A CMO's Guide to Navigating Marketing's Tech-Infused Frontier
The Rise of Strategic Marketing Operations and Its Impact on the Enterprise
Based on a CMO.com report, more than half of senior executives cite a lack of familiarity with technology as a barrier to digital transformation—and 48 percent of marketers are not confident in their digital ability. The report emphasizes the need for more investment in marketing operation teams and their knowledge of digital technologies and their ability to integrate martech systems that span across sales, marketing and product functions. Central to this function is the ability to understand how to translate business goals into go-to-market strategies.
The Pedowitz Group calls these individuals left-brained marketers (LBMs) or marketing technologists. They possess an understanding of marketing fundamentals, business processes and operations, and technical and data analysis skills. And they are the members of strategic Marketing Operations teams or MO’s.
MO Functional Areas of Expertise
It’s a unique combination and represents a new breed of marketer but one that makes an effective marketing leader because it allows the CMO to set company strategy alongside the CEO, CFO, Product and Sales leads.
The Need for Transparency
Digital transformation is driving need for more personalized and consistent customer experience. Based on recent Walker study, the customer experience will overtake price and product as a brand differentiator by 2020. This forces the convergence of technology, data, marketing insights and analytics to gain the transparency needed to understand buying behavior and customer advocacy. When a CMO can forecast the impact of marketing activities on revenue, and they can run marketing like a business—and that’s powerful.
When a CMO is armed with an effective marketing operations function, they can build a tech stack that is integrated and predictive and can use the data from these systems to evaluate their effectiveness and return on investment. The tech stack has ‘hooks’ or API integrations into product, sales and business systems.
Moreover, they can assess the types of resources (both internal and external) that are required to establish and scale the function. Without the right resources in place, technology tends to impair teams because they spend their time troubleshooting glitches or building individualized usage configurations.
Breaking Down the Silos
When a CMO can produce predictable revenue and growth, he/she gains credibility with the entire ELT (executive leadership team). This is where the contributions of marketing operations breaks down the barriers that exist within an organization.
How Marketing Operations Helps Finance
Historically, the greatest hurdle to overcome is the misconception that CFO’s have about marketing. They have difficulty drawing the proverbial line between marketing expenditures and revenue. With a proficient marketing operations function, the CFO gains transparency into the returns into marketing investments with a P&L statement.
When the MO function creates executive dashboards into marketing performance and it’s impact on pipeline influence, velocity and revenue, marketers can tell a story about their growth using past performance and make the case for future investments with accurate performance forecasts. This transparency and data-driven approach works wonders with the finance organization :)
How Marketing Operations Helps Sales
Nowhere is it more important for sales and marketing to break down the silos that have historically existed. Marketing automation was the first technology that forced the two teams to work together. It required the sales process to be detailed and defined (sales playbook), the rules for lead qualification and handoff (SLA), and that demand waterfall structure to be built into CRM—and mirrored in marketing automation as a lead lifecycle.
It sounds painful because it is a time consuming and rudimentary process. But the investment far outweighs the results. Marketing can deliver high quality leads to sales and support their movement through the buying process with triggered nurture campaigns.
The pain also comes from the transparency it forces in sales—one that they are not used to. But on the flip side, they gain insights into how marketing helps them increase awareness and engagement. Both groups come to understand and respect each other’s roles and contribution to predictable and scalable revenue creation.
The MO group can work hand-in-hand with Sales Operations analyzing data to understand where there are breakdowns in current sales processes and where marketing can re-engage buyers. Sales also gains insights and inputs into how marketing sources and scores leads for qualification—a particularly big pain point between marketing and sales. Ultimately, sales productivity improves, and quota attainment also improves.
How Marketing Operations Helps Product
With 73% of 20- to 35-year olds (digital natives) involved in product or service purchase decision-making at their companies and with one-third reporting that they are the sole decision-maker for their department study of “millennial” buyers by Merit, the customer experience needs to driven by marketing content in search engines. With more than 70% of searches for a product or service starting with a generic search, contacting a salesperson occurs later in the typical purchase process, and sometimes not at all. By the time a sales rep gets involved, buyers already have a wealth of information about company reputation, product specifications and reviews of successes or failures.
When a digital native begins to evaluate a product or service, they typically enter the website and transition into the product. When marketing and product work together on creating a seamless experience, it significantly increases confidence in the buyer’s mind. Moreover, personalizing the product experience with the help of martech, increases retention and advocacy. MO teams can work closely with product management and engineering to deliver the data-drive user experiences that create additional cross- and up-sell revenue opportunities.
How Marketing Operations Helps the CEO
There is a new phenomenon happening according to a study which finds 25% of CEOs have a marketing background. The study, undertaken by Germann, Stanford's Stephen Anderson and London Business School's Rajesh Chandy, looked at the largest publicly held firms from 2002 to 2006. This data set included 233 firms and 506 CEOs. More amazing, a third of CEOs with a marketing background are in the largest companies.
We see MO accelerating the career path for CMOs because of it’s ability to drive company growth and respond to the needs of a digital economy and customer. Marketing is now being seen as a new revenue and growth tool through it’s use of technology, data and analysis.
Direct sales models are expensive and slow and it’s becoming harder for sales to reach prospects with traditional means. With Account Based Marketing, marketing can use technology and data to tailer a personalized and relevant buying experience and then delivering these engaged leads to Account Executives who are ready to buy.
CEOs are beginning to realize that what worked in the past does not and will not work in this engagement economy.
Making the Case for MO
There is a wealth of customer data that can be mined and analyzed to produce key customer insights for better decision-making. And given the speed of business today, real-time data is a necessity and a major competitive advantage.
So where do you start?
If you don’t have a marketing operations function, start with hiring a technical marketer and give him/her the autonomy needed to work alongside Sales Operations, Business Systems and Finance. Have that resource start to gather existing data needed to identify obstacles and opportunities. Establish performance benchmarks. analyze current tactics and their effectiveness and begin to experiment with shifting marketing tactics to see if you can predict and affect performance.
Once you can begin to establish predictability, you can make the case for greater investment in both the function and the tools required to further automate marketing and gather more data. Creating a monthly or quarterly report that's distributed throughout the organization with both qualitative analysis and data will also go a long way in evangelizing the function.
Your job as CMO is to enlighten key stakeholders and evangelize because the strategic MO function works across disciplines, and getting other groups’ buy-in and nurturing relationships is critical. Do this with the needs of those stakeholders in mind—if they know what’s in it for them, you’ll get more collaboration and buy in.