In 2016, Lester Holt of NBC News ran an evening story under the category of “Consumer Alert.” Holt told a jarring tale of thousands of beautiful and relatively young Connecticut homes that — despite their picturesque exteriors – were at grave risk of collapsing due to faulty concrete foundations. In 2018, those damaged foundations are still plaguing homeowners, as thousands witness the continued disintegration of their residences.
There’s a stark parallel in this story for business and marketing leaders today, most notably for leaders who are anxious to leverage marketing transformation to scale their business in the digital age. In this era of hypergrowth, building fast is certainly achievable, but building well is far more crucial. Just as a home is supported by its foundation, the success of marketing transformation absolutely requires a properly honed foundation for growth.
Case in point: There are now over 6,000 (actually, almost 7,000) competing digital marketing solutions on the most recent Martech SuperSlide, and there are almost as many definitions of what modern marketing is and (supposedly) should be. Marketing transformation hype is cacophonous, driven by braggarts claiming to have harnessed AI, predictive analytics and a perfectly integrated tech stack, and magnified by marketing “lemmings” transfixed by BSOD (Bright Shiny Object Disease) and their fear of missing out. This hype too often ignores the prerequisite marketing foundation and building blocks that must be firmly in place to support a modern marketing organization. In this brief, let’s look at seven crucial building blocks that must be in place to achieve successful B2B marketing transformation.
1. Aligned Strategy across Marketing, Sales and Product
At a fundamental level, this is about driving executive alignment for the “raison d’etre” of Marketing in an organization, and then prioritizing budgets, staffing and campaigns accordingly. For example, if a CEO hires a new CMO to “transform the brand”, it is critical for the CMO to articulate not just the brand transformation goals and KPI’s, but also how that transformation will align with and support sales, product and customer goals. This kind of alignment can only be achieved with transparent and rigorous dialogue between Sales and Product leadership peers to establish alignment and achieve collaborative executive buy-in on Marketing’s charter for transformation.
2. Clarity and Consistency of Brand Voice and Tone
The CMO is responsible for ensuring that the organizational brand voice is articulated with clarity and consistency: Who are you, what problems are you solving, and for whom? A strong brand voice answers these questions in a tone that is customer focused, compelling, and authoritative. The CMO must gain executive level buy-in for the current brand tone, and oversee how the brand voice resonates in all marketing communications. An annual audit of a brand’s best performing content marketing assets will identify common themes in brand tone for the marketing team to review and update as the brand and business change and grow.
3. Modern Marketing Organizational Design
Legacy marketing organizational structures were not designed to support the speed, agility and interplay needed in a digital first marketing ecosystem. A modern marketing leader can’t lead a B2B marketing transformation with technology and tools alone. They need a human capital talent and training strategy that marries the best marketing tools, tech and talent together. Best-in-class marketing org structures today are designed to leverage data, tech and content to deliver more meaningful customer experiences at every stage of the buyer’s journey, and to do so in a way that can be measured and shared with the business.
4. Defined and Agreed-upon Buyer Personas
Audience centricity is not a new marketing trend or fad. It is a human centric model for success that modern organizations use to compete and win. At the foundation of audience centricity lies a defined set of buyer personas to reach, engage, and convert. Many of the newest B2B marketing tools involve deep personalization, and digital marketing allows for laser-like precision when it comes to audience targeting. Without a defined persona strategy based on your buyer’s characteristics, priorities, buying habits and their buying influencers, no modern marketing leader can take full advantage of these transformative personalization tools.
5. Content Marketing Strategy: Quality, Quantity, Consistency, Ubiquity
CMO’s have long since learned that the rise of search and social technologies has reinvented how companies communicate with their marketplace. Monologue marketing and product-focused “me” messaging is dead. Customers ignore or resent it, because they can’t engage with it, and they can’t relate to it. The modern marketing leader must transform their content marketing into a responsive voice of trust. Content marketing drives three crucial pillars of B2B marketing transformation: engaged connection, quality conversation and measurable results. Additionally, a solid content marketing strategy is also a requirement for any successful Account Based Marketing (ABM) strategy. A truly thorough content marketing strategy delivers content at each stage of the buying cycle, including late stage content that can be targeted at specific prospect companies and the multiple personas within a target account’s buying centers. No ABM strategy can succeed without a successful content marketing plan already in place.
6. Foundational Tech Stack Integration Excellence
Before any kind of marketing transformation goals can be set, the CMO must take a hard look at the foundational tech stack. This involves a critical investigation of how well the marketing automation, CRM and web content management systems are working, and most importantly, how well they are working in concert with each other. This is also where data quality truths must be laid bare, since data quality will make or break the measurable success of any marketing campaign. Before dedicating budget and resources to the marketing transformation, CMO’s must first ensure they have quality processes in place across the Marketing and Sales continuum for onboarding new data, cleansing and appending old data, and understanding how data flows from one system or platform to the next. For example, machine learning and predictive analytics platforms are two of the most exciting hallmarks of the marketing transformation promise. However, an organization with flawed foundational processes for the capture and integration of prospect and customer data won’t benefit from an incremental investment in predictive analytics until they resolve their primary data pitfalls first.
7. Leadership and Employee Engagement
No CMO can accomplish transformation within their organization without a “transformation mindset” about what it means to lead in today’s interdependent and interconnected world. CMO’s are the personification of the brand and the buyer experience, and they increasingly own the employer brand as well. Today’s successful CMO needs to lead with agility and collaboration, supporting and prioritizing multiple views of the business, and ensuring that the goals of customer centricity truly come to life. As a leader of a marketing team, today’s successful CMO needs to embrace mentorship, feedback, recognition, training, development and career mobility, all the while leading the team to scale new technologies and manage the ever-changing expectations and demands of customers. Transformative marketing leadership is a requirement for the broader transformation goals of marketing, and the best CMO’s today manage the full weight of that honor and that responsibility.
The allure of marketing transformation will continue to dazzle leaders and their teams with the promise of what it can ultimately deliver. However, without a solid foundation in place to support marketing transformation, CMO’s risk overpromising and underdelivering if they burn budget and resources on transformation that the organization is not ready to fully leverage yet. Marketing transformation is an ongoing journey, and the most successful marketing leaders are mapmakers first and adventurers second. This journey requires candid expectation setting with the C-Suite, and often requires a leader who can show the organization how to “slow down to speed up” the pace of innovation. With a proper foundation and the essential building blocks of B2B marketing engagement in place, a CMO is truly poised to construct a modern home for marketing at the center of the organization’s promise to the customer.