Five steps for marketing leaders to make themselves heard, not just seen
A senior marketer’s role has never been an easy job in any industry; yet in recent years, the pressures keep on mounting for B2B marketers. Mark Johnston discusses the five tips to align your team while championing marketing leadership.
Faced with a target buyer that knows their industry inside out thanks to in-depth research and experience, leaders must ensure that both their marketing strategy and operational priorities are geared towards their customers’ specific needs to avoid deterring prospects.
The diversification of customer segments, products and competitive threats mean the modern B2B marketing leader is engaged in all elements of the business. No longer are the classical marketing efforts enough, leaders must have an overarching view of the whole business to ensure all outward-facing marketing efforts are in conjunction. If your sales team is trying to sell your new widget to an international transport company, your marketing strategy needs to be aligned with the industry too.
So how can you best fulfil this new and vastly multitudinous role? Start from within - by making changes to the way that you and your marketing team operate, alongside changes in your relationships across the C-Suite.
1. Join the data dots across your marketing plan and team
Internal marketing systems, third party agencies and publishing platforms are a complex ecosystem when managed together. Innovation in marketing platforms has resulted in an abundance of customer data, only useful when housed together, in order for legitimate business decisions to be made.
Start by creating an operational audit of all data, systems, people and processes. Map out the ownership and SWOT of each - are your data sources united and compatible and can the whole team access them? Consolidating data and providing transparent KPIs can improve core metrics and business outputs significantly.
An example of this is when there is misalignment on metric definitions or pacing – one publisher’s click might not match another publisher’s definition; or your agency reporting cycle might not align with the pace of decision making the sales organisation require.
2. Reinvent the way your organisation uses real-time data
There’s a lot of focus on real-time marketing, but it’s not just a question of tactical, fast decision making at the media level. Real time analytics of marketing data provides agility for media execution, optimising spend at a micro-level.
With so much control, the pace of decision making does not change further up the organisation. The ability to switch investments from bottom performing campaigns, channels, content types, to top performing ones is slowed to the pace of the planning cycle or the monthly review - or worse, when an agency business review happens. It’s all well and good optimising the media targeting and ad serving at a micro-level but if you are not changing course on the big investment decisions, is it worth it?
Reimagine the pace of meetings and adopt agile working practices focused on the decisions that drive forward commercial outcomes. The data, when unified and democratised to everyone, means it is much easier for a marketing leader to make a decision and for that decision to be implemented in the moment, rather than wait for it to work through the inefficient meeting rhythms of most marketing teams.
3. Optimise the way people data and systems are connected, across all levels
To unify the business and to ensure all business communication strategies are aligned, data needs to be democratised. Now you have moved all department data into one central location, making that data available from the ground up will generate a positive shift in workforce culture.
By creating a working culture that is data driven, an ethos soon develops that is based around agile decision making, without having to work toward marketing ‘themes’ that were previously determined by monthly reports. This way of working promotes collaborative data sharing, phasing out data held in silos across various platforms in the business.
4. Ensure the accountability of marketing to the wider business
The CRO, CIO and CCO all have accountable ownership for growth - the CMO does too. Often marketing is seen and not heard - but we’ll only see a change by shifting the narrative of marketing to tie in with the rest of the business e.g. illustrating the results of marketing efforts in generating sales leads.
A great book on this subject is Measure What Matters by John Doerr. It talks about the power of the right objectives and key results to create impact in an organisation. It shares examples of how YouTube had a ‘Big Hairy Goal’ of 1B views and how the organisation positioned itself behind it. The ability to share those goals and link them through data and performance metrics across all roles in an organisation ensures the marketing leader is aligned with the sales leader and the marketing team are aligned too.
5. Align the company behind the goal of demand generation - and be that champion
Building on point four, it’s important to upsell your department’s strategic objectives in partnership with the C-suite. It’s just as important to ensure you’ve created a variety of short and long term company goals that are both inward and outward facing.
Marketing can be the bastion of strategic goal setting in partnership with the CEO, CFO and the company board. There is often a chasm between brand and demand that sits in most B2B marketing organisations with the former neglected in favour of shorter-term metrics. It’s now possible to invest in both if you have a unified view of your customer, the organisation’s execution and the ability to align long and short-term priorities. Strike a ‘finance friendly’ balance.