Today’s connected consumer is seeing to it that a CMO’s job is never done.
Keeping up with the ever-evolving digital landscape, shifting consumer trends, new technologies, an influx of data, and executive pressure to perform, is tireless. While traditional channels still receive the lion’s share of marketing investment allocation, the fast pace of digital evolution has become a catalyst for change, most recently and notably driven by the unique dynamics of social media and the ubiquity of mobile devices.
Organizations fall into three possible categories when it comes to digital operational preparedness:
1. Transitional: Budgets are being allocated to digital, including headcount and agencies. Digital teams are plugged into the existing org structure. Integrated planning consists of consultations with the digital team. Limited digital consumer insights capabilities within the organization.
2. Committed: Increased priorities for cultivating digital talent appear here. The digital-organization structure is being re-evaluated. Agency relationships may be strained as committed companies find their inner digital self. Integrated marketing planning includes digital throughout the entire process. Digital measurement models are aligning with, or catalyzing the development of, traditional marketing mix models. Consumer insights capabilities are evolving to begin to meet the needs of the changing media landscape and consumer trends.
3. Aligned: Comprehensive audits and digital reorgs have occurred. Corporate culture has shifted to embrace "always-on" as the new normal. Executive-level support allows an iterative process to thrive and fosters experimentation and innovation. Increasingly, informed decisions are being made based on consumer insights. The agency portfolio is optimized and managed carefully, with ongoing qualitative and quantitative benchmarks in place. Collaboration processes and systems are in place.
Which company are you? How can you achieve digital alignment?
No matter how many digital case studies you read, very few digitally aligned organizations are operating today. While being digitally aligned is not a requisite to executing successful initiatives, this level of maturity is the foundation of integrating digital into the organization in a manner that creates the biggest impact on your business. Here’s an overview of the general framework to get there.
1. HACK THE ORG CHART
Your most valuable asset and the driving force that makes digital marketing hum are the people who bring ideas to life, manage and enforce processes, develop measurement models, determine how technologies are to be applied to workflow and consumer engagement, and manage the day-to-day execution where the rubber meets the road. Having the right talent in the right roles with a supportive reporting structure should not be taken lightly. Never forget that the org chart is more than the boxes on a piece of paper. Nurture your talent. Create a culture that they want to be a part of. Listen to and address their concerns and recommendations. Empower them to inspire others.
2. REDEFINE PROCESSES AND FOSTER COLLABORATION
Developing collaborative processes among cross-functional teams is often easier said than done. Enforcing processes requires navigating corporate politics, breaking down legacy habits, and taking on incremental responsibilities. At times it may feel like herding cattle, but you must accept the role of change agent in order to establish the framework for a digitally agile company. A company’s digital agility starts with a mature and efficient integrated planning process. Generally, most companies have fallen short on the promise of integration, which is primarily the result of effective cross-functional collaboration than anything else.
3. IDENTIFY AND ELIMINATE BAD HABITS
Refuse to languish in legacy. The most dangerous phrase in marketing is, “That’s not how things are done around here,” and the most dangerous strategy is succumbing to inertia. Adapting to new processes and incorporating new channels and ideas into your day-to-day routines does take more effort and time. The game has changed. If some of the players on you team can’t understand that, then they need to sit on the sidelines. You are as strong as your weakest links.
4. BECOME A MASTER OF MODELING
Become a seeker of the truth–even if the truth hurts and identifies faults in previous planning and marketing allocations. Strive to develop actionable, albeit directional, models for marketing allocations, consumer behavior, and economic forecasts. Marketing leaders today face increasing pressure to invest in digital and emerging channels while proving the impact of these investments on their businesses. Therefore, the maturation and ownership of consumer insights and business intelligence capabilities should be a focal priority for every CMO. The ability to ingest, analyze, and make big data actionable will be a competitive advantage in the short term and a competitive necessity in the long term.
5. BE A BETTER CLIENT TO YOUR AGENCIES
It’s easy for client/agency relationships to become strained due to the complexity and labor intensity of marketing in a digital world. When relationships become strained, there’s usually plenty of blame to go around on both sides. However, marketers should make a concerted effort to treat agencies as partners, overcommunicate, and empower and motivate them to go above and beyond for you. Part of being a better client is honing your own internal talent and processes. The more buttoned up you are, the easier it is for your agency to work cohesively as an extension of your team. Give your agencies well-articulated briefs, clear definitions of success, and milestones and benchmarks to achieve regularly. Like any relationship, it takes work on both sides to keep it running smoothly.
6. BE PROACTIVE ABOUT BEING REACTIVE
Marketing in real-time is slowly becoming a reality. Both your internal and agency teams need to be poised to identify and react to trends in consumer interests and behaviors as they emerge. Logistically, this requires that tools, processes, and discretionary budgets be in place ahead of time in order to take advantage of the changing environment and unexpected opportunities. This is a very novel concept for historically command-and-control-driven organizations.
7. BE A LEADER
Embrace change; empower, inspire, and instill passion in your team; champion collaboration; clearly define success; and foster the collective drive to achieve. An executive-level commitment is vital if you are to operationally move digital from a set of capabilities to an integral part of your company’s DNA. Lead by example–challenge the status quo, ask the difficult questions, and demonstrate the importance of digital by getting involved and stewarding good ideas into the market. Embrace experimentation and failures–they lead to learning and drive toward successes.
8. KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE TRENDS, BUT YOUR FEET ON THE GROUND
There’s a lot of sexy technology in the market today. Don’t get caught up in the hype of the onslaught of bright, shiny objects. Allow innovation to emerge from your well-oiled and properly structured marketing machine, seeking creative solutions to achieving your business and marketing objectives. When all pistons are firing properly, innovation happens. The digital landscape is changing. We are always-on. Social media and mobile have been significant catalysts of this wave of change.The next wave includes the continued convergence and interaction across channels, over-the-top TV, and the proliferation of digital out-of-home. Are you operationally prepared for it?