The Right Stuff, a 1979 book by Tom Wolfe, chronicled the sequence of events bridging the breaking of the sound barrier and the Mercury space expeditions. The book (and subsequent movie) explored why the Mercury astronauts accepted the danger of space flight, as well as the mental and physical skills required of them to do their job—in other words, the ”right stuff.”
Recent studies suggest the need for many marketing professionals to re‐skill and re-tool. Only about 5 percent of marketers surveyed in a recent CMO Council study are highly satisfied with their levels of accountability, operational visibility, and marketing output. Most see plenty of room for improvement.
So what skills and tools are needed for your organization to have the right stuff?
Regardless of company size and industry, marketing teams (whether a team of one or more) are under increased pressure to drive top‐line growth and profitable revenue. For many organizations this means acquiring new skills related to marketing performance measurement and management, analytics, benchmarking, and customer engagement. Let’s review these four specific skills every marketer should have under their belt:
• Metrics and performance target‐setting. With greater demand for marketing to be more accountable, solid metrics, performance target‐setting, measurement, and reporting skills are crucial. Participants in numerous studies comment on the importance of being able to set measurable goals and track results. These skills will be in vogue for a long time to come.
• Analytics. This is the ability to derive insights from data. If growing valuable customer relationships and being able to forecast sales from future marketing activities are important, then analytics ought to be on the top of your skills‐to‐acquired list.
• Benchmarking. This is the process of comparing what your company does to another that is widely considered to be an industry standard or best practice. The aforementioned CMO Council study indicated 58 percent of respondents have nominal or no benchmarking capabilities. If you don’t know what the standard is, how will you know what to strive for when it comes to such things as win/loss ratios, marketing key performance indicators, share of preference, product adoption rates, and so on? Benchmarks are essential to any organization that believes continuous improvement is critical to the pursuit of excellence.
• Customer experience management. If business exists to produce and serve a customer, and marketing’s job is to create, communicate, and deliver value to customers, then marketing is your organization’s ultimate steward of the customer experience. Marketers need to be sure they have the skills necessary to improve customer engagement and touch- point effectiveness. They also must respond to changes in the buying cycle and conduct voice‐of‐customer research in order to retain customers, create loyalty, and transform customers into advocates for the company.
Marketing operations refers to infrastructure — that is, the tools, systems, and processes in place to facilitate customer‐centricity. Forty‐four percent of the respondents in the CMO Council study are looking for way to lower costs and improve go‐to‐market efficiencies. For many organizations, achieving these operational efficiencies requires infrastructure changes and improvements.
With limited resources, where can you get the best bang for your buck? Here are four areas for investment consideration:
1. Operational process alignment. When was the last time you mapped your operational processes and verified marketing alignment with the sales, product, service, and other parts of the business? All of us get into routines and habits. Reviewing processes and updating them may be time consuming, but if you are looking for ways to reduce inefficiencies internally, this is a necessary step.
Many years ago, when I was in the semiconductor industry, we needed to find a way to reduce the time from order to delivery of product. It was just taking too long to get product to customers, and we didn’t know why. When we calculated the time it took for the individual steps of order placement, manufacturing, testing , assembly, and shipping, the time didn’t add up to what it actually took.
So we mapped the process, counting the time product was ”in‐transit,” whether physically or in some other way. Lo and behold, the in‐transit time was off the charts. The mapping process enabled us to identify the inefficiencies, label the white spaces, and put in new processes to reduce and even eliminate them.
2. Market/Business intelligence. There is an art and science to using external information for driving business strategy. Business intelligence applications enable the collection, integration, analysis, and presentation of competitive, channel, product, and customer information to derive trends and insights. The value of having such a tool is that, when used properly, it enables you to begin conducting scenario analyses and anticipating the future. With the insights derived from business intelligence, there is the potential to anticipate the development of new markets, technological turning points, and how the competitor will react.
3. CRM. If the marketing organization is responsible for the relationship between the company and the customer, then it stands to reason the organization needs tools to facilitate this relationship. As you know, there are a range of CRM tools out there, so selecting the right one can be a daunting task. Even so, in today’s environment a company can’t afford to operate without a formal approach to customer relationship management. Of course, once you have the tool , the next biggest hurdle is using it.
4. Performance management. The ability to use analytics, reporting, and dashboards to assess marketing’s effectiveness, efficiency, financial contribution, and progress toward achieving pre-determined goals is performance management. In the end, marketing must demonstrate its value, which lies in how much you are “moving the needle.” This necessitates reporting on performance, impact, and ROI from the program level up.
Progress doesn’t come without missteps, misfires, and failures. Winners look for ways to overcome challenges and continuously improve. They seek outside help, new ideas, and new skills. While attending a Webinar, reading a book, or going to a conference helps, consider looking for ways that will enable the whole team to be on the same page at the same time. There are plenty of on-site and online programs offered by professional organizations and institutions, as well as by firms specializing in these areas.
In Wolfe’s story, the national heroes of the Mercury space program were not necessarily the truest and best. What they possessed was the right stuff, the skill and courage to ”push the outside of the envelope.” Does your marketing team have the right stuff?
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The dynamics of the 21st Century are forcing businesses of all sizes and types to be able to react quickly and decisively to rapidly changing business and competitive conditions and changing customer demands. The more agile a company, the faster it can respond to market dynamics and develop new products and processes, recognize new opportunities, and redeploy resources accordingly. The degree of agility may be the difference between being a market leader instead of an also-ran. Agility requires proactive planning, business intelligence, alignment and collaboration among all the key functions to make the right decisions and turn opportunities into a competitive advantage. One of the key alignment issues facing many companies is the alignment between Marketing and Sales.
