It's a great time to transform the organizational perception of marketing from a support function to the leader of sustainable organizational growth and success. Today, advanced analytics tools, dynamic web content management system (CMS) platforms, and highly granular personalization software enable marketers do things they never could have done even as recently as 10 years ago.
To navigate the complexity of these shifts, strong marketing organizations have realized that they need to adapt the way they use technology and leverage their agency partners in an agile way to quickly solve time, bandwidth, and skill gap issues.
However, embracing the new landscape can deliver profoundly impressive results: driving better leads to sales, supporting bigger and longer-lived deals, and improving the bottom line. With that level of opportunity, the field of influence is wide open.
A decade ago, marketers were learning to leverage content marketing in the digital space with increasing success. Putting the website at the center of their efforts, they shifted to inbound strategies to draw in potential customers and engage them. But the emphasis was still on getting more clicks and bringing in a high volume of site visitors.
Since then, we have learned to take advantage of greater opportunities to prove our value. The research firm McKinsey & Company recognized some fundamental shifts that have changed how a marketing organization drives growth. We’ve moved—
away from broadly targeted campaigns to highly personalized interactions
away from driving customers to our locations to meeting customers where they are with omnichannel messaging and cohesive storytelling across channels
away from mass advertising campaigns to highly targeted, continual content publishing
away from the perception of marketing as a cost to understanding that marketing is an investment with measurable ROI
At the epicenter of these shifts, a proliferation of data, strategies, and diverse tactics has emerged. With these tools and the scalability that partnerships with agency experts can deliver, marketers have the chance become leaders in their organizations.
Shifting into Marketing Leadership Mode
Now, we stand in a position of real power for influencing the course of our companies, their operations, and their futures. By bringing together the right people, processes, and technology we can take the lead on multiple fronts.
Own the customer experience
It used to be that sales held the keys to the customer: data, contacts, and the process of working through the sales cycle. But today, with nearly 60% of decision-making complete before any sales contact, sales is just one part of a much more extensive buying process.
It’s marketing that influences a customer’s decision to start that engagement. Marketing creates the customer’s perception of your organization. Marketing supports customers along their path to purchase. And marketing provides nurturing for those customer relationships through their full lifecycle.
That primarily digital customer experience is centered in your website and extends across all iterations and channels.
How to Start: Embrace automation
Seek specialized expertise with technologies such as website personalization, chat, nurture automation, and even user-driven meeting scheduling to reduce friction and quickly guide customers to the information that matters most to them. Utilize CMS features that help you design an intuitive, user-centric site. And employ specialized account-based marketing (ABM) software tools to showcase customized content, anticipate questions, and respond to pain points at an individual level.
Drive powerful organizational change
Today’s marketing techniques and technologies aren’t just able to improve the experience of the customer—in the process of improving the customer experience, they can improve the way internal teams work and succeed too.
Take the traditional adversarial relationship: sales versus marketing. Once the two rarely interacted; now, B2B organizations recognize that alignment of these teams is essential for growing revenue and building the future of the organization. When you employ strategies such as website personalization, ABM, and chatbots, input and ongoing participation from sales is a given, and sales is an immediate beneficiary of those efforts. Better yet, your teams want to talk because they have a mutual investment in the success of those efforts.
As marketing extends influence over the entire customer lifecycle, you’ll find your efforts also bring opportunities to influence the activities of departments at all levels of the organization, from HR to IT to product development to manufacturing.
How to Start: Engineer cross-functional connections
A modern, full-featured CMS can allow for the development of culture-shaping tools such as a company intranet, partner portal, sales enablement portal, calculators, and asset search tools. In addition, integral website localization support enables global teams to carry your messaging to customers around the world—while speaking their language and being part of their culture.
Control your budget by demonstrating ROMI
Employing modern strategies and technologies effectively can transform the way your company brings in revenue—and dramatically increase that revenue. Today, marketers have more ways to track the way customers interact with their programs, draw a verifiable path from the marketing program to the purchase, and even demonstrate increased revenue from existing customers.
Now, instead of talking about clicks and traffic, marketers are able to talk to their CEOs and CFOs about return on marketing investment (ROMI)—and create business conversations around the level of investment required to meet quantifiable business goals.
When you can equate your efforts with driving the right kind of targeted leads and directly influencing revenue, you should be able to leverage that conversation to increase budgets where they’ll do the most good.
How to Start: Strategize for results
To overcome roadblocks to upfront investments in time, resources, and tools, talk to your agency or consultant about how to make the case for building content across a buyer journey for a whole buying committee; creating relevant experiences for diverse stakeholders; and even developing a cost-effective ABM pilot to speak directly to the accounts that will bring your company the highest value.
Don’t Just Support Business Goals; Initiate Them
With that new, deep understanding of what’s required to meet objectives, marketers have an even greater opportunity: we can provide data that shapes the goals and initiatives of our organizations.
Customer-centric strategies like ABM, content-based nurturing, omnichannel digital advertising, and localized, global marketing don’t just provide highly focused ways to deliver information to customers—they also provide an unprecedented way to get information about site visitors and prospects.
By identifying visitor IP addresses at a company level and following user behavior as they click ads, browse your website and collateral, and interact with tools and chatbots, you have the opportunity to bring a truly insightful perspective to goal-setting.
With that insight, marketing can drive organizational change in core areas of impact. Your decisions can impact sales teams; the sales process; product development; and customer support, retention, and satisfaction scores.
When executives see revenues directly tied to marketing activity, marketing moves into the driver’s seat, enabling better marketing decisions across the organization. (Do we need that many BDRs? Should we be going to all these events? Why are we spending on ad buys or other activities that we can’t track?)
Now instead of reacting to shotgun initiatives, you can proactively steer the executive team to where their greatest opportunities lie—and set realistic expectations for getting there.
Your Most Valuable Asset: A Trusted Partner
Advanced software and technology tools are excellent for helping marketers build and execute effective, customer-centric programs and document the direct links between our programs and revenue, moving the perception of marketing from a cost to an investment. But without the people and skills to power them, those tools won't help.
As the McKinsey analysis revealed, to make your marketing organization capable of driving growth today and for the future, you need to define:
What your marketing organization can do—Clarify your capabilities, especially around data, UX, and content publishing
How work gets done—Document your operating model and define how you will extend your team to ensure you are agile and able to create innovative solutions at scale.
What your marketing ecosystem looks like—Which partners will offer the greatest value? Look beyond initial cost to choose partners that enable the highest quality work, on time, and at a level of expertise that ensures the success of your efforts.
Take the time to develop your perspective and document your leadership goals. Then, you’ll be able to build a sound leadership strategy and ensure your programs return ongoing positive results.