Not long ago few B2B companies had a marketing operations function. Today, this function is becoming an important facet of the marketing organization. The marketing operations function enables the marketing function to operate more like a business, with formalized processes, infrastructure, and reporting. The bare essentials marketing operation function should perform at least three functions:
- Drive the processes for budgeting and investment decisions and more effective strategic planning.
- Lead the charge for marketing performance measurement processes.
- Identify and implement the required infrastructure to maintain the consistent
implementation of processes.
As this function matures, it is critical to have a strategic roadmap. Nikki Tyrer of Accenture articulated this need when she said, “While vision is a key aspect of marketing strategy, the failure to create a roadmap to move from concept to implementation leaves strategy on the starting block.” Marketing Operations is a critical driver of Marketing Performance Management. High performance marketing operations strategy roadmaps address the processes, data, resources, talent/skills, systems, and metrics needed to realize the strategy. A roadmap describes a future environment, objectives to be achieved within that environment, and plans for how those objectives will be achieved over time.
The purpose of a roadmap is to communicate the overall direction, priorities, and how the strategy will be executed. The operations strategy roadmap should be aligned with the specific objectives for the business, build on the organization’s strengths, and provide a blueprint for future capabilities.
What are the basic components for the marketing operations roadmap? A marketing operations roadmap should address these areas:
- Technology, Systems, Tools. Technology, systems and tools serve as key enablers for creating performance-driven marketing organizations. The identification, implementation and deployment of these enablers are now in the domain of marketing operations.
- Work Force. Marketing operations is responsible for ensuring the marketing personnel are adequately trained, educated, and have the skills necessary to be accountable for their work.
- Processes / Process Improvement. This is one of the primary responsibilities of marketing operations. It is important that the key processes are defined, monitored, repeatable, routinely evaluated and refined.
- Performance Measures. Also one of the primary responsibilities of marketing operations, this section of the plan should identify the standards and the timeline for defining and deploying new metrics.
- Capital Allocation/Requirements. This section should identify the capital investments and the timing of the investments needed to execute the operations strategy.
- Supplier Management: Most marketing operations organization need to leverage the expertise of third parties. The types of suppliers that will be needed, the timing, and how these suppliers support the roadmap should be documented.
We have successfully deployed a strategy roadmap development process designed around three key steps: strategy, assessment, and blueprinting. This process is designed to develop a marketing operations roadmap that focuses on those areas that will have the maximum value and contribution to the business.
- Strategy: A marketing operations roadmap needs to reflect both the company’s and marketing organization’s strategy. This initial step provides important context. A roadmap cannot be created with first understanding the vision and strategy, what the organization believes is the role of marketing and the role of marketing operations and planning in achieving the organization’s business outcomes. Strategy development requires understanding the strategic priorities the company has set for marketing and how marketing operations is expected to help achieve organizational goals. The best way to understand this context if you don’t have a strategy document is to ask key members of your leadership team.
- Assessment: It is difficult to determine where you are going to go and how you are going to get there if you do not know where you are and the current capabilities, particularly in relation to the organization’s strategy. Once you have the information from the first step, the next step is to assess the current marketing operations capabilities and performance and to compare this against other marketing operations practitioners. For this step you will want to review existing processes, data, metrics, analytics, plans and strategies and marketing operations best practices in preparation for the roadmap development.
- Roadmap Document: Once the strategy is clarified and the assessment is completed, a specific action plan/road map can be developed to close gaps and leverage opportunities. One way to create the blueprint is to conduct a cross- function strategy session. The purpose of the session is to identify requirements and elements to create an executable plan focused on building operational capabilities.
Creating a strategy roadmap communicates that the marketing operations has evolved into a bona-fide force within the organization. A strategy roadmap enables marketing operations to go beyond metrics and dashboards to serving as a key player within the marketing function. The strategy roadmap enables marketing operations to manage marketing from an end-to-end perspective.
Ted Levitt, author of The Marketing Imagination, writes, “The role of marketing is to create and keep customers.” A marketing plan is a valuable instrument in helping Marketing plot a course of action for how it will go about creating and keeping customers.
Now that 2012 is less than 50 days away, you are likely tackling your marketing plan and budget. The pressure for marketing organizations to justify their spending, prove their programs’ contribution to the organization, and demonstrate value is only increasing.
A study this summer by Forbes Insights found that being able to measure marketing is “not taking a backseat” and that proving “how budgets are used remains a strong priority.”
Given the current economic climate, it is important to make every investment count. The issues of alignment and accountability are inextricably linked. Without alignment between Marketing and the business, it’s impossible to quantify the value Marketing is providing to the business, let alone focus on the right metrics to establish progress toward helping the organization achieve its goals.
And without the ability to demonstrate value, the budgeting process becomes a game of guesswork because there is no link between expenditures and desired results.
This past summer, a study with more than 4,000 top marketers by The CMO Survey found that marketing spending is expected to increase—with the caveat that Marketing be able to measure its impact.
