As the pace of digital transformation continues, marketers are now at the heart of their organizations, connecting the dots between customer needs and data, business priorities and the digital agenda. The author recommends five actions marketing leaders should take to aggressively drive growth and create value.
As 2022 begins, we are entering the third year in which the pandemic is changing our business reality. The acceleration in digital behavior isn’t slowing down, and neither are your customers’ expectations.
As the crisis lingers, this is a year for marketing leaders to redouble their commitment to accelerating transformation at scale. With widespread recognition of their impact on revenue, results and growth, marketers have a new mandate to be at the center of their organizations, connecting the dots between customer needs and data, business priorities and the digital agenda to aggressively drive growth and creative value .
The question is: How can CMOs drive change and create value fastest? Based on what I see as I work with CMOs on the data-driven transformation of marketing, e-commerce, and every aspect of the customer journey, I recommend marketing leaders consider five actions to make more impact:
1. Your business has now realized that marketing drives sales. Use the shift.
It wasn’t fun when marketing was a cost center, especially when the CFO had to cut back on an area of discretionary spending. But now marketing is understood as a revenue driver that is integrally linked to sales.
Today’s media types, such as social, search and programmatic, are all highly measurable and have positively accustomed leaders across the executive team to expecting results from marketing spend. Certainly, over-indexing purely performance-related spend (like last-click online sales) can hurt brand health and value. The best strategies balance short-term and long-term results. But the productive effect of the performance dollar swing is that executives outside of the marketing function are now seeing the tangible impact of marketing at work.
This provides marketers with an opportunity to meet the company’s traditional revenue leaders – sales – at eye level, and marketers should take advantage of this shift. In 2022, making the results understandable to a wider audience across the organization will be critical. Attribution, or the math that allows us to know which marketing efforts produced results, continues to challenge us all as mobile platforms, browsers and walled gardens in e-commerce and social media continue to change the rules and fragment the landscape. However, marketers shouldn’t be afraid to do math “well enough” to understand dollars down the funnel — from brand awareness at the top to the click-to-purchase moment at the bottom of the funnel. The more holistic companies look at spending as a performance driver, the better. The key is to focus less on each individual line of spending and more on the predictive and collective value of that combination.
2. Embrace the end-to-end growth agenda as the rightful domain of marketing.
Today’s growth agenda does not respect the organizational boundaries of the past, which were limited to traditional notions of marketing or other related functions. Marketers must make an explicit claim to drive the growth agenda and provide cohesive governance.
That is Not about building a fiefdom to seize the data, analytics or technology agenda, teams or budget. It’s about building the right internal connectivity through the lens of the customer journey. Customers don’t care about internal organizational boundaries—they expect their experiences to be intuitive, predictive, and relevant. Handovers across organizational functions often stand in the way of this goal.
Take the rapid growth of social commerce, which is a great example of the seamless new growth agenda. Media presented to consumers is targeted with tremendous precision and should be directly linked to an effective, personalized e-commerce experience. The connected social commerce journey should also recognize that users are most likely using a mobile device and therefore require a fast, smooth, mobile-first payment experience. Every check-out barrier prevents marketing from becoming a sale. Marketers need to collaborate with their peers who create online product pages and payment mechanisms to create an experience with minimal friction. Simply put, everything needs to flow naturally, and that requires more real-time coordination than most current organizational boundaries allow.
A recent EY/financial times A survey of approximately 200 senior marketing leaders found that 77% of respondents believe the marketing function needs a stronger voice in setting corporate strategy as the owner of the customer journey. Fields like data-driven marketing, e-commerce, and CRM can’t afford to be siled given the speed at which friction must eject from the customer journey to accelerate revenue growth.
3. Stop ignoring the fundamental data work that makes digital transformation possible, even if it’s not sexy.
The pandemic unified C-suite leadership teams like never before, causing digital transformation to experience an undeniable acceleration in many organizations. However, the success of a digital transformation depends on the success of the data transformation. Businesses can implement technologies like CRM or consolidate sources into a single data lake, but important issues often still need to be addressed, such as: Marketers should have a strong focus on the right sources of quality data that drives the engine. Value is created through more holistic analytics models that drive last-mile decisions, as opposed to siled, one-off solutions that are hard-coded for a specific point in time or business use case.
Only through true partnership of functional leaders in sales and marketing, technology, data/analytics and finance can more sustainable and meaningful change happen. In fact, the EY/financial times The survey was conducted by 600 cross-functional executives across marketing, technology and finance, who highlighted that data strategy is more dispersed than ever across senior roles, including CEO, CFO, COO, CTO, CISO and CMO.
Scaling results requires that the data, technology, and Business transformations are completely synchronous – and the answer isn’t simply a better “dashboard” or better data visualization. The work of integrating data into digital technologies and processes can be daunting, especially on a global scale, but when done right, the value creation will bring momentum and confidence.
4. Prioritize talent issues as quickly as possible and don’t be afraid to try something new or radical.
For all the talk of data and technology, talent will probably be the most vexing challenge of 2022. Based on extensive interviews over the last year with CMOs from every sector from consumer goods to technology to manufacturing, there is broad consensus on talent challenges including data-driven skills shortages, overall retention challenges and incentive alignment challenges.
To be successful, today’s marketers need both and detailed expertise, breadth and depth. This is forcing leaders to examine how they structure and train their teams, manage and collaborate with external partners such as agencies, and embrace new working models while seeking the right balance of consistency and independence. Many leaders are taking matters into their own hands and creating new curricula to transform their current talents into modern full-stack marketers. These measures create more consistency and even mobility in the company.
5. Don’t lose the creative spark when you need more data.
The data revolution means there is a lot more forward thinking. Today’s marketers should spend less time looking in the rearview mirror to analyze past results and instead use predictive analytics to predict the future. These new superpowers allow marketers to drive both growth and operational efficiencies in profound ways, as they can, for example, not only target advertisements, but ensure they only serve them when the company’s supply chain is able to deliver the products.
However, when marketers become one-sidedly data-driven and overly focused on automation, they lose their most differentiating skills of human intuition and creativity. The art of storytelling will be more important than ever to ensure that creative messages, even with good alignment and speed, still connect with people. New marketing options and formats will continue to emerge, from retail media networks in the physical and digital worlds to virtual branding and transactional experiences in the Metaverse. There needs to be room to take risks and be distinctive, regardless of whether the math is fully understood from the start.
In 2022, marketing leaders have the opportunity to connect the customer journey to the full growth agenda, preserving their creativity while scaling data and technology in more meaningful ways than ever before. The speed with which decisions have to be made is becoming faster and faster, but also more multivariable, networked and complex. Those who can build the internal connective tissue will make their businesses dramatically more competitive and unlock new levels of value creation that are central to the growth strategy and C-suite.