In the past, the role of marketing within an organization was simpler. Its limits were also clearer, especially in a B2B sales context. Today, truly effective marketing must extend to previously restricted departments such as sales, support, IT, and even finance. Marketing is no longer (just) about marketing.
Businesses continue to struggle over how and when to engage with customers in this new environment. Our personal, professional and physical lives overlap in ways that no one could have predicted a few months ago. Companies, as well as entire industries, must transform their business models as we all face new business realities. Marketers and business leaders are trying to define what the new path looks like.
Interestingly, by forcing all of us to re-evaluate customer acquisition processes within these newly mandated boundaries, marketing has taken to a whole new level. A place where, if we’re being honest, marketing should have been forever.
The chance to clean the slate
As I mentioned last time, COVID-19 has acted as a catalyst to accelerate the restructuring of internal activities due to necessity. An initiative that was also on hold for too long.
We all know that many organizations could have implemented a “work from home” employee policy ten years ago. Telemedecine is better than waiting days or weeks for a doctor’s appointment, and what we patients should have had for years. The fallout from the pandemic has become an accelerator of business change. It allowed us to implement things that we had in our inbox for years, but were too busy to implement.
Now that the snowball is rolling down the slope, there has never been a better opportunity to revisit every customer touchpoint and revisit your goal. Rethink the best way to reach and engage with new and existing buyers in ever more relevant ways. Technology alone does not get us there. Today’s unique circumstances give us a license, forcing us to step out of our comfort zone to clean the slate. To rebuild customer experiences fit for the next decade and beyond.
As marketers, it’s time to shine.
Today’s new reality forces us all to think differently. To keep marketing away from « that’s what works”Adjusting the cruise control, where too many companies have found themselves. It gives us the ability to simplify, focus, and change what we have defined as “success”.
There are a number of opportunities for marketing to (finally) affect the basic business infrastructure in fundamental ways. Opportunities savvy marketers have been eager to influence for years.
A valued and respected contributor to the company’s growth plan
Unique customer insights from marketing should be the strategic backbone as companies define new growth levers to deliver a more integrated customer shopping experience and brand loyalty.
Of course, that means marketers need to step up their game. We need to be bigger owners of the pipeline. It means owning all the difficult and scary things we have historically fled from. Have the pragmatism and humility to be able to review a campaign that bombed, for example, and hold ourselves accountable. It’s also about speaking the language of finance to defend investment decisions from real-world intelligence work positions, not guesswork.
If we are to earn our place at the adult table, we must be seen to be in our place. Growth is at the heart of marketing. We must own it, if we are to avoid being forever seen as the ‘coloring department« . Content channels, advertising, email, experiential, social media – none of these tactics mean anything without a clearly defined, well-articulated business case for growth.
Marketers need to be more business-oriented. Every comment, response, idea or execution must first come from the mindset of the company. Your marketing expertise is then applied like a prism, defining constructions and application models to make it tangible. Also, marketing needs to liaise with finance to define metrics and how to measure performance. This is far from waving a wet finger in the air and hoping (which is the reality of many marketing departments).
Marketing as a cornerstone of the ministry
Part of this newly expanded role is, I think, becoming smarter operationally and commercially than in the past. These skills should be actively encouraged and developed internally.
In practice, this means letting go of the marketing discourse that we like to use between ourselves. Instead, we need to make a conscious effort to communicate in the way the business demands it now and the C-Suite expects.
The end goal is the evolution of marketing as we know it today. Spend time honing existing expertise, to position the department as the partner that stakeholders across the organization can count on to drive business initiatives.
What marketing brings to the table is the experience and expertise in harnessing the undeniable power of human connection. It lies in understanding purchasing factors, the impact of external influences, as well as empathy for the customer’s thinking of the moment. This work is grounded in research, analysis, and data science – long before any thinking about tactics. You won’t find the answer in a Facebook ad, Instagram post, or print mailer.
Salary-worthy marketers recognize that experiences do not form at any touchpoint or period of time. The reason you choose to buy a pair of Nike sneakers isn’t because of the ad you saw on TV last night. This is because of the hundreds of message touchpoints you have been exposed to over the past ten years.
These experiences have been carefully planned and seamlessly integrated, with each brand interaction distinct, relevant and valuable. Together they add up to something to remember. An emotional response locked in the client’s memory, viewed with affinity, admiration and, hopefully, confidence.
Break down the walls
Marketing today crosses the outdated boundaries of business units. To be truly effective, ubiquitous and transparent, Marketing now integrates disciplines previously under the responsibility of Sales, Operations, and even Finance. The only way it can work is for everyone in the organization to accept and embrace this new mental model. It also requires a reallocation of resources and (possibly) budget to provide this seamless and consistent experience across the organization.
Traditional functional roles and transfer points between marketing and sales continue to evolve. Lead generation, nurturing, and presales are increasingly the business of marketing. Rather than feeling looked down upon, salespeople should appreciate this change as a chance to expand their network and sharpen their consulting skills. To talk less and listen more. Field sales reps can use this additional bandwidth to research influencers and provide insight into value, pricing, promotion, brand perception, and delivery channels.
But marketing must also do better.
Exploding corporate or product messaging without planning how to best connect with customers is unfortunately where most of the marketing is right now. The “best before” date for these lazy and reckless tactics is long gone. Instead, marketing and sales need to work better together and truly function as one team. Their common goal is to create interesting, useful and resonant content that is seen as an aid in the buying journey.
The role of a salesperson has become less focused on selling. Now it’s more about helping customers buy.
At the same time, while the growth of digitally focused initiatives is undeniable, that doesn’t mean that all marketing responses are presented in a box in digital form. Of course, the adoption of e-commerce has increased dramatically in recent months. But also sidewalk microphones, for example. It appears that while many consumers enjoy ordering online, a significant number prefer to pick up their products in person. Maybe your physical retail store doesn’t need a huge delivery division after all.
Marketing is no longer (just) about marketing
Ultimately, marketers and business owners need to be bold enough to draw a new line in the sand. Those who are bold enough to redefine their mission and responsibilities will reignite real customer advocacy for their brand.
But “being bold” goes far beyond taking ownership and responsibility within the company. It is an opportunity for your business to stand out. Not just in terms of brand positioning, blog posts or advertising creation. But in everything the customer is exposed to. It means becoming more of a team player with other areas of the business.
Being bold, by definition, also means admitting that the bland, uninspiring marketing you’ve strayed from so far has no place in future customer acquisition initiatives. Those who wish to step out of their comfort zone in their search for differentiation will be in the best position to reap the rewards.
Eventually, the world will come out, albeit slowly, from its current restrictions on social interaction. Some customer buying changes that we see today will remain, while others will disappear. It is these forward-thinking marketing professionals who will be the first to understand and benefit from this new customer relationship.