Marketing and Sales Alignment Remains Elusive
The issue of marketing and sales alignment isn’t new. Most marketing and sales people have been in organizations where marketing has been known to accuse sales of not following up on leads and refusing to track leads through the sales cycle and sales has been known to accuse marketing of not providing viable qualified leads. This misalignment is often attributed to a variety of factors, such as different goals, different timelines, and different psychologies. Market dynamics such as commoditization, the Internet, mobility and virtualization and changing business models only compound the problem. Companies attempting to resolve the issue often approach the problem by trying to tighten the alignment of marketing activities within the sales cycle, improving coordination around lead generation, and increasing sales force participation in the marketing process. Sadly these attempts often fail. Regardless of various approaches taken by companies to address this issue, the lack of alignment and collaboration between marketing and sales persists. Both organizations need to change for the organization to succeed.
From Transactional to Customer Centricity
To achieve greater alignment, both organizations need to decide together which market segments offer the best opportunities and deserve the highest priority. Today’s buyers are more sophisticated and today’s buying processes are more complex. The transactional approach of marketing generating qualified leads that sales then brings to a close is an outdated view. The transactional approach is what permits marketing and sales to operate as independent silos. This results in Sales immersing itself in the latest training, engaging in calling on customers and focusing on post-sale efforts and Marketing focusing on implementing various campaigns and 2 coordinating a variety of tactics.
A Customer-Centric Approach Offers Hope
Customer Centricity requires a company to look at the world through the eyes of the customer, what they want from you, what they expect from you, what they can count on from you. One way to become more customer-centric is to move from looking at the world from a selling perspective to taking a customer relationship lifecycle perspective. Taking a customer relationship lifecycle approach provides an avenue for alignment by focusing both organizations on the same set of outcomes – creating, keeping and growing the value of customers. The customer relationship lifecycle begins the moment a customer appears on the radar screen, moves into the lead-sales funnel, emerges as a customer and engages in a variety of experiences that result in them becoming an advocate. The customer relationship lifecycle provides insight into which customers provide the greatest values to your company. As result, the company can create a set of common metrics for both organizations which will help ensure alignment. Customer relationship management metrics include buying related metrics such as recency frequency and quantity; cost related metrics such as gross amount of money spent on acquiring and retaining the customer through marketing dollars, resources spent generating each sale, and post sales service and support; and customer value related metrics such as the duration or longevity of that customer’s relationship with your business, the referral rate, and share of wallet. Establishing a common set of customer-centric metrics facilitates alignment and collaboration and provides both organization with customer-oriented vocabulary and set of priorities.
Does Alignment Matter?
While no one can offer any guarantees, aligning Marketing and Sales makes good business sense and ultimately impacts the bottom line. A study conducted by Aberdeen on sales effectiveness with more than 200 executives from the executive, sales, marketing and IT management functions study found that companies that had strong collaboration between these two functions achieve a higher sales effectiveness. For many companies, this additional boom in sales more than justifies making the effort.
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By Julie Schwartz, ITSMA and Laura Patterson, VEM
We recently completed a three-city road show to deliver the results from the 2012 ITSMA/VEM marketing Performance Management Study: The Path to Better Marketing Results. A question that came up during the discussion in all three cities was this, “Do I need to do customer research when I have access to so much social media and web data?”
We hate to break it to you, but YES! Social media listening is not research. That’s because:
- It doesn’t ask the questions you want to ask
- It doesn’t come up with a hypothesis and get the data to support (or refute!) your hypothesis.
- It doesn’t comprise a representative sample
- It doesn’t tell you what might happen in the future; rather, it’ a window into the past
Sentiment analysis, content analysis, and Twitter search are not the same as doing research. Don’t get us wrong; listening is definitely good and you can learn a lot from hearing what your critics and supporters say about you. However, social media listening is not the same as identifying the questions you want to ask and getting the answers. Relying on the voice of the customer as it is expressed online is a reactive, rather than proactive, approach. Further, social media does not necessarily offer a representative sample. Therefore, how valid and reliable are the results?
While Social media listening cannot replace the rigor of the traditional scientific method, it can still play a role in customer research. Social media can help:
- Provide qualitative insights. Many companies have successfully used crowdsourcing and targeted online communities to garner insights into customer wants and needs.
- Reveal unmet needs. Further, the qualitative nature of social media enables listeners to uncover potential unmet needs and learn things they never thought to ask about.
- Test ideas in real time. Once choices have been narrowed down, floating trial balloons on a social media network or community can offer immediate feedback.
- Collect data. And there is nothing to stop market researchers from using a social media-based data collection tool within the rigors of a well-designed study.
ITSMA’s How Buyers Consume research shows that the market for complex B2B solutions has bifurcated into B2B social buyers and traditional buyers. We now have a business generation gap. Younger, B2B social buyers are online participating in blog and community conversations, yet there remains a still-large contingent of more traditional buyers. Companies have to be relevant to both audiences, and research—the proactive, objective, scientific kind—is an excellent way to gain meaningful, relevant insights into different market and customer segments.
The bottom line is this: Social media listening, although an important tool, is not going to give you the insights into customer behavior that you need to innovate and gain competitive advantage. With social media listening, you’ll know exactly what your competitors know. Nothing more.
Today’s marketers need to remember that one of their primary jobs is to provide the rest of the company with a window into the customer. This takes research. Marketers need to reexamine their priorities and determine how they can best allocate their resources to retain and grow their business with existing customers and provide deeper insights into buyer behavior. Social media listening is but one view of the customer and will not provide this insight. Social Media listening does not replace research.