Marketers—Our Ultimate Form IS Change

August 24, 2016 Robert Rose

There’s a classic scene in the TV comedy Seinfeld where Jerry and Elaine are standing at a rental car counter. The customer service rep has just told them that, despite the fact that they have his reservation, there are no cars available for Jerry to take. Jerry says, “See, you know how to take the reservation. You just don’t know how to hold the reservation. And the holding… well that’s really the most important part of the reservation.”

I think this is a classic metaphor for where marketing is at the moment. You can’t go to a marketing conference these days without hearing about change.

The buyer’s journey has changed
Social platforms are changing
The way consumers research our products has changed
Advertising is changing
Pokemon Go is a thing – have you got a Pokemon Go Strategy yet?

Yes. All these things are changing. But, ironically, the most critical part hasn’t. We haven’t changed the way we operate as marketers. We’ve seen the change. We’ve given lip service to the change. We’ve acknowledged the change. We just haven’t held the change. And, when you think about it, that’s the most important part of the change.

Content Changes Marketing’s Purpose

My experience with the Content Marketing Institute’s advisory clients and partners tell a similar story to the above. We are seeing brands achieve more success when a consistent and integrated experience is created—solely designed for customer delight at every single stage. Great content is at the heart of generating customer delight, and it’s the foundation of the change that has to occur. Put more simply, marketing shouldn’t be working on changing content’s purpose. The importance of content changes marketing’s purpose.

Okay, that’s too pat of a projection for sure. “Content changes marketing’s purpose” is an easy, tweetable sound-bite, but what’s the reality? Well, certainly one of the largest challenges we see is that brands have spent the last 7 years fully stratifying the customer experience, and then adding discrete teams to address each stratification.

We now have brand teams, demand generation teams, sales enablement teams, field marketing teams, social marketing teams, social CRM teams, PR teams and even (my favorite) a separation in some organizations of “digital marketing” and regular ol’ “marketing”.

The interesting thing is that this structure, in most cases, wasn’t designed. These siloes grew organically, like weeds in a garden, as new platforms and technology emerged into popularity. Basically, the business said, “Hey, mobile is now a thing. Let’s create a team for that.

But regardless of their origin, these structures have become rigid. We routinely see marketing silos in this odd competition with each other for traffic and “engagement.” We see digital platforms created, and then even after they have become stale or ineffective, the business continues them because of momentum and an inability to change. A common lament I hear is, “We can’t do the new, cool thing because, well, we have 7 email newsletters that have to go out weekly.” I ask “why not stop one or more of the newsletters?” The answer comes back, “I don’t know. It’s just the way things have always been.”

So, the critical thing is that even before we look at developing new social media strategies, or a content marketing hub, or a native advertising plan or all the other things where output of the content is the focus, we need to make a strategic effort to make our ability to change the strength of our strategic approach. In other words, if marketing is to become customer-centric and a strategic discipline in this “new era,” we must simply agree that change is what’s important. “Into what?” is another question that’s candidly less so, as the form itself will be different as time goes on.

 

 Better Practices for Customer-Centric Change

As a quick note: I think it’s too early to call these “best practices,” so I call them “better practices,” only because the early results are proving successful in the companies we’ve been working with. But, hey, I’m willing to see them change as things evolve.

1. It’s The Buyer’s Journey, Not The Brand Journey

One of the key findings from our Executive Forum Research that we conducted last year, was that it was much less important to de-silo the organization, than it was to de-silo the process by which customer-centricity can begin to thrive. This is especially prevalent in B2B situations, where neither sales nor marketing should “own” the customer. Marketing and sales need to work less in service (or in some cases competition) to each other – and more as a collaborative team. Customers don’t care if they are a lead, or an MQL, or a “hot” opportunity. They care about themselves. Aligning both sales and marketing efforts around the customer’s journey (rather than the inside-out looking sales process) can help to create a much more fluid process rather than the awkward “hand-off” that is so common now.

2. Measure Content & Meaning Not Teams & Channels

Let me be clear here. Yes, of course the people who are responsible for channels such as the Web site, the blog, the social channels or the eCommerce platform should be measuring the efficacy of their efforts. But isolating the goals by team is so often the cause of contradictory agendas. The social team who is solely measured on “engagement” rarely integrates with the “web team” because their content doesn’t get as many “likes” or “follows.” By making a subtle shift to reporting the efficacy of content and/or data and how it helps us to reach goals – instead of as a weapon to understand whether a particular channel or team has “proof of life” can provide just the incentive for teams to work more closely together.

3. Technology and Marketing Should Have One View Of The Customer

The importance of “alignment of the CIO and CMO strategy” is a bit cliché at this point. Yup, we get it – it’s important. But, the key is that success is not built from a mutual understanding of separate agendas. Rather, the technology and marketing teams MUST come together to develop a collaborative strategy for customer engagement.

Internal communication and collaboration between technology and marketing teams has to be a core component. As Kathy Button Bell, CMO with Emerson Electric said in a case study that appeared in my latest book said:

“We’ve all acknowledged the empowered customer, but it’s time to recognize the empowered employee. The digital age has brought exceptional transparency and honest views to all employees. We need that for a company of the size and scale of Emerson. In order to successfully drive cohesion and a seamless customer experience we have to communicate as aggressively and consistently internally as we do externally.”

 

Our Ultimate Form Is Change

Ultimately there is no way to accurately predict what the marketing organization will need to look like in 5 years’ time. It’s only been 8 years since any business could even think about how to address such disruptions as Facebook, or the iPhone or Android. And it’s been less than 6 years since any marketer even thought about what opportunities an iPad could bring.

So – what will the next 5 years bring? Who knows. Virtual Reality? The Internet of Things? Pokemon Go?

So, instead of looking at each new disruptive technology (hardware or software) as a need for a new “team,” node on a matrixed structure or weed in our garden—marketers should instead just look at structures where collaboration, content and data flow more fluidly to handle ANY new disruption.

Marketing organizations will absolutely need to be built to change—constantly. Instead of trying to figure out WHAT they should change into, perhaps we should just stop at the word “change.”

 

About the Author

Robert Rose

Robert is an author, a speaker, a consultant, and the Chief Strategy Officer for the Content Marketing Institute and a senior contributing consultant for Digital Clarity Group. He innovates creative and technical strategies for a wide variety of clientele, such as AT&T, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Petco, Caterpillar, ADP, Fairchild Semiconductor, and KPMG.

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