cousins, process is perhaps a more familiar territory to many in B2B, especially in the demand generation and marketing operations spheres. Disciplines that in the tough times can feel like they are pedalling downhill – gaining ever more speed. This isn’t always sustainable, so today we look at why marketing process improvement isn’t just for the tough times.

Process improvement

Not all marketers think in terms of processes. Those little routines and steps that you go through for everything from updating the CRM system to approving a campaign. In white collar, professional jobs, processes are what hold everything together. They may not necessarily be written down, but you go through them every day and every week. Some are quick and happen in minutes, others take days or weeks and involve other people and other processes. This interaction introduces bumps in the road and can affect your processes.

Processes are all around us, none more so than in the target-driven world of B2B marketing. So why not think about improving them? The trouble is that we often don’t have the time, the will, or the skills to do so. There is also the occasional enforced change to processes that often happens in the tough times, such as a downturn or pandemic.

Not just for the tough times

Interestingly, process improvement can save time and money. Yes, making processes simpler or removing them altogether frees up time to work on other activities. In an ideal world, those new activities have a closer relationship to marketing qualified leads (MQLs) and sales targets.

Most change takes buy-in, communication and time. Perhaps that’s why we only really get around to it when we have to do it, such as when the chips are down. But, couldn’t this be part of the routine? What’s stopping you from improving your processes right now? Could you make your life easier and contribute more from marketing?

It’s all about culture

A little like a highly customer-focused organisation, which is culturally aligned to make the right decisions for the customer, a cultural shift is required. If you are the only team looking at process improvement, it probably is going to be short-term. Perhaps you enlist the help of a change agent or an external consultant to lead the change.

What if you are the CMO? Most modern marketing departments have more processes than I have fingers. One individual may even have processes into three figures, especially a Marketing Operations Price specialist. Maybe there is an opportunity to highlight the benefits of a cultural shift or to communicate the journey you intend to go on to create a high-impact team.

It’s more than a cost-saving exercise

Depending on your role, many may look at change and process improvement as cost-cutting drives. They groan and sigh at the very mention of such initiatives that interrupt their flow, creativity, and passion. After all, we’re far too busy creating content, organising agencies, designing campaigns and managing (at least) a dozen digital platforms to look at process improvement.

Sometimes, these initiatives are led by finance and therein lies part of the challenge in acceptance. Believe it or not, marketing and finance don’t always see eye to eye! If you take a long-term view, you will most likely come to realise that it was a finance-led initiative during a downturn or when results were falling short. Finance doesn't usually sit there coming up with new ways to hassle marketing.

The good news is that the main benefits are saving time and being able to do more to support achieving targets. Too busy? Too much to manage? Feel like what you do isn’t making enough of a difference? Well, perhaps process improvement is actually the tonic. Shaving a few hours off your working week would be a godsend for many and a more direct relationship between effort and results is a powerful motivator.

Doubts and inertia are holding us back

Process improvement is undoubtedly a break from the routine. It needs an investment in time and sometimes cost to realise. If the culture doesn’t support this, the CMO perhaps needs a little influencing to put this on their strategic agenda for the quarter or the year and to share it with the rest of the C-Suite.

If you take a sales mindset for a moment, the best sales people don’t suffer from inertia to drive results. The majority throw themselves into initiatives that will improve their day-to-day and their commission. Call them the ‘go-getters’ if you will but the relentless drive to improve makes more sales. Perhaps marketing should put doubts to one side and invest in making their own lives and contributions more fulfilling. See, didn’t we say that it wasn’t just for the tough times?

Want to find out a little more about process improvement? Check out this related article on Six Sigma Marketing.