marketing alignment success

For the past three weeks we’ve been highlighting the close relationship between marketing agility and alignment. These two enterprise attributes are clearly interdependent and mutually reinforcing. In our final post in this three-part series on Marketing’s Cross-Organizational Alignment, we take a closer look at what success looks like and the forces that foster greater alignment between Marketing and its stakeholders.

Signs of Success in Marketing-Led Cross-organizational Alignment

In considering the signs of success in cross-organizational alignment, the nature and effectiveness of an organizations’ response to “crunch time” situations is always a good measure. This might mean the ability to “collaborate on-a-dime” or being able to make informed, transparent decisions quickly.

Other successful approaches include:

  • Engineering/product development including marketing in its planning (with two-way dialogue being even better)
  • Finance looking to marketing to help forecast growth (where budgets are focused on results not cost)
  • Sales relying on Marketing lead forecasts for its pipeline forecast and Marketing getting input from Sales for campaign development
  • Marketing having a seat at the C-Suite and contributing to corporate strategy as a trusted business advisor and valued strategic asset; strategy should not be seen as complete without Marketing input and leadership

Other measures include:

  • Activities across the organization that are in or out of alignment
  • Sales inviting Marketing to their annual incentive club
  • Decreased costs, increased revenue and improved customer satisfaction, leading to less staff turnover and customer churn
  • Improving revenue/pipeline goal achievement
  • Greater efficiency leading to reduction in wasted time and budget – a company should be a team first and foremost, in turn providing the foundation for effectiveness
  • Promotions within the Marketing organization

Forces That Foster Marketing-Led Cross-Organizational Alignment

As pressure grows on Marketing to better-integrate across organizations, it is likely that expanded skill-sets will start to be seen among Marketers in systems thinking and change management, perhaps requiring a shift in culture. This might be more customer-focus or a trend for more fact-based culture. A recent Fast Company blog post Culture Eats Strategy For Lunch, bears out the idea that culture has a big part to play.

At the same time, a greater consolidation of Sales and Marketing, extending even to all customer facing functions might come about, though overreach must be avoided. The Chartered Institute of Marketing has predicted that such consolidation may indeed occur, although putting Sales/Marketing together must create alignment beyond the org chart. Ultimately, it may be synergy not consolidation that is the answer; creating a single view of customer is the key, better aligning customer insight.

It is possible to achieve common purpose and deep/broad collaboration without organization structure change, as long as transparent metrics and cross-organizational team rewards are put in place. The problem with Sales/Marketing consolidation is often that near-term revenue goals trump everything else, moving organizations away from customer centricity, and favoring the historical model where “Sales is King” and the quota is a measuring stick. This is especially the case in B2B organizations, reflecting the prevalence of the short-term view.

With complete digital marketing platforms providing cross-organizational involvement becoming more prevalent, the importance of technology is growing. Greater analytical capabilities are also vital, though as always it is important not to lose sight of that fact that digital marketing is one arrow in the quiver. Equally important are processes, roles, goals and skills.

There is a strong trend towards Marketing leadership in the C-suite, along with the rise of insight driven specialists (marketers who embrace data and analytics) in senior positions. This is a huge opportunity for Marketing to take on ownership of business intelligence, as well as to drive the impact that Marketing Operations itself has in supporting the CMO’s clout. One likely outcome is more operationally minded marketers, though left- and right-brain marketers need to value one another’s contribution more, perhaps requiring appropriate training.

Competition will force changes in this respect as well, highlighting the need for an outside-in view. The corollary – and warning flag – to this though is to maintain focus on customers more than competitors.

What Does it Take to Align Marketing with Key Stakeholders Enterprise-wide?

The key theme of this discussion series is the need for collaboration between Marketing and its peers throughout the enterprise. This might be achieved through limited changes to organization structure, but the emphasis should be on synergies, not constant re-orgs. A more sustainable and effective approach is defining and adhering to common goals, language and incentives. Equally, Marketing must avoid remaining too narrowly focused, lifting its sights over the horizon.

Measurement of success in these endeavors can be gauged through increasing marketing agility and efficiency, together with increased strategic input by Marketing in the C-suite. Ultimately, revenue targets will be the final arbiters, leading to much greater return on marketing investment. As Marketing becomes more insight orientated and operationally minded, its influence and voice will become more widespread, fostering improved working relationships.

Other factors that emerged included the importance of culture, technology and metrics, as well as the role Marketing Operations has to play. Crucially though, Marketing, along with the rest of the enterprise, must not lose sight of the customer. And when the opportunity present itself, Marketing would be well-served to assume a leadership role.

Note: Participants in the online discussion that inspired this article were: Simon Daniels, Christina Ellwood, Lynn Hunsaker, Gary Katz, Mike Kelly, and Laura Patterson.