Do marketers need a plan B?

In the last decade thousands of papers and presentations, have been written to instruct marketing and IT practitioners in how to improve the way they execute marketing campaigns. “We believe that the body of conventional wisdom amassed over the years is missing the point”, say Eric Rotkow and Thomas Manders from Coffee + Dunn Inc in their whitepaper ‘Marketing is different’. “What’s more, we believe there is a better approach to building sustainable marketing operations, and it is not rocket science.”

The two start their paper with a bold statement. “From a marketing operations point of view marketers are no better of than they were a decade ago and their conventional thinking persists”, they state in the first paragraph of the first chapter.

There are three common views on marketing which don’t work:

Not traditional

Traditional approaches to marketing do not work the way marketing works. The approaches do not account for marketers’ natural iterative human relationships and their fundamental task to enrich and deploy their ideas as late in the process as possible. Managing global decision-making, reporting relationships, incentives, processes and technologies are wildly complex and making sweeping improvements is nearly impossible.

Technology

The technology available today is mature, does what it must do: supporting customer interactions and providing data to inform the next interaction. However, according tot Rotkow and Manders, a view on the full ecosystem of technologies that help marketers get the work done – think back office – and those that interact with customers- think front office – reveals there is a significant incongruence. Front-office tools are increasingly utilized to manage customer interactions across channels. While back-office solutions haven’t been fully executed by the softwarevendors who have instead responded with incomplete solutions which are serviceable but further isolate marketing, rather than connecting it to the enterprise.

Advisors

Advisor don’t know it all. The gaps left across agencies, consultants, and technology vendors, results in a disconnection between a marketer’s operational capabilities and the customers it is trying to influence. Who is designated to build marketing – people, process, and technology – to drive the capabilities needed to deliver the world-class programming? “No one, in our view”, Rotkow and Manders say.

Marketing is unique

That is because marketing is a different kind of cookie. Marketing is unique because:

  • Marketers must navigate unprecedented technological advances and a new regulatory standard (think of, for example, all the new channels coming up)
  • Marketers must navigate increasingly complex internal relationships
  • Marketing process is critical to success, though linear approaches don’t meet the challenge
  • Marketers depend on a network of resources to successfully collaborate

The depth and complexity of the issues discussed by Rotkow and Manders cannot be addressed in a simple checklist of action items to be owned by the CMO’s direct reports. The best path forward is not a new buzz, but rather that marketers may realize operational improvements by applying the marketing-specific design principles to tried-and-true business design frameworks. Sustainable improvements require a mix of methodical top-down study and design, and practical bottom-up initiatives.

In conclusion they state: “Marketers who wish to enjoy an advantage in the coming decade will adopt a view of their organization – an uncomfortable view perhaps – that is less about a hierarchical organizational design and more about collaborative human interactions set within a specific process context. They will use a smart mix of technologies to enable these collaborations made possible by even smarter information standards that allow open communication. To start, marketing and technology leaders should initiate a top down design of an optimum marketing function, while identifying high impact improvement opportunities from the bottom up. In time, the top down will meet the bottom up for an organization that has the capacity for dynamic operations.”

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