A Forbes Insight Study revealed that 7 out 10 CEOs believe their company wastes money on marketing initiatives. What do CEO’s expect of marketing and the investments marketing is making? “I expect marketing to be a revenue machine, not a feel-good exercise. A marketing executive who agrees with me will earn a seat at the table,” said Kristian Chronister, CEO at Pearls.com. Kristian’s declaration echoes what we hear from many CEOs. They need marketing to be a real partner to the C-suite and provide a system of steady and dependable revenue growth.
Organizing for growth requires marketing to go beyond producing demand generation campaigns and equipping the sales team. It requires them to operate as a Center of Excellence (CoE). A CoE refers to a team or entity that provides leadership, fosters best practices, facilitates research, and enhances the skills needed for a focused area. At its most fundamental level, a CoE works to create world class standards and models that drive and achieve business results, encourages innovation, and leverages proven techniques and methodologies.
Every CEO should expect their marketing leadership to be committed to transforming their organizations into a CoE. Of course this is easier said than done. And as the CEO, you play a critical role in this transformation. How can you help? You can guide the formation of a Marketing Leadership Council (MLC) because MLCs steer and sustain marketing as a Center of Excellence.
What’s an MLC? An MLC is comprised of your organization’s top thinkers, high performance practitioners, and customer-centric leaders both inside and outside of marketing, for the purpose of defining and directing the future of the marketing organization. Its mission is to facilitate marketing excellence by fostering communication, collaboration, and coordination among the people and programs involved with improving and proving the value of marketing. The council serves as a resource to transform and sustain a culture of excellence, and provides necessary strategic vision and direction. As such, a MLC increases the success factor of a CoE.
Transforming your marketing organization into a CoE is not only commendable, but essential. Your strong leadership and clear direction play a significant role in ensuring that the CoE is effectively managed and that it successfully fulfills its purpose, because without it, the CoE will lack focus and may be unable to completely realize its aspirations.
What priorities should your MLC tackle? The five marketing attributes of high performing companies identified in the Marketing2020 – Organizing for Growth study provides guidance into this question. Use these five drivers to prioritize the initiatives for your Marketing MLC:
- Ensure Marketing is connected to the business strategy and the rest of the organization. This takes creating and implementing an alignment process. For marketing to achieve this alignment, they need to know the required business outcomes, their role in achieving the outcomes, and how to measure their impact and value on the outcomes.
- Ensure all of the work of marketing supports your brand’s purpose and promise. Jim Perdue, Chairman and CEO, Perdue Farms sums this up, “first and foremost, they (marketing) are the keepers of the brand’s health.” Your company’s brand is an important asset and not something that should be left to chance.
- Focus marketing on critical customer-centric initiatives and avoid “random acts of marketing.” Peter Fader, Wharton marketing professor and co-director of The Wharton Customer Analytics Initiative, recommends companies be customer centric. He believes that customer-centricity is a “strategy to fundamentally align a company’s products and services with the wants and needs of its most valuable customers,” for one primary purpose, more profits over the long-term. Such a strategy requires a data-driven organization. It takes data, for marketing, you, or any other part of the organization, to make your most valuable customers even more profitable.
- Organize marketing into agile, cross-functional teams. An article in Forbes revealed that 70% of the companies that were on the Fortune 1000 list a mere ten years ago have now vanished – unable to adapt to change. Organizations are addressing agility as a way to respond faster to changes in the internal and external environment in productive and cost-effective ways, without losing momentum. Agility and Centers of Excellence (CoE) go hand-in-hand. Organizations that achieve agility excel at fostering and leveraging best practices.
- Build internal capabilities for success. The increasing competitive environment, evolving customer needs, and the move to solutions rather than products, all require new strategies. Traditional marketing capabilities are not enough to successfully execute new strategies. Your current talent may need to reskill and you many need to encourage the addition of new talent to build your marketing capabilities. What types of internal capabilities do today’s marketing organizations need? Here are three key categories:
- Value creating skills which include data and analytics to sift out critical actionable customer and market insights
- Processes that enable marketers to quickly adapt to these insights
- Systems and metrics to improve marketing’s customer-centricity capabilities.
Marketing Leadership Councils provide you, the leadership team, and the marketing organization with the transformation process. MLCs are in the unique position to improve marketing’s ability to deliver value to the organization, build a stronger sense of ownership of business outcomes, enable decision making and actions that produce better results, and speed the implementation of strategies and tactics, all with less need to regularly reinvent the wheel. For more about creating Marketing Leadership Councils, download The Role of Leadership Councils in Creating Marketing Centers of Excellence.