With this latest blog post, I want to introduce Adam Needles, a new member to our team, who we announced in a press release today. Adam is an experienced B2B marketer who is passionate about the intersection of marketing strategy and new innovation and technology. In his new role, he will serve both as an advocate for B2B marketers and also as an evangelist for Silverpop's Engage B2B marketing automation platform. I'd like to welcome him to the team and share his first blog post with you. ~Will Schnabel
Many of you have followed my ongoing research and writing via my Propelling Brands blog. You also know I'm passionate about my mission, both in writing that blog and also via my ongoing work in this space, to be a resource for marketers on issues of marketing strategy and also to provide marketers with insights into innovation and technology that have the potential to help them change their game.
I've had the good fortune throughout my career to connect with the best and brightest thinkers and leaders in the marketing technology space, and it has truly inspired me. In fact, I've been searching recently for a 'platform' that would enable me to better accomplish my mission, to be an advocate for marketers and to stay on top of the state of marketing innovation and technology. So I was excited by the opportunity to join Silverpop. What I've found is an organization with goals, aspirations and beliefs that align with my own. It is an online marketing solutions company with a clear vision of its goal to empower marketers through intelligent solutions and strategies that ultimately help marketers be more successful. I like that.
The company has asked me to take on a role where I will be able to work closely with front-line marketers - as a listener and as a coach - talking to marketers, relaying their insights back to the people who develop the company's B2B marketing platform and also delivering cutting-edge insights into new strategies, innovation and best practices back to the marketing community.
I'm also excited about the company's thinking around the state of marketing strategy and its concept of improving 'engagement marketing.' It's a topic I won't dig into more today, per se, but look forward to talking about over the coming weeks. But that topic does bring me to what I wanted to address today.
What does it mean to be an 'engaged' marketer?
As I've been ramping up here at Silverpop, a thought came to mind. It's certainly critical as a marketer to improve one's engagement with the customer, but what does that look like from the marketer's end? What does this look like from a strategic and operational perspective? What does it mean to be an 'engaged' ... and, ultimately, successful ... marketer? Here are a few ideas I came up with:
> Focusing on the bottom line and measuring success against this: For most B2B marketers, success is directly related to managing successful programs that develop qualified leads for the business and that support the conversion of these leads into customers. It's pretty straightforward and intimately intertwined with the sales process, but maintaining this lens as we review and prioritize opportunities and activities can definitely get muddled. It becomes particularly complicated navigating how we leverage the numerous communication channels - from traditional snail mail to e-mail to new mediums such as Twitter - that seem to be exploding around us. We might be tempted to allow our marketing measurement basis to reflect progress purely in terms of the medium; however, it is still critical to map this back to ultimate lead generation, conversion and sales success - keeping our eye on the prize.
I've recently been reading a great marketing book by Akin Arikan, titled Multichannel Marketing. In it, he makes some great points about maintaining focus and control in a multi-channel marketing environment. "[I]t is one thing to interact through multiple channels in parallel," comments Arikan. "It is quite another to fuse those activities together in an intelligent way to maximize response and conversion rates." Akin goes on to point out that today "[b]uyers are multichannel beings. Buying cycles are cross-channel." Thus, it is incumbent upon us as marketers to focus only on leveraging and measuring a channel to the extent that it has a clearly-definable role in our customer's buying process.
> Building processes and systems: Once you have a clear sense of what you're trying to accomplish, it's critical that as a marketer you put processes and systems in place to be consistent in achieving this goal. Throughout my career I've certainly been reminded that B2B marketing is a dynamic activity that requires agile techniques, including listening closely to your sales counterparts. Yet I'm also increasingly convinced that there is an operational aspect to marketing that when recognized and managed via definable processes and systems, enable marketers to get control over their environments and actually increase net agility.
Gary Katz, a thought leader in the discipline of marketing operations and founder of consulting firm Marketing Operations Partners, commented on this in a recent blog post:
Especially in complex organizations, [marketing operations] is integral to bridging strategy to execution, and aligning marketing with the C-suite and other stakeholders throughout the enterprise (such as sales, finance, IT, customer experience). Most organizations are missing the opportunity to change the 'MO' (sic) of marketing by fully embracing [marketing operations]. This is a shame because [marketing operations] done right can...impact an enterprise's business intelligence, sales enablement, pipeline velocity, scalability, brand governance, customer experience, ability to demonstrate marketing ROI, and agility to navigate the winds of change.
> Being transparent and accountable: Marketing has entered a new era. Truly. The same Internet that has brought us rapid and direct access to customers and that has sped our sales cycles has also changed the game when it comes to expectations for measurement and the ability to demonstrate the net present value (NPV) of marketing investments both to sales and to the C-suite. Couple this with an undisputable global movement toward greater corporate responsibility and accuracy in reporting, and as a marketer you've got your hands full.
Marketing ROI guru Jim Lenskold demonstrated in his firm's recent "2009 Marketing ROI and Measurements Study" that there is a very high correlation between firms he identifies as 'highly effective and efficient' and their transparency and accountability. He notes, by a factor of nearly two-to-one, that more-effective/more-efficient firms calculate and share ROI, NPV and 'other profitability metrics' for marketing investments. Clearly marketers can see a real upside from investing to achieve greater levels of transparency and accountability with sales and the C-suite. It also is increasingly not an option. In fact, today "[a]lmost two-thirds (65%) of firms report that their CEO/CFOs are making greater demands than last year to show ROI as part of securing budgetary resources for marketing efforts," according to Lenskold in this report.
Industry analyst David Raab adds to this point, in his recent book, The Marketing performance Measurement Toolkit, that marketing metrics should be aligned with business metrics via a balanced scorecard approach - ensuring marketing metrics also live in appropriate business context.
> Leveraging technology and innovation strategically and aggressively: No longer a merely tactical element, technology and innovation are, today, a critical element of success as a strategic marketer. Given a diversity of communication channels and a deluge of data, no marketer can be expected to stay on top of his/her game simply with Excel spreadsheets. Closed-loop marketing systems - including demand generation and marketing automation platforms - which enable marketers to both manage, monitor and evaluate the success of marketing investments and also tune the effectiveness of tactical programs and activities, are critical to effective management of scale marketing programs.
There is growing evidence that technology systems - now a critical element of other parts of the enterprise via, ERP and other strategic IT frameworks - are becoming an increasingly pervasive element of the role of the CMO. In fact, I tackled this topic in a past Propelling Brands blog piece that addressed "A CMO's Dual Imperatives - Driving Organizational and Technological Change."
What is challenging, though, is that the need to leverage technology and innovation is something that marketers recognize but all too often remain 'stymied' by. In my own recent research, I found 40% of marketers surveyed rated their organizations deployment of marketing technology as 'not aggressive' - the lowest level on a five-point-rating scale - and ratings rapidly declined from there. Only 7% of marketers, on the other end of the spectrum, rated their organizations as 'very aggressive.' Clearly we have a way to go as marketers, but that's why it's critical that we tackle these challenges today ... and head-on ... which brings me to my final point.
> Embracing an ethic of constant improvement: Perhaps the most telling aspect of our new era in marketing is the pace at which change is occurring. The bar is constantly being raised for marketers. It's not sufficient to merely be on top of one's game; successful marketers today must be ahead of the game. The points above are all critical factors, but they are the starting point. Once achieved, the impetus must be on improving against this baseline and on constantly tuning the marketing engine so that it is both agile enough to handle the diversity of market challenges and opportunities and also efficient enough to deliver profitability and growth.