From Marketing to Big Marketing

At Coffee + Dunn, we have been monitoring a reformation in how large, complex marketers operate, described by a term: Big Marketing. This shift is driven by three primary forces: 1) the explosion of marketing technologies, 2) the concurrent explosion in the availability of information (data) about what prospects and customers do throughout the buying cycle and beyond (e.g. post-sale and service), and 3) the need for relevant content at all stages of the leads-to-cash cycle.

Re-organizing a marketing organization (e.g., process, job descriptions, project management) to respond to these three trends is an imperative, but many companies are still just business-as-usual. Marketing operations is the team that should lead the re-organization, with the enthusiastic support of the CMO and the marketing leadership team. IT is an important partner, but more importantly, a marketing technologist and a data czar are two critical resources to the effort, whether as full-time employees or as short-term consultants.

In this article, we will describe the amorphous nature of Big Marketing. In subsequent articles, we will describe how Big Marketing is related to Big Data, marketing process and many other components of marketing leadership decision making.

Over the past two decades, marketing has undergone a major overhaul. Every aspect of marketing has been affected in some way: consumers have taken much more control of the marketplace and the messaging; digital media is overtaking more traditional media channels; and the economy remains as unpredictable as ever.

Big trends and new opportunities are requiring marketers to make big changes: the Internet in 1995; search marketing in 2000; mobile in 2005; social media in 2008; and recently, Big Data. It’s an understatement to say that marketers have a lot of change to manage.

There’s another fundamental change to marketing that has been a little more subtle and surrounded with less fanfare than those of the Big Data ilk. Over the same two decades, marketing has recognized the need to become a well-functioning, operational unit within the enterprise in an effort to coordinate the complex mix of team members, process, and technology.

Big Marketing Defined

Big Marketing Ecosystem

Big Marketing Ecosystem

Big Marketing is here. Marketing organizations deal with an increasingly complex environment – globalization, competition, the need for speed, exponentially expanding data inputs, and increased scrutiny on marketing to demonstrate effectiveness, and provide real-time business intelligence. With the massive volumes, velocity, variety and value afforded through Big Data, marketing leaders have been challenged to navigate Big Marketing to properly respond.

Marketing leaders have not confidently built organizational designs, comprehensive processes, and progressive operational technology to tame the complexity. In one recent study, 42% of CMO’s feel process is lacking, and preventing effective use of Big Data (Brinker 2013). Alignment of an incredibly complex web of people/process/IT capabilities is now required to manage a large, distributed, marketing organization across pure marketing folks, IT, finance and other parts of the organization.

Looking forward, a Big Marketing strategy is designed to allow for the right amount of flexibility to protect innovation. Positively affecting Big Marketing requires experts in marketing organizational design, fluid approach to process design, a very broad view of technology, and practical know-how. Often, traditional consultants are overly technology focused, whereas traditional agencies are overly creative focused.  Specialized expertise has become paramount.

What Took So long?

The reasons why a comprehensive characterization of modern marketing has lagged behind operational theory for other areas for the company aren’t so mysterious.

  • Marketing is a primary activity: generating revenue, rather than a support activity like logistics, or finance. Thus, using efficiency and cost-cutting measures alone may actually stymie marketing’s ability to grow the business.
  • Marketing is vast: communications and advertising, pricing, product development, retail promotion and growth strategy all commonly fall under the marketing discipline.
  • Marketing is different: Maintaining high levels of innovation, experimentation, and creative thinking are required for marketing to stay competitive and produce results. Tracking and measuring efficiency against those somewhat abstract work methods can be complex.

However, growing competitive pressure on businesses required all areas within the company to become ultimately accountable – marketing was no exception. Management cobbled together experts from many different disciplines to help define how the overall performance of the marketing organization could be measured and optimized – finance, IT, process, metrics, operations, and organizational design. Marketing operations was born.

Recognition of the Challenge

As recognition of Big Marketing challenges have risen to the fore, marketing operations groups have emerged to include resources representing various expertise needed. We’ll borrow a direct lift from Wikipedia for the current, broadly accepted definition:

“Typically, Marketing Operations is the function responsible for marketing performance measurement, strategic planning and budgeting, process development, professional development, and marketing systems and data. This work either connects closely to, or includes, demand generation. It also involves the alignment of marketing with sales, business units, and finance. Marketing operational professionals are not classical marketers. Instead of coming from PR or branding backgrounds, they typically come from finance, IT, sales operations and other analytical or process-oriented roles.”

Opportunities for optimization are often identified and managed by a specific subset of the operations group. Finance-oriented individuals will focus on items like budget tracking, procurement, and cost management. IT experts will plan and execute large scale software implementation projects (such as MRM, DAM and ECM). Each competency-related group has a set of key objectives and incentives focused on driving value within their domain.

So, progress is being made – but is limited by leaving marketing operations to be a silo amongst its marketing peers. Marketing operations has established a beachhead in forward-thinking, highly competitive companies. Now it’s time to take the hill.

Acknowledgement of Big Marketing Allows Leaders to Lead

Leaders in Big Marketing are taking steps to define ownership and accountability. Evidence of their pursuit can be seen in current discussions of defining responsibility for marketing organizational efficiency. Is it the CMO, the “chief marketing technologist”, or the COO?

It’s a bit ambitious to assume that every enterprise has a current champion for Big Marketing. But that shouldn’t stop key influencers and stakeholders from starting down the right path. Progress can begin by acknowledging that a central strategic operational plan needs to be created. Start with defining the big picture:

  • What is marketing’s role in business?
  • How does marketing benefit and connect to other areas of the business?
  • Does marketing have the capabilities needed to improve to stay competitive?
  • Where are there obvious performance issues that have not been addressed?
  • How do we align our (people, process, technology) resources for maximum impact?
  • How do we maximize the value of IT/infrastructure investments?
  • Marketing will look different in a year, three years, or five years. Do we have a roadmap to ensure we remain competitive and can meet rapidly changing customer needs?

At the end of the day, the plan needs to address the real world opportunities that a Big Marketing approach offers forward thinkers.

We hope we’ve stirred the pot a bit and want to hear what you’re thoughts are on the topic of Big Marketing – we embrace the concept because it characterizes a state of marketing that may be successfully approached by sound marketing operations consulting. Big Marketing reflects the future vision of our company and we feel it’s relevant to all enterprises – from the largest to the smallest. We will dive more deeply into the topic in the next few weeks.  We’d love to benefit from your insights going forward.

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