An initial step every marketing organization can make, regardless of whether it has sophisticated data systems or measurement tools, is to develop a customer-centric, metrics-based marketing plan.
Such a plan serves as the foundation for improving marketing accountability. If developed properly, it will provide you with guidance on how to measure Marketing’s effectiveness and value.
These three steps can help ensure you are properly aligned with your organization and help you secure your marketing budget:
- Secure clearly defined business outcomes.
- Establish outcome-based marketing objectives.
- Develop performance-based programs.
1. Secure Defined Business outcomes
One of the most important steps you can take to help Marketing be more successful is to ensure you are aligned with the organization’s business outcomes.
An organization needs clearly defined business outcomes to be successful. Business outcomes need to be quantified so it’s clear what change is required. Since Marketing doesn’t market to buckets of revenue, marketing organizations that work from a revenue target are operating blind when it comes to business outcomes.
When you are working with your leadership team to clarify the business outcomes, be sure you secure the following information:
- How many “customer deals” does the organization need?
- How many of those deals will come from current customers buying current products?
- How many of those deals will come from current customers buying new products?
- How many of those deals will come from new customers, and where are those new customers located? In the same verticals and geographies we’ve always done business with? In new verticals and geographies.
Once the business outcomes are defined, you want to clarify what the organization expects Marketing to do with regard to those business outcomes and how Marketing’s effectiveness and contribution will be measured.
Keep in mind that the business outcomes are how the organization will measure success at the end of the time horizon. They are specific and quantifiable, for example:
- X% of Tier 1 current customers will adopt WIDGET X, resulting in $ of revenue.
- Acquire X number of net new customers in ABC segment to increase market share by Y%.
- Marketing is expected to contribute 100% to X% of Tier 1 current customers’ product adoption of WIDGET X.
- Marketing is expected to contribute 100% of the net new customer qualified opportunities in ABC segment.2. Establish outcome-based marketing objectivesThe business outcomes serve as the foundation for your marketing objectives, and each marketing objective should align directly to at least one of the business outcomes.
Measurable marketing objectives articulate how Marketing will move the business closer to reaching the business outcomes. The objectives should be measurable and time-bound.
- Increase preference for ABC product among top share determiners in XYZ markets from A to B by end of 2Q.
- Generate X number of qualified leads within six months of product launch at $Y/lead. Outcome-based measurable marketing objectives facilitate metrics development. The example showsshare of preference, qualified leads, and cost/lead-related metrics.Frame your objectives to reflect Marketing’s three core responsibilities: finding, retaining, and growing the value of customers. Those responsibilities directly relate to what most organizations are trying to improve as a result of revenue and sales: increased market share, customer lifetime value, and customer/brand equity.
Once you craft the objectives, secure agreement from the leadership team that accomplishing those objectives will constitute success. It is essential to secure this agreement before tackling the strategic and program-development elements of your plan. Without the agreement, you may be in for a significant rework.
3. Develop performance-based programs
A study by Forbes Insights suggests that marketers need to determine the overall success of a marketing program prior to implementation and then measure performance against those targets.
That exercise refers to program performance target-setting. Difficulty in setting performance targets is one of the most common challenges marketers face.
Long gone are the days when we can list something as generic as public relations or advertising. And the days where we could use output-based targets, such as a monthly email campaign to prospects or one webinar per month, have also gone by the wayside.
Today, marketers need to set outcome-based targets for their programs. So instead of a performance target of one webinar per month, an outcome-based target might be generating some number of Stage 1 phone appointments.
What are performance targets, and what does setting one entail?
A performance target is basically a stake in the ground that indicates what the program needs to achieve to be deemed successful. The selected measures and targets must be relevant to the objectives and outcomes.
The value of performance targets is that they help drive performance improvement, bring focus, enable course adjustments, and assess effectiveness.
Having baseline data is very helpful when setting program performance targets. A program’s past performance doesn’t necessarily indicate its future performance, but understanding what has been achieved, at what cost, and in what time frame can be useful information.
To establish the performance target, you need to clarify what result or action constitutes success. The closer success can be behaviorally defined, the better.
Once you know what behavior you want to motivate, then set a numerical range of performance (i.e., rather than setting a hard target of X, consider using a range, such as from X to Y). It will be important to attribute the action/behavior to the program and to verify the results.
Be accountable for the money
Organizations give Marketing money to invest on their behalf. The leadership team expects Marketing to use those funds to develop and execute strategies that will result in consideration and preference for the organization’s products and services.
Over time, they want us to achieve results better, faster, and less expensively. If Marketing is unable to meet that expectation, the leadership team will reallocate its investment.
When you tie investments back to outcomes and performance, you stand a better chance of securing your budget. The three steps suggested in this article enable Marketing to communicate how it is investing its resources to provide business value.
To be effective, Marketing needs to ensure alignment to business outcomes and to develop outcome- based marketing objectives and performance-based targets for its programs, tactics, and activities.