Digital Transformation of the Marketing Function

So much has been written about marketing in the last few years. Much of it professes to teach you how to get a “35% lift on conversion” or create campaigns that everyone opens and the leads come rolling in. It makes marketing seem easy. But if you were a fly on the wall of executive board rooms, you’d likely hear a different, very negative observation about marketing.

Confidence in the marketing function by executives is at an all-time low. CEOs I speak with, are struggling. They can’t seem to figure it out. From finding the right marketing resources for their business to what technology to buy, they are caught between decisions of whether to hire in-house or outsource, buy tools or buy tactics. This compounded with figuring out strategy, makes managing and executing the marketing function incredibly complex. The reason for this is that the role and function of marketing needs to evolve at a much faster pace than most CEOs can handle.

The digital age has transformed marketing more than any other function in a business. This coupled with the power shift from the business to customer due to unlimited supply and changed buying habits, means that today’s modern marketer must not only understand how to build and use the technology they need to succeed but they have to be closely tied to the customer and the buyer journey in order to truly deliver results. Many companies struggle with understanding this let alone figuring out how to execute it.

The marketing function in many organizations in the B2B space is outdated and unrealistic. If you don’t agree with this statement, take a look at your marketing function and agree or disagree with the following statements:

  1. I have a clearly documented outline of the buyer I need to engage to achieve my sales goals for the year and I can run a report right now and know how my lead generation program is tracking against these goals.
  2. I have tied analytics from my web presence (what prospects are doing on the web) to data in my CRM and know how interested a prospect is in our offer at any given time of the day.
  3. I have lots of ways for prospects to connect with my business if they aren’t ready to buy, beyond just the “Contact Us” form on our website and I have established funnels for each step of the buyer journey to know what they are doing.

If you answered yes to all three of these statements, well done. You understand the shift in the marketing function today and what tools like marketing automation can do to support this shift. If you answered no, I suggest you take time to consider where your business will be in three years.

Companies that do not embrace and evolve to transform the marketing function in their organizations, will quite simply be out of business in three years.

What’s the ROI on marketing and marketing automation?¬†You tell me? In business today? Out of business in three years? What’s your delta?

Many organizations I speak to have started to consider more tools like marketing automation. Much like the popularity of CRM back in the early 2000’s, marketing automation products are now in a heated race to gain market share. If you look at products on the market today, you will see their sales soaring.

But coming back to the question at hand, does a marketing automation tool solve the problem? Does it make marketers more accountable and by default, businesses more successful?

By itself, I would say NO. Any technology tool or product does not guarantee success. To guarantee success, you need to be willing to do the following:

  • Create agreement and understanding across your organization about the role of marketing for your business. If it’s to develop “brand” or run the golf tournament for clients you’re doomed. Lead management should be the primary function and everything that goes with it from the website through to tracking deals based on those leads. How you build awareness and engage people is up to you. But marketing as a function should be supported and managed based on this function alone. Can you do that?
  • Build a plan based on the buyer journey and invest in content and a website to support that journey. Can you do that?
  • Document not only the way prospects buy today but the way you sell to them so you can transform the story from the sales team to an online self-serve model. Even if you sell the most expensive, complex item in the world, you need to be willing to put the buying function out front via your web presence. Can you do that?
  • Invest in long term, continuous testing. The digital era means fast and constant evolution. There is no silver bullet like there was in the advertising era. Buyer engagement needs to evolve over time the more you get to know your audience. It will cost money. It will take time. It won’t be easy. Can you do that?

A recent paper by Deloitte Australia, entitled Reviving Marketing | The new CMO states that “we have a generation of marketers who have been trained to output work that neither moves nor offends, says only what is expected and is noticed by very few.” Adding a marketing automation tool to this mix will tell you faster that you are not succeeding and by default makes the marketer accountable. But that’s not the real issue today.

What needs to change?

The Strategy – Where to play, how to win and how to reach your buyer with the best story that encourages them to take a next step.

The Engine – You need to execute marketing through performance engines that will not only make the marketer more accountable but the entire business. The wrong strategy and content mapped to the right tool is not a winning formula.

The times they are a changing.

The digital transformation of the marketing function is now. Getting people across your organization involved to understand buyers and their needs will be lead by insights but transformed to data. How marketers intend to play in this shifting paradigm is up to them and the businesses they serve.

For marketers to excel today, they need to:

  1. Ask the right questions with a high level of empathy.
  2. Focus on solving the right problems.
  3. Be highly collaborative and have the ability to understand and influence various parts of the business.
  4. Embrace and drive technology.

For marketers to take their place as the accountable, strategic function it needs to be, we need to allow marketers to behave differently. Technology proves they have moved the needle, but they can’t do it if we still view the marketing function as button pushers of the email marketing platform.

Marketers can only be accountable, with or without software, if we inspire the whole organization to understand the real marketing function today: engaging customers and keeping them continuously moving through the buyer journey at all levels of the organization.

Are you ready for digital transformation of the marketing function?

We have designed a new guide to help you plan for marketing automation. Hot off the press, get it here and start the journey of making your whole organization more accountable to the marketing function in your business.

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