In a recent conversation with a chief technology officer, he asserted all digital technology changes in his organisation were being led by IT and not by marketing. It made me wonder: How long a marketing function like this could survive?
Marketers have to tear down the functional silos created over time to keep up with digital change, as well as those between marketing and functions like sales and IT, if they are to become customer lifecycle stewards, Marketo’s CMO claims.
Speaking to CMO following the World Marketing and Sales Forum in Melbourne, Marketo’s global marketing chief, Sanjay Dholakia, said marketers have to work hard to remove channel specialisations created to cope with the rise of digital, mobile and social communication. Instead, they should adopt more generalised structures that allow employees to address the customer lifecycle as well as gain agility and operational speed.
Dholakia’s presentation was based around new research conducted by the vendor in partnership with the Harvard Business Review on what the org structure of the future looks like as marketing shifts from transactional and mass marketing to engagement marketing. He described the findings around three key areas: The role of marketing itself; the structure of the organisation; and the skillsets needed for engagement-driven marketing.
“What we heard loud and clear is that people are seeing that shift from a marketing function principally about brand, message, awareness and top of funnel, to one that owns or is the steward of the entire customer lifecycle,” he said. “To do this, you have to think differently, and to embrace different incentives, notions, metrics and so on. As CMOs, we are being tasked with not just with acquiring customers, but how to continually engage them, create repeat behaviour, retention, loyalty and advocacy.”
With regards to structure, Dholakia said the big headline is that CMOs have to tear down what he called the “organisational crust” and layers of specialisation that have accumulated over time.
“Marketers have been trying so hard to keep up with all the change, we’ve kept adding specialisations to assist us… and all of a sudden we’ve ended up with siloed channels, and databases that didn’t talk to each other,” he said. “This created lousy customer experiences as a result.”
As an example, Dholakia pointed to his conversation with VISA for the HBR research, which had developed a team of people with deep functional and channel specific skills. “What they really needed was a marketer for product ‘green’ who could talk, act and manage across all channels,” he commented.
“In the process of changing that, they eliminated two layers of the organisation and gained incredible speed with which everything could move in the organisation.
“We need more ‘renaissance’ marketers, or people who operate across all these sub-specialities and create relationship and conversation with customers and consumer, as opposed to being functional specialists.”
The other component to the skills shift is the ability to be a scientist as well as an artist, and juggle digital with creative, Dholakia said.
“Digital not one thing we do, it’s the thing – almost anachronistic to talk about digital marketing because all of it is now,” he said.
More widely, marketers have to also tear down silos with other parts of the business. “If we are to fulfil the new role of owning the customer lifecycle, marketing has to have a fundamentally new and different relationship with sales, IT and customer operations. We can’t do it otherwise,” Dholakia said.
Even geographic boundaries are being dropped as organisations adopt more horizontal org structures, Dholakia said. “It’s about crossing geographies, product and channels to create continual experience,” he said.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that organisations should completely move away from the notion of specialisation. One way Dholakia and HBR saw several organisations tapping into specialist knowledge was through channel or functional ‘centres of excellence’ around specific areas.
Nor should IT and sales be necessarily be reporting directly to the CMO, Dholakia said.
“You still need other parts of the organisation to execute, but what needs to happen is for the call centre teams to be across that engagement-based marketing strategy,” he said. “And the whole organisation needs to participate in different functional teams and programs to understand what need to happen around the customer lifecycle.”
Dholakia also disagreed that IT and marketing needed to be one unit, but he did believe the rise of the marketing operations team was inevitable and noted the rise of these positions in recent years across organisations such as GE.
“The fact is that marketers do need to own the operational capabilities – stack, tools and so on - that allow them to do their work,” he said. “What doesn’t have to sit in marketing is the knowledge around how those platforms sit in the broader ecosystem of company’s infrastructure. You still need the IT group thinking about all of that.”
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