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In the old days, the role of marketing within an organization was more straightforward. Its confines were clearer too, especially against a backdrop of B2B sales. Today, truly effective marketing needs to expand into previously-restricted departments such as sales, support, IT, and even finance. Marketing is no longer (just) about marketing.
Businesses continue to struggle to work out how and when to engage with customers in this new environment. Our personal, professional, and physical lives are overlapping in ways that no-one could have anticipated a few months ago. Companies, as well as entire industries, are having to transform their business models as we all come to grips with new commercial realities. Marketers and business owners are trying to define what the new path forward looks like.
Interestingly, by forcing all of us to re-evaluate customer acquisition processes within these newly-mandated confines has taken Marketing to a whole new level. A place where, if we’re honest, Marketing should have been all along.
The Chance To Wipe The Slate Clean
As I mentioned last time, COVID-19 has acted as a catalyst to fast-forward internal business restructuring due to necessity. An initiative that had otherwise been on hold for too long.
We all know that many organizations could have implemented a ‘working from home’ employee policy a decade ago. Telemedicine is better than waiting days or weeks for a doctor’s appointment, and something we as patients should have had for years. The pandemic fallout has become a business change accelerant. It’s given us permission to put in place things we had sitting in our Inbox for years, but were too busy to implement.
Now the snowball’s rolling down the hill, there’s never been a better opportunity to revisit every customer touchpoint and review its purpose. To rethink how best to reach and engage with both new and existing buyers in ever more relevant ways. Technology alone doesn’t get us there. Today’s unique set of circumstances give us license, forcing us out of our comfort zone to wipe the slate clean. To rebuild customer experiences fit for the next decade and beyond.
As marketers, this is our time to shine.
Today’s new reality is forcing all of us to think differently. To take Marketing away from the “this is what works” cruise control setting, where too many firms have ended up. It gives us the chance to simplify, to focus, and to change what we’ve defined ‘success’ to look like.
There are a number of opportunities for Marketing to (finally) affect grass-roots business infrastructure in fundamental ways. Opportunities that savvy marketers have been itching to influence for years.
A valued and respected contributor to the business growth plan
Marketing’s unique customer insights should form the strategic fulcrum, as businesses define the new levers for growth to deliver a more integrated customer buying experience and brand loyalty.
Of course, that means Marketers need to step up their game. We need to be bigger owners of the pipeline. That means owning all the hard and scary stuff we have historically run away from. Having 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 positions of real world intelligence work, not guesswork.
If we want to earn our place at the grown-up’s table, we need to be seen to belong there. Growth sits at the heart of marketing. We need to own it, if we’re to avoid being forever considered as the ‘coloring-in department‘. Content channels, advertising, email, experiential, social media – none of these tactics mean anything without a clearly defined and well-articulated business case for growth.
Marketers need to be more business-focussed. Every comment, response, idea, or execution should come from a company mindset first. Your marketing expertise is then applied as a prism, defining constructs and application models to make it tangible. Furthermore, Marketing should be liaising with Finance to define metrics and how to measure performance. It’s a long way away from waving a wet finger in the air and hoping (i.e. the reality of many marketing departments).
Marketing As A Departmental Cornerstone
Part of this newly-expanded role is, I think, becoming more operationally and commercially astute than in the past. Such skillsets should be actively encouraged and nurtured in-house.
In practice that means abandoning the marketing-speak that we love to use amongst ourselves. Instead, we need to make a conscious effort to communicate in the ways the business now demands, and the C-Suite expects.
The end goal is the evolution of marketing as we know it today. Spending time to hone existing expertise, in order to position the department as the partner that stakeholders across the entire enterprise can depend upon to drive business initiatives.
What marketing brings to the table is experience and expertise in delivering on the undeniable power of human connection. It lies in the understanding buying drivers, the impact of external influences, as well as having empathy to customer thinking of the moment. This work is based on research, analysis, and data science – way before any thoughts of tactics. You won’t find the answer in a Facebook ad, Instagram post, or printed mailer.
Marketers worth their salary recognize that experiences aren’t formed at any single touchpoint or timeframe. The reason you choose to buy a pair of Nike sneakers isn’t because of the ad you saw on TV last night. It’s because of the hundreds of message touchpoints you’ve been exposed to over the past ten-plus years.
These experiences have been carefully planned and seamlessly woven together, with each brand interaction being distinct, relevant, and valuable. Together, they add up to something with remembering. An emotional reaction that’s locked into the customer’s memory, looked back upon with affinity, admiration, and hopefully trust.
Breaking Down The Walls
Today’s marketing crosses antiquated business unit boundaries. To be truly effective, ubiquitous, and transparent, Marketing now includes disciplines previously under the remit of Sales, of Operations, and even of Finance. The only way this can work is for everyone within the organization to accept and adopt this new mental model. It also requires resource and (possibly) budget reallocation to deliver that seamless and consistent experience throughout the organization.
The traditional functional roles and hand-off points between Marketing and Sales continue to shift. Lead generation, nurturing, and presales have increasingly come under Marketing’s remit. Rather than feeling slighted, salespeople should relish this change as a chance to expand their network and sharpen their consultative skills. To talk less, and listen more. Field sales people can use this additional bandwidth to seek out influencers and provide information on value, pricing, promotion, brand perception, and outreach channels.
But Marketing needs to do better too.
Blasting corporate or product messaging without the foresight on how to better connect with customers is unfortunately where most marketing is right now. The “Best Before” date for such lazy and inconsiderate tactics has long passed. Instead, Marketing and Sales need to work better together and truly operate as one team. Their common goal is the creation of interesting, useful, and resonant content seen as aiding in the buying journey.
The role of a salesperson has become less about selling. Now, it’s more about helping customers to buy.
At the same time, while the growth in digital-centric initiatives is undeniable, it doesn’t mean all marketing answers come in a digitally-shaped box. Sure, e-Commerce adoption has grown hugely in recent months. But so have curbside pickups, for example. It seems that while many consumers like to order online, a significant number prefer to pick up their goods in person. Maybe your bricks-and-mortar retail store doesn’t need a huge delivery division after all.
Marketing Isn’t (Just) About Marketing Any Longer
Ultimately, marketers and business owners have to be daring enough to draw a new line in the sand. Those who are bold enough to redefine their remit and responsibilities will rekindle true customer advocacy for their brand.
But ‘being bold’ goes much further than assuming ownership and responsibility within the business. It’s an opportunity for your business to stand out. Not just in terms of brand positioning, blog articles, or advertising creative. But in everything the customer is exposed to. That means becoming more of a team player with other areas of the business.
Being bold, by definition, is also admitting the insipid, uninspiring marketing you’ve been getting away with to date has no place in future customer-acquisition initiatives. Those willing to step out of their comfort zone in their search for differentiation will be best placed to reap the rewards.
The world will eventually, albeit slowly, emerge from its current social interaction restrictions. Some customer buying changes we’re seeing today will stick, while others will fade away. It’s those forward-thinking marketing professionals who will be first in line to capture and profit on that new customer relationship.