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Future-Proofing Your Marketing Organization

January 29, 2018

Marketing leaders must focus on seven operational characteristics to build a best-in-class function that can adapt to changing conditions

B-to-b marketing organizations continue to expand their scope of responsibilities and complexity to serve evolving buyer and business demands. Today's CMOs and other marketing leaders must beware of reactive decisionmaking, which can create a domino effect of distraction and disruption. They need to look beyond organizational charts and role descriptions, and understand how to create a best-in-class organization that is capable of performing consistently at a high level as the business and market conditions evolve. In this issue of SiriusPerspectives, we describe seven characteristics of a future-proofed marketing function, along with key actions that marketing leaders should take to instill or strengthen these characteristics.

One: Audience-Centric

Marketing drives organizational transformation from product- to audience-centricity, enabling the organization to stay ahead of the competition and maintain revenue growth. Audience-centric go-to-market strategies are rooted in a deep understanding of market dynamics, buyer audiences’ needs and purchasing decision processes, customer engagement requirements throughout the customer lifecycle, and opportunities for leveraging influencers. Marketing also must focus on internal audiences (e.g. sales and other customer-facing colleagues) to ensure that they have the knowledge, content and tools required for successful engagements. Start the transition by giving portfolio marketing the responsibility of serving as the market and buyer experts – delivering audience-centric insights and deliverables (e.g. persona definition, messaging, buyer’s journey maps) that can be operationalized upstream by product teams for innovation efforts and downstream by marketing operations, campaign leaders, demand center teams and field marketing for go-to-market execution efforts. Invest resources in developing deep customer lifecycle expertise, as marketing’s contribution to post-sale engagement and growth from existing customers is as important as its contribution to new customer acquisition.

Two: Aligned

Marketing efforts must be clearly aligned to corporate/business objectives and focused on measurable activities that drive business contribution. This alignment and focus must be established or verified during the annual planning process and supported through ongoing functional and business review cycles. Alignment has major economic impact: SiriusDecisions research has shown that b-to-b organizations with well-aligned product, marketing and sales functions experience 19 percent faster revenue growth and 15 percent higher profitability than those that are misaligned. However, most b-to-b organizations simultaneously pursue multiple fundamental growth strategies, which increases the challenge of creating focused marketing strategies and plans. Marketing must drive business alignment across its own teams and with product and sales. Use the SiriusDecisions Intelligent Growth Framework to guide executive agreement on growth priorities and readiness as well as marketing strategies and investment to support the prioritized plan.

Three: Process-Driven

Establishing clear, repeatable processes is critical – across marketing, sales and product, across marketing functional teams, and within individual functional teams and roles are critical. CMOs must implement a cross-functional go-to-market execution workflow process that enables product-to-audience transformation. Processes such as content development, lead management, campaign planning and execution, and brand and message development require defined roles and responsibilities, interlocks and deliverables. The marketing leader should task marketing operations with assessing and improving cross-functional processes and those that involve multiple teams within marketing (e.g. planning, campaign development). Functional team leaders should address processes within their teams, and work with marketing operations to ensure well-defined connections between their teams and others.

Four: Data-Driven

Effective decisionmaking requires a solid foundation of data and analytics to support instincts and experience-based insights. The Sirius Decisions 2016 CMO study revealed that analytics topped the list of new roles that CMOs plan to add; 47 percent of respondents said they plan to add that role over the next two years, and another 21 percent are investing in analytics and modeling technologies. Marketing leaders should use the SiriusDecisions Analytics Proficiency Assessment Model to audit analytics readiness against five key dimensions: planning, processes, skills and tools, data, and corporate culture.

Five: Measurable

Marketing’s contribution must be agreed upon and understood within the business, and clear KPIs and other metrics should be used to holistically evaluate marketing’s success. When marketing is measurable, its contributions are not limited to the leads that marketing gets credit for – they encompass all ways that marketing contributes to all stages of the buyer’s journey and the customer lifecycle. In high-performing organizations, clarity permeates all marketing functional areas, promoting the tracking of progress, identifying areas that are not advancing as expected and enabling appropriate course corrections. Audit existing metrics against the SiriusDecisions Metrics Spectrum to create a consistent classification of metrics across the organization.

Six: Agile

Although not all marketing activities can be constrained to the time-bound sprints associated with agile product development, high-performing organizations borrow agile principles and apply them effectively to demonstrate marketing’s ability to drive experimentation and improve performance. Marketing leaders should understand where to apply agile principles by applying consistent criteria (e.g. frequency, risk tolerance, impact, expertise, readiness). Practice agility by building a rapid-response program capability that enables the organization to respond effectively to market-driven events as they arise. Encourage experimentation by ensuring that program and tactic diagnostics are leveraged to drive ongoing optimization of marketing program families (reputation, demand creation, sales enablement and market intelligence).

Seven: Enabled

In a future-proofed organization, marketing possesses or invests in developing the right competencies and the necessary technical infrastructure. Marketing leaders must ensure a consistent approach to budgeting for and operationalizing marketing enablement, conducting regular skills assessments, establishing competency maps and executing a marketing enablement plan. Avoid the common mistake of making technology purchases too quickly or without considering how new systems will affect processes and data flow across different functions. With support from marketing operations, conduct a technology audit and establish a technology roadmap to ensure technology investments align with the organization’s long-term business objectives and the priorities of each function. Include all of the skills needed for technology adoption and utilization within the marketing enablement plan.

The Sirius Decision

CMOs and other marketing leaders should recognize that future-proofing their organizations is as much about how the function operates as it is about the roles it performs. While some characteristics of a future-proofed marketing organization may have an impact on skills and deliverables (e.g. being data-driven may necessitate the hiring of a data analyst), all of these characteristics require that marketing leaders examine the behavioral norms and culture of the function. When discovering impediments to progress (e.g. an aversion to measurement due to fear of poor results, an overemphasis on planning perfection rather than agile iteration), marketing leaders cannot simply dictate new processes or implement new technology without discussion. Instead, they must examine behavioral norms, address problems, and create – and reward – a culture that will sustain performance through all business changes.