A recent report on the Modern Marketing Department released by eMarketer looked at a number of challenges marketers face when trying to push the boulder up the hill. The report cites some fairly compelling third-party data that puts issues like talent, culture and organizational models ahead of things like technology and data. For example, over 35 percent of CMOs interviewed by the AMA and Deloitte say that “the right talent” is their main concern when it comes to modernizing their marketing function. In contrast, only 11 percent cited “the right technology” and less than 10 percent called out “the right data.”
Does this mean that data and technology aren’t important factors when it comes to evolving how brands and organizations connect and engage with customers? To turn a blind eye to these would be foolish, but it does suggest that marketing executives are coming to terms with the true complexities of executing modern marketing strategies. Data and technology can be overwhelming and paralyzing when you don’t have the right talent wielding them or the organization built around how to harness the potential for the long-term benefit of the business.
If you’ve been shuffling titles, roles, responsibilities, reporting structures, etc. in an effort to update the marketing function, you’re not alone. But as the report suggests via surveys and anecdotal perspectives, the people part of the problem is complex and nuanced. In addition to talent, many marketing functions are grappling with collaboration and working within and outside of their own silos, some of which still reflect a marketing era that once functioned like a linear assembly line.
But no longer. Today’s marketing functions should view their challenge as not simply an evolution, but as a substantial renovation as part of the evolutionary process.
Take Cannes, for example. This year, it’s widely rumored that the consultancies will have a more visible and concentrated presence on la Croisette. For a festival known to celebrate creativity, it underscores the constant state of disruption in the industry, and the consultants know marketing leaders want to look at the problems from different perspectives. Today’s marketing leaders have embraced the notion of digital transformation, the catch-all phrase that signifies the juxtaposition between drastically evolved consumer behavior that creates the need for drastically evolved marketing functions.
While change is hard and takes time, here are three considerations to keep in mind.
Make data and insights inextricably linked
Data is today’s oil. It’s the reason that companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon have become global forces of nature. But while marketers grapple with the impact of these forces in our world, we must push for and demand that the data we analyze yields insights we can act upon. For every data scientist we hire, we should be cultivating people who have mastered the art of not only reading data but finding themes and hidden gems and connecting dots that might yield rich insights.
Embrace the role of organizational change agent
Many marketing functions are judged by their ability to correlate the cost of their operations and programs with sales. But they are often also the closest to consumer change and thus have the dual role of acting as the tip of the spear while proving tangible value. It’s a daunting task, but modern marketing executives have to become champions of change within their organizations and simultaneously drive results while acting as a catalyst for other parts of the business. This requires a rare breed of leader who balances risk and reward, and it also requires support from the C-suite.
Prioritize talent and culture
Most marketing executives brand- or agency-side have experienced losing existing talent or a recruit to one of the tech platform companies, a sexy start-up or a company offering more flexibility or some other desirable attribute that successfully brought over top talent. Modern marketers must use their talents to market their own organizations and make their functions appealing to the talent they seek to attract. We’re not talking about Google-like cafeteria perks as much as culture, one that rewards risk and innovation and fosters growth.
It’s true that digital continues to change, evolve and disrupt often faster than we can respond. The temptation to fight technology with technology isn’t necessarily wrong, but it must be directed, led and supported by the right people, processes and, dare I say, culture. Doing significant renovations across these critical areas goes beyond applying a fresh coat of paint, but significant renovation of the marketing function may yield better results in the long term.