HBR Asks, Are You Modernized?

Any marketers who happens across Harvard Business Review blog from time-to-time is surely privy to some excellent content around general leadership, the psychology of business and – especially as of late – specific emphasis on the evolving marketing function. One of the more recent posts –  titled appropriately as The Rebirth of the CMO – is one of the more profound I’ve checked out which, I’m sure even at first glance, begs the old nail-on-the-head cliché from most readers in the contemporary marketing niche.

First there was traditional marketing, then there was modern marketing.

Harvard Biz slices up the components of what makes up the disparity of old and new marketing. Not to suggest the author believes these factors to be the only ones that bridge the modern marketing divide, but rather points out that these activities seem to represent what’s not only important, but now required of all CMOs to success.  So, according to them, here’s what wasn’t there before but is now, so use them!

  • Insight measurement
  • Strategy to manage/integrate cross channel communication
  • Influencing transformation within the organization

Insight measurement

 “When it comes to who asks the provocative questions [and] who agitates for customer-led change, it is the group closest to the customer and the group with the data. And that really is on the backs of marketing.” – Tariq Shaukat, the CMO of Caesars Entertainment, The Rebirth of the CMO.

To traditional-focused marketers, if there existed an activity to build into the overall marketing approach that scientifically suggests the result of x2 likelihood to outperform on profit and 23x more likely to acquire new business compared to peers the without it, logic would dictate they ought to pursue it. That’s why a great deal of marketers are infusing analytical measurement; to uncover growth-driving indicators as well as signs signaling growth suppression and flat performance. However, some aren’t doing this. According to HBR, just about 30 percent of companies believe they have enough understanding of their customers to identify what approaches will drive growth.

Why the mystery if the technology is there for enlightenment? Once such indicators are revealed, marketers could delve deeper and understand how their group affects the business and how strategy could be amended to saturate marketing plans with the good performance indicators and shed the time-wasting ineffective ones, resulting in a streamlined overall process.

Thinking philosophically about the incorporation of customer demographic and psychographic criteria measurement into the equation always leads me to personify the marketing function. Knowing what’s going on in the buyer experience is like marketing opening its eyes for the first time. With open eyes, marketing, like with people, are able to gather more information to make more informed decisions based on true facts, not speculation.

Strategy to manage/integrate cross channel communication

“Point solutions, such as focusing on the call center, the store, or the website, no longer cut it in a multichannel environment, not when delivering excellent customer journeys can increase revenues up to 15 percent and cut costs by up to 20 percent.”The Rebirth of the CMO.

In a past post I wrote –  Seven Habits of Highly Effective Digital Marketers – I describe the crucial perspective of seeing all marketing-sales cycle activity in “funnel vision.” Strangers ultimately become customers by travelling through a set of actions and channels within the Awareness, Interest, Desire and Action stages, which guides them through the different pieces of the sales funnel and determines they should be treated: as a stranger, a hot sales lead or something in between. This view gives marketers a sales hat and allows them to see marketing as an influence of revenue, instead of a branding or ad center.

It would even be a fair case to say there are even more touches in the customer process today than the age-old, text book AIDA model. Within all of those stages involve a voluminous set of nuances that the stranger flows through in their buyer journey down to retained customer. Managing as many of these nuances as possible will tighten up marketing efficiency and thus revenue influence significantly, and it’s not a one-and-done job. As HBR describes,  “to stitch it all together meaningfully, CMOs are increasingly expected to act as general managers with P&L or shared/shadow P&L responsibility that drive revenue growth.”

Needless to say, to manage optimized revenue-driven marketing, the CMO needs to manage the process that leads up to such a result. In modern marketing, this process involves content, market attention and data flowing through digital channels like social media, website, email, ad and others, along with some traditional (perhaps digitally-infused) tactics. The more diverse the multi-channel approach to MarCom, the more insights could be developed that improve strategy (see previous activity on insight measurement). Integrating the channels together helps turn disjointed avenues to customer engagement to a unified ecosystem that the customer flows through, keeping them in marketing reach longer thus retaining their attention more effectively.

Influencing marketing transformation within an organization

“If marketing is not driving the change agenda then either the agenda is wrong or marketing is not being effective.” Ian Ewart, Head of Products, Services & Marketing at Coutt, The Rebirth of the CMO.

As with any proverbial ground-shifts, the moving floor beneath the feet atop may go unnoticed without someone blatantly pointing it out. Most CMOs are recognizing the changing tides, while some more members of the C-suite are noticing too. Others will require a bit of cheerleading and education to recognize change much needed to effectively sell to the modern, empowered consumer of the digital age. WSJ’s CMO Today covered this concept of CEO enlightenment well in a post back in March, going on to describe how it’s even directly effecting tenures for CMOs.

The modern CMO has a significant task of, not only supporting inclusive marketing process evolution, but also making the case internally of why such a monumental strategic change that effects most aspects of the business is necessary so they could allocate their time an budget to doing it at all

Delivering such change involves a steady shift, which constantly tests results of how movements are effecting the bottom-line. Even CEOs who achieve enlightenment and demand modernization  in their marketing departments would not want a hasty jerking of marketing operation to damage the integrity of overall business performance. The CMO, according to HBR, needs a well-crafted agenda, strategy and the right tools and team to push it forward.

Reading through the full post by Harvard Business Review paints a clear picture of how some new-age, digital-enabled approaches to marketing are more than bells and whistles but imperative to compete in the modern-day. The general vibe I soaked in from this post is same as I’ve continued to encounter within the marketing operations community for quite a while and increasing in intensity with passing time: marketing is undergoing momentous, disruptive change.

What I get out of a more select few pieces like this one, is how these changes will allow marketing functions more influence on the overall business. With their department having more influence as does the CMO that leads the charge, which raises their profile in the world of business. Those who will reach that pinnacle will have recognized change need, adopt protocols to support it and revolutionize businesses using cutting-edge strategy, technology and creativity. As for the others…